How can I help my baby learn to sit up?

  • August 30, 2019


Sitting is a big milestones in your baby’s life.

And it is important that your baby learns to sit well.

Thus it is imperative that you do not start exercising your baby because you found a video or a blog that tells you how to do baby exercises or baby yoga.

Including this one!

Every baby is different and develops at his own pace.



You can harm your baby with any exercise
if he is not ready for it.

Don’t do any of the exercises in this article if your baby is delayed or has any diagnosis.

If your baby is delayed, there are different techniques or exercises that need to be done that can be determined by a therapist. You can harm your baby doing the wrong exercises at a wrong time.

To determine whether your baby is ready for an exercise or not you have to ask your pediatrician or take your baby to a pediatric physical therapist.

There you will get the best guidance to learn whether your baby is ready to do a certain exercise or not.

After you got clearance from your medical professional, only then can you do the exercises described in this article.


This article is for well-developing babies.


Generally speaking, your baby is ready for these exercises if he got your doctors clearance and he can DO ALL from the list below:


You can pick him up by his chest, and you don’t have to support his head.


He can sit  without falling for 1 minute or more if he is placed on the couch.


He can roll
to both directions.

From belly to back,
and back to belly.


He can
push up onto his straight arms on his belly.


If your doctor prescribed physical therapy for your baby, you have to follow your therapist home exercise program.

The exercises for babies with delays or other medical conditions differ according to the babies needs.

So if you have any concerns, please do not do any exercising with your baby.

Take your baby to the doctor.


Where to do the exercises?


Where you do the exercises is just as important as how you do them.

I highly recommend that you invest in a mattress topper.

It is a place where you could have your baby playing and exercising safely from birth until she starts walking.

Later on, she can use it to build a tent or have a sleepover with her friends.

Full size is best
if you have the room for it.


How to do the exercises?


Keep in mind that teaching you the reader these exercises via words and pictures is limited and generic.

Thus you have to learn and practice the exercises/games carefully before you work with your baby.

To become a good teacher there is a learning curve for you the teacher as well.

Practice the exercises with a large doll or teddy bear before you do them with your baby.

Place your hands precisely. Your hand placement counts and wrong placement can alter the exercise or harm your baby.

Your baby is unique, and the exercises should only be used as a starting point, as a guide.


Make sure you study all the exercises carefully


Each batch of the exercises has a sequence of difficulty.

If your baby mastered the beginner set of exercises only then should you start doing the next levels!


Know general infant development


Here is a refresher mini-course:

Sitting is the first milestone where your baby learns to hold her head and trunk perpendicular to the ground.

This is a major achievement towards walking and it is a very big accomplishment!

Sitting starts with your baby being able to hold his head supported sitting in your lap around the 3rd month of age.

By the 4-5th month, he should be holding his trunk and head up well when you sit him on your lap.




Around the same time, he will start reaching for everything he notices, and he will be busy putting it in his mouth.

Soon he will be able to hold his head and stabilize his trunk for a while when you sit him on the couch all by himself.

He will start rolling around the playpen to get to toys and pushing up on his arms high when on his belly.

With some practice, he will start sitting in the highchair without falling to the side.

Eventually, he will sit on the floor when you sit him there, and he will fall less and less often.

And one day, around the 7-8th month he will sit up from the floor by himself.

To master independent sitting, your baby needs to have the following skills:

Upright head control-even in loss of balance
Trunk – back & core - strength and stability
Hip and pelvis strength and stability
Balance and coordination skills
Motor planning and protective reflex skills
Functional hand use – playing, eating...


So what can you do to help your baby learn to sit and sit up?


First and foremost don't use seating devices too much.

Using seating devices or baby chairs to teach your baby to sit is not the way. And can even be harmful to your baby.

Here is an example of a cute chair that if used 10 minutes a day at the proper age would be a great lesson for the baby.

However, if it is used more than 10 minutes and/or before your baby is ready, it can cause harm in her spine development.

The only chairs I recommend are here but use them sparingly.

And please don’t use the Bumbo chair at all.

Here is an article explaining the reasons why.

Instead, hold and carry your baby around when you do your household chores.

Or put her in a playpen or on the mattress topper and let her play on her back and belly during her wake time. 

When you hold your baby while you are doing household chores, you are utilizing natures best exercises.

Your movements doing the household chores and holding your baby teaches her naturally how to use own her body.

And most importantly, don't forget to play with her as much as possible.

