Most probably, you are eagerly awaiting the moment when your child finally starts to sit up by him or herself.
There is nothing strange about that — after all, the ability to sit down is a natural stage of development. It also shows that your child is gaining better control over his or her body. Isn’t that something to be proud of? 😉
Of course it is!
Why then should you refrain from sitting your child up? Babies seem to be so happy when they are sitting up… What’s the problem?
Is it really so bad for them? After all, everybody keeps saying: “He should be sitting by now!”
Does this sound familiar??? Welcome to the club! I’m telling you, there are many of us! 🙂
It is entirely up to you what you do with such comments and “advice.” That said, I would like to present a few valid points you should consider when tackling this issue. 🙂
I believe it is worth going over them to allow you to start trusting your own parental intuition. 😊
In this post I am not going to focus on the spine. It is quite obvious that when babies don’t know how to maintain a sitting position on their own, they should not be sat up. This is especially true when you notice that the little one wobbles from side-to-side. The baby’s muscles are not developed well enough to provide adequate protection and support for a delicate and growing spine.
What I’m going to cover here are other aspects that are rarely considered. These are important not only for the future, but also right now!
Let’s get started!
#1: TORSO ROTATIONS
Have you ever wondered what makes your body movements smooth, graceful, and correct?
When you think about elegance and fluidity of movement, what do you picture? A ballerina or a robot?
Well, what comes to mind? What is the key to success in this area of your child’s development?
Maybe you have guessed that it’s all about torso rotations. 😊
When babies come into this world, they are not able to rotate their torsos. They move mainly in accordance with flexing and straightening. In time, the Frontal Plane is added to the child’s movements — in which the little one flexes the torso from side to side.
You can easily observe this when a baby rolls over from back to belly and, for a moment, stops in a lateral position. At that moment, the top of the head “tries” to become the highest point of the baby’s body.
Side flexing of the torso is important, but… is it sufficient?
In order for the movements to be smooth, graceful, of good quality and diverse, the body has to work in yet another plane: the Transverse Plane.
It is in the transverse plane that torso rotations occur at the waist. These rotations “bring together” everything that the little one has learned thus far. Now the baby can perform a much broader range of movements.
What do torso rotations have to do with a baby sitting up?
During the course of typical child development, rotations of the torso manifest at around 6 months of age. This is when the baby rolls over, pivots, and begins side positioning in a more coordinated way.
Every day babies hone their skills by dissociating, that is “separating,” the work of the pelvis from the work of the shoulders. Once mastered, the two can move independently of each other. Babies improves these skills every day while playing on a mat. When babies gain enough control over their postures, they will begin to master the upright position.
Some children are being sat up way too early – BEFORE they naturally develop rotation of the torso.
What can be understood from all of this?
Working on torso rotation in the upright position is quite difficult, mainly because the support plane is substantially smaller than it is when the baby is lying down. That is why babies move less freely when sat up too soon. In such a case, you might get the impression that your baby’s torso is tense. The arms seem stiff, the child reaches for a toy less eagerly, doesn’t shift toys from hand to hand, and doesn’t extend arms upwards…
You may also notice that, even though your child is sitting without any problems, he or she might be reluctant to change from one position to another. For instance, your child can’t move from a sitting position to all fours (and vice versa) – or does so with a great deal of effort.
One thing is certain: the QUALITY of your little one’s physical abilities will be worse than that of his or her peers.
Is it worth it then? Decide for yourself. 🙂
During the first year of life, children prepare themselves for walking and… a straight hip is crucial for walking. Once you understand this, you will quickly realize that leaving your child in a sitting position for extended periods of time is not the best idea: it interferes with what your baby is naturally seeking to achieve.
When inside the womb, the baby’s legs are bent and this continues until right after birth. The hips straighten over time. At around five months of age, during “swimming” lots of straightening takes place.
There will be a lot of straightening – but not quite enough. 🙂 This is why, during the upcoming months, the little one will continue to work on various forms of straightening: during high support, the side position, or even while kneeling.
Sitting involves bending of the hips. This is not a problem as long as sitting is one of the many varied activities your child does. For children who sit most of the time because, for instance, they do not know how to change positions, the situation becomes more problematic.
Because such babies do not experience enough leg movement while on a play mat, they may have a difficult time controlling their legs when they begin standing and learning to walk. They may also be less eager to get on all fours. Instead, they might slide around on their bums in order to move around.
