Child sitting in bad position, which is called W-sitting. W-sitting can cause to hip dislocation.

W Position Sitting in Children: Problems & Prevention

Becoming a parent means you never stop worrying about your child – how well they’re eating, sleeping, growing, and developing to name just a few. You want to do whatever is best for your child so they can thrive.

Sometimes you might notice your child acting, saying, or doing something that’s quite different from what you’ve seen in other kids. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely heard your child “W” sits, or you’ve seen it and wonder if it’s normal. So, what is that exactly? 

What is W Position Sitting?  

W sitting is a position where your child sits with their bottom on the floor, and their legs form a “W” around them. It can look uncomfortable, but likely your child does it because it feels more comfortable for them!  

What is W sitting a symptom of?  

W sitting can actually be a normal part of development. You may momentarily see your child move in and out of this position while playing on the floor. Children are constantly testing their balance, coordination, mobility, and their ability to explore. This exploration is how a child gains the skills and confidence to crawl, walk, and run. 

When children stay in W sitting (or any other position!) for a long period of time, it may be a sign they have some weak core muscles or low muscle tone. Sitting in the W position allows a child to turn off their belly muscles so they can focus on what they do best – playing! 

Low muscle tone may mean your child has a harder time getting their trunk muscles to work the way they want. Low muscle tone alone isn’t a reason for concern. When low muscle tone is combined with weakness, it can make children less confident that their bodies will hold them up when trying to move in other ways, leading them to stay still for longer periods of time. This can lead to weakness in core muscles. 

Is the W sitting position harmful?  

W sitting alone isn’t harmful unless it’s the only position your child prefers. If you don’t see them moving and grooving in and out of multiple sitting positions, they aren’t gaining practice using all their muscles.

Potential effects of only being in the W sit position:

  • Painful strain on your child’s hips, knees, ankles, and feet
  • Muscle tightness
  • Weakness in other muscles
  • Inability to naturally begin to crawl and explore

Long-term, your child’s bones may begin to form in this position instead of straight. This may lead to hip dysplasia, in-toeing, or rotation of the legs. Especially while children’s bones are growing, they should be moving in multiple directions and ways to allow bones and joints to develop appropriately. It might help to get them to try an alternative sitting position to limit how much they W sit.

At what age is w sitting a problem?  

Sitting is a skill children typically achieve by the time they are 6-8 months old. Around this age, they will try a variety of positions before they find what feels best to them. They will move from sitting in a circle shape to being able to move in and out of sitting to the side sitting in preparation for crawling.  

While the W sitting position isn’t necessarily harmful to your child, it can become or create a problem. W sitting can be a problem when it’s one of the only positions your child prefers. It can delay crawling and walking in babies and toddlers. It doesn’t allow for easy movement in and out of the position due to the position of the legs.  When they’re not moving in and out of a position, it could impact the development of their core strength and contribute to muscle tightness in the legs.

W sitting is especially concerning in older children who should already be crawling or walking, if they are unable to play or move out of the position, or if they have an underlying medical issue. If any of the above is true, it may be time to discuss it with your child’s doctor.  

See related: Toe Walking in Children: A Guide

How do you treat w sitting? 

Before talking to a physical therapist or taking them to an occupational therapist, parents might be able to help with the W position. Parents can do a lot to help their children explore new ways of moving and sitting! Children respond best to a verbal reminder “fix your legs” followed by showing them how you’d like them to sit. This alternative position can be criss-cross applesauce, sitting with legs out straight, it’s up to you! They’ll quickly learn what you mean when you repeat the phrase, and they will be able to self-correct more easily.  

If your child isn’t able to move out of this position easily, they may need a little help. You can place favorite objects just out of your child’s reach to promote moving out of their position of comfort and exploring new movements. Getting them to move out of that seated position is what’s important, but it’ll also help improve their leg and hip muscles as well.

How can pediatric physical therapy help 

The early ages of life are when children are developing core strength, leg and hip muscles, mobility, and more. So, children need to explore the world using many different positions and movements. If they seem “stuck,” they may need help learning how to move their body. During pediatric physical therapy and occupational therapy, your therapist will do a thorough evaluation and assess your child’s strengths and areas of improvement related to their gross motor skills development.

They will then create a plan made specifically for your child to reach the goals you have in mind. Through play, the physical therapist will allow your child to safely explore their world while training their bodies at the same time. If you’re not quite sure your child needs help, you can schedule a free screening at any of our pediatric locations and one of our pediatric experts will observe your child and share their recommendations for your child. 

Article By: Sarah Goncalves, PT, DPT, PhD(c), PCS, CI 

Sarah began their physical therapy career 11 years ago. Sarah loves working with the pediatric population and believes in the importance of empowering parents with the information they need to allow their children to thrive. She currently specializes in child development, toe walking, and rehabilitation research. She currently works with pediatric therapists across the country to promote best practices and current evidence through mentorship and education. 

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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