When Do Babies Sit Up?

Wondering when your little munchkin is ready to sit up on her own?  Learn more about this important milestone and how it improves physical development.

happy baby sitting on bed

Sitting up lets babies be more independent and explore their environment in new ways, says Sheryl Pitner, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It also bridges the path to other major milestones, such as starting solids, crawling, standing, and walking. Keep reading to learn more about when babies start sitting up, with tips for helping your little one reach the milestone.

How Sitting Up Helps Development

Your baby's gross motor skills come into play while he’s learning to sit up. In order to accomplish the task, he needs to have strong muscles in the neck, shoulders, stomach, back, and hips, says Jean Moorjani, M.D., a pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. As your baby becomes efficient at using her hands to interact with her environment while sitting up, fine motor skill development will also kick in.

What’s more, "sitting up with minimal support means the baby has the proper muscle control needed to transition from a liquid diet of breast milk or formula to solid foods," says Dr. Moorjani. A baby can't move to solid foods unless he's able to sit upright and hold up his head and neck, which helps avoid choking.

When Do Babies Sit Up By Themselves?

Typically, babies learn to sit up between 4 and 7 months, Dr. Pitner says. Once your baby finally sits up from lying down, though, don't expect it to last longer than a second or two. He'll do a lot of tipping over, so make sure you're never further than an arm's length away to catch him.

As your baby’s muscle strength improves, he'll be able to sit slightly longer, but he’ll still probably fall when he gets excited and kicks his legs. He’ll develop more control once he begins to tripod—or lean forward and support himself with one or both arms, Dr. Pitner says.

After your kiddo gets better at sitting up, he'll begin to pivot into different positions and learn to rock forward and backwards to get on his hands and knees. Another milestone comes next: crawling!

How to Help Your Baby Sit Up

Help your baby learn this new skill by holding onto her arms when she's on her back and gently pulling her up to a sitting position. She'll enjoy the back-and-forth motion, so add some fun sound effects to make it even more exciting.

Your baby needs good head control to sit up, and the best practice is tummy time. While she's on her stomach, talk to her, interact with her, and place some toys just out of her reach so she has a reason to look around, Dr. Pitner says. When you notice she's holding her head steadier—and she’s able to push herself up into higher positions—start helping her sit up with assistance for five to ten minutes a few times per day. Place her on your lap so that her head and back lean against your chest, sit her in a Boppy seat on the floor, or use pillows to prop her up.

As she spends more time on her tummy, she'll build her pint-size muscles, get stronger, and be able to push herself further off the floor—until one day she'll be sitting upright on her own!

When to Visit the Doctor

Don't worry if your baby isn't sitting up by the 6-month mark. Every baby develops differently and there's a wide range of "normal" when it comes to meeting milestones, Dr. Moorjani says. With a little more time and patience, your baby will likely start sitting up. But if she still isn't sitting up for at least a few minutes by time she's 9 months, mention it to your pediatrician.

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