Sitting Babies Up – The Downside

Conventional wisdom might call it unwise to suggest negatives about a practice that probably 90% of parents do with their babies (n.b. – a very unscientific survey). Is it really worth the grief to get into it?

After struggling with this for a while now, my passion for natural gross motor development won out.  So, I sincerely hope that you’ll read the following with an open mind (or stop now).

My husband and I sat our first baby up without a second thought, propping her on the couch at just a few weeks old to take pictures of her in her fabulous new baby wardrobe. Looking back at the photos, this was not a flattering position.  She looks slumped and frozen — neither comfy nor happy. In one particularly undignified photo, she’s dressed in a garish orange court-jester-inspired jumpsuit and matching hat, a gift from a witty friend. It’s clear from the scowl on our newborn’s face that she didn’t see the humor.

By the time our baby was 4 months old, I was attending RIE Classes where I was inspired to provide her abundant time to move freely and allow her to roll from back to tummy, pivot, scoot, and eventually discover sitting all on her own. I’ll never forget her sitting for the very first time after rocking on her knees, then rolling back to her side and almost getting there for several days. She had been playing on the floor in our minuscule hotel room in Paris, and suddenly there she was, sitting in front of an armoire, surprised to find a reflection of herself in the mirror.

The splendor of “baby-owned” accomplishments like these is one of the reasons I recommend giving infants the opportunity to learn to sit on their own and not propping or positioning them.  Here are some others…

1. Natural Gross Motor Development

Many of the ideas Magda Gerber taught were based on the research and clinical work of renowned Hungarian pediatrician Emmi Pikler (1902-1984), who was Magda’s friend and mentor. One of Dr. Pikler’s revolutionary contributions to infant care was the outcome of her keen interest in the physiology of motor development that was not restricted, aided, or taught.  Through her many years of research, observation and experience, Pikler concluded that when infant development is allowed to occur naturally, without interference, there are not only physical benefits such as grace and ease of movement but psychological and cognitive benefits as well…

“The learning process will play a major role in the whole later life of the human being. Through this kind of development, the infant learns his ability to do something independently, through patient and persistent effort. While learning during motor development to turn on his belly, to roll, to creep, sit, stand, and walk, he is not only learning those movements, but also *how to learn*.  He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction that is derived from his success, the result of his patience and persistence.” – Dr. Emmi Pikler, Peaceful Babies – Contented Mothers

2. Restricting movement

Sitting babies up prematurely prevents them from rolling, twisting, scooting, or doing much of anything else. When an infant is placed in this position before she is able to attain it independently, she usually cannot get out of it without falling, which does not encourage a sense of security or physical confidence.

The babies I’ve observed playing this way look as if they’re pinned to the floor, immobile from the waist down. While other infants are moving their limbs freely on their backs, rolling from back to tummy, and beginning to pivot, scoot, or army crawl, the seated babies can only bend at the trunk to reach objects of interest. If a toy rolls out of reach, the seated babies must depend on an adult to get it back.  Of course, infants are brilliantly adaptive. I’ve seen babies routinely placed in this position learn to swivel around in a circle and eventually mobilize themselves by scooting on their bottoms.

3. Habits

Babies like to continue doing what they know (and the habits we create for them can easily become their “needs”). When we sit babies up, they usually begin to expect and want that. Conversely, if you don’t sit a baby up, she won’t desire the position. If parents want to backtrack and try to break the sitting habit, there will probably be an adjustment period and some complaints from the baby, who has to be encouraged in small doses to get comfortable on her back. This is a position from which her motor development can progress naturally.

“Giving infants, even if they have developmental delays, the freedom to move in accordance with their innate impulses may seem radical, but it is essential to their becoming persons with uncompromised self-esteem.”                                                                                                         –Ruth Anne Hammond, Respecting Babies

4. Delaying, skipping motor milestones

When parents write to me concerned about their infants not reaching milestones like rolling or crawling, it usually turns out that they’ve been restricting movement in devices like infant seats, jumpers, and saucers, or sitting the baby up. Babies can’t be expected to develop motor skills without the time and freedom to do so. If they are stuck sitting, infants sometimes even skip the other important milestones (rolling, scooting, and crawling).

