When do babies sit up: a milestone guide
A core part of parenthood is learning to celebrate things you never thought you’d celebrate. Your baby grabs an object? Get out the video camera. They’re sleeping through the night? Text all your friends. And if they start copying sounds? Someone bring out the champagne.
Your baby sitting up is one of those developmental milestones you just can’t wait for. Getting into a sitting position is the first step to them finding their independence so they can explore and experience the world around them (even if that world is just their playroom).
But another core part of parenthood is worrying. Worrying about what you can and can’t control. Worrying about your baby falling behind, and if you’re doing the right things to support their growth. Sometimes, all you need is that bit of guidance and reassurance to settle the panicked parent spiral.
So, if you’ve been scouring the depths of Google with the search bar “when do babies sit up,” this article is for you. We’ve got got a comprehensive guide for when babies start sitting up, and what this milestone journey typically looks like. All we ask is that you remind yourself that every baby develops differently. Parenting is no paint by numbers, but it can be guided by rough sketches like this one as long as you can embrace colouring outside the lines).
The importance of sitting up
Big moves come in little steps. Before your baby can start their solids or learn to walk, they need good upper body strength and control that can get them into a sitting position. That means working on neck muscles, core muscles, and back muscles.
The gross motor skills that come up with learning how to sit up are key to helping your baby interact with their environment and get them closer to further developmental milestones. The muscle control developed actually helps them transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods.
So sitting-up skills allow your little one to experience new tastes, fresh play, and strong strides.
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When do babies sit up?
Most babies start sitting up between four months and seven months, but there’s a lot of wriggle room. Your little one could get in early or take the scenic route and cross that bridge later. It might also take them a bit longer to get in a sitting position without helping hands (which is usually at around 8 or 9 months old).
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How do I know when my baby is ready to sit up?
Before babies sit up, they need to have nailed some big motor skills like good head control and balance, so they can hold their head up straight and look around without any wobbling. Once they’re showing for that upper body strength, most babies will soon be able to sit.
You might spot that your baby is ready for independent sitting if they’re:
rolling in both directions
able to bear their weight on straight arms
grabbing their feet while they lie on their back
holding their head up on their own
The journey to sitting up
From day one, you’ve watched the development of your baby’s gross motor skills and their muscle strength. They’ve been learning how to move, hold, grab, and (adorably) clap. Not to forget muscle movement from all that smiling! All these growth moments are what help your baby sit with pride.
For instance, by two to four months, they’ll typically start holding their head up during tummy time, helping achieve good head control, and should be able to prop themselves up on their arms like an adorable push up. From there, their journey to sitting up starts to take shape.
At fourth months, your little one might be able to get into a supported seated position. This could look like letting their back lean against your chest, or using pillows to prop them up. You can keep them entertained with games, reading funny faces, and those noises only parents aren’t embarrassed enough to make.
By finding the fun, sitting up will become a positive experience for your baby and they’ll be more motivated to engage with it. Then over time, and as they become more stable, you’ll be able to gradually offer less support.
But as long as your little one is still in this stage, you should make sure you don’t leave them unattended when propped. If they were to fall face first into a pillow, you want to be able to help them up. Without having built that sturdy muscle strength yet, it could be difficult for them to lift themselves up.
Like any big milestone, your baby is going to have some interesting “almost!” moments as they creep towards a sitting position. On the way there, they’ll often get into a “tripod sitting position” which is when they manage to sit up but lean on their two front arms for balance. This tripod position is just an in-between step where they can test the waters and build their confidence.
Once your baby starts to try sitting “hands-free”, they’ll learn it’s a bit of a balancing act. This wobbly stage typically happens at around 5-7 months. They might only last a couple seconds at a time before they topple over, but hey, a win’s a win!
As your baby hasn’t developed their protective counter-fall instincts yet, you’ll need to spot them in this early stage. It might also take a little while for them to learn how to transition out of this position, which is why they need a hand.
Other ways to keep them safe includes wrapping a nursing pillow around their hips and back for gentle support (and a soft landing), or putting them in an empty laundry basket lined with pillows.
Eventually, the pieces click together and your baby will be able to sit unsupported for at least 30 seconds. At this stage, they’re considered an independent sitter (woohoo!) Now’s the time to keep building their muscles and core strength, which you can encourage through toys (more on that later).
Your baby will probably start sitting with their legs in a “ring”, but this might evolve to side sitting which is easier for your baby to make transitions in preparation for crawling.
The final stage in your baby’s sitting journey, functional sitting means your baby can go from their belly or crawling to sitting up on their own. They’re able to transition confidently and are on their way to the next movement milestone – crawling!
But no matter at what pace your baby develops or when they start sitting – each stage of this journey will see their muscles strengthening, their balance improving, and their motor skills sharpening.
How to help your baby sit up
When it comes to a big milestone like sitting upright, your little one’s going to need some help. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to encourage this chapter of your baby’s development.
Getting into tummy time
Tummy time, tummy time, and once more for the parents in the back, tummy time! So much of your baby’s motor development and strength is built in these sweet sessions, so don’t skimp out on it. Tummy time can start as early as their first few weeks of life with a few minutes a day, before eventually going for around 30 minutes a day.
Pop your baby belly-down on a soft, flat surface (think blankets or mats), and get to the ground with baby-proof toys and books that encourage them to look up.
By learning to roll, sit, and crawl, their shoulder and back muscles strengthen so that they’re ready for a sitting position. Tummy time is the first big step in helping your baby sit.
