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How to encourage your baby to walk

Baby's First Steps

Walking is a major achievement in your baby’s development; you may be anxious to know how you can help your baby along. Here your questions are answered.

When is my baby going to start walking?

Generally babies take their first steps between 9 and 15 months, but remember that babies develop at their own pace. Be patient if your little one is taking his time, some babies start walking later, at around 18 months; and there is no evidence to suggest early walking is advantageous.

Will I have to show my baby how to do it?

Babies are born with an instinctive idea of how to walk; they just lack the strength in their legs to do it. If you hold your newborn in an upright position and his foot touches a hard surface he might show you that he knows how to place lift one foot in front of the other. This is the called the stepping reflex and disappears at around 4 months.

How can I know if my child is ready to start walking?

Most babies accomplish the following physical milestones before walking:

  1. Sitting Up: Between around 3 and 6 months, your baby’s neck and head muscles start to strengthen quite quickly. She will learn to lift her head while lying on her tummy; then prop herself up on her arms and eventually she will be able to sit unsupported. How you can help: Plenty of tummy time will help baby strengthen her muscles.
  2. Crawling: By 7 and 10 months most babies learn to crawl (although some babies never crawl before walking). How you can help: Help him develop strength by letting him crawl regularly, as much as possible. Place toys and objects out of reach and across the room so baby has to motor to get them. Pile on the praise when he does and he will be encouraged to do more.
  3. Pulling to a stand: By 9 and 12 months babies learn to stand up by themselves. Legs need plenty of practice to get strong enough to hold a baby’s body weight. How you can help: Help baby pull herself up, then show her how to bend her knees to get back down to the floor.
  4. Cruising: Your tiny tot will make his way around the room bouncing from one piece of furniture to the next. How you can help: Make sure she has a soft landing!

Time for baby proofing

As your baby sets off apace around the house you may start to see your home differently – as a minefield of potential hazards! Being upright reveals a whole new world for your child to explore – tabletops, shelves, draws, cupboards and other previously out of reach areas. Focus on removing objects at your baby’s standing height, and securing cupboards and draws and moving chemicals and dangerous substances. Secure staircases, water sources and any sharp objects of pieces of furniture, and anything that can be pulled off a table or counter top. Take care of electrical outlets and fireplaces, as well as doors that can slam or trap little fingers. Don’t forget to move any choking hazards and plastic bags. It’s worth checking grandma’s home too, or other places your baby spends time.

When it’s time for those first steps

When your little one is ready to take those first steps (which requires him to lift one foot while balancing on the other) you’ll see the wide stance and outstretched arms (and huge grin!) that are characteristic of early walkers. With someone else at the starting end, encourage your baby to walk towards you; your waiting embrace is always a great incentive.

Make sure you or your carer has a camera handy! Don’t hold back your excitement and praise for this achievement, your precious little person will feel especially proud of himself.

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