“I believe in giving your baby a safe space in which to play and letting her move freely and develop on her own without assisting her. Refrain from propping her up to sit or helping her roll over. She has an innate desire to move through these developmental sequences and has inborn knowledge of how to do it in a way that is “right” for her. She does this at her own pace and she gets pleasure from doing it.” –Magda Gerber

5. Independent play

Sitting babies up is a major roadblock to independent play. Since premature sitting is a dependent, static position, babies aren’t inclined to enjoy staying this way for very long (and this is assuming they don’t fall over).

6. Flexibility, posture, form

Body scientist and Feldenkrais Practitioner Irene Gutteridge (guest writer of “The Case Against Tummy Time” and producer of the famous Baby Liv videos), offers her perspective:

“Consider how hard it is for most adults to sit on the floor with their pelvis fully under them. More people are realizing how hard this is as sitting meditation becomes more “en vogue”, just as yoga made people realize how short their hamstrings are. But, if you give a kid the chance to find their own way to sitting it means they have properly engineered their bodies in the best way possible “for them” through their own discovery and movement, and of course learning how to form curves in their spine and hips, how to find the flexibility in their ankle and knee joints. When given the chance to do it on their own, it is a gradual organic process and the “form” follows the functionality.”

7. Loss of transitional postures

There is the ‘reclining on one’s side’ position that usually leads to sitting, which I fondly call “The Male Centerfold”. There are many other postures that occur between the biggies like rolling, scooting and sitting. Some are variations unique to the particular child, and if we believe in the wisdom of the body (as I do), they each have a valuable developmental purpose. I remind parents to take pictures because most of these are charming and short-lived.

“Loving parents, eager to help, may hinder their baby’s growth by aiding her to move in ways unnatural for her. I encourage you to sit back and simply observe your baby as she moves through each stage of physical development. In this way, you will be able to relax and enjoy your baby, and she will be supported by your attentiveness and interest.” -Gerber

8. What’s the rush?

Babies build self-confidence when they are trusted, accepted, and appreciated for what they can (and choose to) do. They’ll achieve it all in due time.

“Time and time again I have asked parents, “How old were you when you learned to sit?” So far, nobody could remember. What is the benefit of early sitting? Why are so many people hooked on concepts such as “sooner is better”? Since our life span is getting longer – why not slow down? Why are concepts such as readiness and motivation hardly mentioned?”-Gerber

I share advice in this podcast for undoing the sitting habit:

Recommended resources:


Unfolding of Infants’ Natural Gross Motor Development by the Pikler Institute

Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber and Allison Johnson and Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect by Magda Gerber

My compilation, Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting (now available in Spanish!)


Milla Finds Her Own Way, a Pikler-inspired DVD by Maureen Perry, NZ Infant And Toddler Consortium

See How They Move, featuring Magda Gerber, by Resources for Infant Educarers


No Tummy Time Necessary” by Lisa Sunbury, Regarding Baby

Set Me Free”, “Don’t Stand Me Up”, “Messing With Mother Nature” and “9 Reasons Not To Walk Babies” (on this blog)



(Photo by chris jd on Flickr)



Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Hi Janet,

    I know this article was posted a little while ago but I just wanted to say that I recently discovered your blog and I truly believe that you are very wise! I wish I had discovered your site before I had my little guy but apparently I’ve been doing a lot of good things for him. I bought a baby sling before he was born thinking I could get a lot of stuff done around the house with him snuggled up to me. Little did I know how uncomfortable it was for me, and he didn’t look very content in it either. I opted to put him on the floor on a blanket with different toys scattered around him. Once in a while I would flip him on his tummy so he could see different views of the room and strengthen his neck muscles. But I found that I could get way more things done when I put him down and gave him freedom. Now that he’s almost two, he plays independently very well and is happy with just a book and a toy or two. Anyone that’s ever baby-sat for us has always told us that he’s such an “easy” baby 🙂

    1. Hi Janet! I enjoy your blogs but cringed when I read your use of the term “blog suicide.” I hope you can employ more thoughtful terms in the future. Losing a blog audience pales in comparison to losing a loved one by suicide.

  2. Hello, I havent seen any response to mellissa susan or kristens concerns in which I also have a 3 month old with bad acid reflux who finds it relieving and compfortable to be sat in an upright position, also to be cradeled on her stomach instead of back! She crys in severe pain when laid on her back unless I have had her propped up for a good minute then she likes to lay flat on the floor for a couple second to relieve the pressure on her tummy but cant stand sittin in a “reclined” position in her seat its always to be positioned straight up but also she likes for me to try different positions with her she cant sit n the same for very long without gas pains interrupting!!