Propping them up safely
Grow your little one’s interest in a sitting position by propping them up against you, or some soft pillows. You could even use a comfy baby support seat, which can come in super cute styles and designs (we’re talking puppy themed ‘cuddle chairs’).
But be mindful of overusing them, as it’s important your baby can develop the right muscle control needed to sit up without help.
By starting to sit upright and seeing how it feels, it’ll help your baby practice their sitting skills and get more interested in that upright lifestyle.
Helping your baby sit a few times a day for five to ten minutes should be enough to get them ready, without tiring them out too much. Just remember to keep any hazards out of the way, surround them with soft surfaces, and always be nearby. They’re only a short distance from the ground, but you don’t want to take any chances.
Using toys as incentives
Even the best of us need a little enticement when it comes to working out, and that applies to your little one too. Pop a toy at your baby’s feet and see if they get motivated to prop themselves up on their hands while they’re playing with it.
If your baby is a bit further along and in a support sitting position, bring the toy to their feet and lift it up to their eye level. This will help to encourage them out of the tripod position as they reach for the toy and play with it, helping them ditch the arm support and be able to sit up by themselves.
Some age-appropriate toys to entice your little one with could include:
Soft balls or blocks
Textured toys that make sounds
Toys with fingerholds
Musical toys like bells or maracas
Sturdy baby books made with board, cloth, or vinyl pages
Once your baby sitting up independently, you can place toys around them to encourage a new way of building their skills. The toys can entice them to turn their head, twist around and reach their hands out while staying balanced.
Get a baby mirror
Your baby is obsessed with watching themselves in the mirror right now (who can blame them, they’re totally adorable), so make the most of it! Grab an age-appropriate mirror, ideally made of plexiglass or mirrored acrylic, and pop it in front of them while doing tummy time.
They’ll be encouraged to lift their head and gaze at themselves, which helps build those important muscles in your baby’s neck and back.
Mirror play also has other benefits like learning to identify faces and track movements, working towards social and emotional milestones. And it makes for a great home video to send the grandparents.
Transitioning from sitting up to crawling
Thanks to muscle strength and now being a pro at balancing, crawling then becomes a lot less daunting after reaching the sitting up milestone. Your baby will soon learn how to lunge forward onto all fours from their upright position.
From there, they might be able to move forward and backwards for a while which helps build their arm and leg muscles. But it might still take a few more months before crawling with confidence.
This is the functional sitting stage that we were talking about earlier, and your baby is fine to chill there for a little while!
Typically, babies get the hang of crawling by the time they’re a year old, but some babies skip crawling altogether and go straight to walking (overachievers, am I right?) Point is, transitioning from sitting to crawling will look different for every baby.
But remember that when your baby does start making moves (which typically happens between 6 and 10 months), you want to be ahead of the baby-proofing game. Once this milestone gets going, it’s all happens really quick.
That means it’s time to cover sharp edges, secure furniture, pot safety covers on electrical outlets and install baby gates for steps. As silly as it might feel, get down on all fours to see what’s within your baby’s reach from their perspective.
Because if they do skip crawling and jump straight into walking, you want to cover your bases.
What not to worry about
Your baby will be able to sit up when they’re ready. Which they will be, in their own time. Humans have been learning how to sit up since, well, a very long time ago. Back then, they didn’t have the information or resources we do.
And they had mammoths and saber-toothed tigers to deal with at the same time.
So really, your little one is doing great.
Right now, your baby might still be slumping over or sliding off to one side without support, and if that’s the case then try again with them later.
They can tire out easily at this age, but if you keep creeping towards this milestone one day at a time, they’ll eventually start sitting upright with total confidence.
Just keeping offering them opportunities to have a go,and give plenty of encouragement to chug them along. They’ll get there when they get there.
When to seek professional help
If you are worried, or just need some personalised guidance for your family, it’s always best to check with a professional. Sometimes as parents, we need to let an expert take the wheel.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) give the following guidelines for when a baby might need some extra help:
They’re not sitting up by 12 months
They’re falling significantly behind on other developmental milestones that come before sitting up, like not lifting their head
They’re having trouble coordinating their movements, move stiffly or have a lack of strong head control
They aren’t reaching for toys, responding to sounds, or rolling over by 6 months
They don’t exhibit social behaviour like making eye contact or smiling with their carers.
None of these are ‘drop your things and get in the car’ red flags, but they might warrant a check in with a professional or healthcare provider for specific advice and insight.
If necessary, your doctor will be able to do a physical assessment to check for any causes of developmental delay. They may recommend physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other ways to help your little one reach their milestones.
So look, we get it. You’re just itching to celebrate new milestones with your little one, and you can’t wait for them to start exploring the world around them. After all, sitting babies are happy babies. But we also know that just as exciting as baby milestones are, they can feel overwhelming and even stressful.
Trust that, step by step, your baby will make their way to a seated position (just at their own pace). And if you are worried, there’s tons of professional help at your fingertips for that extra boost of support. Whether that’s from your GP or paediatricians and child development experts.
Otherwise, enjoy the lead up to this milestone and all the adorable moments it brings.
Lise Bosch Follow +
Lise is a South African born and Aussie raised writer who recently upgraded from the fairy-tales she wrote when she was little to stuff with a little more “oomph.” With a journalism degree and experience in the beauty industry, she has a passion for family and lifestyle content. On her days off, she’s finding the latest and greatest brunch spots and trying to work...
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