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Babies around the age of five-seven months might be able to remain in a sitting position when parents put them into that position, but they are still unable to sit up unaided.

In Hungary where we live the common knowledge (reinforced by pediatricians as well as by random web pages) seems to be that you should not let your baby be in a sitting position for a long time before they are able to sit up by themselves. The alleged reason is that their back muscles are not strong enough yet and hence this position can cause damage in their spine.

Googling around a little bit, I see a lot of controversy; while the claim is accepted in some communities, others have never heard of it. I understand that there might be other disadvantages to sitting but I'm less interested in those.

Is there any solid evidence supporting the theory of potential spine damage? The closest thread I have found is http://ask.metafilter.com/182420/BabyFilter-is-there-any-medical-evidence-that-its-bad-for-babies-to-sit-or-stand-before-they-can-get-into-those-positions-on-their-own; no such evidence emerged there.

  • I would rather ask : is there anything you want to do that implies a long sitting position for your baby child ? Living in Belgium, we indeed got the same advice, was it from pediatrician or even the osteopath (who obviously is really into the business) to avoid long sitting positions, even in specialized equipment like maxi-cosi – Laurent S. Jul 6 '15 at 12:41
  • The thing is that he loves to sit; he likes it much more than lying on his back or stomach (which is also quite okay for him, but sitting beats it). He can look around much better and play with the things around him. Thus, I'm reluctant not to let him do so based on hearsay. – sandris Jul 6 '15 at 15:56
  • To be clear, he's over six months old now. – sandris Jul 6 '15 at 15:59
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    I'd be curious if the problem is more that it doesn't encourage them to work muscles that they otherwise would work to get into said position. IE, why you have babies lie on their tummies - part of it is to encourage them to develop muscles to turn over (as most babies hate tummy time). Sitting them up for them may lead to not working as hard on sitting-up muscles. (Though maybe it'll encourage them to learn how to do it themselves, who knows.) – Joe Jul 10 '15 at 18:18
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    Skeptics.SE very often does a very good job on questions of this type if you can find someone notable who makes the claim. (And if you can't that's probably an answer.) – user26011 Apr 3 '17 at 15:34
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It appears there are no significant studies of this type of development in children at present [so far as I could identify]. From my lay perspective the only study which looked relevant was Learning about gravity: segmental assessment of upright control as infants develop independent sitting (2015) but it did not address this question directly.

What we can say is that if supporting a baby's trunk to keep them upright (or placing them upright) had a marked effect that there would be a significant enough correlation with back/spinal problems to have warranted further research some time ago which does not appear to be the case. This is also compounded by the lower cost and increased availability of products and devices which hold infants upright or in a sitting position - this applies not just to the Bumbo style products but also car seats, pushchairs (strollers) and slings.

While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence the lack of research on the subject would tend to refute the 'common knowledge' that helping a baby into a sitting position causes harm.

Equally there is no evidence to support the idea that helping a baby to sit earlier confers any developmental advantage.

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    There is a lack of research on this, but that doesn't mean there's no effect! The bumbo seat is relatively new, and research projects take years to complete. The idea of supporting infants who can't yet sit independently is as old as time, though, and there is research on that. Here's another article of interest, about infant sitting experience with and without postural support cross-culturally: http://psych.nyu.edu/adolph/publications/KarasikEtAl-inpress-PlacesAndPostures.pdf – Rose Hartman Apr 5 '17 at 19:55

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