The Stages of Sitting For Babies

As new parents, we’re all pretty excited to see our babies reach their milestones. It’s amazing to see how much they learn and change from month to month! Sitting is one of the earlier milestones, and has the effect of completely changing your baby’s perspective on the world. Let’s look at the stages of sitting, and how you can support their natural progression.


How old should they be to start sitting?

This is a difficult question to answer because every baby is different! Sitting is a skill that is what is called neuromuscular, which means that it involves some pretty specific brainpower as well as stronger muscles.

Before a baby can sit unassisted, they need to be able to control their own head using their neck, trunk and back muscles. For that, they’ll need to spend considerable time on their tummies (check out our recent article on tummy time LINK TO TUMMY TIME ARTICLE).


What does the sitting progression look like?

Let’s look at it sequentially:

  1. While in tummy time, babies will start to look around. They’ll be able to hold up their own head and push up on their arms. They should also be able to roll from front to back and back to front at will. Being able to do these things shows that your baby has developed their neck, trunk and back muscles enough to support their body enough to sit.
  2. Next, they’ll start to use their arms to push themselves up. That might start out as a reclined position on their side, and move into a sort of propped roll for a while as they learn what their little bodies are capable of. 
  3. Early sitting for babies uses their arms to keep their trunk up. This is known as the tripod sit, as the baby uses their arms to support themselves. 

If left to their own devices most babies will transition to sitting quite naturally. 


How can I help my baby learn?

During tummy time, place toys and interesting things within reach of your baby when they stretch a bit. That will help to encourage them to balance, reach and develop the strength they need to sit. You should also give them lots of time spent on the floor exploring their surroundings. The more time spend in unstructured play and exploration, the faster they will learn.


Should I prop my baby up to sit before they can do it alone?

Baby professionals are divided on this one. Although almost all babies can be propped up to sit almost from birth, some professionals reckon it does them no favours by bypassing their natural curiosity. If they can be propped up to sit, why bother learning?

Others say that it helps them gain a sense of confidence in the position and helps to teach them to balance. They say that you should prop them up from around 4 months old, but provide a surround of cushions for the inevitable slump. What you choose is up to you.

One of the benefits of leaving it up to babies to progress naturally is that they develop confidence in themselves and their own ability which is amazing to watch. Babies who have been placed into positions or devices that allow them to do things they are not developmentally ready for yet often end up having an over-confidence which allows them to hurt themselves more frequently.