I am excited to welcome pediatric occupational therapist Rachel Coley as she shares practical ideas for how to support wobbly babies who are new to sitting, without the use of baby equipment such as a Bumbo seat.
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As parents, just when we think we’ve figured out how to keep our little ones busy, safe and content, the next developmental leap leaves us scrambling for new tools and tricks. Before your baby is able to sit independently, you’ll have a few weeks with a wobbly wee one. Let’s take a look at how you’ll know your baby is ready to sit and how you can support a wobbly sitter with items you probably already have in your home.
There is some debate among child development experts about independent vs. functional sitting and some question as to whether we should help babies sit up at all. I tend to take the middle road – encouraging short periods of supported sitting on a firm, level surface when your baby shows the following signs of readiness:
- gets into and out of hands and knees position
- sits nice and tall without a rounded back
- places hands out to the front and sides to try to stop a fall
A firm, level surface is important for providing sensory input and promoting good posture, which is why I agree with this post about what’s wrong with Bumbo seats.
Here are 5 non-Bumbo ways to keep your wobbly sitter safe when you need a few hands-free moments:
1. The Boppy Pillow
“Old trusty.” Many parents know the trick of using a Boppy pillow around baby’s waist. The Boppy is the most supportive of these 5 tricks because it provides a small amount of pressure at the pelvis. The downside is that the support is very low and babies have a hard time recovering on their own if they topple over in it. Like a turtle stuck on its back, your kiddo will likely need your help to sit back up if they take a spill. But a Boppy is a nice soft place to land if and when they do.
2. A small basket or storage container
A beginning sitter is learning to sense and respond to losses of balance. The best support for a new sitter is merely protective and doesn’t limit the ability to move the arms, legs, head and body to try to stop a fall before it happens (similar to what you want from training wheels on a bike). A small storage bin or laundry basket achieves this and the laundry basket has the added bonus of having holes to loop toys through. Pediatric Physical Therapist Chanda Jothen at Pink Oatmeal had a great suggestion to use a diaper box to help your baby sit.
3. DIY corner seat
Many people have foam interlocking floor tiles for their baby’s play space. Did you know that these don’t have to be used on a horizontal surface? Try using them to create a cushioned seat in the corner of a room or the corner of your kitchen cabinets. This position offers new sitters the space to work on transitioning from seated to their bellies or into hands and knees. Just be sure the ground is padded since these transitions are less than graceful in the beginning!
4. A baby bathtub
Many plastic baby bathtubs have a more reclined, supportive end and then an end that allows little ones to sit upright. You don’t need to wait for bath time to use it. Place a few toys in the tub for seated play for your new sitter.
5. Pack ‘n Play
Just because your baby isn’t crawling yet doesn’t mean your playpen should stay folded up. Place baby’s back in a corner of the playpen for support and be sure to offer toys or objects to explore while your little one works on sitting. Sitting in the corner of a playpen works well because babies develop the reflexes to correct or stop forward and sideways falls before they’re able to protect against backwards falls. You’re providing a safe spot for baby to play and refine those sitting skills while you have a hands-free moment (and who doesn’t need more of those?!).
While these tricks will help your little one sit, they are no substitute for adequate supervision. Use these supports on a cushioned surface (carpet or rug) and monitor your little one for safety.
For more alternatives to the Bumbo seat, click HERE.
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Rachel Coley, MS, OTR/L, has been a pediatric Occupational Therapist for 8 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Health & Exercise Science from Furman University and a Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Boston University. She has advanced training in the areas of infant neurodevelopment, sensory processing, Plagiocephaly and Torticollis (head and neck issues of infancy). As a new mom, Rachel lets her personal passion for parenting and her professional expertise about babies collide in CanDo Kiddo, a family business with a mission to support and inspire new parents to play with their newborns for healthy development.
Learn more about baby play and infant development from Rachel!
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