Restoring Mobility Helps Baby Learn To Sit

Hi Janet,

I just read your article on infants sitting up on their own. I am a first time mom, and (sadly) I have been propping my baby up to sit since she was months old. I had no idea of the harm I had been doing. She is now almost 8.5 months and can’t yet sit up on her own, or crawl.

I wish I had read your article or even looked into sitting months ago. I feel like such a horrible mom. I can’t believe how much damage I might have done and any more possible delays I may have caused. Do you have any advice for how I can correct this? Any tips on how to get her to sit on her own?

I have been just leaving her on her belly lots, and she will roll over front to back and back to front. She will try to sit up — almost like a crunch or a sit-up — but then falls back on her back and head. Sometimes she will skooch almost around the entire room using her belly as a pivot point and rolling over.

What can I do? I don’t let her sit on the ground anymore – only in my lap to read or in her high chair for meals. I am going to just leave her on the ground until she figures out how to sit up or crawl. I don’t want her to be even more delayed or have any other learning difficulties.

Please help! Is there any way to reverse the harm I have done?



Hi Sheri,

I wouldn’t fret about this a bit, because all I’m hearing here are positives. And even if I did see a problem, I wouldn’t let you beat yourself up for something parents so commonly do. Remember, the parents who understand and are committed to natural gross motor development are still in the minority… and it’s a small minority.

Here’s what sounds great:

1. Seems like your baby is adjusting brilliantly to not being propped to sit.

Whether we are propping our babies to sit or holding their hands to stand or walk them, they will usually complain when we stop doing what they’re used to. Who can blame them for being offended when our services suddenly end?

Happily, it sounds like your little girl is accepting this transition without a fuss. But if there was some grumbling directed your way, a committed, confident attitude and honest acknowledgments of this change would be your best response: “I hear you asking me to pull you up to sit. I know I usually do that with you, but now I’m going to let you move more freely. This is different for you, I know.”

The challenge for parents is seeing that look of disappointment on a child’s face (or what we assume is disappointment) and not being able to deny her what she seems to want or need. But if we continue to prop our children, they can get stuck sitting when they could be on the move – scooting, eventually crawling and sitting of their own volition.

Some propped babies fulfill their desire to mobilize by learning how to scoot on their bottoms, which demonstrates how supremely capable and resourceful they are, but might also mean they’ll skip crawling altogether and miss out on the neural benefits of cross-lateral integration.

2. She’s mobile

Rolling and tummy skooching are perfectly adequate and appropriate ways for an 8.5 month old baby to play, explore, build muscle strength and flexibility — all the things she needs to do to prepare herself for sitting and crawling. Encourage these developments by providing your little roller-girl a safe, enclosed place. Include a few balls, cups, bowls, teething toys and other simple objects or toys. Sit back and enjoy your baby’s self-directed activities and choices. Trust her and try not to interrupt. She’s exactly where she’s supposed to be.

When she does learn to sit autonomously, it will look nothing like a “crunch or a sit-up”, but rather a more fluid transition from lounging on her side or all-fours.

3. She’s not late

Your baby is well within normal range for not yet sitting or crawling, so again, stay this course and revel in it. Take photos, because his period will pass soon. Appreciate your wonderful little girl’s abilities without worry or wishing for more (because young children often sense our worries, and there really is no reason to worry).

Take a deep breath, relax, observe and you’ll learn fascinating things about your daughter while she reaps the many physical and psychological benefits of natural gross motor development.






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

  1. Another wonderful post! I accidentally found your blog when my son was 3.5 months old. I was googling ways on making tummy time fun then. Thanks to your blog, I stopped giving him tummy time and just allowed him to move and develop in his own terms, he has been mobile (rolling, creeping/crawling) and happier since. He is 8.5 months now and has started to lounge on his side. Thank you janet for your blog. 🙂 how I wish though that there’s a rie community/class here so my son can play with other babies. He is interested in making friends but I don’t have friends with babies his age.

