Have you ever wondered how easy it would be if children met their milestones at precisely the same time? For starters, mums and dads will be less worried, and you most certainly won’t be thinking of ways on how to teach your baby to sit up!

But they don’t. Babies develop at different paces and meet their milestones at their own preferred pace, not yours. But that doesn’t make you helpless; there are ways you can help ginger your child to sit up unassisted.

Lest I forget, it’s pretty normal to be worried and even to raise the alarm to the doctor if your child isn’t sitting up as when due. Remember, gut feelings and instincts are allowed in parenting! 

This article answers the following questions below:

  • Why won’t my baby sit up?
  • Why the delay? And how can I tell if it’s a motor delay?
  • How can I teach my baby to sit up?

When should a baby sit up unassisted?

As early as 4 or 5 months, some babies can sit up with support. However, it’s perfectly healthy if it takes your baby a bit longer to catch up with this milestone – not everyone likes going to a party early.

Before children can begin to sit up on their own, they must have developed strength in their upper body; they have better control of their head, shoulder, and hands. Also, they should get enough tummy time to build up this strength.

Tummy time refers to the position where a child lies on their tummy while awake. This position helps babies develop the muscles needed to lift their heads, sit up, crawl, and even walk!

At six months, many children can sit up with some form of assistance. And at 9 months, they can sit up unaided but might require a little bit of help getting in and out of the sitting position. 

Why won’t my baby sit up, or why the delay?

Your child may most likely just be taking their sweet ol’ time, but according to the CDC, if the child cannot sit up with support at nine months, you should act early and check-in with a paediatrician. 

There are several reasons why your little munchkin might not be sitting yet, and it’s not always something to worry about:

  • Your baby isn’t just ready yet – let them take their time.
  • Biological factors such as if the child was born prematurely, preterm babies usually reach their milestones at a later age – here’s an article that talks about how premature birth might affect cognitive ability.
  • Cultural and environmental factors – how much tummy time is your baby getting? Do you allow them to play independently on the floor?
  • Developmental delay or disability – now this might be problematic; read on to find out the signs you should watch out for.

Quick review on developmental delays

Developmental delay occurs in several children. Hence, parents and caregivers must understand the concept. Developmental delay occurs when a child lags behind their peers in attaining specific functional skills, referred to as milestones at a particular age range.

There are many types of developmental delays in babies. They include:

  1. Speech delay: This delay is observed in the way words are formed, such as delay in the saying/pronouncing two-syllable words like “dada or mama.”
  2. Motor skills delay: This refers to skills that involve movement such as; rolling on the bed, sitting up, crawling, walking, or running.
  3. Social and emotional skills delay: This can be seen in interacting and playing with other children and expressing how they feel.
  4. Cognitive skills delay: This refers to delay in thinking or intellectual activities, and it’s often linked to autism and Down syndrome.

However, there’s a difference between developmental delays and developmental disabilities. The latter usually lasts for a lifetime and includes hearing impairment, autism, cerebral palsy, and blindness.

While they are two different concepts, developmental delays can progress into disabilities.

Causes of developmental delay

Several factors cause developmental delays, and a few of those factors are:

  • Genetics
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  •  Malnutrition
  • Alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Traumatic brain disorder

What is motor skills delay?

Motor skills delay refers to delay in attaining developmental milestones in motor skills such as: grasping of objects, holding a pen or crayon, clapping, crawling, running, walking, and of course, sitting up.

It entails activities requiring either the upper or lower limbs – hands, legs, or both, as seen in crawling.

Warning signs of developmental disabilities in motor skills in a child include:

  • Stiff and tight or floppy muscles at seven months
  • If at 9 months, they can’t bear weight on legs or sit up with help/support
  • Incoordination of muscles at seven months, a condition known as ataxia
  • Inability to reach out for or grasp objects at seven months
  • They cannot support their heads unaided at four months 
  • Experiences difficulty in getting things to the mouth at six months
  • Inability to respond effectively to being pulled up at 10 to 12 months
  • They cannot walk at two years old.
  • Bending on one side in an attempt to sit when at nine months.

So what can you do to assist your baby’s sitting journey? Below are a few ways on how to help your baby learn to sit up!

Tips on how to help teach your baby to sit up

As a parent, you are your baby’s first help, and you can help prep up your baby for this milestone by creating an environment that “inspires” them to sit. Here are a few ways you can teach your child to sit up:

  1. Practice with positions: You can begin by introducing your baby to tummy time on a clean surface, preferably on the floor. Also, you can use pillows to provide cushioning support for your baby on the bed. You can as well, employ the use of baby seaters. Another practice is by placing them in between your legs or on your thighs.
  2. Make the process fun: Try playing with them while practicing sitting positions. A game as simple as having babies lie on their backs and making them reach out to grasp your hand can be fun and helpful.
  3. Celebrate the process: When you observe progress, however small it might be, you can give a broad smile, clap your hands, and even give a thumbs up.
  4. Use incentives: Babies love toys, especially colourful toys. You can get your baby’s attention with the use of toys. Having gotten your little one to sit up, you can then place the toy in front of them to keep their attention fixated on it while still sitting.
  5. Give it time and if you can’t stop worrying, speak with a doctor and let them look at the child.

While you teach your baby to sit up on their own, don’t forget to create a safe environment for them. Ensure that there’s nothing that can potentially harm your baby around: 

  • Do not leave things such as a knife, fork, padlock, razor blades, electric plugs, scissors, and glassware around them.
  • Remember to fasten safety belts in your car and on your baby’s seater; this prevents your baby from pulling out.
  • Avoid elevated positions and surfaces – practice sitting positions on a low surface.

The Gist

Remember, not everyone likes to show up at a party on time, and it’s the same thing with babies when it comes to meeting this milestone – sitting!

Some babies fancy showing up as early as 4 or 5 months old, while others fancy a later timeline. But at nine months old, your baby should at least be sitting up with some form of support. 

And of course, just as there are several ways you can entice anyone to show up at a party early, you can also entice babies to show up earlier by teaching your baby to sit up via the ways described above.

If your child isn’t making any effort to sit up at nine months, the CDC recommends you see their paediatrician. You should also watch for some of the warning signs of developmental delay/disability mentioned above.


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