Your baby is now around three or four months old and wants to view the world around her. She is more alert, awake for longer periods between naps and probably enjoys babbling and chatting with you. Tummy time has become more exciting, as she is lifting and turning her head from side to side. Now is the time to give her a change of scenery by propping her up to sit with support. The more she practises this new move, the sooner she will learn the beauty of sitting on her own and being able to reach and play with her favourite toys.
Hitting this milestone
Sitting varies from baby to baby, but most will be able to sit between three and five months of age, either with a little support from you or by propping herself up on her hands. If you let her go, and she starts toppling or slouching over, she isn’t quite ready to sit on her own.
By the time she has reached the six-month mark, she will have probably developed her neck, trunk and back muscles to hold herself up without support. By seven months, she may even be able to get herself into a seated position by pushing herself up from her stomach. However, most babies will need your help getting into a seated position until she’s about 11 months old.
Remember, sitting is a big deal and takes loads of co-ordination. The best way to help prepare her is to ensure she gets tummy time. Placing her on a blanket with some toys around her, or on an activity mat, allows her to learn to explore her environment, while strengthening her back, neck and trunk.
Signs she is ready to sit
- By four months, your baby may be able to hold her head steady when you gently pull her up into a seated position. However, you may find her head still falls back at this age. Make a game of it by pulling at her hands to gently sit her up, blowing raspberries, or making funny faces. You can also prop her up in a seated position, using pillows as a support. It’s important that you keep an eye on her at this time, as she may be prone to toppling over. As she gets more confident, you can hand her a favourite toy to play with – she’ll enjoy the different viewpoint. However, remember, she is still learning to sit and this can be exhausting for her. She’ll let you know when she has had enough.
- By six months she will probably be more comfortable sitting propped up. By this stage, she should be able to hold a seated position for a few seconds on her own. Now is the time that she will start to grasp the concept of balance. Her progress will be slow and steady, but you may find that she will lean on her hands in front of her, or try grasp a toy that is placed in front of her. This forward tilt with outstretched arms and flat hands on the floor is known as the tripod sit, and is a great indication that she is not far from sitting on her own. Her muscles are strengthening and she is developing a sense of balance, which is vital for when she learns to crawl. The more practise she gets, the stronger her core strength will get. As she becomes more comfortable in this position, you can start rolling a ball towards her, hold her hands, sing and do actions, or place a toy on the floor in front of her, before lifting it to eye level. She will start reaching for it and may even take it and play with it – without even realising she is sitting on her own.
Keep in mind that babies develop in their own time. Some babies may sit as early as four months, while others may take nine months to get the hang of it. Tummy time, practising sitting with support, and providing a little bit of distraction when she is sitting upright, will help her soon get the hang of it. If you are concerned that she may have low muscle tone, or if she’s not reaching her other milestones, chat to your paediatrician.
Once your baby has mastered sitting, she is well on her way to her next major milestones towards independence – crawling, pulling herself up into a standing position, and, eventually, walking.
Sitting plays a role in how your baby learns
Did you know sitting up – either by herself or supported, helps play a role in how your baby learns? Research, conducted by North Dakota State University, Fargo and Texas A&M has found that a baby’s ability to sit up unsupported has an effect on how they learn about objects. “An important part of human cognitive development is the ability to understand whether an object in view is the same or different from an object seen earlier,” said co-author of the study Dr Woods. She added that older babies have the ability to sit unsupported, which makes it easier for them to reach for, grasp and manipulate objects. “If babies don’t have to focus on balancing, their attention can be on exploring the object.” The researchers explained that helping your baby sit up in a secure, well-supported manner during learning sessions may help them in a wide variety of learning situations – not just during object-feature learning.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.