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Learning To Sit

By Fiona Peacock

All babies develop differently. Here’s what we know about when and how babies begin sitting up.

If you are the proud owner of a horizontal baby, you are probably wondering: “When do babies sit up?”

Sitting up is not something your baby will learn to do overnight. It takes a lot of work to master the art of sitting up.

Over the course of the next few months, your baby will develop the strength and muscle control to sit up unaided. Sitting up will give your baby a whole new perspective on the world. You are probably keen for your baby to reach this milestone, and you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to help speed up the process.

When do babies sit up?

All babies are different. Your baby will develop at his own pace, but there are ways you can support him in his quest to sit up.

First, you need to know a little more about the process of learning to sit up. Many babies sit up for the first time when they are between 4 and 7 months old. Most babies sit unaided around the time they are 8 months old. Almost all babies have mastered this skill by 9 months.

All babies are different, so try not to compare your baby with the other babies at playgroup. Remember, your baby will do things in his own time.

How do babies sit up?

Newborn babies do not have the strength or muscle control to sit unaided. From birth, your baby will gradually develop the strength to hold his head up and, eventually, hold himself up. This process will take months, and it isn’t something you can rush. Your baby will need to develop full head control before he can master sitting up by himself.

He will start by lifting his head and looking around while he’s lying on his tummy. As he grows bigger, this will develop into a baby push-up, as he forces himself off the ground to take a look around.

Eventually, when he’s 4 to 6 months old, he’ll master a sitting position while leaning on his arms. As soon as his arms move, however, he’ll fall forward. He might even get excited about his new skill and wave his arms in celebration— only to come toppling down.

While his muscles are getting stronger, he’ll also be figuring out how to balance. This will probably be a case of trial and error, so make sure your baby is in a cushioned and safe environment. There will be a lot of tumbling over before your baby manages to sit up for any length of time.

Can I help my baby sit?

In truth, there isn’t much you can do to help your baby reach this next milestone. He will learn to sit up when he has the muscle control and balance to do it. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. These steps will give your baby a gentle nudge in the right direction:

Make tummy time fun for your baby. To develop strong neck and core muscles for sitting up, your baby needs to spend plenty of time on his belly. Place a few toys just out of reach to help him exercise those key muscles.

Provide plenty of opportunities. To develop good muscle control, your baby needs plenty of time for free movement. This means time to roll and shuffle, reach and lift and explore. Give your baby plenty of free time on the floor to explore movements and develop these skills.

Limit the use of devices that force your baby to sit before he’s ready. There are plenty of products on the market to prop babies up, but they can interfere with development of the muscle control they need to sit unaided. Limit the time your baby spends in these devices, and focus instead on letting your baby explore free movement.

Play with your baby. Use toys, and your voice, to encourage your baby to follow the sound and lift his head. You can do this while your baby is lying on the floor. Or, if he gets upset on the floor, do it while he is lying on your chest.

Get a baby mirror. Babies love looking at their reflections, so a baby mirror is a great way to encourage your baby to lift his head. Baby mirrors are soft and light and they aren’t made of glass. They often are featured on playmats and baby gyms, although you can buy them separately. Prop one up in front of your baby during tummy time to encourage him to hold his head up.

Create a safe environment for your baby to practice in. To make the experience as enjoyable as possible, ensure your baby is in a safe place as he learns to sit up. You can buy special padded floor covering for babies, but there’s no need to spend money if you don’t want to. You could surround him with pillows, or place him on blankets, to give him a soft surface to fall against.

Stay nearby. Your baby will become an expert at falling long before he manages to sit up. Make sure you’re close by so you can catch him when he falls, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to catch him every time. Be sure to comfort him if (and when) he tumbles.

What changes happen when babies sit up?

When they sit up, not only are babies able to see the world around them in a new light, but they have their first taste of independence.

Just as important, when your baby can sit up, you’ll get back the use of your arms. Imagine all the things you’ll be able to do with them—drink tea, read books, fold the laundry—the possibilities are endless.

It will also change the way you interact with your baby. The way you communicate with each other will develop now that you can sit facing each other during floor play. Eye contact is an important part of communication, and that will be easier, too, once your baby can sit up. He will be better able to explore his environment and choose the toys he wants to play with.

Your baby might also be happy to sit and watch you while you get things done—talk about a game changer!

Do some babies never sit up?

If your baby has reached 9 months and is showing no signs of sitting up, it might be worth alerting your healthcare provider. It’s also worth bearing in mind that premature babies often reach milestones a little later. If you’re concerned about your baby’s development, speak to your healthcare provider.

He’s sitting. What comes next?

Now that your baby is an expert at sitting up, he can start work on learning to crawl. You might notice your baby switching from a sitting position to an all-fours position, but it could still be some time until he figures out how to crawl.

With this in mind, it’s probably time to start baby-proofing your house. Get down to your baby’s level and explore the room to seek out potential dangers. It’s wise to do this before your baby starts crawling, because he just might take you by surprise and master that skill sooner than expected.

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