BabyFilter: is there any medical evidence that it's bad for babies to sit or stand before they can get into those positions on their own?
April 2, 2011 6:45 PM   Subscribe

BabyFilter: is there any medical evidence that it's bad for babies to sit or stand before they can get into those positions on their own?

Since lil ubu was about 2.5 months old, he's just loved standing - sometimes it's the only position he wants to be in, and will kick up a fuss if he isn't allowed to stand.

More recently, he's also been able to sit without toppling over, for extended periods of time (eg half an hour or more). He's also now standing on his own (but leaning up against something like a coffee table) for periods of around 10-15 min at a time without overbalancing.

He needs assistance to get into either of these positions, but once there he can balance & support himself well, as described above.

Various people & internet sources say that this is dangerous, and can lead to problems with the back or pelvis etc later in life.

Is there any truth to these warnings? I'm specifically interested in published & peer-reviewed medical, scientific or similar papers, and less interested in anecdata or "common sense" explanations (although if you feel that these add value then please go ahead).
posted by UbuRoivas to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, he's just turned 5 months now.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:58 PM on April 2, 2011

I can't think of any peer-reviewed studies on this, but I can say that it doesn't seem to mesh with anything I've ever read either as a parent or someone who studied child development at the graduate level.

I would be interested in learning where you found this information as I haven't come across it.
posted by zizzle at 7:09 PM on April 2, 2011

Not precisely scientific, but our (very good, very up to date on current research) pediatrician says that this kind of activity is an excellent alternative or addition to tummy time. Great for head/neck/torso strength. If there was some kind of known medical concern I'm fairly certain that she would be aware of it.
posted by pekala at 7:13 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When my cousin was a baby (I can't remember now how old but he couldn't hold himself up for sure), they used to put him in this round thing with wheels on it. I don't know the name. It's a round thing with a place for the babies legs to go through and they can sort of wheel themselves around. It was like a walker but they sit in it and push with legs or they figure out how to push with legs or apply weight in whatever direction. Fist in mouth, he's go in various directions in that thing.

He's fine now at the age of 23. He runs for exercise when he's not studying, no back problems, nothing of the sort. He is a strong and healthy and active young man now.
posted by anniecat at 7:13 PM on April 2, 2011

Look, it is called a baby walker and, here in America, where Kinder Eggs are banned, rest assured, if it had caused health problems in later life the makers would get sued and banned, and nobody would feel safe making them and marketing them for use by 4 month olds.

It says the American Academy of Pediatrics wants the walkers banned, but solely because they think the baby won't be able to develop any lower limb muscle strength (I suppose you can infer from that that it means it's good to let the small baby get in a standing position to develop lower limb muscles but I'm not a doctor) or they might walker their way into a dangerous place.
posted by anniecat at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: I would be interested in learning where you found this information as I haven't come across it.

Some of it was from concerned people in real life, loaded with anecdata ("I held my siblings up in standing positions & now they both have back problems") which I initially dismissed, then after hearing it a few times I tried googling & eventually came across a forum of supposed physiotherapists arguing it out.

Haven't had much luck with the google-fu beyond that, as anything baby-related to do with "back problems" is invariably about heavily pregnant women & their backs, not the babies'.

Other infant development sources tend to talk more about milestones, in terms of what the baby can do on its own (rolling over, pushing up to sitting, pulling up to standing etc).
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:27 PM on April 2, 2011

For what it's worth, a friend of mine that's a physical therapy professor made a similar comment at one point while holding my (also 5 month old loves-to-stand) son. I missed the exact phrasing but it stuck in my head; I'd meant to ask her the next time I see her. I'll pass it along if she has anything more peer-reviewed to say on the matter.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:46 PM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: I trawled through my browsing history & found the physiotherapy forum where a number of the members were against the idea.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:08 PM on April 2, 2011

This is just another data point, but I raised four kids to adulthood and every single one of them liked to be held in sitting/standing positions at early ages. And every single one of them loved their walkers (they were legal then...). None of them have any back problems at all - the youngest is 21, the oldest is 25. So, take that as you will. I think that if your baby wants to stand then let him stand, it's good for him! But IANAD, just a lady who has a lot of experience with kidlings, nieces, grand-babies, grandnieces, etc...
posted by patheral at 8:24 PM on April 2, 2011

Not evidence...but our early childhood clinic nurse said the standing was not a problem so long ad it wasn't on a hard surface. So standing on our lap was fine.

