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“Sitting” Is Not A Milestone!! A Pediatric PT’s Expert Opinion

August 27, 2016
Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric Physical Therapist's Expert Opinion on

Sitting is not a milestone? What on earth do you mean, crazy lady?

Are you excited about watching your newborn grow and develop through that first, amazing year? “When will they hit those important milestones of rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking?” you say to your spouse/partner every day. Get your camera ready! But try to “Live in the now!” because those fleeting moments are so priceless! Ooohhh those precious little cheeks and buns!

 Isn’t that all we talk about as new parents? You know what I mean–comparing your first child to your third child, comparing teeth and steps on their first birthdays, or working diligently on that perfect scrapbook baby book (while finishing the other kids’ books from when they were babies. Ha!)  Can I get a raise of hands from the audience?

Don’t you wish you restart that first year over and over again? Maybe not all of you share the same nostalgia about your kids as babies, but the growth I witness in babies from birth to walking is my favorite part of life as a mom and a therapist.

We are going to look at “milestones” a little differently.

But as a pediatric physical therapist, I have a few concerns about the traditional notion of “milestones.” It is so common to get referrals from pediatricians AFTER a baby has fallen behind on their milestones.  The one that troubles me the most is the 11-month-old baby that just sits…and cannot to ANYTHING else. They never rolled, learned to get in and out of sitting, or crawled. Scandalous!!Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric PT on

They never learned to how to roll, to belly crawl, to get in and out of sitting, or to crawl on hands and knees?!?  Scandalous!!

While I absolutely love all my babies no matter their age or ability, this scenario is frustrating to me. I’m thinking “Why didn’t this baby get referred to me sooner!?!”  

Now some of you, dear readers, may be thinking “What’s the big deal, EB?”

Thanks for asking! I’ll tell you and I promise it won’t go over your head or under your feet or in one ear and out the other.  I hope that this information might actually make more sense! Read on, friends!


Breaking news!! Sitting IS NOT a milestone!

Breaking news!! Sitting IS NOT a milestone! Click To Tweet

Whoa Bessy! Hold your horses!!

But seriously, we humans spend the majority of our lives in the sitting position! “Why the rush?” I say.  I tell this to all my (baby patients’) parents, and this is why:

So many babies these days are unnaturally and prematurely placed in a sitting position looo00ng before they are developmentally ready to sit.

This greatly contributes to poor muscle tone and strength, impaired sensory development, and abnormal spinal/postural alignment. (I will get into the medical science in another post in the near future.)

Bumbo’s, exersaucers, walkers, jumpers, and–oh-no, there’s a new one out there–“the sit-me-up floor seat,” are HORRIBLE for babies that haven’t learned to sit up from the floor on their own (a.k.a from the floor, not “propped” in sitting by well-intended caretakers.)

Yes, I know, your baby hates being on the floor and loves sitting up in their _____! (Insert baby holder here.)   To that I say something sarcastic like, “Toddlers love run into the street, but that doesn’t mean it’s GOOD for them, right?”  I fondly refer to the time babies spend in “containers” (ie car seats) and sitting devices as “zero learning time.” 

Obviously, I’m not talking about high chairs during meal time.  Stick with me here and I think you’ll start to understand what I’m getting at. ♥


Babies need to MOVE to LEARN!


Babies need to MOVE to LEARN! Click To Tweet



Sitting is not a motor skill, it’s a static position.

Think about the “skill” you are using to lounge on your comfy sofa during a Netflix binge. Will Netflix marathons become the next Olympic sport? Umm…no…not a chance. Haha!

Often, if babies learn to sit before they learn to get in and out of  sitting, they will have missed out on the strength, rotation and postural preparation needed for more important, functional skills in sitting like reaching for a toy, getting onto hands and knees, transitioning  back onto their bellies to get around on the floor, etc.

Read: “The Importance of Tummy Time”Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric PT's Opinion at

Read: “How to Get Your Baby to Love Tummy Time: 10 Great Tips and Tricks”

Babies cannot “interact with their environment” independently if they can’t move while they’re sitting, and they cannot access toys out of their reach.

They are very limited in the variety of learning opportunities available when they are stuck in one position. 

