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When Can Baby Sit In Stroller Safely? How to Test if Your Baby is Ready

When Can Baby Sit In Stroller Safely? How to Test if Your Baby is Ready

When Can Baby Sit in Stroller?

Most babies are ready to transition from a bassinet stroller or car seat, to sitting up in a reclined front-facing stroller at around three months of age.

The next transition is to a more upright stroller seat, and for most babies they are usually ready for that at around six months of age.

However, it’s more important to make sure they have achieved two key developmental milestones before making the transition. This is a much safer approach than simply using age alone to decide when to transition your baby to sitting in a stroller.

Keep reading to learn what these milestones are, and the simple tests you can do to find out if your baby is ready to sit up in a stroller.

Baby boy sitting in a red stroller wearing a five point harness, facing the camera.

Babies Must Have Good Head Control Before They Start Sitting Upright In a Stroller

In order to ride safely while sitting up in a stroller, your baby needs to be able to hold their head steady without it flopping forward, backwards, or to the sides.

This is known as head control. It’s an essential skill for several reasons:

  1. Proper head control allows your baby to breathe comfortably in the stroller. Without it, their head may slump forward, or their chin could press against their chest, potentially blocking their airway
  2. Good head control also helps your baby adjust their head position in response to movement, ensuring a comfy and safe ride
  3. Adequate head control indicates that your baby’s neck and spine are strong enough to hold their head upright. This helps prevent strain and reduces the risk of injury

Head control is a milestone babies typically achieve somewhere between three to four months of age.

This is one of many exciting milestones your baby will achieve during their first year of life. If you’d like to learn about all of these milestones, make sure you click here to grab a copy of our free guide that shows you when you should be expecting certain skills and when to be concerned.

How to Test For Adequate Head Control Before Switching to a Stroller

To check your baby’s head control, start with them theming sit on your lap with your hands gently supporting their rib cage.

baby sitting on mothers lap, with her hands gently holding the baby by her sides. Baby is sitting upright, with her head straight

While they sit with your support, watch their head movements and posture. If your baby demonstrates good head control, they’ll keep their head steady without it shaking or wobbling. A steady head means their neck muscles are strong enough to hold their head, lowering the risk of injury when sitting in the stroller.

Their chin should also not be touching their chest. Instead, you should see a visible gap. If your baby’s chin rests on their chest, it’s unsafe to let your baby sit in a stroller in a seated position. Their head may fall forward, allowing their chin to press against their chest obstructing their airway. If their neck muscles aren’t stong enough to life their head back up this creates a suffocation risk.

Emma Hubbard holding a baby on her lap facing the camera. Baby's chin is up off her chest, showing she can hold her head up.

You should also notice that your baby can maintain a straight head position even when you gently move them from side to side. If they can keep their head steady and in line with the centre of their body and prevent it from flopping around when you do this, then they have the strength needed to hold their upper body and head upright when they’re seated in a stroller.

Emma Hubbard holding a baby on her lap with hands supporting the baby's sides. Gently tilting the baby to one side to test head control

Postural Balance

The other key skill they need is postural balance. This is your baby’s ability to maintain a stable, symmetrical position, whether they’re slightly reclined or upright.

Adequate postural balance lets your baby stay comfortable in the stroller, avoiding excessive leaning to any one side. If a baby leans too much to one side while seated in a stroller, it can lead to multiple safety concerns.

young baby sitting in a red stroller, leaning heavily to she side, relying on the side of the stroller to support her.

One major issue is strain on the neck, spine, and joints. Excessive leaning can put undue stress on your baby’s body and potentially cause discomfort, pain, or even long-term problems.

Breathing can also be affected if your baby doesn’t have adequate postural balance. They may slump or lean too much to one side in the stroller, impeding their breathing by compressing their chest or causing their chin to press against their chest.

In some situations, the stroller harness might actually press on the baby’s chest or neck, further restricting their airflow.

Finally, there is a risk of entanglement and injury. A baby who leans excessively might accidentally become entangled in the stroller harness or other parts, potentially leading to injury.

Ensuring your baby has good postural balance before letting your baby sit up in a stroller means they’re better prepared to adapt to any movements, bumps, or sudden stops that they may face while seated in a stroller. This helps to reduce the likelihood of falls or injuries.

How to Check Postural Control

There are two simple tests you can perform to assess postural balance.

Start by placing your baby in a slightly reclined position. You can achieve this by sitting them in a bouncer seat, or helping them to sit up while sitting on your lap.

Once they’re sitting, carefully observe their body posture and alignment, paying particular attention to the way their head, neck and spine align. If your baby displays good postural control, you should notice the following:

  • Your baby should be able to maintain a balanced, symmetrical position with their head, neck and spine aligned properly. That means you can draw an imaginary straight line from the top of their head, down their neck and spine to their tailbone. If they are aligned, it indicates that your baby may have the necessary coordination and stability to sit comfortably in a stroller seat.
  • They should also not be leaning excessively to one side, meaning they can sit upright at the same time
Emma Hubbard holding a baby on her lap, supporting her sides with her hands. Baby is sitting upright, with her spine, neck and head aligned.

A balanced posture ensures that your baby can remain secure and at ease in the stroller seat and reduce the risk of any potential problems that may arise when they’re sitting in the stroller.

Emma Hubbard holding a baby on her lap, supporting her sides with her hands. Baby is sitting upright, with her spine, neck and head aligned. Text on the image explaing that good postural control is demonstrated by head, neck and spinal alignment and not leaning excessively.

If your little one doesn’t quite have these skills, you can learn how to teach your baby to sit up independently here.

When It’s Time To Let Your Baby Sit Upright In a Stroller

If your baby passes these two tests, you can transition them from your current setup to sitting in a reclining stroller seat.

Remember, the transition depends on your child’s development rather than your baby’s age alone. Ensuring that they have good head control and postural balance helps reduce the risk of serious injury and also reduces general discomfort when sitting in a stroller.

Your current setup might be a bassinet stroller or an infant car seat that also attaches to your pram. Either way, once your baby passes the tests I’ve just mentioned above, it’s safe to make change to sitting up in a rear or front facing stroller.

If your baby doesn’t yet have these skills, one of the best way to develop neck strength and strength through their core is tummy time. Read this article next to learn how to do tummy time with your baby.

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with over 12 years of clinical experience. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle. Emma is the founder of Brightest Beginning & writes about all things child development, sleep, feeding, toilet training and more.

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