    1. Thanks, Laarni! Sounds like your baby is progressing beautifully. I wish you were near a RIE class, too! I’ve just “remodeled” the community forum on this page… If you register you’ll be able to view listings (from all over the world) from parents looking to meet other like-minded families for playdates. Please also start your own thread, especially if there isn’t one for your city. 🙂

  2. I think Janet covered this with “relax” but I still remember vividly the mix of exhaustion and possibly hormones that keep you from thinking about things rationally during the baby days, so I want to reiterate:

    You have not damaged your child. You have not wronged her or scarred her. Try not to worry too much about what you should be doing, or what she should be doing. You’re both going to be fine,

  3. Great advice Janet, there’s really no need to worry and you shouldn’t feel guilty.

    Best wishes, Alex

  4. I propped my daughter up in the early months as well (and felt guilty when I decided to blow off tummy time all together!) I discovered RIE when she was 4 months old and quickly made similar adjustments that Sheri (and Janet, of course) writes of to allow her to move freely in a safe space. She’s now nearing 2.5 years and I continue to marvel at her confidence and capable way of moving and being. Janet mentions the physical AND psychological benefits of allowing natural gross motor development–and I must say, I was focused more on the physical benefits, but it is such a huge added bonus that she so wise in and ABOUT her body now. Being with her, watching her play is so relaxing for me because she is confident in what she is doing and she makes safe choices for herself. I can see how this will continue to benefit her for her entire life.
    Just wanting to share, Sheri…it’s earlier than you think and the benefits of making these changes now will show themselves over and over as she grows. Enjoy! Your daughter is in such a fun phase.

    1. Sounds great! Thanks for sharing, Julie! Yes, the level of body-mind awareness children have when their motor abilities aren’t “interfered with” is remarkable. And it definitely makes for a much safer explorer and self-confident child.

  5. Barb Rude says:

    Thank you for this timely reminder. My 7.5 m son is showing no interest in sitting. Any time I try to worry about this, I have to remind myself that he knows what he’s doing. During his play time, he’s so focused on reaching and rolling. And you’re absolutely right about how confidently and gracefully children can move when given free play time to learn their bodies. He’s quite the problem solver and a delight to watch.

    Thanks again!

    1. He sounds wonderful, Barb, and I hope you’ll keep respecting, trusting and enjoying his unique process and abilities! 🙂

  6. I am very happy the article is calming all the moms who didn´t do things as we believe are right. There have always been tendencies,… that doesn’t mean the kid at the end will be suffering big delays or that these or those are superior. Everybody does the best at the moment and everybody can change their mind at anytime. Love to all babies!

  7. Elanne Kresser says:

    I worked with infants who’s parents had propped them up into sitting and because of that were less mobile and confident in their bodies than they might otherwise have been. Every single one was incredibly resilient and resourceful once the change was made to letting them have time on the floor to figure things out. Doesn’t mean they were all happy about it at first, but all of them learned to sit, crawl and walk beautifully and in their own ways and on their own timelines. And all of them developed wonderful confidence and comfort in their bodies.

    In terms of timing my own daughter crawled and sat at around nine months old. I’ve seen other children wait considerably longer for both.

    Another voice of a mom and a somatic practitioner chiming in to offer reassurance! Our little ones are so full of potential and so able to change course along with us!

  8. Aww Sheri! You sound extremely concerned and I don’t want to minimise that. However your baby will be fine, I promise! She sounds as if she’s coming along wonderfully, and you need to FORGIVE yourself, take a deep breathe and move ahead.
    Your LO is lucky to have such a sensitive and caring mama 🙂

    The only suggestion that I would say is maybe take baby outside with a blanket just for a change of scenery and have some good times, soaking in the sun and breeze and doing nothing 🙂

    In about a year or so you will be emailing Janet about your toddler wanting to climb out the windows or something crazy and you will look back at this short period in time and smile 🙂

  9. I’ve heard about RIE for a while, but just recently have started to focus on it in a more serious way. I stumbled upon this site and post and am feeling a little overwhelmed/worried. My husband and I and my in laws have been putting our boy in a sitting position for a while now (he’s 7.5 months). He can’t get into sitting on his own, although he does go from sitting to tummy. We’ve also recently started pulling him up into standing which he loves. He can sometimes pull up to standing from sitting on his own, but more often we are putting him/holding him in a standing position.

