Category Archives: Sitting

How Independent Sitting Happens

True self-discovered, un-propped, independent sitting comes later than many people think–later than common recommendations based on Baby being propped. Here’s how it can happen in a typical progression. Time spent in each element can vary greatly.

PART 1 (Hey, we gotta get to know gravity first . . . stay with me!)


Rest into Loved-One’s arms, into gravity, bonding with my support, loved.



Turn my head. Fall into gravity. Roll roll roll rollllllll….

On tummy: push happens.
HlogPushUppers 2mo CROP SMPush?
Hey! Push! pushing into the earth, lifting head, supporting on forearms

Pushing up up up!
Kicking feet

Push push push slide.
Slide in a circle, wheee!, pivot on belly
Hlat pivot1

Pushing up up UP! Up high on handsHlog uppers high

Push push push sliiiide. Slide—Hlog uppers toy

Push. Slide BACKWARDS. Darn it! I want that!
Backwards backwards

Hlat toe5 CROP LTN

Toes chit-chat with the floor. BIG TOE plays with the floor, has conversations.

My weight shifts over to one side, frees one of my arms to play.
Yeah! Hangin’ out with one knee bent out to the side. Playing. Curious.


Hlat uppers


Backwards, still.

Push backwards + one knee pops out to the side + big toe chit-chats with the floor + I want that toy = forward.
FORWARD! Got it!

Toy (or Mama, or Mama’s lunch) and one arm free with a toe-push forward, coordinating hand with eye.Hlat fwd2 CROP

PART 2 (We’re getting there…)

Pushing pushing, all around, in circles, backward, forward.
Body weight shifts onto one side, then the other.
Slip ‘n Slide!

Pushing, squishing into myself and unfolding out.
Push, weight-shift, on my side-ish, twist, and upward.

Twist twd sit

elbow-hip twd sit

! Push and upward on my side!
On my side, on my side…
Again. Tummy, then side, then up on elbow and hip.

Again. Tummy, then side, then up on hands and hip.
Look how high I am!

Coming to sit 10mo CR SM

Measuring, sensing, reading my distance from the floor. Back and forth. I know where I am. And how I got here.

Sidesit one hand

Down. Up. Down. Up. Down into the floor. Up out of the floor. Balancing, playing, whoops!—down.

Push. On side, up on hand, on hip, hands free.
Hands free! Hahahaaa!!! I’m all the way up here with both hands free!

full sit

Oh, everyone says I’m “sitting.”

PART 3 So many options! From sitting, Baby can go down to his tummy or reach onto his hands and knees.HlogReachUppers2 CROP SM

Some babies play in a “weeble” motion.

Down the way I came. Up the way I came. Down again. Or, up one side and down the other. Down one side and up the other.

Weeble 9mo CR

Sit, whee go off to the side, put weight on both hands, sit on the other side, whee, spinning in a weeble circle!

And that, my friends, is the dance of independent sitting. The typical expectation is to prop-sit babies; but I support you in not propping Baby in sitting, but rather witnessing with joy as she discovers it on her own!

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)


The Psychology of Sitting, Part 2: Why do we sit our babies?

To continue our curiosities about psychology that gets set up in the first year alongside movement, first some pondering…

If what I have been encouraging in my last posts really is true, then why is its opposite such a cultural norm? I think it is a matter of particular cultural mindsets, how we were brought up ourselves, and parents not having the information they need in the face of cultural norms.

Why do we sit our babies?

Only one of these is propped up–and it’s not the baby!

Parents often receive advice to sit their babies from health professionals and reading materials. What is this need to have our babies accomplish a milestone before they find it themselves? We are a society of achievement. We assume it means that Baby is smart, or breathe a sigh of relief that Baby is “okay.” We want to foster independence here in these great United States (and perhaps in other cultures). We assume that we need to teach them how to sit and walk, and take pride in doing so. We lovingly want them to be a part of our world and bring them up to our level. And they “like it,” right? Do we also like being depended upon? Do we need our babies to need us?

