Can sitting or standing hurt a young baby’s bones?

The Pediatric Insider

© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD

Desiree wanted to know: “Is it true that putting an infant (2-4 month old, before they can sit unassisted) in a sitting position can damage their spine? I’ve read posts by people about this but don’t know how much truth there is. Assuming child can hold head up enough to be able to ‘sit’ on someone’s lap or on a sitting device for relatively short periods of time? Is there a limit to how long this should be or that it becomes dangerous?”

Little babies love to master new things. And they have fun doing it, too—their eyes sparkle when they learn to stand in your lap, or when they sit up with a little help to see the whole world. When they’re lying down on the floor or their bed they can only see the ceiling. Where’s the fun in that?

Their little minds and bodies are made to grow and develop and try new things. Spending time on their tummies helps babies develop muscles in the front of their chests, and helps practice the coordination to lift their heads and look around. Time sitting up exercises different muscles, too. And bones themselves grow and develop based on the stresses and loads that they feel—so, yes, standing up is a good thing to help babies grow stronger and more confident of their skills.

A few caveats – keep a little common sense in mind. Those gizmos that help babies sit up are fine, but not if you put them on top of a table or counter. They can still topple out of them, so never use them on a raised surface. Also, a baby has to be able to hold his or her head up unsupported to stay in an upright position.

Is there a limit to how long babies should try these new positions? Sure – let the babies tell you. If it starts to hurt, they’ll get upset, and that’s when you’ll pick them up or move them or try a new activity. If bones are being “damaged” by the stress of a new activity, they’ll hurt, and you’ll know it. That’s why people feel pain when they should stop doing something. Babies are very good at telling you when something hurts.

They’re also very good at telling you when they’re happy. So help your baby learn new things and try new ways of standing, sitting, and getting around. Have fun!

This is a baby

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2 Comments on “Can sitting or standing hurt a young baby’s bones?”


  1. Thanks for this post! As a homecare pediatric occupational therapist, I see all manner of positioning equipment in homes. An infant who isn’t actively holding his head up can look OK for a few moments if he rests his head on the top of his spine. Not floppy, but not building any skills. Do not drink the Kool-Aide and believe the manufacturer’s claims. I believe that the explosion of positioning equipment over the past 20 years has contributed to the majority of totally typical babies who hate tummy time and have delayed motor milestones such as rolling and crawling. All that active work they are missing every day makes it so much harder when they do get the chance, and the seats are so much easier to play in. Back in the day, there was no need for tummy classes or tummy toys. We created this problem ourselves.

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  2. Elisabeth Says:

    How rare is it that an hour old newborn can lift his/her head off a parent’s chest? Mine did, to the L&D nurses’ surprise. (My mother-in-law said both her boys were like this)

    Like


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