Developing Healthy Sitting Babies
by Kim Ellison, PT, DPT, C/NDT

Kids Place Central Pediatric Physical Therapist

Moms, dads, caregivers – you all share in the dance of balancing chores along with the care and development of your infant. Tummy Time is extremely important for development, and so is working on sitting! When your baby is not yet sitting independently, the question arises — where do I put my baby when I need to set them down for a moment (or to take a shower, for that matter)? And then, on the flip side, once your baby is more mobile and you need to ensure their safety for those moments, where is the best place? Let’s take a look at both of these scenarios, along with the key aspects of development that coincide with these amazing phases of your baby’s early life!

A very young baby’s movements are unintentional and happen with a stimulus, like when a nipple touches her cheek. These types of movements are reflexes. From birth through infancy, babies begin to transition from these reflexes to more intentional movements.

When the ultimate goal is smooth, purposeful movement, the places where your baby spends time to practice sitting should be designed to help support an ideal posture. One of the key pieces of this is ensuring that their pelvis is aligned in an upright (neutral) position, not tilted backward. Sitting atop an upright pelvis helps support our abdominals and other postural muscles to activate, and give us more control for all kinds of movement. It also gives us a strong foundation for developing play skills, speech and language, and skills for eating and drinking.

We should also remember that when having your baby practice sitting or play in all of these seats and devices, your baby should be awake and under supervision.

Examples of places you can sit your baby:

All Ages

  • Activity Mat or Floor
    • If needed, with pillows around to support them in a reclined position should they fall

0-3 Months

  • Activity Mat or Floor
    • If needed, with pillows around to support them in a reclined position should they fall
  • Baby Bouncer/Rocker

3-7 Months

  • Activity Mat or Floor
    • If needed, with pillows around to support them in a reclined position should they fall
  • Boppy
    • Sitting with the Boppy hugging their pelvis, hips and thighs
  • Hugaboo Infant Chair
    • Similar concept to the Boppy, but with more support around the front of your baby as well

7-12 Months

  •  Activity Mat or Floor
  • Playard/Playpen

AVOID/LIMIT:

Too much time in seats that keep your child’s pelvis tilted backward, in a slouched position (also known as a posterior pelvic tilt). Many of these have a sling-like bottom which makes it more challenging to keep our pelvis upright and our backs straight. They also don’t provide enough support of your baby’s ribcage which makes it difficult for them to learn to use their core muscles. If you need to use them, these seating devices are okay for very short bouts, but should not be a place to have your baby sit for more than a few minutes.

Examples:

  • Bumbos
  • Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Chairs
  • Exersaucers
  • Baby Walkers
  • Jumperoos