when do babies sit up

It may seem like just yesterday that your baby was born, but now they are growing increasingly mobile and independent. Soon enough, they will be ready to start sitting up on their own. Find out what age babies start to sit up, how you can help your little one and learn some fun exercises. They’ll be sitting before you know it!

What Age Do Babies Sit Up?

Sitting is no big deal for us adults, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. Your baby first needs to develop strong muscles to hold up their own head and control their movement. Only after this will they be ready to practise sitting.

Your baby will first need a helping hand to get them going. At around 6 to 7 months old your little one should be able to sit upright with your support. By 8 months, your baby might have mastered sitting up without any help.

It's important to remember that there is no golden rule for when this should happen. Every baby develops at their own pace, so it’s perfectly normal for sitting to occur slightly earlier or later.

How Do I Know If My Baby Is Almost Ready to Sit Up?

You might find your baby enjoys holding your hands and attempting to pull up to sit. This can also happen when you put your little one in a seated position on the floor. They may try to use their arms to balance their upper body. These are some of the first signs your baby is ready to practise sitting up.

They’ll need some support at first, but over time your baby will get the hang of it and sit unsupported.

How Can You Help Your Baby Learn to Sit Up?

In order for your baby to sit up on their own, they first need to develop some strong tummy muscles to support their trunk, back, head and neck. Tummy time is a great way to help your baby prepare their body for this developmental milestone.

There are a number of things you can do to help your baby learn to sit:

  • Pull to sit. With your baby lying on their back, support their shoulders and head with your hands. Then slowly bring your little one into the sitting position. As they start to get the hang of it, you should be able to move your hands to holding their upper arms, then their hands, and then just one hand.

  • Sitting with support. Sit your baby down on a firm surface and hold their middle trunk. They can either be facing away or towards you. As your little one becomes more confident and gains more control, you can gradually reduce your support to lower down their trunk, then down to their hips.

  • Sitting independently. The best place to introduce independent sitting is on a firm surface like the floor. Be sure to surround your little one with cushions. You can start by propping your baby up with one hand at first, then lift it away. Your baby’s back may be slightly rounded at first. Ideally, their legs should be slightly bent at the knees and not too far apart.

  • Sitting on a low chair/bench. Your baby will be sat at the table with you before you know it! To help them on their way, take a low chair or bench and sit them on it with their hips and knees at 90 degree angles. Their feet should be flat on the floor with their legs together. Be sure to closely supervise your little one as they may fall forwards or back.

  • Side-sitting. An important step in developing control to help your baby crawl and walk. Carefully turn one leg so both knees are point towards the same side. Prop your baby’s arm on that side so they are supporting themself. Have them reach in front and across with the other arm to encourage movement.

While they may need your assistance at first, your little one will be sitting independently in no time. It can also be great to place toys in front of your baby when practising sitting for some extra motivation.

Most babies are able to play for an extended period while sitting upright on the floor by around 9 months old. After practising some side-sitting, they will likely also be able to pivot their torso to reach for toys.

In Summary

Babies typically learn to sit up before starting to crawl. Due to the tummy muscles your baby first needs to develop, they probably won’t start sitting until around 6 months. Once they’ve mastered sitting, they will likely start crawling at around 7 to 10 months.

Do Babies Crawl or Sit Up First?

Your baby will most likely learn to sit up before learning to crawl.

The strength and baby your little one needs to sit up with and without support typically develops between 6 and 8 months, whereas the skill to crawl tends to come a little later at 7 to 10 months. Every baby is unique, so your little one may be on the move a little earlier or later than this. Try not to compare your child to other babies. If you have any questions, talk to your GP.

Keep in mind, some babies don’t crawl in the classic sense at all, but just get around by shuffling on their bottom.

The transition from sitting to crawling can often be hard for babies, and they may end up hurting themselves. For this reason, it’s good to keep a close eye on them. When your little one is ready to get moving, it will most likely be towards something or someone that has caught their eye.

There are a few other skills and behaviours your baby may exhibit before learning to crawl:

  • Improved head control

  • Arching their neck upwards to look around during tummy time

  • Grabbing their feet or objects near them

  • Rolling over on their own

  • Reaching forward while sitting

  • Sitting up unsupported

  • Excelling at side-sitting

All of these steps are great at strengthening your little one’s muscles, which is key to helping them eventually stand and take their first steps.

Safety Tips

With your baby getting increasingly mobile, you’ll need to be more on the ball than ever. Babies find everything, so if you haven't really child-proofed yet, now's the time. Get down on your hands and knees and look around your home for potential problems. Make sure that:

  • All cleaning solutions are stored out of your child's reach.

  • All electrical outlets are covered.

  • Door locks are installed on all the low cupboards in your house, including those in the bathroom.

  • The mattress of the crib is lowered to a level where your baby can’t fall out by leaning against the side or pulling themself over the rails.

  • All larger pieces of furniture are stable, and any unstable items are secured to the wall.

  • Any small objects are removed, and rugs are removed or secure.

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The Bottom Line

Your baby has gradually been gaining more physical control of themself and, at eight months old, they will probably be a masterful sitter. They will be able to twist around, lean forward and shift from side to side. Encourage them to stretch their muscles and hone their new skills by putting a favourite toy just out of reach so they can practise twisting and leaning.

Before you know it, they’ll be sitting with support, and eventually on their own. Your little one will be standing, cruising, walking and running before you know it!

Each baby develops at their own pace, so you may find your baby starts to sit a little earlier or later than this point. Try not to compare your baby to others as there is no golden rule. Still, if you have any reason to believe your little one’s development may not be quite on track, speak to your baby’s GP to receive expert advice.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.