How to Help a Baby Sit Up

Baby sitting up

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight / Getty Images

From the moment they come into your life, babies do some pretty amazing stuff. It's impressive to watch these tiny humans slowly take in the world around them, evolving and adapting in their own time.

There are many milestones in an infant’s life, including being able to lift their head, roll over, crawl, and finally sit up on their own. Typically babies between 7 and 9 months of age are able to sit up without support. They might still require some assistance, and some may sit up on the earlier end of that range, while others hit the milestone later.

It's natural to anxiously await the next step in your child's development, and want to provide the assistance they need to reach that achievement. Let your baby take the lead here and look for cues that they are preparing to hit this milestone. When it's time, here's what to do to help your little one prepare to sit up.

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Why Do Babies Sit Up?

All of the early motor skills your baby learns essentially contribute to sitting up unassisted. A child must be able to lift their head on their own and have built up enough upper body strength before they can learn to sit. This can take months of effort on your infant's part, developing the muscles necessary to do this task that seems so simple to adults.

It's interesting to note that not only is sitting up a physical achievement for your baby, but it also offers them a new perspective of their world. Sitting up allows them to see and experience things in a whole new way.

And remember: Just because it's typical for babies to sit up on their own between 7 and 9 months of age doesn't mean your child will follow that schedule. Every baby develops at their own pace. "Be patient," says Tabitha Cranie, MD, a family physician in St. Petersburg, FL. "It will happen when it's supposed to happen. Just enjoy every phase of your baby."

What You Need to Help Baby Sit Up

Early baby exercises and milestones will help your baby gain the strength to sit up on their own. Tummy time, which may or may not be an activity they enjoy, helps your baby build gross motor skills and contributes to their overall development. It also provides the chance to strengthen those neck and upper body muscles as they work to push themselves up.

In terms of physical items to assist them in sitting up, you can keep pillows nearby for support.

How To Help a Baby Sit Up

Encourages tummy time in those early days. You can start practicing tummy time within the first few days of life, laying them only on their tummy under a watchful eye for a minute or two at a time to start. This helps them strengthen the muscles necessary for lifting their head up and, eventually, sitting up, according to Dr. Cranie.

"Prepare a place on the floor for sitting and set pillows all around," she advises. "Make sure the baby is in a calm composure and well-fed."

Next, help your baby sit up on your lap as practice and let your chest be the support they need. "Place toys within a reachable distance and let the baby use their trunk to reach the toy," suggests Elliana Rose, MD, who specializes in internal medicine, pharmacology, and pediatrics.

Another option for a sitting exercise is to begin by laying your baby on their back. Then, while holding their arms, gently pull them towards you into a sitting position. This action encourages core strength to build.

Both doctors caution against going overboard on these exercises. "Everything has its own time," says Dr. Rose. "Do not force your child to sit up and let them reach the milestone at their own pace. If it still has you worried, talk to your doctor."

What To Look For When Helping Baby Sit Up

As you have likely heard time and time again, no two children are exactly the same. They will each carve out their own paths and follow the development journey that is right for their little bodies.

Look for signs that your baby may be developmentally ready to sit up, recommends Dr. Rose. "The first sign is that the baby will be able to support the head on their own, around 4 months," she says.

After mastering the ability to hold their head up with relative ease, hold them against you in a seated position to see how they fare in this position. If they seem comfortable with assisted sitting, begin the process of slowly giving them a little more freedom to work towards sitting on their own with support pillows in place.

What To Consider When Helping a Baby Sit Up

It’s important not to push this milestone before your baby is ready. For example, while a product like the Bumbo seat can help a little one sit, it doesn't actually help their development. Additionally, if they are in that position for too long before they are actually ready to sit up on their own, it may interfere with the natural development of their skills. Essentially, too much of a good thing can be a not-so-good thing.

A Word From Verywell

You aren't just a proud parent—your baby really is special and unique in that there isn't another person exactly like them. We all want to see our children flourish and thrive. The moment they hit those developmental milestones it's natural to experience a huge swell of pride (and maybe a little bit of relief). With that being said, it's important to remember that the ages at which they typically accomplish these things are all approximations. You're doing great, and so is your baby. Consult with your pediatrician about any concerns surrounding your child's development.

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4 Sources
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  1. HealthyChildren.org. Developmental milestones: 7 months.

  2. Hewitt L, Kerr E, Stanley RM, Okely AD. Tummy time and infant health outcomes: a systematic reviewPediatrics. 2020;145(6):e20192168. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2019-2168.

  3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Babies need tummy time!

  4. CDC. What developmental milestones is your 4-month-old reaching? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.