The Importance of Healthy Hips in Your Baby’s Development
As a physical therapist, a common question parents (and grandparents) often ask me about is “why don’t PTs like seats?” It’s funny because as a PT, I always refer to seats or toys as “tools”. The tools to help your baby engage are just as important as when they are playing on the floor - why? Because of how our muscles and bones develop - specifically the pelvis area.
Development in The Hips
The pelvis includes what we commonly refer to as the “hip” and “thighs” and starts developing as soon as your baby spends time exploring the floor on their belly/back and rolling.
But why does rolling and playing on your belly strengthen the hips?
The hips have many muscles connected to them and bone develops in response to the muscles causing pressure on the bone. Basically, when a baby is rolling the muscles “turn on” while the baby is kicking their legs or crossing their body to kick the toys hanging in the air. Once the hip muscles have been developed and strengthened in those positions it’s onto sitting! That’s where a seat that promotes the best strengthening and coordination of the muscles and joints are necessary. The time spent in sitting with an adult's help or in a seat is also crucial to weight bearing through the hip joints. In addition, the “ring” sitting position is improved in a proper seat that allows room for the baby to weight shift and use their trunk muscles in the most natural way.
Healthy Hips Leads to Crawling
Then what comes next?
Sitting is so fun for babies and they are working hard on this skill because it’s a big help when they are trying to work on the next phase of hip development: crawling on all fours! This is where the baby becomes very active and a huge amount of strength and coordination growth happens during play. With proper alignment and practice in ring sitting, babies often transition easily from going from ring sitting play to side sitting (where knee’s point in one direction). Once they’ve mastered side sitting babies are typically getting into so many different things - their toys and becomes a good reminder for baby proofing!
Hip development is a mix of many things but it does start from the moment your baby starts exploring the floor and even continues throughout learning to walk. That’s why play that promotes proper alignment and “tools” that don’t limit function are vital to baby’s development.
The Importance of Using an Ergonomic Baby Seat
With a constant barrage of different devices on the market claiming to be “teaching your child to sit” it is so important to look at the components of them through a developmental perspective. With The Upseat play seat, your baby's hips are encouraged to be wide and open with the proper amount of bend to increase hip socket development. Oftentimes other seats place the baby's hips in a narrow position but with the Upseat, the pelvis and hip joints are positioned similarly to how a baby's hip position is in a squat with their hips rotated out, knees slightly out and feet slightly outward. This is a functional position often facilitated by physical therapists during play and it's great when the baby can be exposed to this position at rest as well.
The Upseat is by far the best seat that promotes the most natural position for your baby while they are making a mess with food, exploring different textures in a book, or video conferencing with grandma and grandpa who live out of town!
The Upseat has been designed to promote optimal spinal alignment in sitting, unlike many other devices that hold your baby in a rounded-back posture. The Upseat also comes up higher on your baby’s back, providing more support while they are still learning to sit. The larger space for your babe’s legs also allows more freedom of movement in the seated position.
So get excited—this is just another step in promoting purposeful play with your babe that will lead to even bigger motor milestones. Cherish these moments because soon your baby will be on the move and instead of getting a workout from carrying them all day, you’ll be getting some cardio running around to move breakables out of their reach and blocking them from eating every stray crumb on your floor. And as always, remember that once they are sitting, you should still always place them on their tummy FIRST for play. Happy sitting, y’all!
Written by Dr. Kelsey
Kelsey is a pediatric and perinatal physical therapist and owner of The Mobility Project! She has been working in the pediatric field supporting families for over 5 years and has found a true passion meeting children and parents where they are at to promote development. After having her son, she realized that she wanted to help parents and caregivers truly understand how to support the development of their babies with less guilt and more play! Follow her on Instagram @the.mobility.project for tips on how to integrate purposeful play into your daily routine with your little one.