W-Sitting: What Is It And Why Do Children Sit That Way?

Are you one of those parents alerted by concerned friends about your child’s ‘W-sitting’ posture? Before you panic and correct your child's posture, read a detailed account on the subject.

By Dr Rajath Athreya  • 7 min read

W-Sitting: What Is It And Why Do Children Sit That Way?

Do you constantly ‘google’ your child's symptoms and medical concerns? Most likely, you will be flooded with a host of inaccurate information. If you still need some convincing about the unreliable data freely available on the Net, go ahead and google the term 'W-sitting'. But, be prepared to become a little jittery, especially if you have a child who sits in the W position. You will literally struggle to find a link that doesn’t unnerve you. It even helpfully auto-suggests ‘why W-sitting is bad for your child’. Within a few minutes of research, you will be led to believe that W-sitting can lead to everything from bowing of legs to dislocated hips, and even autism!

But is it really that worrisome? The shortest answer is NO. I know that such monosyllabic answers do need a bit more explaining. So, please read on!

What is W-sitting?

Many children find it natural to sit in the W position, especially those in the four-to-six years age group. W-sitting is when your child sits on the floor with knees bent in front of him and legs splayed to the sides to look like a 'W' when looking from above. Adults (other than yoga regulars) would find it very uncomfortable to sit in a W position.

W-Sitting: What Is It And Why Do Children Sit That Way?

Why do children sit that way?

For some young children, W-sitting is natural and comfortable. It enables a stable posture. This is because of femoral anteversion. In such cases, the head of the thighbones is rotated a bit forward and outward (the head of the thigh bone turns inward in the socket of the hip joint). This condition makes the child rotate his leg internally,  his knee and foot twist toward the midline of the body.

This anteversion is absolutely normal and corrects itself as the child grows older. W-sitting for children is pain-free and puts minimal stress on their joints and muscles. W-sitting is also fun as the children’s trunk is stable, and they can bend and swivel, and play for hours sitting on the floor. Children who sit in this position do not face any repercussions — short term or in the long run.

Should I try to change the way my child sits?

No, there is no compelling reason to change the way your child sits. Remember, your child is sitting in that posture only because she is comfortable. As she grows older (maybe six to eight years of age), her anatomy will change to be more adult-like. She will then find the traditional ‘criss-cross’ style of sitting, or similar postures more comfortable. The W will only be seen in the pictures that you took of her when she was younger. So put an X on that W that you are worrying about!

When should I worry that my child is W-sitting?

W-sitting is in itself not a cause for concern. However, it is important to speak to your doctor, if you see any of these signs in your child:

  • He develops a limp or complains of pain
  • When your child continues to W-sit after six years of age and is uncomfortable in any other sitting position
  • If your child’s lower part of the body is weak
  • If your child develops a waddling gait or pigeon-toed gait (Waddling gait is when the walk is clumsy and wobbly. Pigeon-toed gait is when the child walks with the toes pointing inward.)

Parent speak

My four-year-old daughter, Sana, used to sit in a W-sitting position, which we never bothered about. One day, my sister-in-law sent a link that said W-sitting can cause serious health issues. I just made a mental note of it and left it at that. Over time, I saw that it was doing a lot of rounds on social media too. "Take her to a doctor ...", "... bad for a child's development ...", "Never let your child sit ... " — the titles were quite scary. I started to worry. Sana preferred to W-sit instead of the criss-cross position. I gently corrected her many times, but she would always return to W-sit.

One of my cousins visited us. Her six-year-old son had autism. She was shocked to see Sana sitting in W-position. She scolded me for being lax. Apparently, her son's therapist had advised her against this. I completely lost it. I blamed myself for not being a good mother. The consequences like twisted legs and weak hips petrified me. I hovered over Sana to make sure she was not W-sitting. I even made Sana stand up and checked both her legs to see if they were of the same length!

When I narrated the whole incident to my paediatrician, she laughed out loud! She asked me not to worry. From then on, I let Sana sit however she liked. She is six now, and has most assuredly outgrown that habit. She prefers to sit cross-legged now!

Dr Rajath Athreya is a renowned paediatrician and a neonatologist. 

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