When you’re a new parent, it’s easy to get tunnel vision over the “big” milestones: crawling, walking, talking, eating, driving a car (j/k, j/k on that last one, although time really does seem to fly by in the blink of an eye). Once you bring your little one home, though, it might occur to you that there’s another developmental question on your mind: When do babies sit up? And, Mama, this is a very valid question, indeed.
It may not be as flashy as some of the other milestones, but sitting up is a super-important step for your baby. In addition to physical benefits — more on that in a minute — it gives your sweet nugget a new view of the world.
What are some signs that baby is ready to sit up?
Is your baby holding their head up like a little boss these days? Once their back and neck muscles are strong enough to hold them upright, baby might be primed and ready to start sitting up. If you also notice your little tot trying to put themselves in an upright position that might be a sign that with a little bit of help and support, they are ready to take this next milestone step.
So, when do babies sit up?
Typically, babies learn to sit up between the ages of four and seven months old. There are a few caveats, though. First and foremost, babies develop at different paces, so don’t freak out if your little one lacks a ton of head control at four months. Also, when baby first starts sitting up, it will likely be with your assistance.
When they do move on to sitting up by themselves, it will probably involve a lot of tipping over in the early stages. Going from lying down to sitting up is tough work, Mama! Your little one still has to build up that strength and endurance. Stay close by in case you need to catch them. You may even want to set them up on a soft rug and put some nursing pillows around them for support.
Over time, baby will be able to sit up longer and stronger on their own. The independent sitting milestone usually occurs closer to the seven- to nine-month range. Eventually, your little one may even start to pivot into different positions and, ultimately, transition straight from sitting up to crawling.
How can I help my baby learn to sit up?
Like any good mama, your brain is probably already spinning over what you can do to help. In all honesty, having those thoughts likely means you’re already facilitating your little one’s progress in the best way: just being there.
The key to sitting up is building back, neck, and core strength. To do that, baby will need plenty of practice. Give them plenty of tummy time. Be at arm’s reach while they explore their own abilities. Let them “sit” between your legs to get a feel for it. While it’s okay to use baby seats like the Bumbo from time to time as your baby gets close to the sitting milestone, try not to rely on it too much — being in a seated position too early or too much can actually hinder baby’s development of skills. Don’t sit them in an upright position too early and before they’re ready. Once you feel confident that they’re ready to try unassisted sitting, make sure they have a soft surface to land on should they topple over (which, spoiler alert, they will).
But remember, helping your baby reach this milestone can be a lot of fun. Place them in a tiny or regular-sized chair. Make sure you’re assisting them and ready to catch them if they lean too far over. This gets their bodies used to a sitting position and makes for some very cute pictures.
Another way to encourage them to sit up is by placing them between your legs or upright in your lap. If you want to see how well they do on their own put them on a mat with their legs apart but with their feet touching so it’s almost like a circle. The rounded leg position provides more support and stability for your upright baby.
You can also use toys as an incentive. Put your baby upright on the floor and place toys within a reachable distance. To get the toys, your baby will stretch or use their little behinds to scoot forward. Not only is this a great exercise but it’s also extremely cute to watch.
Why is sitting up so important?
It might not seem like much is happening when your baby sits up but, in actuality, a lot of their gross motor skills are being honed during this time. Sitting continues to develop the muscles in the neck, shoulders, stomach, back, and core that will be needed for more mobility. When baby gets more comfortable sitting, they’ll start reaching for things and interacting with objects. This contributes to their fine motor skills.
Sitting up also enhances your baby’s sense of independence and autonomy. They’ll see the world from a new vantage point and be excited to explore it even more! Baby learning to sit up means more independence for you too, Mama. You should stay close by (especially in those early sitting days), but you’d be surprised what you can accomplish just within arm’s reach once baby is sitting on their own.
When is not sitting up a cause for concern?
Some babies aren’t in a hurry to do much of anything other than being in mama’s arms. And, seriously, as long as baby is meeting developmental milestones along the way, there’s typically nothing to worry about. There’s a wide buffer built into the range of what’s considered “normal.” Just keep giving baby opportunities to sit up, and you’ll likely start to see signs of readiness soon.
Having said that, if baby still isn’t sitting up without support by nine months, it could be a sign of a gross motor skill delay. Other red flags to watch for are stiff or tight muscles, lack of head control, flopping around, or signs of weakness on one side of the body. Take note of any possible concerns and schedule a quick visit with your baby’s pediatrician to rule out issues that may need attention.
What’s the next milestone after sitting?
Crawling! Prepare yourself for a mobile baby by getting on the ground yourself and taking a look around at what your furniture looks like and what sharp edges there might be at baby’s eye level. This will help you babyproof your home before your baby starts crawling, cruising, and walking.
While down on the floor looking at the world through a baby’s eye view, look beyond just the sharp corners and pay attention to loose wires, open electrical sockets you can plug up, and definitely any heavy or dangerous objects your newfound crawler might pull on top of themselves. Put away or tuck up tablecloths, move tchotchkes away from the reach of small hands (and ultimately small teething mouths), and secure the TV to avoid any dangerous accidents.