When will your baby learn to sit up? What are some signs that baby will soon start to sit up? And how can you encourage baby to reach this developmental milestone? We break down all the answers for parents.
Learning to sit up is an important milestone for your little one. Sitting up opens up new ways for baby to explore the world around them. They gain a new perspective to view their world from, and can play in different and exciting ways.
Crucially, baby also needs to be able to sit up before they can start to eat solid foods. Once they start to sit up (even if they need some support from you), and meet a few other key milestones, they’re ready to begin their solid food adventure!
But when will your baby learn to sit up? What are some signs that baby will soon start to sit up? And how can you encourage baby to reach this developmental milestone? Read on to find out.
Baby milestones: Learning to sit up
Learning to sit up is a gradual process for your little one.
It starts around 4 months of age, when your little one can hold their head steady with no support. Good head control is the first step towards sitting up.
Then, around 4-6 months of age, baby will start to sit up, but they'll still need help from you. You’ll need to prop or support them.
(Sitting upright and holding their head up on their own are key signs that baby may be ready for solids! You don’t have to wait until baby sits up independently to start solids. As long as baby is comfortable sitting for longer periods with some support, and shows other readiness signs, they’re good to go.)
Around 7-9 months of age, baby will be able to sit up with no support from you. This is because their back, upper body, and neck muscles have developed enough for baby to support themself. Baby may be able to move from sitting to other positions on their own, but may still require your help to get in and out of the seated position.
Then, by their first birthday, your little one should be able to move in and out of the seated position with no assistance.
Keep in mind that every baby is different – babies may reach these milestones a bit earlier or later than we've listed above, while still developing normally.
Learn more about baby development and the sitting milestone from BabyCenter:
Signs baby is ready to sit up
There are several signs that could point to baby being ready to sit up soon. These may include:
- Holding their head steady without help
- Raising their head up when lying down on their stomach
- Pushing themself up with their arms when lying down on their stomach
- Sitting in a “tripod” position, where they lean forward and support their body with one or both hands
- Possibly rolling over
And baby may be ready to sit up with no support if they:
- Can roll in both directions
- Push themself into a tripod sit without help
- Scoot back and forth
- Crawl, or seem to be approaching the crawling milestone
How to help baby sit up with tummy time?
Getting them to lift their head and push up with their arms is especially key to building those muscles needed for sitting.
To encourage muscle-building during tummy time:
- Hold a toy near their face to encourage them to lift their head and push up.
- Place toys just out of reach, so baby is encouraged to both lift their head and try to grab the toys.
- Hold up a baby-safe mirror, so baby must look up to see their face. As baby builds this skill, try placing the mirror to baby’s side to encourage more muscle development.
- Get down on the floor and position your face at baby's eye level, then interact with them. Even if baby doesn’t want to lift their head to interact with a toy or mirror, they’ll likely be motivated to lift their head for you!
- Remember to increase the amount of time baby spends on their tummy per day – that’s key to building muscle.
What else can you do to encourage baby to sit up?
Besides tummy time, there are several ways to encourage sitting.
Support baby in the sitting position, either by holding them in place (on your lap or between your legs) or using a pillow to prop them.
(Only prop your baby with a pillow when they are fully awake – it isn’t safe for baby to be propped during sleep.)
Taking them outside in a seated-position stroller – and pointing out what they can see – can also get them used to sitting. The stroller provides a prop and the surroundings keep them engaged.
But don’t limit things to propped sitting. Giving baby time to practice and experiment with sitting is vital as well. Baby needs this independent time to learn muscle control.
Stay close, but let baby have the freedom to move and try different approaches (especially when they’re working towards sitting up unassisted).
Follow these tips as you let baby experiment with sitting:
- Set up playtimes on the floor, outside of tummy time, where they can move around and practice getting into the seated position.
- Give them this floor time at least twice per day.
- Be sure to let baby practice sitting on a soft floor, blanket or padded surface, so baby can fall safely if they take a tumble. Surround them with pillows or other padding.
- Start by supporting them between your legs, then remove the support as baby develops their skills.
- Having something close by for baby to hold if they need it – whether that’s your hand or a firmer cushion – is also helpful.
- Keep them engaged with books, songs, toys, and anything else they enjoy during playtime.
- Hold books and toys at eye level. This distraction will hold their attention while they use their newly-built muscles.
- As baby builds their skills and is practicing unsupported sitting, try placing a toy near their feet, then moving it up to eye level. This will hold their attention while sitting – and more.
- Baby may reach and grab for the toy while seated.
- They will need to practice sitting upright to hold onto the toy and continue playing.
- For another way to encourage balancing, you can place toys just out of reach while baby sits up.
- Baby will look at the toys while working on steadying themself with their hands.
Summing it up: What should parents remember about baby sitting up?
As baby develops the muscles needed to sit up, they’re also developing the muscles and skills they’ll need to crawl – and eventually, stand and walk.
But if your little one doesn’t meet a milestone in the expected timeframe, don’t worry. As long as you’re giving baby opportunities to develop their key muscles – and practice their sitting skills, there’s no cause for concern. Baby will sit up when they’re ready.
(If you suspect that your child has a developmental delay for any reason, though, call your doctor. One reason you may want to talk to your doctor is if baby isn’t sitting independently by age 9 months.)
Create multiple tummy times and floor times per day, and keep baby engaged. Remember that these muscle-building times are playtimes, so make them fun. And enjoy this time with your little one as they meet exciting milestones!
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