Have I convinced you yet? It is so much more important that we encourage tummy time and floor mobility (rolling or belly crawling) in the first six months, at least! When a baby is strong enough to push themselves up into sitting, catch themselves with their hands while sitting, and get back down to the floor from sitting…that’s when you can celebrate the “sitting” milestone.  ♥

And take lots of pictures and videos when they do, because they’ll be off and running in no time at all!

Thanks so much for reading! Have I sparked some thoughts or questions on the matter?  Leave a comment and speak your mind (because I can’t read it, ya know!) 😉

Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric PT's Expert Opinion on

Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric Physical Therapist's Expert Opinion on

Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric Physical Therapist’s Expert Opinion on

Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric Physical Therapist's Expert Opinion on

Sitting Is Not A Milestone: A Pediatric Physical Therapist’s Expert Opinion on

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  • Reply Jennufer September 27, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    Great read! As a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) I couldn’t agree more. Marketers make all the baby containers look so great but they do nothing for development.

    • Reply October 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Jennufer. Wait until you see my (future) post about containers. Ha!

  • Reply mspyanov June 23, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I never really developed proper core muscles. Decent, but I overcompensate and have a bad hip, back and abnormal coordination now as an adult. It’s definitely made me want to be sure we follow the proper order in developing muscles. My mom did a great job as I wasn’t with her until 1 (adopted) but some things are quite hard to undo!

    Noelle’s PT said even though she’s making progress in the right steps and could be discharged, she never discharges patients until they’re far enough along to know they won’t pick up those short cuts and do things a little funky which will impact their next developmental steps.

    • Reply July 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks for your input, SIlver. It’s interesting that you’ve made that connection between your current physical health and your physical challenges as a preemie and infant. I’m glad you’ve gotten good information on how to help your daughter!

  • Reply Amy May 8, 2019 at 7:26 am

    This is interesting! My 6 month old hasn’t rolled either way yet and we were just referred to a physical therapist. Since he just started being able to sit (when placed), I thought there was less concern and it was just because he is a big baby, but your article made me see it differently. He doesn’t do anything else (physically) and my daughter was doing so much more at this age. I work with him all the time on rolling, but it’s like he is just “stuck” if that makes sense. I think his doctor would get on your good list!

    • Reply May 21, 2019 at 1:58 pm

      I’m so glad you are getting PT! I tell all the parents work with…tummy time is the foundation of all other skills! You want your baby to learn to sit? Do more tummy time. Crawl? Yep, more tummy time! Walk, run, jump??? No, really! It all comes from the skills they develop in tummy time. Rolling is important in that it teaches them to cross midline (good for crawling, running, playing sports, using both sides of the brain for reading, writing, memory, etc.) Rolling is also good for vestibular stimulation. The information the brain processes from the inner ear or the “balance system” is developed very early on and impacts many things like balance (of course) and tolerance of motion (ie preventing sea sickness, car sickness or gravitational insecurity, which is the resistance to movement that affects everything a child does in play!)

      Keep up the good work Momma!

  • Reply Vicki Whisler August 11, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    This article reassures me after going and seeing a pediatrician today. She was concerned with my seven-month-old not being able to sit up on his own whenever he is being placed. I never did it with any of my other children having them sit up they always learned on their own and the exact way that you said after learning to roll over and Scoot Etc I don’t see any difference in my 7 month old then any of the other children I have had. And yes I’m guilty for not giving them tummy time at 3 weeks or even three months I started Tummy Time mostly around 4 months. He scoots all over the place he rolls back and force he can scoot over to any toy that he wants that I put in his play yard with him he even tries to get on his knees but he does not sit up he doesn’t even like to sit up in his high chair for meals he kind of leans to the side we were told to put him in physical therapy I went ahead and agreed to it but is it really important at this stage if he’s not sitting up when I place him I always thought that babies had to learn that on their own

  • Reply Julia Facelo December 18, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    Yes yes yes!!! Those seats are so bad for babies and I’m in a mom group where so many moms have a “sit-me-up” but I don’t wanna start a debate and risk getting kicked out of the group for this 🙁 it saddens me how no one knows how bad it actually is 🙁

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