Google for “W-sitting” online, and there are a number of articles from experts that warn parents against allowing their children to sit in this manner.
Sometimes known as reverse cross-legged sitting, it’s when a child sits with their bottom on the ground and knees bent to the side.
According to Occupational Therapy – Helping Children, W-sitting is fine when the “child moves briefly in and out of W sitting when playing or transitioning from one position to another.”
But it’s “not OK” when it is “the only position your child will adopt for floor play and spends prolonged periods in this position,” says the website.
It also says that “intervention” might be “required,” depending on a number of factors.
W-sitting might contribute to pigeon-toed walking, “altered development of the hip,” swayback posture, weak core muscles, and tight hamstrings, the website says.
Some alternatives are sitting cross-legged, long-sitting, or side-sitting.
Australia’s Pediatric Therapy Center also called on parents to stop their kids from sitting in the position, also noting that it could affect the development in the legs, hips, and ankles, according to 7News.
And meanwhile, the Chicago Pediatric Therapy and Wellness Center agrees, saying, “W-sitting is a problem that can have long term effects on your child’s bony alignment, muscle length and muscle strength, which can contribute to challenges what walking, running and higher-level gross motor skills.”
It elaborates: “First, this position gives the child a very wide base of support, which makes their trunk muscles have to work less. Second, children who have tight muscles in their legs may choose to sit this way because they will not feel a stretch on these muscles. Third, W-sitting limits the amount of work the abdominal muscles and muscles on the outer thigh have to do when transitioning into and out of sitting, which are muscles that are typically underused and weaker than the muscles of the low back and inner thigh.”
Nonprofit Pathways.org, which provides free child development information, says that W-sitting that some children can suffer hip dislocations, increased muscle tightness, and a lack of upper body movements.
The website calls on parents to not allow children to sit in that way for prolonged periods of time. “Offer your child a small chair or stool as an alternative to sitting on the floor,” it says, adding, “you can discourage w-sitting by showing them other ways to sit.”
One Expert Disagrees
Dr. Jennifer Weiss, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, told Today.com that it’s fine for children to sit that way.
“In my opinion, absolutely not,” Weiss said. “I have no problem with a child W sitting. They’re not going to change the shape of their legs. They’re not going to change their alignment by sitting like that. They’re just responding to their natural anatomy.”
And she added, “If you walk into a preschool classroom, most of the kids, if they’re given a choice, will sit like that.”
Another expert, Dr. Eduardo Novais, an orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that kids between the ages of 4 and 6 sit this way.
“You have more internal (hip) rotation as a child, and then W sitting is sometimes more comfortable,” Novais said.