Keep in mind: Learning should be fun and energizing!

Consider exercise time - playtime.
Please don’t make it boring and/or a chore.


Your attitude makes all the difference!

Show your baby the joyful and playful colors of your personality!

We all learn everything through all of our senses. So if you teach your baby with a negative attitude she will keep that in her memory bank.

One of the best ways to make the exercises fun is by expressing your joy while teaching your baby.


Here are some exercises to help
your baby learn to sit 


Do all exercises in slow motion.
It allows her brain to asses, react and learn better.
And it prevents your baby from getting dizzy or having a whiplash.


BEGINNER

The: Gen​​​​​tle side tilting exercise.

Make sure you smile or laugh and express joy during exercising.

Hold your baby upright by his chest in front of your face.
Slowly tilt him to the right approximately 30-45 degrees from his mid-line.

Stay in the tilted position for 5-8 seconds and then tilt him to the left.

Repeat to each side 4-6 times.

The: Gentle front-and-back tilting exercise.


This exercise is very similar to the first one.
Instead of tilting to the side, tilt the baby front and back.

Hold your baby upright by his chest in front of your face .
Slowly tilt him forward approximately 30-45 degrees from his mid-line, then backward but only 10-15 degrees.

Stay in the tilted position for 1-3 seconds and then tilt him the other direction.

Repeat to each side 4-6 times.

 The: Beginner balancing exercise


Practicing balancing in sitting will not only improve your baby's ability to sit safe but will help him with his balancing in standing as well.

You can start this exercise when your baby can sit resting against the back of the couch a few seconds before falling to the side.

The exercise:

Sit your baby on the couch and lean him against the back of the couch. Sit next to him, keeping your dominant hand on his chest the whole time.

Make sure you keep your baby's pelvis alignment neutral. This means he is sitting evenly on his bum.

Keeping your hands on his chest and releasing the hold slightly let him lean forward slowly like he is losing his balance and falling.

Stop his lean at 15-20 degrees.

Weight there 3-5 seconds.

If he attempts to sit back up, help him right away, don't wait the 3-5 seconds.

If not, after 5 seconds push him back to the back of the couch, to the straight position.

Repeat 4-6 times.



The: Don't make me dizzy m​ommy exercise


This time combine the tilting to all directions and go around in a circle.

Hold your baby by his chest and slowly tilt him to all direction in a circular manner approximately 30-45 degrees from mid-line except backward which should be only a 10-15 degree tilt.

Refer to above tilting exercises to understand the exercise better.

Make sure you do the circling very, v-e-r-y slowly. This is a strengthening exercise. 

Repeat 2 times. 1 circle each direction.


ADVANCED


The: Sit and kiss me mommy exercise


Step one: Put all blankets away from your bed or use the mattress topper on the floor with no blankets.

Step two: Put your baby on his back propped on a large semi-firm pillow(s) on the family bed or mattress topper on the floor. The pillow(s) should be semi-firm and give an elevation of 45 degrees or more. Do not use more than 2 pillows, you can lose control over your baby.

Step three: Kneel next to the bed or get down close to your baby so your face is at the same height as his.

Step four: Hold your child by his chest under his arms with both hands.
Holding his chest - slowly start pulling him into a sitting position. 
If he does not hold his head, if he has a head lag do not lift him or his head off of the pillow, just tilt him up a bit.

Important: Stay at step four until he starts holding his head when you start picking him up. It could take weeks.

Step five: Hold your child by his chest under his arms with both hands. 
Holding his chest - slowly start pulling him into a sitting position. If he holds his head sit him up and give him a kiss.
Slowly lay him back down and repeat.

Repeat to each side 4-6 times.


ADVANCED++



The: Playing in sitting exercise


When your baby mastered independent sitting on the floor for 5+ minutes you can start to offer her toys to play with.

Until this point sitting is taking up so much of her effort and thought that a toy could throw her off balance.

When she sits well for 5+ minutes give her small, lightweight toys first.

Be aware that she might lose her balance even if she was sitting well without a toy.

So sit her on the mattress topper or your family bed and put a long or several pillows around her, please.

The: Looking up in sitting exercise


The next step is teaching stability in sitting. Your baby needs to learn to tilt her head up while she is sitting independently.

You can only start these exercises if your baby can sit on the floor in the middle of the room all by himself for 5+ minutes.

During the practice times, your baby could fall in any direction but mostly backward.