The thing is, sitting and walking babies before they can do so themselves promotes the very things we wish to avoid: dependence, distrust of oneself, compulsive behaviors of pleasing others, compensation patterns in the body, learning difficulties, and taking longer to achieve integrated milestones rather than shorter.

I encourage you to “let your hair down” while hangin’ with the Babe! We must bring ourselves down to Baby’s level. In order to foster a foundation for a child’s fullest potential to emerge and be explored, we must create environments that support them in finding the milestones for themselves without rush. Taking more time in the first year to build up each stepping-stone of movement, as well as holding them as much as possible, accepting crying, and spending quality time with them, is what will grow independent, confident, centered, and compassionate individuals.

A family’s story

“We learned our lesson,” a mom said to me. Their daughter hadn’t rolled, sat, or belly-crawled by 8 months due to various difficulties, but in the meantime they had been directed to sit her. Because Baby learned to compensate in sitting before going through the milestones that would prepare her to get in and out of it, she developed her own way of getting into sitting. However, she could not get down again in this way. Mom told me of how Baby would wake up at night, maneuver into sitting and get stuck, and then cry until someone came to rescue her. A sleepy Mom or Dad would lie her back down and go back to bed, only for Baby (and sleepy parents) to repeat the pattern over and over again always dependent on help.

How to Support Your Baby

Babies explore sitting in a wide range of timing, mixed among different milestones.

Rather than rescuing Baby and sitting or propping him to make him happy, be prepared for frustration—it is a normal and healthy part of development. But of course listen for anger, a need to release emotion through crying, or signs of “I’ve had enough!” The aim is to support, not force.

If your baby is not yet sitting, go ahead and lie on the floor with him. That is to say—come down to his level. If you’d like to encourage, but not push him, help him lie and play on his side. Interact with him and hand him toys from all levels and angles. As he learns to push backward, in circles, and forward on his belly, he’ll be able to come incrementally higher in side play . . . and, one day, to sitting.

If your baby has been sat and can’t yet get in and out of it by herself, see how tolerant she is of lying on her back, tummy, and side. Sometimes the frustration of not being up higher is what will trigger the problem-solving process of figuring out how to sit. From her tummy, she’ll learn to crawl. If she’s not tolerant of lying down, play together with her on your body—rolling together, sidelying and coming to sitting together, and playing in all dimensions, with you being a “human jungle gym” so she can practice coming off center.

Note: if your baby hasn’t discovered milestones in a timing that makes sense to you, and/or if you have a gut feeling of questioning something your baby is or is not doing, please consider seeking professional help.

© Eliza Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

The Psychology of Sitting, Part 1

We have been investigating how babies learn to sit and what it means when we sit them before they can get in and out of it themselves. Let’s delve further . . .

Consider what it means emotionally and psychologically—let’s put ourselves “in Baby’s booties,” so to speak.

Imagine, as an adult, that you are put into a position you cannot get into or out of yourself. Perhaps someone has perched you precariously on a high tree limb hanging upside down by your knees—or some such oddity. How do you feel? You might find out that the world looks fun from this perspective; but how are you going to get down? And how will you get back here, if you’re enjoying it…?

We won’t be hanging our babies from trees; but what’s new is what’s new to our nervous systems.  For a baby, here are a couple of possible scenarios, again putting ourselves in Baby’s place:

#1: You are born with your own instincts and you innately trust your parents—these are biological facts of survival. Imagine that your body says internally “lie down and roll,” for that is what you would do if left to your own devices; but your parents say “sit up.” You are in love with your parents and it’s fun to be up higher because you can see what they’re doing. But since you can’t get into it by yourself, you must somehow communicate (possibly by fussing or crying) each time you want up. And when you’re up—it’s fun and stimulating! Yet it’s also scary because you keep falling over—sometimes whole-body falls, sometimes miniscule, imperceptible falls (yes, even when you’re propped). Your protective reflexes do their job; however, calling on them constantly (which you must do since you don’t yet have the necessary core strength) puts you into a subtle state of continuous shock. Nevertheless, you are programmed to adapt, so without conscious choice you find ways to stay there as best you can. Eventually you forget that your initial urge was to lie down and roll. It’s fun to be up high. Except when it’s scary. But the stimulation makes you smile and laugh, so your parents think it’s fun. You eventually want to move and get closer to mama; since you have no options for getting into or out of sitting, you begin scooting on your bottom, and you skip crawling all together.