  3. Klari1985 says:

    Love it! Just one thing though, a baby loves to be upright in order to learn and see. So carrying a newborn in a proper carrier (a scarf for example…) is the right natural way. Babies are supposed to be carried all day and be in arms of a caretaker. 🙂 look at jean liedloff’s “continuum concept “. Says it all 🙂 but thank you for the very informative article!

    1. Klari – thank you for sharing about a common misconception. Babies love to be upright when that is what they’re used to, but they see just as well from all angles. They don’t need to see exactly as we do from a vertical position. We condition babies to want these things through our choices for them.

      I did look at Jean Leidloff’s book and I shared my disagreements with her approach here:

      1. My daughter is two months now and I agree with what you were stating that propping her on pillows is extremely unnatural and anything restricting her movement is unhelpful developmentally. However, when we were in the hospital from the day she was born she wanted to be looking at the world from an upright position and let us know it through crying. At that point she was a newborn and we weren’t expecting her to sit upright or want to be held in that manner but experimented different ways to hold her and that was what most soothed her.

        In the womb babies do not lay flat on their backs, but move around. Some prefer being upright. My daughter was upsidedown for at least four months, which may be why she didn’t want to lay down and observe the world. How can it be unnatural to put a baby in a wrap such as a mobi wrap or a carrier and hold them close? When I first used the mobi wrap I was impressed by how close it felt to swaddling but also allowed the baby to be close to your body heat and heartbeat. In my opinion it helped my baby feel more comfortable and as if they were in a womb, which would lead me to believe that it is a natural way for a baby to be carried.

        One of the ways the la le leche suggests you breastfeed naturally is laying the baby stomach to stomach and allowing them to find your nipple. Or the football hold. Both of those positions are not letting the baby lay on its back and explore. I would consider the football hold pretty much forcing the child into a sitting position. I wouldn’t say it’s unnatural, because I know moms who find that position the most natural position for what works for both them and the baby.

        The one thing I have learned from breastfeeding and my baby is that there the “natural way” is the baby’s preference and also what your instincts tell you that feels right. I agree that putting a baby in a bumbo seat or exersaucer before they can sit up by themselves does not make the baby look natural or comforable. It’s the same idea as having flashy toys with lots of lights and music instead of simple household items or less interactive toys: it does not allow the baby to explore on his or her own. However, I would never say that I “conditioned” my child to want to be in an upright “unnatural” position. She lets me know when she is tired of being on her back exploring the world just the same as she tells me she doesn’t want to be on her stomach doing tummy time. All babies are unique individuals.

  4. Hi Janet, just wanted to say I read your posts all the way from New Zealand and really appreciate the information they provide. When my daughter was 6 weeks old we started attending a playgroup that showed a DVD of Magda and the RIE philosophys. I was so pleased to have another outlook on development.I feel there are huge socisocial pressures for children to reach milestones and ive always felt it was crazy so it was lovely to know I was not alone in my thinking. We have plunket nurses in nz that really push for tummy time from 4weeks. I would try it and my daughter hated it I would feel so guilty. 2 weeks later I saw the DVD and no longer persisted with it. She is 8 months old now and now that she can roll herself across the room loves being on her front as she can get herself out of it. I always felt she had wonderful neck strength and this also helped me in believing tummy time wasn’t necessary. I like another reader however found that she didn’t like being constantly held as she spent a lot of awake time on the floor on her back. She would often cry when held by my in-laws and I sous always say she likes her own space it took several weeks for them to realise she was so happy on her back and that that had to observe rather than hold. She does however stand on my lap something her grandparents have really encouraged her to do and this is something I will definately avoid with any other children. Thankyou so much for your posts Im learning so much from them.

    1. Amazing! Keep up the good work!

    2. Muhammad Saleem says:

      My baby is of one year he cant sit still and always likes to lay down and sleeping.
      Have any experience and opinion.?

  5. Hi!
    I was just sharing this post with the parents at my early childhood center. I TOTALLY agree with your article!!! I have yet to see it fail once!

    One of the comments below made me think of an issue I’ve been seeing more and more lately. Acid reflux and lots of spitting up. Sitting up right does seem to help this, but it also bothers me for all the reasons you mentioned. What could be causing an increase in the number of acid reflux diagnosis? Is it really that common of a problem? And how can I help a child in my classroom who has this issue while not restricting the movement I so desperately want to offer them?
    Thank you for advice!