    Just this morning I tried to leave him on his back/belly and let him roll around for playtime, and he lost it. So much crying. What am i supposed to do? Let him cry? Try to find interesting toys to distract him? I can’t exactly explain to him why I am doing what i am doing (I tried).

  10. Jen Nickel says:

    Ok – so our baby (due to some prenatal issues from her birth mom) was born with some hypertonicity. Now, I have 7 kids – I have had later walkers (17 months) and the rest of my kids were roughly a year. Our wee one is my first child I have used NO equipment with. No bumbos, no swings, no bouncy chairs. We baby wear a lot. She has always, always loved her tummy time. She rolled by 3 months both ways with no assistance and with motivation to move. She was fully crawling by 5 months and went from crawling to sitting independently within 2 days. She has NEVER been propped – not once. Mostly because I never had to. She has self taught herself everything (possibly more motivated because of the older siblings?) Anyways, she is now 7 months old and actively cruising. She is a speedy crawler, pulls up on anything and everything, and has stood independently a couple of times. She is very petite – strong, and blissfully happy. Also, she is very active and way more “advanced” physically than any of my other kids were at this age. Is this doing something wrong? Right? Her PT told me infants should NOT be walking before 12 months if we are doing things right, but she is WAY ahead of the curve.

  11. I feel so bad. My baby is now 15mo and he props on his bottom. His pediatrician has been checking his column and motor skills since the beginning and always said that there’s nothing wrong and that he will get to walk eventually. Now I’ve been laying him and of course he hates it and cries his eyes out. He rolls and rotates and lifts head writhing straight arms off the ground so I think hes strong. But eventually he prefers the on his back position and doesn’t try to sit. Even though he goes everywhere on his bottom and he enjoys being held to walk, he never tried to stand on his own holding on to things. He does push himself up when its our hands. I’m going to see the pediatrician again and make sure she knows that he can’t sit on his own (maybe she didn’t get it?) and ask for therapy immediately. Can you please advise me?

  12. I’m in the same spot as phillipa, only my ds is 13 months old… what can we do?

  13. I am just finding this now when researching crawling. My daughter is 8 months and showing little signs of mobility. She was rolling and sleeping on her side at 3 1/2 months in her crib and then pushing up on her tummy and spinning herself in a circle. At 6 months when she could sit (if we put her that way) without a prop it all stopped. She immediately rolls to her back when placed on her tummy and then cries, she does the ab crunch and constantly wants to stand/walk assisted by us. She tries to pull up on our bodies and everything else but all other mobility has ended. Why is sitting a milestone at 6 months? I never knew this either. I’m already dealing with a lot of whining from refusing to help her stand. Do I know place her on her back for play? She plays very well on her own sitting but I want to encourage mobility again. Thanks!

  14. I am in the same boat :(. Just now finding this… Wish I had found it earlier! My son is 8.5 months old and his mobility completely stopped at 6 months when we started propping him. I am wanting to start by going to the back again- but he always does the crunch thing and gets frustrated. Please help! Any tips would be wonderful.

  15. ErinB2011 says:

    I’m so relieved to read this!!! I had almost the same experience as this writer. I only discovered RIE philosophy a few weeks ago and have been trying to incorporate aspects of it into my parenting. It really resonates with me and I find that I have already been doing a lot of the things suggested for emotional development, but I never really considered the physical development side of things in this respect. I, too, had been propping my baby up to sit, thinking it was the right thing to do. Since learning of RIE’s viewpoints on gross motor development, I stopped doing this during floor play. Well, wouldn’t you know it…she has just started getting herself into the sitting position all on her own!

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