There is this small window of time where a baby isn't quite mobile yet, but can sit on the floor independently and play. To get to this sweet spot, it's helpful to know how to help your baby sit up so they can build the strength they need to do it on their own. And, as it turns out, you probably already have everything you need to do it.
Typically, babies will be able to sit without support between 6 and 8 months old. However, they'll still need an adult to help them get into the position and, "It will be a couple months before they are able to get themselves into a sitting position," pediatrician Dr. Ellie Erickson tells Romper via email.
During this stage, pediatrician Dr. Whitney Casares says in an email, "babies often sit with their hands in front of them in what experts call a tripod position." This is definitely a great time to help them strengthen their core muscles, but you don't have to wait for them to master tripod position before you offer assistance.
"Once they raise and/or push up their chest from laying on their stomach, you can start working on sitting," Erickson says. At that point, "there’s no harm in trying something, and if they don’t seem ready, then back off." She says you'll likely know when they're ready because "babies are often really excited about seeing things around them so they will often want to be sitting up and will let you know. It's baby FOMO."
When they seem like they're ready, Casares recommends starting off easy by "playing with them on a floor mat and practicing sitting by holding them on your lap in a supported upright position." You can also help support them by "using your hands, pillows, or the corner of the couch," suggests Dr. Erickson. From there she recommends "slowly [testing] things out by taking away different supports and see how they’re doing."
With the freedom an independent sitter brings a parent, it may be tempting to purchase something that supports them in a seated position before they can do it on their own, but both Erickson and Casares advise against these products, especially for long periods of time. "There are some physical therapists who do not like Bumbo seats and other positioners because they artificially prop kids up and don’t allow them to develop the appropriate muscles on their own," Erickson explains, "These chairs and seats can be helpful for short periods of time — 10 to 30 minute tops — but are not really meant as safe places to put your baby."
Casares notes that if you do opt to use one of these seats, make sure your baby's "not on an elevated surface and that they're closely supervised so they don't tip back and injure their head." Likewise, Erickson reminds parents, "If [the baby is] left in a couch corner or propped with pillows, they could easily tip over and suffocate in the cushions or fall off the couch," so they need to be supervised at all times.
There is no secret formula or parenting hack to this, it's just about getting down on the floor with your baby and seeing what works. They will get there in time, and when they do, you'll get to enjoy a few weeks of relaxation before they start learning how to crawl, cruise, and climb.
Dr. Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician, author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One, and founder of www.modernmommydoc.com
Ellie Erickson, M.D. F.A.A.P., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Course Director of Duke PCLT Program at Duke University School of Medicine