Babies are incredibly self reliant. Yes, they need you for lots of things, but they are also capable of doing many things on their own, like learning to sit up (among other milestones). When your baby sits up depends a lot on your baby and how their motor skills are progressing. Read on for more specific guidelines about when babies sit up … and what comes next!
Is My Baby Ready to Sit Up?
When a baby can hold their head up and roll from front to back, sitting is definitely on the horizon. However, some babies get the crawling (army crawl) bug before the sitting bug. Some parents notice that babies who army crawl first tend to wait a bit longer before sitting up. Maybe all of those adventures they’re having are keeping them busy! Know that even though the milestones are not in “order,” as long as your baby is progressing there is nothing to be concerned about.
An important thing to keep in mind is that a baby who can’t hold their head up won’t attempt sitting, so you don’t have to worry about them getting hurt. If your baby is holding their head up though, sitting may not be too far away. Make sure your baby has a safe place to practice sitting where they won’t hit their head on anything pointy or hard. A soft play mat is a great choice if you have hard floors. Some non-toxic choices are this non-toxic rubber option, this less expensive food grade material mat, or this handmade fabric one.
When Do Babies Sit Up?
As soon as your baby can hold their head up (around 3 to 4 months), it’s safe to sit your baby up with assistance (like in your lap). However, many parents choose to allow their baby to reach that milestone on their own, when they are ready. Parents sometimes consider this to be an important part of building baby’s self esteem so that they can be proud of what they are accomplishing on their own.
As your baby learns to sit up on their own, they’ll likely use the tripod sit (or assisted sitting). The tripod sit is where a baby uses one or both arms to prop themselves up like a tripod. Just as a baby uses their neck muscles to hold their head up when they are a newborn, and their shoulder muscles when pushing up from a tummy position or rolling from front to back, a baby strengthens the next set of muscles — the lower back — with learning to sit. Using an arm to hold themselves up allows them to strengthen these muscles while staying safe.
Each baby is different, but typically babies learn to sit up unassisted between 5 and 7 months, though some babies take as long as 9 months to fully get it. It sometimes seems like your baby will never stop needing an arm to hold themselves up and then all of a sudden they are sitting up perfectly!
During this time, your baby is also learning how to balance — an important skill to develop before learning to walk. Balance isn’t just physical, though, it’s also neuromuscular, meaning your baby needs to be mentally ready to sit up, too.
How Will My Baby Sit Up?
Watching a baby figure out sitting up is wonderful to witness. Because every baby is different, there is no standard position a baby uses to sit up. However, there are some signals your baby is ready to sit up based on their are positioned. Observe your baby to see their preferred position to sit up.
One way your baby may begin to sit up is by pushing up from a side-lying position. Other babies tend to get their bums under themselves and push up from between their legs. Watching your baby figure it out, and seeing the joy in their face when they have done it, is amazing!
How Can I Help My Baby Sit Up on Their Own?
As we mentioned earlier, sitting requires some already developed sets of muscles, like neck and shoulder muscles. Mom and dad can help their baby sit by giving them opportunities to exercise those muscles. Though some parents choose to do tummy time before baby can get into that position on their own, many parents choose not to. Instead, they let their baby do tummy time after they can roll into the tummy position on their own. Either way, your baby will strengthen the right muscles with the movements they can do.
Rolling into the tummy position actually shows that their back muscles are advanced enough to begin doing the push-up position, which further strengthens muscles in preparation for sitting. Don’t rush the process. Be patient and let your baby go at their own pace. This allows the baby to develop their muscles properly.
This doesn’t mean you have to sit back and do nothing, either. You can help your baby develop these muscles by placing toys just out of reach. You can also use a mobile tripod, like this baby gym. When your baby reaches for items on a tripod or baby gym, they are building their abdominal muscles and trunk strength (which are needed for going from assisted to unassisted sitting).
Another way that parents can help their baby build those muscles is to wear them in a baby carrier. Babywearing helps baby develop neck and shoulder strength, too.
Though babies are highly capable of reaching these milestones on their own, it’s a good idea to make sure their surrounding space is safe and to also be close by in case they fall.
