Sitting up is an important milestone in your baby’s development. It signals that he or she is growing properly and will soon be able to move about by crawling. Before you know it, you’ve got a toddler on your hands! Your baby being able to sit on their own, will also afford you a bit more free time, which will help lighten your mood.
So, the question on your mind remains: when should a baby start sitting up? Though each baby has their own rate at which they grow and develop depending on their circumstances, the average baby is usually able to sit up between 6 and 7 months old.
Around the 3 or 4-month mark, you might notice that your baby is able to hold their head steady while you hold them upright. This is because the neck muscles are strengthening. You’ll also notice that their eyes follow objects, they’re able to transfer objects from hand to hand, and they start to roll over and laugh.
After 5 months, babies might even be able to sit up for short durations. This will eventually lead them to figuring out that they can sit for longer periods by placing their hands out in front of them, taking up the tripod position. At about 6 months, babies can sit well unsupported. In the seventh month, they’re often adept enough at sitting that they can move around the spot and reach out to grasp toys beyond their immediate reach.
Prior to this sitting period, your baby spent most of their time lying on their back, on their tummy, hitched to your hip, or breastfeeding. They’ve only seen the world from these angles, and they’re really not able to do much from there.
Sitting, however, allows babies to view the world from a different vantage point. It enables them to play with their toys in a different way and develop greater spatial understanding.
While this new position might be stimulating and interesting to your baby, they will likely lose interest and fall back to the prone position where they are up close and personal with their toys.
How to help your baby sit up
From the earliest days after your baby comes into the world, you can prop them up to sit with plenty of physical support. This support is so important for the head, in particular, which is bigger and heavier than any other part of their body. In fact, your vagina is probably still feeling the effects of birthing a sizeable head.
Part way into the first year of your baby’s life, you will notice that your little one starts raising his or her head occasionally. This often happens when a baby is laying on his or her tummy. If you’ve been pondering the question ‘When can babies sit up?’ — well, your baby is getting there.
If your baby can lift his or her head, this is an indicator that the neck muscles have become strong enough to support the weight. But this doesn’t mean that you should manipulate your baby into the sitting position right there and then. It’s important to go slowly.
Here are some gentle ways that you can help your baby sit up:
- Place your baby on their tummy on the floor. This will encourage them to lift their head and chest, strengthening the neck muscles that support the head.
- Put your baby in a sitting position between your legs as you read them a book or sing songs. This gets them used to the idea of sitting.
- Position toys within the eyesight of your seated baby to catch their attention. They can reach out to the toys and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see them play while seated.
- If your baby is just starting out, place cushions around them to prevent injury (or a hard landing) when they eventually topple over. Ensure you’re always nearby and alert to catch them as they fall.
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What if baby doesn’t sit up?
It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and there is no specific babies sitting up age. Differences in each baby’s development rate mean that while one baby might sit up at 5 months, another might not do so until 8 months. So if you’re wondering what age do babies sit up, the short answer is always ‘it depends.’
With that said, most babies should be able to sit up on their own and start to move around by crawling by about 9 months. Once they master crawling, they can then move on to cruising — sidling along objects — before taking their first unsupported steps.
If, at the age of 9 months, your baby can’t sit up of their own accord, it could mean that your little one is a late bloomer. They might get tired quickly and cry or slump over when you place then in the sitting position. But they will master the skill soon enough.
In some instances, an inability to sit this late into their first year could point to underlying developmental delays. These delays might also affect other phases of your baby’s growth. Other signs of delayed development might include:
- Poor head control
- Stiff muscles
- Inability to reach out to grasp toys and bring them to the mouth
Navigating these developmental stages can be challenging for parents, and feeling that your baby is ‘behind’ can trigger or exacerbate depression. If you notice signs that may point to delayed development, get in touch with your child’s pediatrician. They’ll be able to help you understand what’s going on and can offer advice on how you can take care of yourself so that you can be the best mother to your baby.