Practice these exercises on the mattress topper or family bed with pillows or a boppy pillow around your baby.

You can also try this interesting product I found however still use pillows around the baby as well.

Before you start prepare 5-8 small rattles and put them out of your baby’s sight.

Place your baby in sitting on the family bed (no blankets) or on the floor with a mattress topper.

Offer her one toy at a time at her chest level approximately her arm length away.

If she gets the toy and does not fall, offer her another toy at chest level, but a bit further than her arm length.

This will cause her to lean forward.

When she dropped the toy take it away from her site and offer her a "new" toy.

Repeat this 4-6 times.

Next time offer a toy at her eye level approximately her arm length away.

If she does not fall, offer her the next toy at eye level, but a bit further than her arm length.

This will cause her to lean forward like we did with chest level reach, but it is more challenging as her arms are higher.

When she dropped the toy take it away from her site.

Repeat this 4-6 times.

Now offer her a toy above her eye level, slightly above hear head approximately her arm length away.

If she does not fall, offer her another toy at above her head, but a bit further than her arm length.

This will cause her to tilt her head backward, and when she reaches for the toy, it will be very challenging to keep her balance.

When she dropped the first toy take it away from her site and offer her a "new" toy.

Repeat this 4-5 times.

Lastly, offer her a toy above and slightly behind her head approximately half of her arm length away or even a bit closer.

With this exercise, we do not move the toy further away.

This will cause her to tilt her head backward significantly. Just the tilt of her head is challenging.

She might not reach for the toy for several weeks.

She might fall.

When she starts reaching for the toys above her head, it will add a new dimension to her knowledge bank.


The: Advanced++ balancing exercise


DO NOT start this exercise before your baby can sit independently on the floor in the middle of the room for 5+ minutes.

Sit your baby on the family bed or the mattress topper. No blankets.

Place a long pillow or several pillows behind him.

Grab and hold his ankles together, knees bent.

Lift his ankles up slowly to the height of 5-10 centimeters ( 2-4 inches ) and place them back down quickly.

Babies lift their legs naturally 


The same exercise can be used to strengthen the baby’s trunk.

To strengthen the trunk: when you lift the ankles up, hold them there for 5-10 seconds and put them down slowly.

Or

Lift his ankles up higher and higher just to the point his about to fall and put his ankles down quickly.



PRO LEVEL


The: Sequence of sitting up exercise


Lay your baby on his side on the family bed or mattress topper.

No blankets.

Bend his leg that is laying on the bed into his belly.

Place one of your hands under his chest.

Place your other hand on his pelvis, at the diaper area.

Gently push him up into a sitting position sideways.  He might arch backwards to look at you. If he does lay him back down, don't finish sitting him up.

Your hand on his pelvis is there to help him stay stable and not slide away.

Don't forget to practice both sides.

Repeat each side 4-6 times.


The: Getting down onto the belly exercise


Prepare 5-8 small rattles and place it out of baby’s sight.

Choose toys she really likes.

Sometimes the cell phone is the best motivator.

Just don’t get her addicted to it to this level…



Place your baby sitting on the family bed (no blankets) or on the floor with a mattress topper.

Place one toy at the baby’s knee than move it 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) away in an angle - following the direction of her thigh line.

Place one of your hands on his chest in the front and the other on his back.

When your baby reaches for the toy gently help him with your hand on his back to reach so far that he "falls" onto his belly.


With your hand on his chest slow down the "fall" so he lands smoothly on his belly.

As you practice you will need to help him less and he will get down onto his belly smoothly. Eventually, he will get into a crawling position.


These exercises are one way to promote safe sitting and also to prepare your baby for standing and walking.

The best approach to teach your baby is to educate yourself about infant development and behavior.
And keep records about your baby's development.

With intention, a vision, a clear goal, patience, persistence, daily repletion, and a joyful firm belief in your baby, in yourself and the universe anything is possible!

As always, enjoy your baby and motherhood.

See your baby (babies) as a gift for you to love and cherish.

Love,
Aga

The information presented here cannot substitute medical evaluation, medical diagnosis or medical treatment. All and any content in this article, blog post and on this website: BabySmileStones.com, including any and all medical and physical therapy opinions and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this blog, site, and connected site: AgotaRakoczi.com and the information contained herein does not create a physical therapist-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor and your baby’s pediatrician and physical therapist in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your baby’s health and development or the health and development of any other baby.
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