When can babies sit up? And how can I help mine learn?

Baby sitting up in cot

by Maeve Campbell |

When your baby learns to sit up on their own, it's a milestone worth remembering. What a difference it makes for your little one, who will have a whole new perspective on the world.

In this article 

The way you communicate and play will change as he'll have his own sense of agency, with the newfound ability to support himself upright. It takes time, and every baby is different, but once his neck and back muscles are strong enough, and he's figured out how not to topple over, he'll be doing it on his own. Next thing you know he'll be crawling, standing and even walking.

What age do babies sit up?

Typically, babies learn to sit up on their own between the ages of 4 and 7 months.

Your baby will already have mastered rolling over and holding his head up at this stage. So, you can expect him to sit up for a couple of minutes without support, by the time he's 8 months old. After a couple of minutes, any baby is bound to topple over as they will lose interest in being upright. Babies develop at different rates for a multitude of reasons, so don't be tempted to compare yourself too much to friends' little ones - focus on your little angel and his own unique milestones instead.

How do babies learn to sit up?

Propping him against some cushions is perfectly feasible from below 4 months old, but unassisted sitting can't begin until he's mastered head control. Then, at 4 months old, your baby's neck and head muscles will begin strengthening rapidly.

  • First, he'll first learn to raise his head while lying on his stomach.

  • After that, he'll be figuring out how to prop himself up on his arms and hold his chest off the floor, like a sort of baby push-up.

  • Gradually, over the next 3 months, he may be able to sit for a matter of seconds without assistance, but you should surround him with pillows at this point in case he topples.

  • Eventually, he'll be sitting upright on his own, by about 8 months.

How can I help my baby sit up?

Your first job is to encourage him to start raising his head, while he's face down on his tummy. Play a game where you get down on his level and then prompt him to mirror you and look up to the sky. This will help strengthen his neck muscles and develop head control, which is key for sitting up.

Using a bright toy that makes a noise, or a mirror is also a good way to make sure that his hearing and vision are on the right track. Once he becomes a fairly confident sitter, you can place toys and objects just out of reach, to hold his attention as he learns to balance using his arms.

What do I do if my baby doesn't sit up?

If your baby isn't able to hold his head up steadily by the time he's about 4 months old and hasn't started learning to prop himself up on his arms soon after, or is unable to sit unsupported by 9 months, it's probably wise to check in with his doctor. If there is an issue with head control, it's worth addressing now, as this will form the foundations for crawling, standing and eventually walking.

Something to keep in mind - premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than full-term babies.

So what's next?

Your little one is much more autonomous now that he can sit up, so he'll be experimenting with lunging forward pretty soon. This movement could happen as early as 6 or 7 months and he could be fully crawling by 10 months. To make sure your prepared for this possibility, it's important to consider child-proofing the house as soon as possible.

Something to bear in mind is that paediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is sitting with minimal support before starting him on solid foods.

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