Baby milestones... there's lots of them, but perhaps one of the most exciting ones is helping your baby learn to sit. Suddenly the world opens up when you're a sitter! It's exciting and engaging and there's a new found sense of freedom and independence that sitting independently brings. Knowing what to look for and how to help you baby learn to sit on her own is important. Your baby might start sitting as early as 4 months old or as late as 9 months. Don't rush it, they're all different but here are some helpful little hints and tips for you both along the way...
From birth, its a good idea to encourage your baby to have tummy time, where she spends time playing on her tummy which helps to strengthen her neck, stomach, and back muscles. In general, babies' muscles strengthen from head to toe, so after her neck muscles gain strength, her upper back and lower back are next. You'll know those muscles are getting stronger when she begins lifting her head off the floor to look horizontally. To help Baby gain these large motor skills, change her position often and stimulate her vision with exciting things to focus on whilst having tummy time. Just a couple of minutes of tummy time a day will strengthen and improve core stability, neck and head control and set the building blocks for successful sitting in a couple of months time.
Getting ready to sit
Once your baby can hold her head up on her own (usually around three to four months), you can sit her in a supportive chair like a Bumbo seat. Just be sure to always watch your baby while in the Bumbo seat or something similar. You can also use pillows to support your baby and help her sit up.
As Baby grows stronger, she will be able to sit for a few seconds when you place her in a sitting position. At first she'll be wobbly. She can hold her head up straight and balance a little but usually for only a few shaky seconds. Although she will tumble or topple often at this stage, she's learning. Practice makes perfect, so just be patient.
Babies need to learn balance before being able to sit alone. Although having good trunk muscles helps this, it's not all they need. Balance is neuromuscular, so before your baby will be able to sit, she'll need some specific brainpower. To help her gain this, you can place her in corners of chairs or sofas so she can begin to feel what it's like to sit up. If you want to work together, sit on the floor with your legs crossed and let her sit between your calf and hamstring where she'll be safely supported. Lots of cross crawl movements also stimulate those left and right and brain hemispheres, linking balance with coordination. Those baby massage techniques practised in sessions, come in handy for more than just relaxation techniques.
The Tripod Sit
When a baby is learning to sit up, it's common to put out one or both arms to help stabilize the torso, essentially turning arms into a kickstand to hold up her body weight. This is the tripod sit. Until your baby has developed that strong core, she'll need a little help balancing when she's trying to sit alone. Be sure to keep Baby on something soft for these early weeks of sitting to help soften the fall when she tips. At a round 4 months, Baby is also becoming more aware of what's going on around her. She might be distracted while sitting up and lose her balance. Hands at the ready and cushions either side ensure a soft landing when Baby inevitably topples over.