#2: Imagine you are lying on the floor and you can roll. You can play on your back and on your tummy. As you wriggle and play, you feel your limbs pushing into the ground. You discover you can use this pushing to move around. You wanted to get a toy or get closer to mama, so you learned to push up on your hands, swivel on your belly, and belly-crawl. You can even play while lying on your side. Being down here is a little frustrating, though, because mama is up higher and she moves faster. But, it’s Mama! You are motivated to somehow find your way up to her. You have now figured out how to support yourself on your side with one elbow—using that great push you can do on the floor and getting a little higher off the ground. One day you get excited and your hand pushes into the ground while on your side. Mama has brought your favorite toy, so you reach for it and oh my! You are higher than you have ever been—you are sitting! You don’t know the fancy name for it, but you have an amazing feeling of empowerment, joy, and “I can do it myself!” Since you found this action on your own, you unconsciously “laid the track” in your neuro-muscular system for the pathway to sitting; so you’ll be finding your way back down again soon too.

Coming to sitting all by herself . . . by pushing up from her side. Notice the involvement of her hands, feet, head, and even tail.

What does this mean?

I realize that parents are encouraged by professionals to prop-sit their babies. But we must look this issue in the face with the intention of love and optimal whole-being health. Putting children into positions they cannot get into themselves during playtime promotes dependence, not independence. In asking them to do something they’re not ready to do, we communicate that it’s not ok for them to be who they are, where they are, or explore on their own timing. Alternatively, allowing babies to discover milestones by themselves and providing support when necessary (but not pushing) promotes independence and empowerment. This is the basis of life-long learning: the habits that get set up through the allowing (or not) of Baby’s own timing and discovery, according to when his body is ready.

Stay tuned for The Psychology of Sitting, Part 2.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Please Don’t Sit the Baby, Part 3: Do What They Do

Exactly how do babies figure out how to sit? What if we put ourselves “in Baby’s shoes”? In Parts 1 & 2, we began looking at how babies actually learn to sit, why it’s best to allow them to discover it themselves rather than prop them in sitting, and how to know when they’re ready for sitting. Let’s delve further.

What Are We Talking About? Try it Yourself

So that you have an embodied, not just intellectual, idea of what we’re talking about, come roll around on the floor with me for a moment.

  1. Lie on the floor on your back.
  2. Come up to sitting. How did you do it?
  3. Try coming straight up by lifting your head/torso. Where did you feel the effort? Babies and young children are not typically physically able to do this yet, which tells us it’s not the most efficient way for them.
  4. Try rolling to your side to come up. How much effort did this take compared to the previous way?
  5. Break it down incrementally like your baby:
    • Lie on your side. Could you use a hand or two to play with toys?
    • On your side, support yourself on an elbow. You have one supporting arm and one free arm
    • On your side, support yourself on your hand.
    • Now from the above position, reach for something with your free hand and discover how this could bring you to sitting.

There are other movements through which babies learn to sit, but this gives an idea of the inner connections they are making.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

When babies discover sitting for themselves, they lay the neural “tracks” of the pathway. Only then can it become a well-used route through repetition and experimentation. Because they have carved their way up, it is easier for them to re-trace the pathway back down. This play between pushing away from the earth and releasing toward it at their choosing develops a sense of safety.

Learning to come to sitting by pushing up from a side position

While “laying the tracks,” Baby is also learning to perceive space and distance. If she takes a typical route to sitting, she may travel through side-lying. As she moves incrementally from side-lying to elbow-supported to hand-supported to sitting, she internally “measures” the distance from the ground to where she in space.

