My 9 month old can’t sit up, but I’m not worried. Here’s why.

Liv is 9 months old, and she can’t sit up yet.

If you have kids you might be thinking, “Hm. Mine was sitting up at 4 (or 5 or 6) months. If you ask google, the latest most websites will give a baby to be sitting up on their own is 8 months. Sit Liv down anywhere and she immediately does a slow motion fall to the side.

Am I worried?

Nope. Not at all. Not one bit. And here’s why:

It’s not about how quickly they reach milestones, but rather, how well.

Consider this:

At Liv’s four month check-up, she got a big red  X under the column “can roll onto stomach”. She started rolling at 6 months, a full two months later than she was “supposed” to. While her doctor went on and on and on about tummy time, about how important it is for her neck control and muscle strength, I stuck to my guns and believed in Liv’s ability to strengthen her body on her own and in her own time. I refused to lay her on her stomach until she got there herself.

Now, I watch Liv roll around with total ease and control. I know that never forcing her to lie on her tummy was the right decision. She quickly flips her body from side to side on our hardwood floors, yet she always makes sure to lower her head slowly. She is so stable and in tune with her body because she is the one who figured out how to make it work.

At her latest checkup, she got another red X. File this one under “can sit up unassisted”. Again, not worried.

How can I still believe in this hands-off approach if it means that my child is developing later than most other children?

There are two reasons:

  1.  As I mentioned, it’s not about how early they reach milestones, but the quality with which they do it.

No babies need ‘help’ to reach their milestones in life. No tummy time, no sitting them up with pillows, no holding their hands to help them walk. The only way we need to support them is with patience. Your child will reach ALL the milestones-rolling sitting, standing, walking- on their own. Their will to learn and desire to be independent is STRONG.

  1. And two: Liv is totally happy to spend hours on the floor playing. Every visitor, literally everyone who comes to our home, comments on what a chill baby she is. We lie her on the floor and she hangs out there for hours at a time, entertaining herself with a couple toys, her environment, and her own body. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be sitting or standing, so she isn’t constantly whining for us to come hold her up.

I’m not saying this because I’m trying to brag about what an easy kid I have (hello still nursing every 2 hours at night). I’m saying this because I’m so incredibly wowed by the Emmi Pickler approach to infantcy. It’s something we practice at work, but this is the first time I’ve seen the benefits firsthand with a child this young before. It’s fascinating; not to mention, it makes my life so, SO much easier. Rather than spending my day entertaining Liv, holding her up or moving her from one play center to another, I’m free to sit back and observe as she explores the world around her.

The truth is, it’s babies who are “helped” into milestones that often end up skipping them completely! Have you ever seen a baby bum scooting instead of crawling? This is often the result of a child who was propped into a sitting position before they were able to sit up on their own. As a result, the child learns to sit before they learn to crawl, and often end up bypassing crawling all together! And a child who constantly walks on their tip-toes? This comes from being put in jolly jumpers or walkers, or worse, holding their hands above their head to “help” them walk ( a completely unnatural, unnecessary, and potentially harmful, action) before their core is ready for this. They end up developing muscles in their feet (albeit, not the right ones for walking) before they develop the muscles in their trunk (which they would achieve by lying, stretching, rolling, etc. on the floor).

I have no doubt that Liv will sit up. I have faith in the process and in her. I don’t need to rush her out of babyhood and into all these “big girl” milestones. 

Babies can’t be expected to develop motor skills without the time and freedom to do so. Restricting children by putting them into positions they aren’t able to get into on their own (whether that be tummy time, sitting them in a chair or bouncer, putting them in swing, standing them up in a jolly jumper, holding their hands to help them walk, etc.) is extremely detrimental to their muscle development. Putting them in these positions puts weight on parts of their body that aren’t yet strong enough to support them. They need to build up their strength first, and be able to get into that position all on their own, before placing them in devices that hold them up somehow.

Babies who are put in devices they aren’t ready for yet will often:

  1. a) get bored quickly when there isn’t someone around to engage them and hold them up
  2. b) often skip over important milestones (ie: go straight from sitting to walking).

Every phases is important, and children should be allowed as much time as they need in each particular phase. Only once they’ve mastered one phase (ie: rolling over) will they be ready to move onto the next one (ie: crawling). Only they know how much time is enough, and only they should be the ones that initiate moving into the next phase. Give them this time. Trust them, trust their curiosity, trust their abilities. They will get there!

I’m sharing this with you all today because the Emmi Pickler approach is something I first heard about when I moved to Austria.  As far as I know, it’s not a theory that’s widely known, which is unfortunate. It makes one question whether parents need to do so much and buy so much, or if it wouldn’t be better just to let kids be kids! It’s a back-to-basics theory that I seen the amazing results from, both at home and in a childcare setting. If you’re intrigued and would like more information, I can recommend the following books and websites:

Madga Gerber,  Your Self-Confident Baby: How to encourage your child’s natural abilities — from the very start

Deborah Carlisle Solomon, Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE way

Set Me Free – Unrestricted Babies

The Pickler Collection