“Practice makes perfect!”

Or at least we’re trained to think so. How do you like to learn a new skill? We adults often go about learning something by practicing the thing itself: we learn to ski by skiing; to knit by kitting; to play piano by playing.

So it makes sense, then, that Baby will learn to sit by sitting, and to walk by walking—right? Actually, NO! It is often recommended to parents to sit Baby before he can get in and out of it himself, even to prop him up in sitting. This recommendation comes from health professionals, reading material, and our cultural value placed on achievement. But let’s take a closer look.

Mother Nature Knows Best

Babies are programmed to build each piece of the movement puzzle step by step. Babies actually learn to sit by doing the preceding movements that build up the necessary strength and coordination. Each and every movement explored prepares Baby’s body for the next:  rolling (balances tone in the torso) leads to belly circling, crawling, and playing with one hand (control of weight shift) leads to side-lying leads to side-elbow-lying (measuring)—and voila he ends up sitting by himself because he has done all the preparation! If this progression does not happen naturally, there may be a stress or inhibition and help may be needed—ideally help that supports Baby where he is rather than plunges him into something he is not yet ready to take on.

But babies who are sat do learn to sit by themselves!

Well—what they learn is how to compensate because their bodies are not truly ready. Whether propped or not, they will experience small falls, so they must do something to hold themselves in sitting. They can develop unbalanced muscle tone; prop with their legs, creating locked knees; hold tension in their lower back; or even develop scoliosis. These compensations often make learning other milestones more difficult because the brain has learned to hold or stop movement rather than allow it.

 Stay tuned to learn signs of sitting readiness, benefits of letting Baby find it for himself, and the psychology of sitting.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

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