Once your baby is born, the next question you might ask yourself is when will they hit their milestones. Things like smiling, responding to their name, sitting up, and walking are on every parent’s mind. The truth is, there is a range of normal in meeting all of these goals. Some babies do them earlier, while some babies do them later.
Walking is a gross motor milestone, but babies meet milestones in other categories too. Fine motor skills, like block stacking or picking things up, language skills, like babbling and comprehension, and social skills are all milestones that baby will be working on meeting, alongside the gross motor milestones.
Other gross motor milestones in addition to walking include sitting up and pulling to stand. Children can usually sit without support by about nine months and start pulling to stand by twelve months. While kids typically start walking any time between nine and eighteen months, usually baby has taken their first steps between twelve and fifteen months.
Signs your baby will walk soon
A lot has to happen for baby to get ready to walk. Leg muscles and bones have to be strong enough to support baby’s body weight, and baby must develop a sense of balance and confidence that is less necessary when they are just rolling or crawling around close to the floor.
If you are curious about when your baby will walk, there are a few things that you can watch for. First, notice how often your baby is pulling to standing. Do they pull up only on soft surfaces, like the couch, or also firmer surfaces like the coffee table? Once they have pulled up do they always use both hands to hold onto whatever support surface they are using or do they go one-handed or even occasionally let go? Baby experimenting with pulling up in different locations with different levels of support shows that he or she is testing out balance.
Next, pay attention to when baby starts cruising or shuffling and stepping along the ground while holding onto something stationary. Cruising—especially when baby shifts between different supportive surfaces, such as going from the couch to the coffee table and back again—is often a precursor to walking. Finally, if baby wants to take steps while holding onto your hands or onto a push toy, independent steps are usually not far behind.
How can I help my baby meet their milestones?
While walking is definitely a concern for most parents, you can set your baby up for success much sooner by interacting with them from birth. Very tiny babies may not seem able to do much, but you can encourage them to start building neck and core strength that they will eventually use for walking by starting tummy time early. While some parents dread tummy time, there are ways to be creative about it so that it’s less miserable for you and for baby. For instance, try laying in bed with your baby on their tummy on your chest; this is one of the best ways for little babies to start with tummy time. Offering baby things to reach for—maybe your fingers at first and then age-appropriate toys—from either a lying or sitting position can help them develop coordination and core strength that will be used for walking later. And when your baby is closer to pulling up, make sure they have safe places to do so. Find sturdy furniture that won’t fall over and has smooth edges so baby doesn’t get injured.
What if my baby seems late to walk?
First of all, it is important to remember that there is a range of normal. It’s just as common for a baby to walk on the young end of the ranges discussed above as it is for them to walk on the older end of the range. If you are attending your baby’s regularly scheduled pediatric appointments, your pediatrician will likely help you track your baby’s milestones and make suggestions or referrals as needed. And if you feel concerns about any of your baby’s development, you can always ask your pediatrician in between visits.
It is easy to find something to worry about as a parent, but trust your instincts. There is nothing wrong with asking your pediatrician for a referral to a specialist who will evaluate your kiddo and determine whether there is a problem. In the best-case scenario, your baby is right on track and talking to a specialist will help set your mind at ease, but early intervention is also great in the cases where your child needs it.