As your baby grows, it’s exciting to watch him crawl, sit up on his own and explore his world. Daily play time enhances cognitive skills and allows him to use and strengthen a variety of muscles. But a seemingly innocent sitting position may actually be problematic for your child’s muscle development. It’s called W-sitting.
W-sitting is a position where a child’s bottom is completely on the floor with his knees bent and feet behind them, forming a “W” shape with his knees and legs (see “W-sitting” image). As babies develop strength and muscle control, it is normal for them to briefly move in and out of W-sitting when changing positions. The problem occurs when the child stays in the W-sitting position for a prolonged amount of time while engaged in activities like floor play or watching TV.
Why do children W-sit?
Many children assume this position because it feels more stable than other positions. The “W” position of the legs provides a wider base and extra stability for the child to sit upright with little effort, giving him more freedom to use his hands for play. Children with special needs and/or low muscle tone especially tend to prefer the W-sitting position as it requires little core strength and eliminates the need for trunk rotation.
Why it’s a problem:
W-sitting increases muscle tightness and puts excessive pressure on the hips, knees and ankle joints. Consistent exposure to this position can cause future orthopedic problems like poor posture, sway back, weak hips and tight hamstrings. This position prevents a child from rotating and distributing weight evenly from one side of the body to the other, a skill that is necessary for walking and other fine motor activities, like writing.
How to prevent W-sitting:
The best way to help your child avoid W-sitting is to prevent it from becoming a habit. Encourage him to sit in other positions and gently correct him when you see him W-sitting. Here are some examples of proper sitting positions for your child:
Supported side sitting
Sitting on a bean bag
Have you noticed your child W-sitting? What steps have you taken to correct it?
Patty Cotter is a Physical Therapist at Penfield Children’s Center.
Siders, Audrey. “W-Sitting – Why Correcting it is Important.” U.P. Rehab Services. http://uprehab.com/w-sitting-why-correcting-it-is-important/