From five to six months is a transition stage in baby’s development. Before this period, baby is stuck. He can’t move around or sit and play by himself. In the next stage, six to nine months, he becomes able to do both. In the sixth month, then, baby begins learning to sit and move about, and it is these major milestones that we focus on in the next few pages.
The Sitting Sequence
Learning to sit is the master skill of the sixth month. The sequence of learning to sit from four to six months is one of the most fascinating steps in baby’s development. In the first few months baby seems to have little strength in his lower back muscles. When put in the sitting position he flops forward on his nose. Around three to four months baby shows some lower-back-muscle strength by easing forward, but again goes flop. Between four and five months baby still slumps or topples sideways but begins using his outstretched arms as forward and sideways props. Between five and six months baby may let go. his back muscles are now strong enough to support sitting erect, but usually still with the hands as props. Now sitting is just a matter of learning balance.
Watch how your clever beginning sitter learns balance. When baby starts to let go, first with one hand, then the other, he holds his straight back forward at a forty-five-degree angle. As balance and back-muscle strength improve, he sits erect at ninety degrees to the floor. The novice sitter teeters and wobbles on his rounded bottom while thrusting out his arms like sideways balance beams.
Once he master sitting balanced, baby no longer needs his head and arms for balance props but van use them for communication and play. When the skillful sitter begins turning his head to follow you and lifting his arms to gesture or to play, usually between six and seven months, baby is truly sitting alone.
Helping the Beginning sitter
Because baby does not yet have the strength to right himself from a topple, backward and sideways falls are the price to pay for a good sit. Your baby will learn to sit well if you leave him alone. But if you help your baby enjoy the early sitting experiences, he will realize the increasing views he has in this position and will better enjoy developing his skill. Here’s how to help:
* Cushing the inevitable backward and sideways falls by surrounding baby with pillows. There’s nothing like a fall on a hard surface to scare baby and dampen his motivation to sit.
* To steady the wobbly beginning sitter, place baby in a homemade horseshoe-shaped piece of foam rubber. (Possibly a Nurse Mate pillow purchased as a breastfeeding aid for the early months — a good example of extending the usefulness of an item!)
* For the summer sitter, hollow out an area in the sand. (Cover the sand with a blanket if you don’t want sand in the eyes, mouth, and diaper.)
* When enjoying floor play together, sit baby between your outstretched legs so he can use them as grab rails.
* Use toy interactions to help baby learn balance. When enticed to use his hands to reach for a toy, the sitting baby “forgets” to use his hands as balance props and learns to rely solely on his trunk muscles for balance.
* If baby continues to rest on his hands as forward props, place blocks in front of him to motivate him to lift his hands off the floor by grabbing the blocks.
* To encourage hand play, dangle a favorite toy, eye level, in front of baby. Then move the toy to each side, encouraging baby to move his arms toward the toy while sitting.
During these balance-training exercises, notice how baby uses his arms to maintain balance. At first baby reaches with one hand toward a toy while thrusting out the other for balance. As balance improves, watch baby reach for a toy to one side with both hands and reach behind himself without tumbling over.
A Relief for Parents
When baby can sit along better, parents can sit along longer. Sitting skillfully alone and playing is a major relief milestone for parents. Once he masters sitting, a six-month-old becomes less of a lap baby and carried baby and more of a high-chair and floor baby. childminders near me