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Sitting up is a big milestone in development for infants.
When babies are about four or five months old, they have enough strength in their arms, necks, and torsos to start holding themselves upright.
It won’t come easy, though.
To encourage your baby, help build up the necessary strength by having tummy-time sessions, working on balance, and practicing sitting up.
Building Strength with Tummy Time
Spread a blanket on the floor.
“Tummy-time” is an important opportunity for your baby to play on the ground and to strengthen muscles in the neck, arms, trunk, and head.
It will give your child the skills that should eventually lead to turning over, crawling, and sitting up.
Just make sure that tummy-time is always when the child is awake and supervised.
First off, spread a blanket, towel, or mat on the floor so that your baby has someplace comfortable to lie.
You might also have tummy-time on your chest or stomach when you’re lying down.
Set your baby tummy-down on the blanket.
Next, put your baby on the blanket or towel on his tummy.
You can also give extra support with a rolled up towel.
Just place this under the baby’s upper chest so that the child’s arms hang over the roll – and be sure the chin is also over it, so that his airway isn’t blocked.
Your baby might not like being on the tummy at first.
Start out with sessions that only last three to five minutes.
You can work up gradually to 45 minutes to 60 minutes per day, spread out depending on your baby’s needs.
Interact with your baby.
Tummy-time is about encouraging your baby to move, look around, push up, and shift their body around to build up strength.
Interact with and try to engage your child’s attention.
Encourage your baby to lift their head, react to you, reach, and ultimately move and roll.
Try to make and keep eye contact, encouraging your baby to look and you and interact.
Consider singing, cooing, or humming, as well.
Bring in toys and physical objects, too, to motivate the child to look and reach.
You might try hanging a toy overhead, for example, so that the baby will try to look up and strengthen the neck muscles – babies need to be able to support their heads in order to sit up.
You can also position a small mirror in front of your baby’s head.
Chances are that the child will be intrigued by its own image and want to look up at it.
Change positions often.
Your baby will need to build up muscles and different motor skills before starting to sit up.
Change position frequently to encourage this, putting the child on their back and side as well as on the tummy.
Again, though, make sure to supervise.
Try putting your baby on the side for tummy-time.
Use a blanket with your hand or rolled up towel to support your baby’s back.
The child’s arms should be in front and the knees and hips bent for comfort.
Be sure to switch from side to side and back to the tummy so that your baby is able to use different muscle groups.
This will help the muscles develop equally.
End each session whenever your baby decides.
There will plenty of signs that your baby has had enough of tummy-time.
Don’t push for extra time.
You can always try again later or the next day. Make sure to wrap things up when the child gets restless.
Your baby will let you know when enough is enough by becoming fussy, crying, or laying down.
Take this to mean that the child is tired.
Pick up your baby or turn the child onto the back when tummy-time is over.
Also, always be sure to watch your baby during tummy-time sessions.
While babies can lie on their tummies when awake and under supervision, they should be on their back for sleeping in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Building Up Balance with Positions
Put your baby in a sitting position.
Another way to help your baby to sit up is to help with building up balance.
By about four months old, most babies start to hold their heads steady.
You can now encourage your baby with sitting positions, so that the child gets used being upright and develops balance.
Try putting your baby in a Bumbo chair or upright on your lap, with support.
At first the child will be a bit wobbly and may only be able to hold herself upright for one or two seconds.
Make sure to watch the child closely.
If you’re practicing on the ground, lay down blankets in case of tumbles.
You might also put your baby upright with support in the stroller when you go out for walks.
Do this to try to stimulate interest in sitting up and point out interesting things, like dogs, other children, or cars.
Position your baby in corners.
Balance is something that your baby needs to sit up and hold steady, but it takes time to develop this neuromuscular skill.
Corners are a great place for your baby to do this, as they give the chance to practice while offering natural support.
Make use of the corners of couches, chairs, or even rooms for balance practice.
Surround the child with one or two pillows for support, too, if steadiness is still an issue.
Use your own legs for support.
Another way to give your baby extra support and balance while sitting up is to position the child between your legs.
Once crossed, your legs and lap form a perfect spot for your baby to sit with support.
First, sit down on the ground and cross your legs so that they are both folded underneath you.
Then, place your baby in the center of your lap between your calf muscles and hamstrings.
Your thighs will give the child support on both sides, while your trunk will prop the baby upright.
Give your baby extra support.
At first, your child will need extra help in sitting up.
Give support while she learns the ropes and starts to sit up under her own power.
You’ll need to be nearby at all times and can also use items to make the transition easier.
At first, your baby will need to hold up their body weight by placing their arms out in front.
This is the “tripod” position and helps to build up the core muscles.
Until then, be sure that your child is on a soft surface like carpeting, a blanket, towel, or mat.
You can also consider using things to prop the baby up and encourage the needed muscle growth and balance.
Regular pillows, rolled up towels, ExerSaucers, Boppy pillows, Bumbo chairs, or Doorway Jumpers can all work.
Practicing Sitting Up
Play games sitting up.
Another way to practice sitting on a regular basis is to play games with your baby.
For example, sit your child on the floor on your lap so that you are supporting her sides and back. Make sure that the hands are free.
The idea is to encourage the child to play while holding herself up.
Use colorful toys to entice the child.
Place toys out front so that your baby will try to grab them.
While the child will first need both hands to keep steady, in time she will be able to free one hand and then both to play.
When your baby has free hands, start to offer more toys to play with.
This way the child learns to sit properly while focusing on the toys.
Use a cardboard box.
You might also try using a cardboard box.
This is another good technique for practicing and encouraging sitting.
Just find a small, open box and place your baby inside – with pillows for support at first – and make sure the length of the box is slightly more than the width.
Place your baby inside in an upright position.
The box provides a support structure and will help to hold the child upright.
You can then provide toys to play with inside of the box.
You might also position a dowel, ruler, or short broom handle over the box with some toys attached.
The presence of toys in the box and overhead should give your baby a strong incentive to sit upright.
Give your baby a lift.
Be hands-on in encouraging your baby to sit upright, too.
Help the child get used to sitting upright and to build the muscles to do so even more.
You can go about this in a few ways, but in all cases the baby will need a little lift from you.
Lay your baby on the back, for starters.
Then, gently hold both hands and pull the child up from the back to a sitting position.
Try using a small mirror to entice the child to sit up.
While your baby is lying on their back, hold the mirror just a little too high to see – and then assist the child to sit up for a look.
Pull your baby upright.
Still another muscle-building exercise is to prop your baby up by holding your hands under the child’s arms.
While your baby won’t be able to stand upright yet, this position will build up more strength and balance.
Put your hands under your baby’s arms and gently lift up.
Hold the baby so that you are supporting most of the weight but the child’s feet are on the floor.
Let the child bear a small amount of weight.
You will need to do most of the work, but that little weight will help the child develop core muscles and more balance.