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I'm trying to help my baby learn how to sit, as the title suggests. She can roll over and do supportive sitting, but if I try to seat her up on her own she doesn't use her hands to sit in the tripod position. If I put her against the couch or boppy, she pushes back with her legs and back until she's flat again or simply flops over. When we hold her supported she can reach and play with toys but doesn't seem to grasp the concept of balance yet on her own in this position. Very occasionally she does the tripod sit when we "show" her, but it doesn't happen often. I know she has the arm strength to do it because she pushes up on her hands when she's on her tummy all the time. Is there something I can do to help her gain the concept of balance?

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For the most part, babies learn sitting by themselves without you really needing to do all that much other than give them opportunities to build the necessary muscles and skills. You don't need to force a particular milestone; they'll do it at their own pace.

In the case of sitting, the ways to help them learn are:

  • Lots of tummy time to develop neck muscles as they push themselves up onto their arms and raise their head
  • Giving them things to reach for so they want to push up more
  • That tripod position is great too - it is where they start working on balance

As for assisting them in sitting for a short time, at six months it's reasonable to do that if they're otherwise close to the sitting milestone. The concerns I've seen about overly early sitting are talking about a younger baby - maybe three months - where there could be issues as a result, or for too long of a time (sitting for 30-40 minutes for example seems long to me). Some parents go overboard on "bumbo time" and let it go for an hour or more at a spell, which is uncomfortable even as an adult!

Helping them develop balance and core muscles at six months is reasonable. For example, this Healthline article suggests the following, while discussing "assisted seats" like a Bumbo or similar:

Pediatric physical therapist Rebecca Talmud explains that when children are placed in a seated position too early or for long periods of time, it may interfere with their development of skills. In other words, while your baby may indeed be seated upright, they aren’t working on the critical trunk and head control that will best develop when they’re practicing new body movements on their own.

You may want to wait until your baby is closer to reaching the sitting milestone to use a baby seat. Instead of propping your baby at three months old, consider waiting until sometime between 6 and 8 months. And don’t rely on this seat as baby’s sole tool for practice.

Finally, six months is not early for sitting unassisted per se, but it's definitely on the early side of normal. The Denver 2 developmental Screening Test for example shows it at around 5-8 months (25th-90th percentile). So it's not something to be concerned about at this point in terms of a delay. You should have a checkup around now with your pediatrician; please ask them about their thoughts on the matter. They'll likely ask you to help her demonstrate some gross motor skills anyway, so this should be a natural part of that discussion.

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It is not 100% secure to "teach" to sit. You have to consult doctor for that.

Generally speaking, nowadays it is not recommended to "teach" child to sit; he/she has to learn it on his own, otherwise you have risk that his bones are not ready and you may harm him.

50 years ago people at least in my country used pillows to "help" child to sit when he couldn't do it. It might give some benefits, but downside was that some percentage of children got theirs bones corrupted by child own weight. Of course, percentage of injured children was low, most of children was able to "learn" how to sit, however, percentage of injured was big enough to stop such practice.

Some children learn how to sit as late as at 9 months, and it is not supposed to be any kind of illness.

So, don't hurry up too much and consult doctor before "teaching"; your baby is still too small for that.

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    This is a good answer, but it would be even better if you could provide a reference with authoritative information. – Paul Johnson Apr 2 at 14:58

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