Extension in the hip influences the length of the lumbar hip muscles, which are responsible for proper positioning of the pelvis. Proper positioning of the pelvis is responsible for the future posture of the body as well… It all comes nicely together, doesn’t it?
#3: THERE ARE A LOT OF INTERESTING THINGS TO DO IN OTHER POSITIONS 🙂
Yes, indeed there are! 🙂
Of course we, as parents, eagerly keep track of our child’s progress. I can assure you that you will soon realize this phase of your baby’s life goes by very quickly.
That is why, instead of stressing out and focusing on what your little one doesn’t do, I recommend stepping back and just accompanying your baby in his or her development.
Obviously, I am not telling you to remain uninformed. Staying calm while being vigilant is crucial.
Mother Nature has arranged it so well that every child reaches each succeeding stage of development exactly when he or she is ready! 😊
OK, but does that mean I should not worry about sitting the child up at all?
Of course not! — Vigilant observation and keeping your finger on the pulse will serve you well! 🙂
There are certain child development standards which give you an idea of when a child should achieve a particular skill.
There are six-month-old children who have no problems sitting up by themselves. But there are also some who achieve this milestone around month eight or nine.
However, if your nine-month old baby doesn’t sit when sat up, you should see a specialist.
That said, sitting up on their own is a skill that a child may attain as late as 12 months of age.
But does this mean that, until then, I can’t sit my baby on my lap?
No, not at all. 😉 It’s more about common sense and observation. Please bear in mind that what is good for one child of a given age may not be ideal for another. 😉
If your child is not able to maintain an upright sitting position on his or her own, you may certainly place them in the side sitting position. The baby’s spine will not be exposed to direct pressure, but you will be giving your child experience in using and stretching the sides of the body. If you remember to alternate from one side to the other, you are free to do this without any concern. 🙂
OK, but what about physical therapy? Sometimes a physiotherapist will sit your baby up on his or her lap – despite the fact that your little one doesn’t yet know how to sit up on his own…
This is OK! There is nothing to worry about as the therapist has full control over what is happening in this situation. It has been proven that “elevated” positions activate muscles which must naturally fight against gravity. However, it is important that such activity takes place in the presence of a specialist who knows when a given exercise is beneficial for your baby, and when it is time to end it.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD?
If you want to help your baby achieve full control when he or she is sitting up – and to provide them with the best environment to get into or change this position – take advantage of what they already know!
This can be done by letting your baby play on his or her tummy, by gently rolling your baby back and forth, by letting him or her stay in a side position for a while, and by allowing him or her to PUSH AWAY from the floor. You can improve your child’s sense of balance by rocking your baby, or by building small obstacle courses for them to work through. 😊
It may not be obvious, but this is the best preparation for your child to start sitting up on his or her own. However, there is something else that prepares your baby for sitting up – and it happens much, much earlier.
What is that?
Head control. It starts when the baby holds his or her head upright from the torso during the 2nd or 3rd month of life.
— Nature is wise and doesn’t throw anyone into deep water.
— It is good to be vigilant, but staying calm is crucial. 🙂
— If you want your child to sit up properly, it is important for the child to achieve good upright head control (as a natural extension of the torso), for him or her to play while lying on the tummy and on the back, and for the baby to be encouraged to play in a side position. Remember also to playfully roll your baby and give him or her an opportunity for active work! If we roll a three- or four-month-old over onto the tummy, we don’t have to do anything more – just take it easy while giving the baby the opportunity to get involved and work hard to change positions.
P.S. I have not mentioned anything here about sensory issues, as I think this is a topic which should be covered in a separate post. 🙂
Have fun and do not stress too much! 😊
You may also be interested in:
Playtime isn’t just about being silly and noisy! You can do so much to help your baby develop properly – with fun for both of you! Check out my ideas for playtime – from birth to first steps – in the following e-book:
E-book: A COLLECTION OF IDEAS FOR THE MOST FUN PLAYTIME WITH YOUR CHILD
- WHO Motor Development Study: “Windows of achievement for six gross motor development milestones;” Acta Pædiatrica, 2006; Suppl 450: 86/95
- Shumway-Cook, A.; Woollacott, M. H.: “Motor Control;” Philadelphia 2016
- Bly, Lois: “Motor Skills Acquisition in the First Year;” Therapy Skill Builders, 1995