Your baby’s milestones in the first year are likely flying by in a flash. Sitting is particularly exciting for your little one, as it opens up a whole new world of play and exploration. It also makes meal time easier and gives your baby a new way to view their surroundings.
Your baby may be ready to sit if they have good head control. Other bodily motions will also be more controlled and purposeful.
Babies who are ready to sit are also likely pushing themselves up when lying face down, and may have learned to roll over.
Your baby may start by sitting for short periods of time if you position them upright. At this early stage, it’s important to support your baby so they don’t fall.
Babies who are nearing the independent sitting milestone, closer to 7 to 9 months, are likely able to roll in both directions. Some may even be scooting back and forth, getting ready to crawl. Some others may experiment with pushing themselves into a tripod position. In this position, the baby is sitting supported by one or both hand on the floor.
It’s likely your baby will be able to hold themselves in a seated position before being able to push themselves into the position on their own. With enough practice, they’ll gain strength and confidence, and will be sitting up like a pro in no time.
Practice makes perfect, so giving your baby opportunities to sit upright may help them gain the strength to sit independently. Sitting independently requires controlled weight shifts from left, right, forward, and backward. This means it takes a lot of strength and practice moving in all those different directions to get it right.
To help your baby learn to sit up:
- Give your child plenty of trial-and-error practice. Stay close by, but let them explore and experiment with different approaches and their own body movements.
- More time on the floor may help foster this independence over placing your baby in seat positioners. Aim for lots of floor play, at least 2 or 3 times a day, with age-appropriate toys.
- Sit your baby on your lap or between your legs on the floor. You can read them books, sing songs, and try different movement games, like “timber” onto a soft blanket.
- Once they’re a bit more independent, place pillows or other padding all around them while you supervise them practicing on the floor, not elevated surfaces.
What’s the connection between tummy time and sitting?
Tummy time is an important building block for sitting. If your baby doesn’t like playing on their stomach for long periods of time, start with a few minutes a couple times a day. Make sure your baby is well rested and has a clean diaper. Get on your tummy, too, so that you’re at eye level with your baby. Seeing your face may motivate your baby to stay in the position for longer. You can also try putting a soft mirror on the floor so that your baby can see their own face. You can find tummy time mirrors online or at most baby supply stores.
As they get used to this position, you can slowly increase time.
You have likely seen different baby seats on the market. The Bumbo Seat, for example, is a popular choice among parents and is appropriate for babies ages 3 to 9 months, or as soon as the baby can hold up their head. It’s made from a molded material that hugs around your baby’s body to support sitting.
Pediatric physical therapist Rebecca Talmud explains that when children are placed in a seated position too early or for long periods of time, it may interfere with their development of skills. In other words, while your baby may indeed be seated upright, they aren’t working on the critical trunk and head control that will best develop when they’re practicing new body movements on their own.
You may want to wait until your baby is closer to reaching the sitting milestone to use a baby seat. Instead of propping your baby at three months old, consider waiting until sometime between 6 and 8 months. And don’t rely on this seat as baby’s sole tool for practice.
When your baby is just learning how to sit with support, you may want to sit with them between your legs so you’re supporting them on all sides. You may also use pillows as props, but don’t leave your baby unattended when propped.
While your baby may not be cruising around just yet, sitting is a sign that you may want to baby-proof your house in preparation for more mobility.
- Use outlet covers in all rooms your baby frequents.
- Secure other items or areas accordingly. You can find things like cabinet locks, toilet locks, furniture anchors, baby gates, and other baby-proofing supplies at most big box and hardware stores.
- Keep any choking hazards, poisonous materials, and other dangerous items out of baby’s reach. It may even help to get on the floor at your baby’s level to look for potential hazards.
- Once baby is sitting, adjust their crib mattress to a lower setting. Pulling up isn’t far behind this milestone, and babies do practice their motor skills at all different times of the day, even when they should be sleeping.
- Fasten safety belts on high chairs and other sitting devices. Sitting independently takes a lot of strength. Your baby may need the extra support from the straps, especially when sitting for longer periods of time. And don’t place seats on elevated surfaces, or in or near water.
If your baby isn’t sitting on their own by age nine months, contact your pediatrician. It may be good to act sooner, especially if your baby is close to 9 months and is unable to sit with support. Development varies from baby to baby, but this may be a sign of a gross motor skill delay.
Other possible signs of motor delay include:
- stiff or tight muscles
- floppy movements
- only reaches with one hand over another
- does not have strong head control
- does not reach or bring objects to mouth
There is help if you suspect your child may have a delay. First speak with your doctor or nurse. They may refer you to services for infants and young children, like your state’s public early intervention program.
You may also seek information online on the website or, in the United States, by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO.
So, what exactly comes next? Again, it varies from baby to baby. In general, though, you might expect the following progression as your child gets closer to their first birthday.
- pulling up to a standing position
- creeping and crawling on the floor
- cruising furniture and first supported steps
- walking on their own
Once your baby is sitting, try fostering their independence further by practicing the transition from the floor to sitting. Practice will help strengthen all their core muscles and help them gain confidence in this very new position. Toys that engage play in this position may also be useful. Consider trying one of these types of toys, available online or at most local toy stores (always check to see that the toy you choose is safe for your baby’s age):