What does all this mean? That when Baby falls, it is not as scary because she has already negotiated the journey, she has developed good falling skills, and she knows where she is in space. Some babies propped in sitting will still find a pathway through side-lying (or shifting weight more to one side); but in my experience, most will either re-route themselves to avoid going off center or develop other compensations.


If you have already sat your baby: through play, help your baby find options–different ways to come to sitting. This will help her lay movement tracks, and it’s never too late to do this.

To others: When we prop babies in sitting, we can prevent them from “laying the tracks” of this important skill in the most efficient manner.  Think of how often we adults get up and down from (or complain about) the floor. Putting Baby into sitting before she can do so herself denies her this chance to learn about gravity; so when she falls over, she must rely ever more strongly on reflexes that can become overpowering and make later milestones more difficult.

Stay tuned for Part 4: The Psychology of Sitting

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Please Don’t Sit the Baby, Part 2: Sitting Readiness

When is Sitting Okay?

If you have been sitting your baby, set your focus now on finding new options rather than on doing the “right” or “wrong” thing. It is useful to sit a baby occasionally to assess abilities, perceptions, and movement tendencies. If you are using a highchair for eating, use this as sitting time and lie down during playtime. If you want to bring Baby up higher to see what’s going on, cradle him on your lap in the crook of your arm so that he’s leaning against you, not having to negotiate gravity to hold himself up. You are a living, moving being and will be in tune with him; he will move as you move and you will better notice when he needs to shift.

Gently helping locked knees to release

Is Baby ready to sit?

 No, if:

  • She can’t get into it by herself
  • When sitting, he leans forward over his legs,
  • Tilts to one side, or
  • Falls backward
  • Her legs are always very wide-spread
  • His torso is curved in any direction (including bending forward)
  • She rolls backwards on her pelvis, rounding her spine

Yes, if:

  • She can get into sitting by herself
  • He looks well-balanced and responds easily to going off balance
  • Her spine is upright, sometimes with the quality of “floating”
  • He is able to look around and reach for toys in different directions
  • Her legs start out spread in a V, but she finds new options over time by bending in one or both or side-sitting

A typical child will have the rest of his life (40, 60, 80, 100 years?) to sit and walk. It is well worth the extra time now to build up all the important steps for the healthiest foundation possible!

Coming up next: Part 3, trying it for ourselves and “laying the tracks.” 

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Please Don’t Sit the Baby, Part 1

“Practice makes perfect!”

Or at least we’re trained to think so. How do you like to learn a new skill? We adults often go about learning something by practicing the thing itself: we learn to ski by skiing; to knit by kitting; to play piano by playing.

So it makes sense, then, that Baby will learn to sit by sitting, and to walk by walking—right? Actually, NO! It is often recommended to parents to sit Baby before he can get in and out of it himself, even to prop him up in sitting. This recommendation comes from health professionals, reading material, and our cultural value placed on achievement. But let’s take a closer look.

Mother Nature Knows Best

Babies are programmed to build each piece of the movement puzzle step by step. Babies actually learn to sit by doing the preceding movements that build up the necessary strength and coordination. Each and every movement explored prepares Baby’s body for the next:  rolling (balances tone in the torso) leads to belly circling, crawling, and playing with one hand (control of weight shift) leads to side-lying leads to side-elbow-lying (measuring)—and voila he ends up sitting by himself because he has done all the preparation! If this progression does not happen naturally, there may be a stress or inhibition and help may be needed—ideally help that supports Baby where he is rather than plunges him into something he is not yet ready to take on.

But babies who are sat do learn to sit by themselves!

Well—what they learn is how to compensate because their bodies are not truly ready. Whether propped or not, they will experience small falls, so they must do something to hold themselves in sitting. They can develop unbalanced muscle tone; prop with their legs, creating locked knees; hold tension in their lower back; or even develop scoliosis. These compensations often make learning other milestones more difficult because the brain has learned to hold or stop movement rather than allow it.

 Stay tuned to learn signs of sitting readiness, benefits of letting Baby find it for himself, and the psychology of sitting.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)