Sitting independently gives your baby a new perspective on the world. Once his back and neck muscles are strong enough to hold him upright and he's figured out where to put his legs so he won't topple over, it's just a matter of time until he moves on to crawling, standing, and walking.
At what age do babies sit up?
Your baby will probably learn to sit independently between the ages of 4 and 7 months. Your baby will have mastered rolling over and holding his head up. Most babies can sit well for several minutes without support by the time they're 8 months old. (Even babies who've mastered sitting will topple over eventually, often because they lose interest in being upright.)
How babies learn to sit up
While you can prop your baby in a sitting position almost from day one, true independent sitting doesn't begin until he has head control. Starting at about 4 months, your baby's neck and head muscles strengthen rapidly, and he'll learn to raise and hold his head up while he's lying on his stomach.
Next he'll figure out how to prop himself up on his arms and hold his chest off the ground, sort of a mini-pushup. By 5 months he may be able to sit momentarily without assistance, though you should stay nearby to provide support and surround him with pillows to cushion a possible fall.
Soon your baby will figure out how to maintain his balance while seated by leaning forward on one or both arms in a tripod position. By 7 months he'll probably be able to sit unsupported (which will free his hands for exploring), and he'll learn how to pivot to reach a desired object while sitting.
At this point he may even be able to get from his tummy into a sitting position by pushing up on his arms. By the time he's 8 months old, he'll likely be sitting well without support.
How to help your baby sit up
Lifting his head and chest helps your baby strengthen his neck muscles and develops the head control necessary for sitting up. You can help by encouraging him to play face down on the floor and then prompting him to look up.
Using a bright toy that makes noise or a mirror is also a good way to make sure that his hearing and vision are on the right track. Once your baby is a fairly confident sitter, put toys and other intriguing objects just out of reach – they'll hold his attention as he learns to balance with his arms.
As always, and especially when he's just learning to sit, be sure to stay close to your baby in case he falls – or wants to show off his new skill.
What to do if your baby doesn't sit up
If your baby isn't able to hold his head up steadily by the time he's about 4 months old and hasn't started learning to prop himself up on his arms shortly after that or is unable to sit unsupported by 9 months, check in with his doctor.
Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others, but head control is essential to sitting independently, and sitting is the key to crawling, standing, and learning to walk.
Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than their peers.
After your baby sits up – what's next?
You can guess what comes after your baby figures out that he can lunge forward from a sitting position and balance on his hands and knees. He may get the hang of moving forward (or backward) on all fours as early as 6 or 7 months, and master crawling by 10 months. Your child is now both very mobile and very curious, so childproofing is very important. By the way, most pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is sitting with minimal support before starting him on solid foods.
Where to go next
- Find out when your baby may start to crawl
- Learn what steps your baby will take on the way to walking
- Take a poll: When did your baby reach each milestone