In this blog I will discuss the truth about babies sitting up by themselves, when it should happen, and if or when you should be worried. Trust me, if you have just had your 6-month baby wellness check at the doctor’s office and now you are worried that your little one is not yet sitting up independently, I’ve got you! Read on….
Is My Baby Ready To Sit Independently?
A lot of moms wonder when their baby should be sitting up independently. The truth us that true independent sitting happens much later than we think, and we really don’t want to force sitting up (or really any developmental milestone) before our babies are ready. The typical or biologically normal range for independent sitting is anywhere between seven and nine months. Babies are actually not developmentally ready to be sitting upright on their own before then. Now, you might be thinking, if this is the case then why is this a question at the 6-month baby wellness check?
Why Is Sitting Independently On The 6-Month Wellness Check?
The developmental checklist that your pediatrician or doctor uses for your baby’s wellness checks is actually quite outdated. The norms were taken from babies back in the 1980s, when development looked a lot different. Why have things changed? Well, unfortunately though the Back To Sleep campaign from 1992 did bring about a decrease in the incidence of SIDS (there is much more to the story than just putting babies onto to their backs, but that is another story for another blog), it also meant that babies started to be placed on their backs for a majority of their day. Not only were they placed on their backs for 11-12 hours for sleeping at night, and then maybe another 2-4 hours for naps during the day, for a total of about 13-16 hours in a 24-hour period, they were also being placed into all the baby containers that came on the market around that time. Babies were spending time in the clip in car seats, strollers, the bouncy chairs, and swings, in addition to being put on their backs to sleep, resulting in spending the majority of their time in a 24-hour period on their backs. What this has lead to is weaker babies overall, with some delays in motor milestones. So while our babies born in the 1980s, before the Back To Sleep campaign were sitting up independently around 5-6 months, that is not typically the case right now, for our babies born after 1992. And unfortunately, as with so many other things it takes a long time to updated research and to make new guidelines.
Why We Shouldn’t Force Our Babies Into Sitting Before They Are Ready
If your 6-month old is not sitting independently at 6 months, have no fear. This also does not mean that you have to start “teaching” your baby to sit independently. Why? Well, there are a couple reasons for this. Getting into that sitting position independently is the first true vertical position for our little ones. That means that all of their muscles in their core, both front and back, are strong enough to support sitting up. Perhaps more importantly, their spinal curves aren’t actually properly formed to support that vertical position early on.
Babies Need Time And Opportunity To Develop Their Spinal Curves To Support Sitting, Standing, & Walking
Our babies are born with a C shaped spine. Think about how they are literally curled up in a little ball when they were inside your womb. You may even notice for the first few months babies’ favourite position is the fetal position. That’s also why when we’re holding babies they’re in a tucked position.
As they start to get older, and start to stand up and walk, their spinal curves change shape. Adults’ spines have more of an S shaped curve. That curve (or perhaps more accurately, those curves that form the S shape) is there for a reason. It helps distribute some of the downward pressure of gravity on our body frames. Babies have to develop those curves. They start to develop that first curve in their necks during tummy time. I share more about how our babies develop these various curves in this short video.
What happens when we put our babies into a sitting position before they’re ready. If babies are put in a sitting position before they’ve developed those curves, before they have developed the strength in their core, it is actually putting a lot of downward pressure onto their spine. They’re just not developmentally ready for that. And, they are often stuck in this position. They didn’t get into it on their own, so they don’t know how to get out of it. This in addition to a core and postural muscles that are not fully able to support that upright position means that if they move even a little they will likely fall over, so they just stay in one position. This “stuck” position is not allowing them to lengthen and strengthen their muscles by moving and experimenting with them. All of this can lead to eventually bum scooting versus crawling, and if you have been following me for a while, you know how important I believe crawling to be!
Have I Hurt My Baby By Putting Them Into A Sitting Position Too Early?
I totally get that sometimes you’re holding your baby in your lap and you’re playing with them. Maybe you’re holding them on the floor in these positions. That’s actually a little bit better because they’re being supported by you to some extent.
As long as you’re seeing mini-milestones along the way you can trust that your baby is developing properly. We want to make sure that we’re not forcing them into positions they’re not quite ready for because that’s not helping them. It’s actually hindering their development. That being said, don’t worry if you’ve already been doing it, just be more mindful of how often you do it in the future. I love the quote from Maya Angelou …
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
You can allow your baby to have that floorplay time so that they can start to strengthen their muscles and develop their spinal curves. We all want to be sure we are keeping an eye on how our little ones are developing. It’s hard to know what’s normal. You can join other parents asking the same questions in my free Facebook group Sleep Deprived Mama’s Holistic + Heart Centered Support. This is a safe space where we will talk about all things parenting and support each other along the way.
Oh, and if you want to learn more about what is typical/normal for your baby’s development and how to support them in meeting those milestones appropriately, then check out my Holistic Baby Development course – https://learn.kailiets.com/page/holistic-baby-development-course