Dynamic sitting in infants: Limits of stability

Gait Posture. 2023 May:102:210-215. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2023.04.004. Epub 2023 Apr 5.


Background: Limits of stability-defined by the maximum distances a person is willing to reach without falling or changing the base of support-are measures of dynamic balance.

Research question: What are infants' sitting stability limits in the forward and right directions?

Methods: Twenty-one 6- to 10-month old infants participated in this cross-sectional study. To incentivize infants to reach beyond arm's length, caregivers began by holding a toy close to their infants at shoulder height. Caregivers then moved the toy farther away as infants tried to reach for it until infants lost balance, placed their hands on the floor, or transitioned out of sitting. All sessions were conducted via Zoom™ and video-recorded for further analyses using DeepLabCut for 2D pose estimation and Datavyu to determine timings of the reach and to code infants' postural behaviors.

Results: Infants' trunk excursions in the anterior-posterior plane (for forward reaches) and medio-lateral plane (for rightward reaches) represented their stability limits. Most infants ended the reach by returning to their original sitting position; however, infants with higher Alberta Infant Motor Scale (AIMS) scores transitioned out of sitting and infants with lower AIMS scores sometimes fell (mostly during rightward reaching). Trunk excursions were correlated with months of sitting experience. Rightward trunk excursions were also correlated with AIMS scores and age. Overall, infants' trunk excursions were larger in the forward than in the right direction, and such discrepancy was consistent across infants. Lastly, the more often infants adopted movement strategies with their legs (e.g., bending the knees), the greater the trunk excursion they attained.

Significance: Sitting control entails learning to perceive the boundaries of stability limits and acquiring anticipatory postures to suit the needs of the task. Tests and interventions that target sitting stability limits could be beneficial for infants with or at risk of motor delays.

Keywords: Infants; Limits of stability; Postural control; Sitting.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leg
  • Movement*
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture*