As a physiotherapist with 30 years of experience working in pediatrics, I know that the development of an anatomically upright and aligned posture is essential in allowing correct bone, joint and muscle development in children. It is important that parents vary their baby’s positions multiple times throughout the day to allow them to gain exposure to different gravitational forces and promote both healthy bodies and minds. When a child is old enough to start sitting up with support (around 3 months of age, depending on head control), a supportive seat can be used for short periods of time. Once the infant is able to sit independently, supportive chairs should only be utilized for feeding or when working on fine motor activities. For brain development and neuronal connections to occur, babies need to move, so floor time is always most important.
There are several options for supportive seats that may be used for infants under 6 months of age. Not all of these options are beneficial to a child’s development.
There are many reasons as to why I professionally recommend the Upseat, as well as why this supportive seat can benefit an infant under and even over 6 months of age, when used for short periods of time during the day.
Promotes Proper Upright Posture
The Upseat places the infant’s pelvis into a slight anterior tilt, which facilitates lumbar extension. The head, chest, and pelvis are thus positioned directly above each other resulting in good postural alignment. In this position, the infant will activate both their trunk extensors and abdominal muscles in a balanced way, allowing both muscle groups to develop equally. This core strength gives the baby stability and a base of support to learn to move.
Doubles as a Feeding Seat
When used for feeding, the Upseat holds the pelvis in a more neutral or slight anterior tilt, allowing the baby to sit in an upright position with trunk held straight, which positions the esophagus in a straight line with no curves or kinks. This allows food to pass easily and directly down to the stomach. In this position the head and neck are held straight with the chin tucked and in a good posture for chewing and swallowing, lowering the tendency for uncoordinated muscle movements, and resulting in less gas being swallowed.
Develops Fine Motor Skills
The Upseat places the core muscles in an optimal position creating stability, so that the infant can use their arms more easily to play with toys and develop more refined fine motor skills.
Safe for Developing Hips
One of my personal favourite benefits of the Upseat is that it has a wide pommel between the legs, which positions the legs in abduction (open), and external rotation (turned out). This is an ideal position for the development of the immature hip joint. The leg slots are also wide and allow most chubby little thighs to move freely.
The Importance of Being Upright
The “back to sleep" campaign recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics has resulted in babies spending many hours lying on their backs, which has created a new set of problems commonly seen in infants. Plagiocephaly (flat head) and torticollis (tight neck muscles) are now frequently being diagnosed. One of the many ways to alleviate and prevent these problems is to allow the infant to sit upright for short periods of time during waking hours. Sitting upright allows the infant freedom of movement and time to exercise, strengthen and improve neck range of motion, by turning their head to look around.
Being upright also allows the infant time to start socializing and view the world from a different viewpoint. Long distance vision and tracking can be practiced.
In summary, the Upset is a great device to introduce during your child’s earlier months, to not only help facilitate hip joint and postural development, but also fine motor skills, social, visual, and sensory development.
Jo-Anne Weltman B.Sc PT, MRSc. is a physiotherapist with over 30 years of experience in pediatrics. She is the owner of S.M.I.L.E Therapy, a physiotherapy center that specializes in childhood development.