As with many aspects of child development, parents can watch their baby for signs that he or she is ready to sit up independently. Because sitting up requires quite a bit of muscle use, babies should not be encouraged to sit up before they are physically ready. Before letting the child sit up on his or her own, parents should ensure that their baby can hold his or her neck up, has some balance and has muscle development in the torso area.
Sitting up without assistance is a milestone for children and parents. While parents can help their children reach that stage by participating in muscle development, they should wait for natural signs of progression instead of forcing a change. Before sitting up, a child should be able to roll over and lift his or her head to look horizontally. At about four months, babies' head and neck muscles begin developing rapidly. This gives them more control of their head, and it is a natural progression toward sitting upright without assistance.
In order to raise their heads, babies must first have strong stomach muscles. Babies' muscles usually develop and strengthen from the head downward, so working key muscles in the upper body is critical for moving to the next phases of sitting up. Some may not like to be placed on their stomachs at first but this should be encouraged as it helps build muscles in the limbs and torso that are essential for movement. If babies show displeasure when put on their stomachs, parents can use several techniques to make it more enjoyable. Placing the baby on one's chest while making eye contact with the infant can make him or her more comfortable. Parents can also put the baby on a soft pillow with his or her chest and armpits supported. Parents may notice that, after spending some time moving around on their stomachs, babies will start to raise themselves off the ground slightly. This is a good sign that the muscles in the trunk and back are becoming stronger.
Once the baby can lift his or her head up, parents can start propping the child up in a supported seating position. Babies might flop over at first but, after developing some core strength, they will be able to sit for several seconds before needing support. Most babies are able to sit for a second or two, unsupported, by the time they are six months old. Parents should also simultaneously start developing their child's balancing skills. This can be accomplished by putting the child in the corner of a sofa or chair or having the child sit on the parent's lap. Once the child has balance, parents can start weaning him or her off the full-support system by letting them practice sitting up with minimal support. Parents can also hold their babies under the armpits so that they can put their feet on the floor with support. After babies learn to sit, they will start grabbing for objects. At this stage, parents should move all hazardous objects out of the child's reach. After learning to sit, babies will work toward crawling.