  6. I recently found your blog through a Facebook page and so far I’m intrigued. Anyway, this particular post has me a little giddy. I don’t have many sitting devices for my baby mainly because they’re expensive and not used that much, But also because my little man doesn’t like them. I have helped him sit up here recently but I’ve noticed that because I give him ample amounts of floor time he is a lot more mobile than other children his age, five months, and He’s already trying to sit up on his own! I am so happy that I found this post because it has encouraged me to stop “helping” him reach his milestones and instead step back a little bit and just watch him grow. Thank you for sharing this post and I look forward to exploring your blog more.

  7. Bridget Shetty says:

    I am curious about the recommendations for introducing food to babies when you allow them to come to sitting naturally. If a child hasn’t developed the ability to sit on their own, do you recommend waiting to put them in a high chair until after that milestone is reached?

    1. Once a baby needs solids, they need to be sitting. The idea is to limit sitting time as much as possible. My daughter is 8 months old and doesn’t sit on her own yet. She has to be in a seated position in the car seat and in a high chair, of course. These are the only times she is in this position. Otherwise, she’s still horizontal on the floor. She can roll with such confidence over our entire house!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post. We have been sitting our 6-month old daughter up for about a month now that she “can”… She’s protesting now that we are laying her on her back (more) to play. Any tips or ideas to ease this transition BACK to playing on her back?? Start out slow?? Thank you!

    1. Same problem here! Rolling over came naturally, but we started propoing him up about a month ago… I wish we had found out about natural motor development sooner, because it really makes sense! Now my 6 month old struggles to find a sitting position because we have got him accustomed to it :(. Did you find a way around this issue? So far I try to put him on the floor without sitting him up (he rolls over to his belly when placed on his back), but he gets frustrated… how can I help him back to his own path to crawling/sitting?

  9. I have never been one to comment on a blog, but I am so thankful for this post that I had to make an exception. You are so brave to have posted this and I admire that. I have a little one (8months) and it has been such a struggle for me to have others understand why I don’t sit her up or stand her up. My Mother just does not understand why I don’t want walkers, saucers, and jumpers for my daughter. I am also a teacher and I know that these early movements are directly related to how a child learns later on in life–HOW they relate to world around them. What could be more important? It’s VITAL that we allow our children the space and freedom to move in these early years.
    Thank you so much for your post. I will be brave and share it with others. Perhaps one day we will be among the majority and we won’t have to face these awkward moments where we ask adults not to sit or stand our babies before they’re ready.
    Love to you!

  10. Hi Janet, I love this advice! My son is 7 months old and I’ve been following your articles since he was 3 months old. He discovered rolling onto his tummy on his own with very little frustration. However when he’s done on his tummy he gets irate that he can’t roll back to his back. Thinking I was following your advice, I let him try to figure it out on his own. This has resulted in the biggest crying fits I’ve seen in his short life. We have spent days in a cycle of rolling-happy-tantrum. At my wits end, I’m now helping him roll on his back. I don’t want to rush him to learn how to roll the other way, but he is not satisfied slowly discovering it on his own. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you.

  11. I have a question. One of my concerns is the flattening of the head from a baby spending too much time on their back. I try to find a variety of “activities/positions” to avoid this as I am not able to hold him as much as I would like.

  12. Not entirely convinced by all this. While I can see that propping a baby in a sitting position may delay crawling or them learning to get into a sitting position by themselves. Doing so has numerous other benefits which may outweigh delayed crawling. Sitting means a baby is better able to see faces and interact with people in social situations, can play for longer period with toys without assistance, and it is most certainly a better position for being read too, looking at books and for singing songs/rhymes, etc. All of these are activities that foster language and other social skills, including empathy and mastering gestures, as well as hand skills like the pincer grip and purposefully coordinating both hands. Why are you assuming it is better to delay these skills by having a baby spend more time lying on their back over skills like crawling, which I’m not convinced is all that useful anyway given that walking soon follows and babies never crawl.

    1. crawling develops the muscles in the legs and the gross motor movement connected to kinaesthetic memory and learning.

