Infants are quickly learning so much about the world around them. They are taking every opportunity to practice new skills in order to explore their bodies and surroundings. They pass through each milestone so fast and then on to the next one right away. Help your baby sit up on their own with these tips and activities below.
Time for baby to sit up
You’ve probably already seen them accomplish rolling, reaching for a toy, grabbing for their bottle, smiling, and turn to hear your voice. Around 6 months (give or take a month or two), your child will begin trying to sit up on their own. The muscle strength that they have been gaining in their neck, chest, back, abdominals, and legs, for the past few months, will help them to sit independently.
All this time, you’ve been watching those precursor skills evolve, such as holding their head up, pushing up on their forearms in tummy time, and strengthening their abdominals by reaching for their feet. Now is the time to start working on the next achievement: sitting.
Sitting is a great milestone, not just because your baby is getting older and stronger. It also means that life with an infant should get just a little bit easier for you as a parent. Once your little one is sitting independently, they can more easily entertain themselves and be content alone for longer periods of time.
Right now, you’re probably seeing your baby wobble around when you prop him up in a seated position. This normally happens as they’re developing the trunk strength to hold themselves up.
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Every child grows at their own pace
If your baby isn’t sitting yet, there’s most likely no reason to worry. Children reach milestones at all different times and you shouldn’t dwell on a specific age of when they should achieve these developments, especially sitting up on their own.
Some of the most athletic superstars we know were late walkers and famous actors who were late talkers. This also goes for clumsy people who were early movers and shy, timid adults who were early talkers. The truth is, you would never know by seeing them now.
However, if you are concerned about your child’s development and they’re past 8 months and not sitting yet, be sure to speak with your pediatrician soon.
Tips and activities to help baby sit up on their own
There are plenty of ways that you can help facilitate the trunk strength needed to reach the next milestone. Have listed some tips, positions, and activities below. If you’re consistent with practicing, your baby should be sitting up on their own very soon!
Make sure they have been getting adequate tummy time
Reason #8,765,432 why this activity/skill is so important! Tummy time is the precursor to most motor developmental milestones. It helps build strong muscles in your baby’s neck, back, abdominals, and arms. These muscles will help your baby to roll, sit, crawl, and so many other skills down the road.
Read my whole post on The Benefits of Tummy Time and How to Make it Easier for your Baby.
Practice on hard, stable surface
When trying out sitting with your baby, make sure you put them on a flat, hard surface, such as hardwood or tile floor, foam mat, or even carpet. This will give them maximum stability to be able to sit up on their own.
Once their muscles and balance get a little stronger, you can challenge them a bit more by placing them seated on a softer, unstable surface, such as on a bed, pillow, or couch. This type of surface will make their trunk muscles work a lot harder so they can sit on more unstable surfaces.
Don’t keep them in gear too long
Baby gear, such as activity centers, bumbo seats, and jumpers, are great as a place for your baby to explore different positions and see the world from an upright position. However, even though it may seem like they’re getting stronger by standing in a jumperoo, they truly aren’t that helpful.
Their muscles aren’t actually working if they’re being supported in baby gear. For example, you’ll notice your baby sinking into the sides of these devices so the seat is supporting his body, not his muscles.
Keep them out of baby gear often to let them build strength from gravity. Have them spend more time in tummy time, lying on their backs, rolling around the floor, and propped up in sitting between your legs.
Baby gear is not always bad
Some baby gear is helpful in a baby’s development. For example, I do love the Skip Hop Activity Center for encouraging babies to be upright and bear weight into their legs.
It does help to strengthen abdominal and back extensor muscles when they are standing tall and adjusting their weight in the middle of the equipment. However, most of the time babies will be leaning into the wall of the stander which is not helping to strengthen their trunk muscles at all.
The Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up seat is good for the early months to get them used to sitting upright and facing eye to eye. However, it will not increase their trunk strength much because the muscles aren’t working hard when they’re being supported.
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Keep cushions close to your baby
Of course, it’s best to be sitting right next to your child when they are learning to sit up on their own. However, you want to gradually decrease the amount of support you’re giving to them. Make sure that if you’re taking your hands off your baby, they have an easy place to land if they plop over.
Put your baby in the following positions to help them get used to sitting up.
Anytime your infant is sitting upright, you should place them in a ring sit position. Their knees should be bent and out to the side and feet just about touching (see image below).
This will provide them with a wide base that will support their upper body the best. If they start weeble wobbling, their legs being so far out to the side will help balance them out.
Use their own hands
When you sit your baby up in a ring sit, use their own hands on the ground to provide stability. They probably won’t know how to keep their hands on the ground like you want them to initially.
You want to sit behind them and place your hands over theirs while pushing them into the ground. Once they realize that their arms help keep them up, they will want to use those hands on the ground whenever they are sitting.
Gradually decrease support
Have baby facing away from you and sit him up between your legs. Place your hands on his trunk as low as you can possibly go without him falling over. This will gradually decrease the support you’re giving to help your baby sit up on their own.
The most support will be with your hands up high, closest to their arm pit. The least support would be placing your hands on their lower waist, hips, or even top of their thighs.
Giving baby support by holding down their legs even works on trunk control because your baby is using their abdominals to keep themselves upright. Think about doing crunches when you were in elementary school (or even still now), you probably used to have someone hold your feet so you could perform better. This is a similar idea!
Use a Boppy
The great thing about a Boppy is it’s multi-functional use. In addition to a nursing pillow, it’s great for tummy time and supported sitting. Wrap the Boppy around your sitting baby. It will stay in place low on their hips and provide just enough support to hold them up while still letting their abdominal and back extensor muscles do the work.
The Boppy also offers a great side cushion in case they fall over. I usually put a pillow in front of them where the Boppy opening is in case they fall forward. This is most helpful in the early stages of sitting when they fall over a lot.
Hold baby upright
Holding baby in upright positions like over the shoulder and standing while on your lap will all help to increase their trunk strength and abdominal muscles. Again, gradually lower your hands and the support you give them to challenge their muscles to do more work.
Try these specific activities to increase trunk and neck strength to get baby sitting up on their own. You don’t need fancy toys either, your baby will be just as engaged with an empty water bottle or serving spoon!
Check out some great activities and toys in my post Developing Fine Motor Play Skills in your 3-6 Month Old Baby.
Hang toys for baby to reach
You can hold toys in front of your baby and have them reach for it. Sitting them on an activity mat that has a toy bar, like this one, works great for this activity as well.
You don’t want to place toys on the ground for them to reach for because that will throw their balance off if they are looking down. If their head is aligned, facing front, their abs are working much harder.
Make sure you’re holding them with hands as low as possible or sitting very close to be on guard if they fall over. Hang the toys close and at eye level. As your baby gets stronger, you can increase the distance so they’re leaning a bit, in order to strengthen those ab muscles more.
Pull to sit
This activity can be done while your baby is laying flat on his back. A great time is to do it at every diaper change so you know you will be working on it a few times a day.
Sit by the feet of your infant, grab his hands, and slowly pull him up to a seated position. Give it enough time so that his head will pull forward and not lag back.
This activity helps them to develop their neck and abdominal muscles by contracting them as they sit up. It’s something that you can actually start doing when your baby is only 2 or 3 months old, as soon as they can start holding their head up independently.
Use a vertical surface
This V-Tech Sit-to-Stand Walker is a great toy that your baby can use now through learning to walk. Since it’s a vertical surface, it’s right in your baby’s line of sight. This will make it much easier for them to use their abdominal muscles to sit up tall.
Let me know if you have any more questions or tips on helping your baby to sit up on their own!