The Milestones in Baby Development

Sitting up: a milestone in your baby's development

7 Nov, 2022

When can babies sit?

The point at which babies sit upright for the first time varies greatly from person to person. Some babies want to sit up even when they are not yet able to sit up. In general, a child is only able to do this when their spine and muscles are strengthened and it is around the same time as your baby is crawling safely on all fours. From about the ninth to tenth month of life, most children can sit down independently and keep this position.

What role does the development of the spine play when sitting freely?

In order for your baby to be able to sit up straight, the spine must first develop. After birth, babies still have a round, arched spine. If your baby raises their head, the first thing that occurs is a slight forward curvature of the cervical vertebrae. Only then does your baby learn to strengthen the muscles on their stomach and back with a lot of training. As soon as your baby can pull themselves up independently and stand upright, the typical double S shape of the spine is formed. But don't worry: Your little one will go through this process automatically. While you can support your toddler, you can't fundamentally speed up or slow down this process.

How to support your baby while sitting

Most of the time, your baby will learn to sit on their own because babies are naturally curious and want to explore the world. You can help by pointing out interesting things to your child and encouraging them to actively move towards the objects. Always ensure a safe environment so that your toddler doesn't get injured while "practicing". Ideally, you lay your child on a thin, non-slip mat as a base for their first "attempts".

You can also support your baby with special exercises that promote fine motor development:

  • Turn your baby regularly onto their stomach. You can use a light pad and their favorite soft blanket for this, for example. Over time, your little one will learn to tense and relax their head, neck and shoulder muscles. This gives a good base for your child to later learn to crawl and sit independently.
  • You can also support your baby by training their sense of balance with certain exercises. Somersaults, rotations or slowly laying upside down on the floor are well suited for this so your baby learns to instinctively balance their body with their hands. Of course, you should be very careful with this and always help to hold them securely.
  • Baby slings are well suited as a preparatory measure for sitting freely. Your child's hips develop in the sitting posture which is important for sitting in the future.

Lap, rocker or high chair? The best way for your baby to learn to sit

Most babies often sit on a parent's lap at first. Occasionally there's nothing wrong with that if you like having your child close by. Sitting on your lap is also ideal for the first "feeding attempts" with baby food, as it makes your baby feel safer. However, your toddler should not sit on your lap all the time. Even if you support their little head, your baby's back usually assumes an unhealthy position.

Opinions differ widely as to whether a baby bouncer is a suitable alternative. In principle, a baby bouncer is intended to calm baby or to give them something to do whilst playing with the attached toys. However, some physiotherapists, midwives and doctors do not like baby bouncers because of the lack of freedom of movement. Similar to sitting on the lap, if the child lies in this position for too long, it can lead to misalignments of the spine.

A high chair is great for free sitting because small children can take part in meals with the family in the high chair. By observing, your child will learn a lot of new things and gather exciting impressions in their surroundings. You should only use such a high chair when your child can already sit on their own. It is important not to let your baby sit alone "too early". Even if your child has already learned how to sit freely, they should not initially sit in the high chair for more than 15 minutes at a time. A longer sitting position is not recommended because the spine is not yet fully developed. If sitting for a long time - for example in the child seat in the car - you should plan breaks for your child to move more freely.

If your toddler still can't sit freely after eight to nine months, there is no need to worry. Like other movement patterns, sitting freely is also stored in the brain as a “milestone”. Your child will remember the movement when they are healthy and ready. By forcing a "passive" sitting posture, you are more likely to harm your baby than to support them. It is much better if you simply give your child space until they discover and test their natural ability to sit freely.