How Can I Help My Baby Walk?

little girl walking on her own
Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas

You have probably read about it or been told already: it will happen naturally. But like me, you might be still asking: How can I help my baby walk? I was interested to know, I was anxious and wanted to do all I could to support my daughter.

 

Introduction: Healthy Body: Bones, Muscles and Brain


I would not dwell much on this one but it is obvious that we need healthy bodies to be able to walk. It all starts with nutrition. Make sure you ask your doctor or health care professional about your baby needs, whether you are breastfeeding or not as the requirements can be different. Also, most health authorities around the world advice that babies and toddlers up to a certain age need vitamin D supplements so please check how much does your baby need. Vitamin D is crucial for building healthy bones, for the immune system and other body functions.

Milestones: You Are Just a Facilitator

Babies don't suddenly start to walk out of the blue. It takes a lot of exercising and going through the stages of crawling, rolling over and standing. All of these milestone are important as they help the baby develop muscle strength in his or her tummy, back, thighs and legs. It is not only about muscles though, the baby also gradually learns how to balance themselves through a range of various moves that require coordination, vision, balance and muscle strength.


Crawling
A cute happy baby boy at crawling age
Image by Pixabay.com
Ok then, at what month do babies start crawling? I hear you asking. As with any of these milestones, it is important to understand that there is an age range. Crawling usually starts to happen around the age of 6-9 months. The best way to help your baby crawl is by encouraging tummy time:

  • Make sure they are safe and remove any dangerous objects. Use gates.
  • Use a non slip mat to keep them comfortable and warm.
  • Use toys they like and activities they love doing.
  • Get down on your knees! Play with them and have fun!.

That's also the time when an infant would usually start sitting up unsupported.

 

Standing 

As the baby grows older (around 8-9 months), they start pulling themselves up using furniture or other things. This stage of "standing with support" is important and you will notice your baby falling and getting up again,  you will find yourself tempted to intervene and pull them up: do not!

Similar to when the baby drops something and lowers him or herself to pick it up before standing up again. This "squatting" movement is one of the essential exercises that helps them build their muscles. It usually taken to the 10th or 12th month before your child can stand on his own.

To encourage standing, place their favorite toys or colorful items on top of chairs or sofas or slightly away from their reach so that they can see it and try to reach for it.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka

Walking With Support

Also called "cruising", this is when the child starts using furniture to get around. This also happens around 9 months and the next step would be walking on their own (anytime between 10-18 months). Please remember these are all rough estimates of age ranges and some children will be early or late walkers.

Encouraging the baby to walk
Here are a few tips on how to help your baby during this stage:
  • Do not force it: never try to force your little one to do anything when they are crying or uncomfortable. Specially, don't try to force them to walk at a very young age.  

  • Safe environment: your baby will need close supervision at this stage. From when they start pulling themselves up, they can be at risk if there are any hot or dangerous items within their reach. They might push things, pull tablecloths. Use safety gates to prevent them from reaching stair, going into the kitchen, etc.

  • Footwear: try to keep your baby barefooted during this stage as they need to feel the ground in order to develop their sense of balance. Also, avoid socks if you have laminated floors to avoid slipping and falling.

  • Emotional support: Babies learn best when you encourage positive behavior. In other words, cheer, praise and celebrate every small milestone.

  • holding your little one: this is a controversial one as some sources advice against supporting. What I would say is try not to carry them or hold them from the arms or the shoulder. Hold their trunk instead if you think you need to but without forcing them to bear weight on their feet. Sometimes you can just hold their hands to give them confidence.

  • Remember, most babies require no help to reach this stage so do not stress yourself. If you are worried that there is a delay, consult with a pediatrician or health care professional in the first instance. Start with your GP (for UK readers).

  •  Are Walkers Good For Babies?

    There is a lot of controversy and confusion surrounding this issue. The bottom line is that your baby does not need a walker. Not only that but walkers can cause problems when used for too long or when used without supervision. There has been studies showing that walkers could contribute to injuries and they do not speed up the process to aid walking. You might have also heard that they are banned in Canada, which is true. However, my personal experience is that they are fun and ok to use when use correctly.  To start with, the push along type like the V-Tech one that I used is better than the one your child sit in. This one also has a detachable activity panel that can be used at an earlier stage to help your baby stand. It is also stable and sturdy. There a few things to keep in mind if you decide to buy a walker:

    • Use extra caution: I know I'm repeating myself but the same safety rules as well as constant supervision apply here. The baby will be moving at a higher speed compared to walking on their own.

    • Also, remember to remove hot items even on surfaces the baby can't reach because now they might be able to hit those tables/stands.

    • They are better used on carpets as it could be too fast on a wooden floor.

    • Limit use times, use it as a fun activity rather than depending on it to teach them to walk.
     
    To summarize, here is an infographic:

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