    2. Babies who have freedom of movement are not delayed in social skills or any other skills you mention. Propping babies physically alters their spine and puts pressure on joints which are not yet developmentally ready for that pressure, and this is well recognized and documented. You can read to a baby by perching on a stool and leaning over them, or laying with them on your stomach which they LOVE. The only thing propping does is make it easier for the parent when they are used to sitting upright or on a couch/chair. Also the pincer grasp is mastered with the help of muscles in the arms, shoulders and back which are worked on when pushing up, rocking, scooting and crawling leading to a faster uptake of a true pincer grasp and a more balanced muscle development/stronger core. Babies developmentally should crawl and it’s well known that babies who skip this milestone have a higher incidence of later issues with their lower back, knees, hips and ankles. Finally a baby will only be more independent playing when propped for a short while, when they tire of sitting, of they toys they have, want to move, are getting tired or sore (how often do you sit almost motionless for extended periods?), they have no mobility and no independence. Natural sitting means baby has full freedom to get out of the sit gracefully and move to different toys, explore, find another position or play with their toy in another manner. I left my LO to naturally explore her surroundings and she was scooting by 5 months, sitting by 6, crawling by 7, and climbing/standing by 8. She is incredibly independent because she can go wherever she pleases and get into almost any position she pleases. She is also incredibly interactive, bright, alert, social and vocal, because I didnt need to prop her to play with her and give her the necessary interaction (not physical position) to foster her sociability. A babys physical development should never be impeded to “help” their social development, which does just fine given enough dedicated interaction from the parent/s.

  13. My bby is 4months old but she trying to sit im worried coz his a prem of 8months and im worried.Is it a good thing for her?

  14. Aunt Betty says:

    Hi Janet,

    Again another wonderful article. Yes babies are much happier when allowed freedom of movement. Besides freedom to move it is important for the caregiver to move slowly and confidently when caring for and observing the baby. A less stressed baby can better focus on mastering motor and life skills.

  15. Hey, I read some research some time ago (sorry, can’t source – forgotten) that described children with learning difficulties taken BACK through the gross motor development skills as a program which re-wired the brain somehow and helped them to learn in a much better way and catch up with peers.

    What I do know is this: every NATURAL movement a baby makes is designed to teach the body the basis for the next stage of development. At the same time the process is wired into the brain in ways that I have yet to understand. (Neuroplasticity has something to do with it). EG A new born on its back develops movement first in the eyes then as the eyes move around (over time) the body then follows and the kinaesthetic process sets in. Repetition and extension build the muscle memory. When this is interrupted by us ‘propping them up’ or getting them to stand too soon, the muscle/brain connection doesn’t get the chance to connect……that’s all I know about it without quoting research.

  16. Wonderful tips and advices! Thanks for sharing your knowledge generously!

  17. Janet,
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and this article. Many things you’ve written about have inspired me to change my practices with my 7 mo son.
    Echoing some comments already made, my son suffered with really bad reflux and was extremely adverse to laying down in any form. He also had mild colic, and had I not had a baby carrier he would have been extra miserable. It was the only thing I could do to help sooth him. When your baby is crying inconsolably most of the day, I’m pretty sure most parents do whatever it takes to help them calm down. using the Moby wrap and rocking were not thinks I started doing naturally.
    Could you possibly write something to include working with babies who have reflux and/or colic, and how to help those infants?
    Thank you!

  18. Yay, I knew I wasn’t wrong! Thank you for writing about this topic. I’m trying to implement the RIE philosophy/practices that I’ve learned in my current job as infant teacher of 16. I have been unsuccessful, but am inspired by reading your post. It may not happen in my present situation, but I’ll be better able to explain why it isn’t good to sit babies up before they can do it on their own.

  19. I can understand the importance of everything you are saying I was just wondering if you had any advice regarding babies who are on their backs and not given tummy time getting flat spots on the back of their head? My doctor warned me that without doing tummy time with my 3 month old that he could get a misshapen skull.

    1. I have learnt through my training as an early childhood teacher and through Pennie Brownlees book ‘Dance with me in the heart’ that flattening of the head is caused by lying on a SOFT surface for too long, meaning that the infant is not able to roll their head from side to side and around to relieve the pressure. For example, too much time in carseats, bouncinettes, on sheepskins and too soft beds etc.
      My 6 month old has been on her back on firm surfaces from day one (alongside some front carrier time when out and about) and has the most round head I’ve ever seen haha

  20. Elissa Smith says:

    I have a 6 month old baby girl and I let her sit on her bum on my lap a lot. Like when I’m eating, or when I’m visiting people or just sitting down on the porch or something. Do you think this is bad too?