Do I Need a Baby Seat?
A baby seat isn’t necessary. Baby seats, like the Bumbo, force baby into a position he is not ready for, which may interfere with normal muscular-skeletal development. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, physical therapists agree that sitting baby in these kinds of seats forces bad posture since they don’t yet have the strength to sit up properly. Another concern is that babies can fall out of these seats because of their lack of core strength.
In this same article, Mary Weck, the clinical coordinator of Physical Therapy at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, addresses concerns of the Bumbo, noting:
“Studies show tummy time is good at stabilizing the visual field of the environment. Research also shows respirations and reflux are better when the infant is prone rather than upright, as long as the baby is in the proper prone position. One reason the chairs tip over is that babies need to move. This chair holds them from getting the vestibular motion they need to give them control of their eyes and other sensory issues. All the benefits you get from moving are inhibited in a chair.”
A seat is unnecessary and may be harmful, so just trust that your baby will sit when they are ready (barring a developmental issue, which is addressed below).
What Comes After Baby Sits Up?
After your baby reaches the sitting milestone, things move pretty quickly. All-fours crawling is right around the corner! Your baby has strengthened their back and core and has started developing balance. Soon your baby will push forward onto their hands from a sitting position and may begin rocking back and forth before taking off. Now’s the time to think about baby proofing, which is best done by getting down on all fours and looking at the room from your baby’s perspective. Where are there potentially dangerous obstacles and items? Start with these typical areas of concern:
- Cabinets and drawers
- Cords and wires
- Any small objects that can fit in a paper towel tube
- Bathrooms and laundry rooms
- Paper or tissues that might be lying around
Is My Baby Ready for Solids When They Begin Sitting?
Another thing to keep in mind is that once your baby can sit up unassisted, they may be ready for solid foods. This is one of the guidelines for solid food readiness because a baby who has the trunk stability to sit can then begin developing the fine motor skills they needs to eat. The baby is also less likely to choke when they can sit unassisted because they have more core stability. For many babies, sitting unassisted is the last piece of the puzzle to solid food readiness. However, it’s possible for some babies, especially younger babies, to still not be ready for solids, so it’s important to look for other signs of readiness as well.
What If My Baby Does Not Sit?
At what point should you be worried if your baby isn’t sitting up? If your baby isn’t sitting up by 9 months, mention it to your pediatrician. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong, but it is something to be aware of and watch closely. If your baby has hit other developmental milestones within a normal range, then they are likely to begin sitting soon. If your baby was born prematurely, however, they may need a little extra time. You can discuss with your pediatrician what time frame is normal for your baby.
Other Natural Mamas’ Experiences with “When Do Babies Sit Up?”
Asking the moms on our Facebook page when their babies first sat up, each mom gave different answers, even when they had more than one baby. Here are some of their responses:
- “My first three boys all sat around 6 months, my 4th boy however (was) much more laid back and in no hurry, didn’t sit himself up until 10 months.” – Lindsey C.
- “My little guy was sitting by himself by 4 months. He was born at 41 weeks, weighing in at 8 lbs. and had a lot of strength to begin with. I’m curious to see how it differs from my second little one, due in March!” – Rochelle S.
- “Both of my boys liked to sit and prop themselves up with their arms by about 5 months, and by the end of that month they were each sitting unassisted to hold toys and teethers. I used to put blankets behind them in case they toppled over!” – Nancy W. C.
- “4 1/2 months! He’s been adjusted since 8 hours old, never used a bumbo, walker, exersauser, or anything that restricted his movements. I think all those things combined helped.” – Carole F.
- “5 months unassisted with full control. She was also pulling herself up to stand at this age as well. Actually, standing before sitting.” – Brittany M. R.
- “My oldest baby was 7 months, youngest was 5 months. Every child IS truly different.” – Hannah H.
When Do Babies Sit Up? Final Thoughts
As parents, we sometimes overthink milestones and development. At the end of the day, most babies will develop at a normal pace (and yet their very own pace, too). Let go, trust your baby, and enjoy your developing child!
How About You?
When did your baby sit up? How did the timing affect other developmental milestones?