As for sitting...that's how they all start, you sit them up and they get used to it. LittleTaff and ToddlerTaff both sat for AGES about the same age...till the got fed up or fell over...whichever came first.
posted by taff at 9:01 PM on April 2, 2011

The closest I have heard to this was the pediatric physio we saw for my son's torticollis, warned me that it is important not to indulge the standing too much, at the expense of tummy time. This sometimes causes babies to skip crawling and go straight from sitting to cruising to walking. Crawling teaches some important muscle strength (I forget what though). Many babies (both of mine included) HATED tummy time, and enjoyed standing. So my interpretation is that as long as your son gets plenty of tummy time as well as standing time, then its all good. Just don't over-indulge his requests to be helped up to stand, so that he loses interest in trying to maneuver himself around on the floor, and just waits for you to help him stand up every time instead.
posted by Joh at 10:02 PM on April 2, 2011

If there is an effect it's going to be very small, because it's not something that's widely known despite the fact that there are zillions of babies with zillions of combinations of different temperament and parents and experiences and so forth, and you'd expect any dramatic effect to be easily recognised. So any possible effect will almost certainly be vastly outweighed by things you know about - good nutrition, enough sleep, and playtime.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:45 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I heard this a lot from concerned old ladies who saw my (small to begin with and very bald) baby standing in my lap and felt compelled to warn me about the Certain Doom. It seemed like the kind of thing that was well-meaning but misplaced (like the exhortations to put a hat on the baby, or take a hat off the baby, or let the baby determine when to put a hat on and off, etc. etc.), and my husband, a med student/resident at the time, asked around professionally to see if there was any basis for it. Not hearing anything definitive, we decided to go with our general gut instinct when it comes to parenting little babies: if something makes the baby happy and stops them from crying inconsolably, go ahead and do it.

Both my kids liked to "stand," and hated not being able to do it. Both of them started walking at 9 months, neither of them crawled. At almost 12 and 8, they are totally normal and fine and nobody would ever know that they were early walkers or standers unless I announced it, which would be totally embarrassing, as is nearly everything I do these days. Something I'm pretty sure is also in the range of normal.
posted by mothershock at 4:31 AM on April 3, 2011

Some people believe very strongly that cross-pattern crawling (left hand + right foot, vice-versa) is vital for proper brain development, and that encouraging children to walk before they've spent significant time crawling is bad for them. Others disagree.
posted by flabdablet at 6:40 AM on April 3, 2011

I have no scientific answers for you but I have come up against this a lot. The most extreme case was a pediatrician telling me that it was terribly unsafe for my newborn son to be in an infant car seat, that he would be much safer in my arms, and that for the sake of his spinal development I should stop using it immediately. (Sometimes you have to laugh so you don't cry.)

I received criticism for carrying my son in a sling, holding him upright, letting him rest on my hip, etc, etc, etc. I tried to be as gracious as possible as folk wisdom was clearly not on my side and I knew that the (usually older) person truly did have my son's best interest at heart.

But sometimes I just couldn't bite my tongue. My response was, "Yes, I could see how x might be bad for him if that's how he spent all his time but he's only like this for a few minutes." (Okay, and maybe once or twice I added, "And millions and millions of North American babies are held this way and they end up FINE!" but only when I was really annoyed.)

Some kids just like to be upright.
posted by wallaby at 12:19 PM on April 3, 2011

Both my kids liked to "stand," and hated not being able to do it. Both of them started walking at 9 months, neither of them crawled.

In my child development classes (years ago, mind you) it was mentioned that children that don't learn to crawl have difficulties with hand-eye coordination as they get older. I don't know if that true, but it's something to consider.

Babies do what they do, when they do it for reasons pediatricians, mommies and strangers will never understand.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:06 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everybody!

So far we seem to have no sign of credible, peer-reviewed evidence for this theory, although there have been a couple of reports of word-of-mouth advice from people in the paediatrics or medical profession.

Unless something more solid comes to light, I'll go with the general advice to let him do what he likes, in moderation, and ensure plenty of tummy time.

And as the rule is "pix or it didn't happen" here are some photos where you can see how much lil ubu loves standing time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:43 PM on April 3, 2011

posted by Joe in Australia at 8:36 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, he's lovely!

Anecdote: I didn't crawl much, sort of bounced along on my bum instead once I could sit, then transitioned to walking fairly late. My sisters stuck to the standard procedure. I do in fact have rather crappy hand-eye co-ordination compared to them. But I actively avoided sports for most of my childhood, which may have been a cause rather than a consequence of a lack of co-ordination.
posted by harriet vane at 2:29 AM on April 4, 2011

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