    1. That’s fine, Elissa. Even better would be holding her at a bit of an incline rather than at a 90 degree angle.

  21. Marj Bryen says:

    I agree with your premise for normal development and do not encourage sitting or gadgets for young babies. I do disagree with the comment regarding g infants with physical disabilities or delays. These infants spend longer periods of time in developmental stages and may be unable to move independenly They may require assistance in how to move through normal developmental sequences through PT and OT in order to achieve on their own. Failure to limit abnormal postioning results in dislocated hips, scoliosis and failure to achieve e the potential for any level of independence

  22. I’m very worried about my son (9.5 months). He spends time on his tummy though prefers to be sitting up (but can’t put himself into sitting position). He can go from sitting to his tummy and he can roll over but rarely does he choose to roll over. He will just lay on his back and cry if I put him there. He doesn’t crawl but does a breaststroke movement to move forward and pushes himself on his stomach backward. He can cruise on the couch shuffling forward. People keep telling me maybe he will walk and skip crawling. This never sat well with me. What is your advice re: helping him to crawl? He can get on his hands and knees (from his stomach) and rock back and forth but never crawls – he simply lays back down on his stomach and then pulls himself forward or pushes backward to move. He can pivot on his belly or on his bum. I’m so worried now about the damage I have done. How can I persuade him to crawl properly using his hands and knees instead of pulling forward or pushing backward on his stomach? I will not put him in sitting anymore but, even so, he doesn’t seem to want to crawl properly.

  23. Now 8 years , our son were the bed, struggles to sit flat on the floor and many other things related to early sitting and other things. What kind of therapy can undo this? How can he retrain his core muscles? It’s as if he has no sit bones 🙁

    1. I would look into the Anat Baniel Method and also Feldenkrais.

  24. Hi!

    Your perspective is very interesting. I have a couple do follow up questions.

    1. Sitting up indepently is an indicator for readiness for solids. At the same time, it is suggested to start solids no later than 7 months. Allowing my baby’s to independently discover sitting wound take longer than this time frame. How do you reconcile that and when do you start solids? Do you use a high chair? Do you sit and cuss doe with baby in a sitting position in your lap i.e. when reading a book?

    2. How do you do interactive play with baby always on back? Do you do you place toys strategically to help them discover new positions and be urged to new positions?


    1. I was told by our pedatirictian that you can start solids as early as 4 months. Our baby was 6.5 weeks early, things got a bit dangerous so she had to come out. We have to wait till her ‘corrected age’ based on my due date. If your child is holding their head up on their own, feeding in a ‘sit me up’ seat is not inherently bad or propping them in your lap. I was also told that when formula or milk is not longer filling. They are constantly hungry, time in between feeds become shorter and shorter and they begin to look at food or look around at new or interesting food smells. Hope this gives a bit of information to you

  25. It’s so funny how big cutural differences there are in theese topics. I come from Denmark, and here it’s a big No No to prop your baby up/ sit them up. Health Care profesionals will tell you that the baby can sit when he does it himself. Of course you can put them in a high chair when they’re beeing fed, but if you sit them up in the couchto chill out – people will think you’re not very well informed about babies.
    My son spent two months on his back with his feet solid on the floor and lifting his Butt up and down, it looked really funny. He army crawled when he was 6months, sat up when he was 9 months, crawled when he was 11 and walked when he was 1. We didn’t push him to do anything and he is perfectly normal 🙂

  26. Mioara Cenusa says:

    Hi I am so happy to have discovered RIE although a bit too late as I fell into the trap of propping my baby to sit!
    She is 8 mo now and she’s always been less mobile. I gave her free movement since birth, as I also follow a Montessori approach, so a mat in front of a mirror on the floor.
    She never used to kick her legs or be mobile as I’ve seen other babies, no rolling until 6mo, and then just a couple of times and that was it. only at 6mo she found her feet!
    So I started sitting her up from 6 mo. Thinking I’m doing her a favour!
    Now at 8 mo she rolls both ways but only in bed, not on a hard floor.
    Reading your articles I see why this seems to have restricted her from reaching gross motor development milestone.
    My question is how do I start over? Can I ? If I put her on her back she doesn’t like it.
    Also I noticed that from sitting position she seeks to lift up if there is something to hold onto. She merely brings her knees underneath but doesn’t have the strength to pull up.
    Can I encourage her somehow to pull up? Apart from providing things to pull up on, such as ottoman, stools, etc.
    Thank you and sorry for the long post.

