Sitting up is an important milestone for babies and one many parents look forward to. In this post we’ll explore how to teach baby to sit up, when you should expect the sitting milestone to happen, if there are things you can buy to encourage siting up and how to teach baby to sit up safely.
Teaching Baby to Sit Up – The key Points
Before we go into detail about how to teach baby to sit up, we’ll first summaries the key things you can do to encourage baby to sit independently:
- Give plenty of tummy time to help baby to strengthen their muscles
- Try sitting baby propped up, if they slide down straightaway, they aren’t ready to sit
- If they don’t slide down straight away, sit them propped up regularly for short periods of time
- Bounce baby on your lap, perhaps while singing nursery rhymes, to develop balance
- Make sure they don’t spend too much time in car seats or prams so they can move and develop their muscles
- Only use Bumbo type seats for short periods of time
- Always practice sitting at floor level to avoid falls
- Make sure there are no hard surfaces that baby can hit their head on if they topple over while practicing sitting
Why is the Sitting Milestone Important?
Sitting up independently is important because it shows that baby’s muscles are developing correctly. Muscles strengthen from the top down. This means that baby’s neck muscles develop first, allowing them to hold their heads up. The next muscles down to develop are the back muscles which allow babies to sit up.
What is the Normal Age for Baby to Sit Up?
Babies usually sit up between the ages of 4 months and 7 months. While not being able to sit independently at 7 months isn’t necessarily a problem, you may want to get them checked out by a health professional if they aren’t sitting yet, just to be on the safe side.
Why Do We as Parents Want Babies to Sit Up?
I can remember being over the moon when my baby first sat up. He was 5 months old so it took me by surprise as I wasn’t expoing him to do it before 6 months. A baby who can sit up seems very different to one who lays flat all of the time. Once they can sit up, our interactions with our baby seem different. Sitting up also allows baby to play in different ways.
Do Special Baby Seats Help Baby to Sit Up?
Supportive seats like Bumbo Seats that hold baby in a sitting position are great for giving baby a different view of the world before they can sit independently. They are useful for things like feeding, cutting baby’s hair and letting them watch things like pets or older children playing.
Bumbos and similar styles of seat don’t actually help baby learn to sit up. The seats offer full support for baby’s back and don’t require them to use their own muscles at all. For this reason they don’t help babies develop the muscles they need for sitting.
In fact, if they are over used, very supportive baby seats can actually hinder baby’s development because they don’t give them the chance to use and develop their muscles.
Is Your Baby Ready to Learn to Sit Up?
Babies rarely sit before the age of 4 months so if they are younger than that they are unlikely to be ready for you to teach them how to sit up.
If they are older than 4 months you can see if it’s a good time to teach baby how to sit. Put your baby in a sitting position, on the floor, leaning against something solid like a sofa. Make sure the surrounding area has pillows on so that they can’t hurt themselves.
If your baby immediately slides to one side, they aren’t yet ready to learn how to sit. If they stay in the sitting position for a few minutes, then it is a good time for you to teach baby how to sit.
Helping Baby to Develop the Muscles for Sitting
If your baby slides straight down when put in a sitting position then you can still help them to develop the muscles they need in order to learn to sit. The key thing they need is plenty of unrestricted floor time. This is time when they are on the floor and can move about however they want to. This time should be spent on both their back and their front.
“Tummy time” (time spend on their front) is important for developing the neck and other muscles that will be needed when siting up. Many babies don’t enjoy tummy time to start with but with perseverance will get used to it. If you are struggling to get your baby to spend time on their tummies, start by having tummy time laying on your chest before moving to the floor and laying face to face with baby.
Even if your baby shows the signs of being ready to learn to sit, plenty of tummy and back time on the floor will still be helpful for them to learn to sit up.
We all know that practice makes perfect and sitting is no different. If your baby can hold themselves in a propped up sitting position then you should give them regular opportunities to do it, starting with short periods of time and moving towards longer ones.
Below are some ways you can have baby sitting up:
- Sit baby on you lap, facing away from you so they are leaning on you for support
- Sit baby on the floor, leaning against something solid like a sofa, surrounded by pillows
- As their sitting ability improves, you can sit them supported by a V shaped pillow
- Take them out in a pushchair in the sitting up position
- Put them in the trolley at the supermarket
- Use one of the products described below to help baby sit up
Products to Teach Baby How to Sit Up
There are a range of supports you can buy specifically for teaching baby how to sit up. Here are some that can work.
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The Galt Playnest
My children loved this Galt Toys Playnest* and I do think it was helpful in teaching them to sit up.
It allows you to safely prop babies in a sitting position while still allowing them freedom to move.
The Infantino Prop-a-Pillow
The Infantino Prop-a-Pillow* is really versatile. It offers support for the head and neck as well as the back for younger babies which can be removed for older babies.
It can also be used to encourage tummy time.
The Hugaboo Infant Sitting Chair
The Hugaboo Infant Siting Chair* provides a safe place for baby to practice sitting once they can hold their own head up.
Make sure you always use it at floor level for safety.
Using Incentives to Encourage Sitting
You can often encourage babies to sit by placing them in a sitting position and putting a small toy near their feet. In this way they will lean forward top play with the toy and end up supporting themselves in a sitting position with their hands. It’s useful to have a coupe of special toys you keep just fo this purpose to make sure they’re novel enough to get they attention. Make sure baby is on a soft surface in case they slip.
Lap Bouncing to Develop Balance for Sitting
Balance is important for sitting and keeping your balance helps to develop muscles. You can help baby to develop the balance they need for sitting by bouncing them on your knee. Once they can hold their heads up you can hold them in a sitting position on your lap and gently bounce them up and down.
You can make this more fun by using a bouncing nursery rhyme at the same time. My favourites are “Mother and father and Uncle John” and “This is the Way the Ladies Ride”. For more ideas, check out this list of Knee Bouncing Rhymes.
How to Teach Baby to Sit Up Safely
When teaching your baby to sit, safety should be your first priority. All siting practice where baby isn’t strapped into something or on your lap should take place at floor level in order to avoid any falls happening.
When baby is propped in siting position, you should ensure that there is padding around them so that if they topple over or slip down, they won’t bang their heads in the hard floor.
Babies should always be supervised closely when they are practicing sitting. Crawling often comes soon after sitting so you can never be sure when your baby will be on the move and able to reach things that have inaccessible before.
The amount of time that baby is propped in a sitting position should be start with just a minute or two and be increased gradually as baby’s muscles get stronger. Babies shouldn’t be propped in a sitting position until they are able to support their own heads.
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