W sitting is when a baby sits with their knees bend out in front of their body with their legs resting back towards their side and feet next to their hips.
This position is referred to as W sitting because the position of the babies legs looks like a “W” shape.
When you first see it, you might be a little concerned. So in this post you’re going to learn why babies sit like this, whether it’s normal/health for them to do so, and when you should be concerned and seek further advice.
Is W Sitting Normal?
W Sitting is extremely common for babies and part of typical development.
There are two reasons for this:
- When many babies are born, their thigh bone turns inwards at the top of the bone near the hip. This is perfectly normal and will improve over time. However, this unique shape of the thigh bone means w sitting is comfortable and natural for your baby. On top of that, their joints are also extremely flexible, so they are able to bend their knees inwards and rotate them without causing any pain or discomfort.
- When your baby sits in the W position it gives them a very wide base. This makes them quite stable and able to use their hands in play. This is because a lot of their body is making contact with the ground, and having the feet out towards their side gives them a wider base of support than other sitting positions. And if they start to lean to one side, they can use their thigh muscles and their feet to bring themselves back up into the middle of their body.
It’s also interesting to note that when they’re in a w sitting position they don’t need to use their core as much to stay seated. This means that for babies who have low core strength or are generally low toned, adopting the w sitting position will be easier for them.
As a result they’ll tend to w sit because that’s the position that allows them to sit independently, while they may not be able to sit in other positions.
Will W Sitting Harm Your Child?
Babies will usually use a variety of different sitting positions when sitting on the floor and playing.
For example, you might notice that your child alternates between:
- Sitting with their legs out in front of their body
- Sitting with legs out to the side (side sitting)
- And then they might spend some time in w sitting.
Variety is key. If your child is varying their sitting positions and not just sitting in the w position all the time, then it’s unlikely you need to be concerned or correct them when they w sit.
However, if you notice that your child w sits all the time and doesn’t use other sitting positions, then that is when you should take them to see a doctor or a Pediatric Physiotherapist for an assessment.
Sitting in the w position all the time doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. But spending long periods of time sitting in this position can cause long term problems if left unchecked.
Risks Associated With W Sitting
The risks associated with prolonged use of the w sitting position include:
Reduced Core Strength
As mentioned earlier, when children w sit they aren’t engaging their core muscles as much as other sitting positions.
Spending long periods of time in a w sitting position with very little variety may lead to delayed development and strengthening of those core muscles. And if their core is weak or under-developed it can make sitting in other positions difficult or uncomfortable, creating a further reliance on w sitting.
Lack of Movement Across The Body
When a child sits in a w position it makes it difficult for them to cross the midline, or reach across their body from one side to the other.
Crossing the midline is important for motor development. This includes both gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills.
It is also important when establishing hand dominance in children, and there is a risk that this may be delayed in children who frequently sit in the w position.
Spending too much time in the w sitting position can lead to the tightening of muscles in the legs and hips. The hip adductors, hamstrings, achilles tendon are among the most commonly affected muscle groups.
This tightening and shortening of hip and leg muscles may then lead to impeded movement.
One common movement pattern observed in children who w sit too frequently is pigeon toed walking. This is where the child’s toes are pointed inwards when they walk.
W sitting causes an unnatural rotation of the hips and places excess pressure on the hip joint. This can in turn lead to lead to an increased risk of dislocation of the hips, particularly if there are existing joint issues such as hip dysplasia.
However, it is important to note that the International Hip Dysplasia Institute state that w sitting does not cause hip dysplasia.
If your child shows signs of pain while w sitting, you should consider encouraging them to avoid sitting in that position. Continued, frequent, or increasing pain in the hips should be assessed by a doctor or physiotherapist do ensure there are no underlying issues.
Encouraging Your Child Not To W Sit
Usually it isn’t necessary to discourage your child from sitting in the w position.
As long as your child sits in several different positions on a regular basis and doesn’t rely on w sitting as their primary means of sitting there is likely no reason to be concerned.
If you do notice frequent w sitting, there are several other positions you can encourage your child to use, such as:
‘Criss cross applesauce’
Lots of parents will remember this one from school. This is where children sit with their knees bent and legs crossed in front of their body.
Legs straight out in front
This position requires more strength through the trunk, as well as some balance.
If your child’s core strength isn’t quite ready for this you may need to encourage your child to start using it for short periods of time and gradually increase the time until their capable of long sitting sessions like this.
This is where your child sits on their bottom with both legs facing the same side. It’s great because it encourages nice upright posture, forces your child to engage their trunk, and also allows for rotation during play and crossing of the mid line.
Use a Small Stool
Kids will use what is available to them. Provide your child with a small stool to sit on as an alternative to sitting on the floor to add another alternative to w sitting.
Use An Activity Play Table
These are fantastic toys for child development, and it just so happens that they have even more benefits if your child w sits frequently. These tables encourage children to move up onto their knees to play.’
They can play in either high kneeling or a half kneel position, which will keep them up off the floor.
Although w sitting looks uncomfortable for us as parents, it’s actually a normal part of development and it’s very common for children to sit in this position.
As long as your child is able to us a variety of different ways of sitting and doesn’t spend excessive amounts of time in a w sitting position there is likely no reason for concern.
If you are concerned about how much time your child is spending in w sitting, you can encourage them to sit different ways instead and use variety. If you are concerned, particularly if you notice impaired movement or believe your child is in pain, you should see a Doctor, Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist for further assessment.
Want to keep track of your child’s development throughout their first year of life? click here to download your copy of my free Developmental Milestones Checklist. With this checklist, you’ll know exactly what to expect and when, which will give you extra peace of mind as you watch your baby grow and develop.