  27. Charlotte Avery says:

    My baby has been propped up, held in an upright position etc since a few weeks old to his preference! He’s now 14 weeks and started rolling at 13 weeks from back to front! He’s on the verge of commando crawling and not far off sitting! So that’s bs. Stop telling parents there doing things wrong no other mammal parents leave animals on their back to learn the teach them which is what parents are doing when propping baby up for a few seconds etc.

    1. YouCantSitHere says:

      I love how the author won’t respond to any of the comments here unless they are praising this mess of an article she wrote. Why won’t you reply to the moms saying their babies have bad acid reflux and are opposed to being layed flat down on their back or mom’s that have babies that can’t stand to be on their back or belly alone. My son has terrible acid reflux and he hates being on his stomach. It’s like pulling teeth to even do a little tummy time throughout the week. I can’t imagine just letting my baby stay on his back any time I am not holding him. Good way to choke on his acid induced spit up. So what is your answer for this, Janet? Seems as though you haven’t answered a single inquiry about what to do when your baby is opposed to being on his back or stomach or what to do when they are ready for solids. From what I’m reading, the moms practicing your method aren’t ahead developmentally compared to babies that are put in a sitting position before they are doing it on their own. In fact, I’m reading some of these comments and quite a few of the babies aren’t even sitting up until they are 8-9 months old. Some even closer to a year. Because you insist they stay on their back ALWAYS until they figure it out on their own. That’s not normal and it’s considered developmentally delayed. I believe you can allow your baby to have free time on their backs if they aren’t opposed to it completely (if you want to let your baby do free time on his back but he has acid reflux or that hates being on their back, then I don’t know what to tell you and it looks like neither do you, Janet) and be allowed to sit upright with help in carriers, laps, jumpers or seats. But don’t let these mother earth flower children types of women allow you to let your baby be nearing a year old and not even starting to learn to sit up yet(that’s the case in a lot of these comments that are following Janet’s advice, not one of them has said their baby is ahead of schedule with sitting or crawling). I can guarantee you that most of us moms were sat up in swings and seats before we were doing it ourselves and I bet most of us are just fine and developed right on time with no issues sitting in the future or anything like that. I know for a fact that I was, there’s many pictures of me sitting up in swings and propped up for pictures. I’ve never had an issue in my life with pain or not being able to do anything any other average person can do. I hot every milestone right on time and some a little early. Do what you think is best for your baby. Don’t let anyone shame you because of it. We aren’t living in olden days anymore.

      1. How is a person sharing a unique approach “shaming” you? Please explain this extreme self-absorption you seem to have. I would not blame Janet for ignoring such a ridiculous rant. Do what feels right to you and move on!

  28. If completely unassisted/helped/taught how to sit, at what age would a baby start to do this on his/her own? What if your pediatrician was recommending to help sit them up/pull them up to sitting?

  29. Hi there
    I realise you posted this a few years back but I have been searching for information and wonder if you could help me.
    I have read a little into the Pikler method as you discuss in your post and the idea of baby led movement seems to make a lot of sense to me. There is just one factor that I am struggling to get to grips with related to sitting and introducing solids. I want to do baby led weaning with my just 6 month old and of course one of the main requirements for this to be safe is that baby can sit up with minimal support. However, if I support my baby to sit up because I have put him in that position then he hasnt’t found it himself but if I leave him to find out how to sit all alone then that could easily take several more months.
    So… what would be the best thing to do? Delay giving solids for much longer or put baby into a supported sitting position while he eats?
    Or have I somehow missed something?!

  30. There’s nothing that turns me off reading articles like this all the way through these days quite like one one that focuses on a heap of negativity and then goes on to recommend another pile of literature that also targets everything we’re apparently doing wrong. Indirectly guilting parents must be a lucrative career these days as there seems to be a lot of self proclaimed experts shouting their views. Just stop already!

    1. I don’t believe it’s intended to be as it appears to provide in an insight I was taught from an aunt I was assigned to babysit for at around 8 years old. In Kikuyu culture, a baby is swaddled up to 3 months with minimum exposure to outsiders, it was to allow for bonding, healing and immune buildup. Sitting a baby up was not allowed as the bones were pliable and the cradling supported the baby’s whole body without placing pressure/compress/distortion on the spine thus the nerves sending messages throughout the body. This was information was passed down through mid-wives, grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters without academic expertise, am glad it is now being documented and researched on so as not to be dismissed as “Old Wives Tales”

  31. Hi Janet!
    We applied the ideas of Emmi Pikler when our little one was born a year ago, and met so much resistance from people around us!! “Why don’t you sit her in a chair?” “why do you leave her on the mat on the ground?” and so on.
    I’m very happy to see these ideas are spreading and I now have a link to share to people who might understand the philosophy better, thanks!!

