The Stages of Sitting

Watching your baby gain independence is exciting. A major accomplishments every parent looks forward to is when she can sit on her own. Pediatrician Kurt Heyrman, M.D. says there are ways that you can help Baby gain these large motor skills and help her sit on her own. Here’s how.

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Before She Sits

Knowing what to look for and how to help your baby learn to sit on her own is important. Your baby might start sitting as early as 4 months old or as late as 9 months. Don’t try to rush it. According to pediatrician, Dr. Kurt Heyrman, you should make sure she has some specific large motor skills such as she should be able to hold her neck up, have some balance, and have trunk muscles.


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Getting Ready to Sit

From birth, your baby will have tummy time, where baby spends time playing on his belly which help strengthen your baby’s neck, stomach, and back muscles. In general, babies’ muscles strengthen from head to toe, so after his neck muscles gain strength, his upper back and lower back are next. You’ll know those muscles are getting stronger when he begins lifting his head off the floor to look horizontally. To help Baby gain these large motor skills, change his position often. For example, shift him from his back to his tummy and from his crib to the floor. Dr. Heyrman’s caution: “Make sure he is getting tummy time only when he is awake and when you are in the room to supervise him.”

Keep Her Alert

Kathryn Gamble

Tummy Time Troubles

At first, your baby might not like being on her stomach. But it’s very important for her to have this time. It’s how she’ll gain those muscles needed for sitting and future milestones. You might try to ease into it by placing her on your chest with her tummy down and her face looking at you. Then you can try placing a C-shape pillow like a Boppy, under her armpits, supporting her chest and allowing her head to be a little farther from the ground.


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Check Point

Once your baby can hold her head up on her own (usually around three to four months), you can sit her in a supportive chair like a Bumbo seat. Just be sure to always watch your baby while in the Bumbo seat or something similar. You can also use pillows to support your baby and help her sit up.

As Baby grows stronger, she will be able to sit for a few seconds when you place her in a sitting position. At first she’ll be wobbly. She can hold her head up straight and balance a little but usually for only a few shaky seconds. Although she will tumble or topple often at this stage, she’s learning. Practice makes perfect, so just be patient. “By 6 months,” Dr. Heyrman says, “most babies should be able to sit for a second or two by themselves.”

baby sitting in mothers lap

Kathryn Gamble

Building Balance

Babies need to learn balance before being able to sit alone. Although having good trunk muscles helps this, it’s not all they need. Balance is neuromuscular, so before your baby will be able to sit, she’ll need some specific brainpower. To help her gain this, you can place her in corners of chairs or couches so she can begin to feel what it’s like to sit up. If you want to work together, sit on the floor with your legs crossed and let her sit between your calf and hamstring where she’ll be safely supported.

baby sitting

Alexandra Grablewski

The Tripod Sit

When a baby is learning to sit up, it’s common to put out one or both arms to help stabilize the torso, essentially turning arms into a kickstand to hold up his body weight. This is the tripod sit. Until your baby has developed that strong core, he’ll need a little help balancing when he’s trying to sit alone. Be sure to keep Baby on something soft for these early weeks of sitting to help soften the fall when he tips. At around 4 months, Baby is also becoming more aware of what’s going on around him. He might be distracted while sitting up and lose his balance. Make sure he is supervised or away from the edge of a chair or couch he could fall off of.

Signs Your Baby is Learning to Sit Up

Strong neck, upper back, and lower back muscles are all needed to sit up alone. Along with propping him up with the support of pillows or leaning him against something soft, use child-size seats so Baby gets practice sitting up. ExerSaucer, Boppy pillows, Bumbo seats, and Jonny Jumps — are a good way to encourage muscle growth.

baby sitting

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What You Can Do

Put your baby on her back so you can slowly pull her up by her hands to a sitting position. Dr. Heyrman suggests the best way to learn: enticement. Baby loves looking at herself in mirrors already. Try placing one just a little too high for her to see into; this will encourage her to sit up. Another muscle-strengthening idea: Hold your baby under the arms so she can put her feet on the floor. Baby can’t stand alone yet, but holding her in that position helps gain more core strength.

baby playing with toys

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Be Prepared

Once your baby can sit alone, you’ll need to make some adjustments to her room. By 6 months, her arms are very strong and she will be grabbing for everything. Check the crib’s surroundings and put anything dangerous out of reach. For example, you’ll want to remove mobiles so Baby doesn’t get caught up in the mobile while pulling on them. Also, lower the crib’s mattress so she won’t be able to get out of the crib.

baby in car seat



Although your baby is strong enough to hold his head up and is now sitting on his own, he is not ready to face forward in the car. There is still a high risk of rapid deceleration injuries in the car, so keep him in a rear-facing carseat.

cute baby boy

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Up Next, Crawling!

After your baby has the ability to sit up, he will continue to gain strength in his lower body. He will gain enough strength to rotate his hips at the same time or shortly after he learns to sit. Not too long after sitting, Baby will be able to crawl

Copyright &copy 2010 Meredith Corporation.

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