Help Your Baby Start Walking

Once your cutie starts cruising, get ready for the pitter-patter of little feet. Try these tips to help your baby get up and go.

Happy Mother Watches Daughter Walking Outside Thayer Allyson Gowdy
How it happens

Learning to walk involves a series of transitions that usually begins when your baby starts pulling up to a standing position in his crib. Next he’ll hold on to a couch or the edge of a step for balance as he moves his feet. Once he can easily cruise from one object to the next, his first solo steps are on the horizon, says Carol Cohen Weitzman, M.D., director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. 

Still, this process can often take a few months, so don’t get hung up if that first step doesn’t happen overnight, says Dr. Weitzman. Early walking doesn’t predict athletic or academic success. While genetics affects when tots take off, other factors come into play too:

  1. Temperament Cautious kids may be content to just crawl for a while.
  2. Size “It has to do with proportions,” says Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu, M.D. “If a baby is top-heavy, this milestone might take longer.”
  3. Speech Little ones tend to tackle one milestone at a time, and talking may take priority over walking.
  4. Opportunity Babies who don’t have as much chance for floor play and movement tend to walk later.

When to expect it

8 to 18 months

Making progress

Your baby’s early, wide-legged gait may remind you of Frankenstein, but moving in this almost side-to-side motion gives her a better center of gravity. She’ll gain more confidence—and a smoother step—in a few months. Within a year, she’ll be running, kicking a ball, and climbing stairs! In the meantime, be prepared for your sweetie to fall a lot as she masters the mechanics. Take tumbles in stride. If you don’t panic, chances are she won’t either.

Encourage it

You can welcome your baby into toddlerhood with these five motivators:

  1. Hit the floor. The more times a day your little one has to explore and practice, the better.
  2. Tempt him. Put a fun toy just out of reach on the couch or coffee table. Make your baby work for it a little bit, but don’t make it so difficult that you frustrate him, Dr. Weitzman suggests.
  3. Get bouncing. Jumping in a stationary activity center builds strength in the legs and trunk.
  4. Lean on. A sturdy wagon or push car can help her test her footing. Make sure it’s weighted so it won’t tip over easily.
  5. Skip the shoes. “Let his feet touch the ground so he can grip it and feel what’s going on,” Dr. Shu says. When you’re outside, opt for roomy shoes with support.

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