One of the first things you can do with a newborn is provide tummy time. Placing your infant on her tummy forces her to begin trying to lift her head up. This is important for developing the gross motor skills that will later lead to rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking. Many infants do not enjoy tummy time at first, and parents are tempted to give up when they hear their newborns screaming in protest. Please don’t give up! I have seen the results of this — in five-month-olds who can still barely lift their heads, in 7-month-olds who don’t yet have the neck control to sit up unsupported.
We began doing tummy time with N as soon as her umbilical cord stump fell off. Like most newborns, she hated it at first. One time she was so mad that she rolled over from screaming so hard! And I understand how hard it is to listen to your child scream and not immediately fix the situation for her. But I knew that the benefits outweighed the discomfort she was feeling, so I let her cry a bit while doing tummy time. We started small, keeping her on her belly for only a minute or two at a time if she was unhappy. Each day we added a bit more time, and we could see her progress the more we provided tummy time. N is now able to lift her head pretty high up, and she enjoys tummy time much more.
One way to help your child lift her head more easily is to “cheat” a little bit. Roll up a blanket and place it under your infant’s chest so it is slightly elevated. This makes it easier for her to lift her head, which will help her to become more accustomed to the activity in the early stages. After a few weeks, she won’t need the blanket anymore as her body becomes stronger.
Another way to encourage your child to lift her head is to provide something for her to look at. Mirrors are great for this. We have a blanket with a mirror in it. We place N with her head right over the mirror, so when she lifts up her head she can see herself in it. When she gets even better at lifting her head, we will place her next to a mirror we hung at floor level on our coffee table. Eventually she will be able to play with toys while laying on her tummy.
P.S. Never leave your young infant unsupervised while on her tummy!