  32. Morgan Irons says:

    So then what is the best thing for them? Just lay them on the floor all day? Won’t that just cause more flathead issues and also after awhile my son gets extremely upset from being on the floor or activity mat for more than 15-20 minutes. I guess I just don’t understand the alternative? If there even is one.

  33. So glad to see this post. I am a practicing chiropractor, working with babies and families for over 30 years and have been coaching parents for as long about not putting their babes in seated postures until they can do it themselves mostly to protect their spinal development. Wonderful to get greater insight on the many layers of benefit in letting them evolve naturally in their own way and time.

  34. Hi,

    I love your blog and your article. I’m a FTM and my LO is close to being 6 months… he isn’t sitting yet and I haven’t been placing him in a sitting position but I have a question for you…. as I would to start solids with him soon… I don’t understand how I’m supposed to do that without placing him in a seated position… looking forward to hearing from you!

  35. Cathy Rizzutto Dahl says:

    Hi Janet,
    I really appreciate your post. I am a pediatric physical therapist and I share this post with families all the time.

  36. Liane Atkinson says:

    Hi Janet, I follow your Facebook page with interest. I’m a first time mum but have worked in childcare for a long time. When my daughter was born I read the article about sitting babies. I found this fascinating and I decided then that I wasnt sitting/propping my baby up until she was ready. She has spent time on her back and tummy during play times and was rolling over at 3.5 mths, I now have a 6.5month old that rolls, crawls (quickly) is trying to pull to stand and now sits confidently on her own but can get to crawling position with ease. Her physical development has amazed me! She has something new to try every week and it’s amazing how confident she is in her own abilities. I love that she is able to access her own toys (and the dogs) and explore her environment with interest even if that’s means getting up to mischief and having eyes in the back of my head.

    1. Yay! Liane- I am so glad the natural motor development approach has worked for you and your baby. The physical, psychological and cognitive benefits of trusting babies are profound. Keep trusting and there will be many more happy surprises! Thanks for sharing your story!

  37. Hi I am a mothe of Ghalya she is now 6 months old. I read abour rie long ago, and I have been implementing its ideas woth my baby since birth.. she plays independently and now can roll from back to tummy but not yet the opposite. I am wondering when can I expect ger to sit on her own ? Can i use high chair with meals now ?
    Thank you

  38. My daughter got flathead syndrome starting around 2 months old from being on her back all the time. Just on the floor, bassinet, etc. She is 6 months old now and still has no desire to do anything but lay on her back. I don’t understand how I am supposed to stop her head flattening if I leave her on her back all the time? She’s also supposed to start eating solids soon and is not trying to sit up. How long am I supposed to wait to feed her solids then?

    1. Can you share more about your child’s activities on the floor? Does she turn her head, twist her body to the side, move her limbs freely, reach for, grasp and explore objects? If not, and perhaps either way, I would have her assessed. Does she have Torticollis? It would be unusual at this age for a child to remain still on her back facing only one direction. Turning her head is all she needs to help round out the flat spots and prevent them from worsening. Studies show that flat spots are not dangerous and will lessen as her head grows. Here’s some information from Boston Children’s Hospital:

      Are there any medical implications of cranial flattening?

      There is no convincing evidence that deformational flattening has any effect on brain development, vision, temporomandibular joint function or
      hearing. Even facial asymmetry in cases of plagiocephaly seems to improve with growth.

  39. Catherine says:

    my husband and I started sitting our daughter when she was 3,5 months old and she started having good head control. It felt very natural, we would sit her on our laps while we were eating and she would lean forward trying to grab something from the table. Or we would sit her on our laps while visiting friends or sitting on a bench. It just didn’t occur to me that it might be bad for her, she clearly enjoyed it. Now she’s 6 months old and not sitting yet, if I try to sit her without support her back becomes round and she falls with her face on her feet. I’ve been reading all kind of scary stories about harm of early sitting – from spine problems to wrong reproductive organs development in girls and I feel incredibly bad and guilty. Is it really as bad as it seems? Thank you!

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