Don’t Rush Baby’s Learning to Walk

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Slow down parents! There are dangers to rushing your little into learning to walk too soon.

Baby is crawling around the house at a good speed now. You’re so ready to chase after him and explore the world on two feet. Learning to walk is a major milestone. But, when will he start walking? “Our daughter just took off one day,” says Heidi Netherton. “I came home from work and she was so excited to see me, she took nine steps by herself. She didn’t stop from there. Eager to learn I guess!” One thing is for sure, every baby is different and each start walking at different ages.

Let Him Start On His Own

“Babies normally walk by the age of 15 months, but some toddlers begin walking a little bit later,” says James Edwin Conley, M.D., of Saint Thomas Medical Partners, Nashville. “If your child is not walking by 18 months, then notify his pediatrician.” The moment your little guy decides to take that first step while holding onto the couch, urges of excitement run through you. Next thing you know, you’re pushing him harder to keep trying. However, your good intention is doing more harm than good.

How You Can Help

“Babies typically start to cruise around 9 months and begin walking several months thereafter,” says Conley. “It’s important for parents to not rush the process and allow their baby to develop motor skills on their own time.” Conley says you can work with him by helping him put weight on his legs by holding him in a standing position, allowing him to squat down as well as pulling up to stand. He says these motions build strength in hips and lower extremities to prepare for walking. However, he adds that you shouldn’t force him to walk. “It can hinder his sense of independence and confidence as it pertains to trusting his balance and motor awareness,” adds Conley.

Local mom Kelly Watlington Peterson says he helped her baby with bribery. “I bribed the first with food just out of her reach,” says Watlington. “The second had a mind of her own and to do it on her own timetable not ours. She pushed a walking toy around and that helped ultimately though she had to decide.”

Avoid Walkers

We grew up in the age where everyone used walkers for babies. Local mom Brandi Binkley Howton says, “We started out with a rolling walker then a push behind toy.” However, it’s not strongly discouraged for parents to use walkers. “Contrary to what the name suggests, these devices do not help the process of learning to walk,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “While they strengthen the muscles in the lower legs, they don’t do a good job of strengthening muscles in the upper legs and hips, which are used most in walking and need the workout,” adds the AAP. “These walkers actually eliminate the desire to walk, since they allow the baby to get around too easily.”

Do take the time to create a safe and fun environment for him in your home for his early walking stages. Conley recommends non-movable items that are sturdy and allow him to pull to stand as well as cruise are useful, too. Clear space to encourage him to walk to you instead of crawling and sitting. “Cheering your baby on and getting excited about every step that is made builds trust in their mobility,” adds Conley.

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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