Walking is perhaps one of the most looked-forward-to milestones in a tiny tot’s progress. Now that your baby’s first steps seem to be just around the corner, it’s not surprising that you’re becoming quite the anxious parent. Take a few deep breaths, and let M&B’s road map to walking set the right pace.
Before your baby leaves behind babyhood and starts walking, there will be a lot of preparations that her body will make, right from birth. Developing strong muscles and learning coordination skills would be two important things. When your newborn cycles away to glory, whether while lying down or dangling while held upright, she’s getting her leg muscles ready for the big day. She’ll do this for a few months with better speed as she grows. While she’s at it, she’ll also learn to roll over sometime between the ages of three to four months. By five months, if you make her stand on your thighs, she’ll bounce up and down, another step that takes her closer to her walking milestone. Sitting at six months and crawling at seven—this is how the sequence of events falls after that. If you’re lucky, your little darling will take support and stand up in the eighth month itself, but don’t be worried if she doesn’t make an effort to do so even till 12 months.
Your baby’s trunk muscles need to develop well before she can stand on her two feet. This can be achieved if she gets a lot of time lying on her abdomen. This way, she can hold her head up for looking almost everywhere and strengthen her back muscles in the bargain. Giving her toys which are out of reach will provide motivation. When she’s on her fours, get her toys which move, so that she may go about the place to fetch them. Once she masters sitting, dodge a ball or a favourite toy for her to veer left and right to get it. While she learns to stand, keep away furniture that topples and replace it with heavy furniture which she can hold to stand up and then take support of and walk.
FIVE DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEMS ADDRESSED…
- Tip-toeing: If your child walks on tip-toe, it could be simply because she wants to appear taller or just enjoys it. It could also be that her Achilles tendon (found at the back of the leg) is short. Since this is a congenital defect, it would certainly be noticed by your paediatrician upon birth of your child. The defect is rare, but if it is found, your child would be tip-toeing exclusively even beyond the age of two. The problem can be treated with help from an orthopaedic expert.
- Bow legs: Bow-legged children show a gap between their knees when they stand with their ankles and feet close together. “Legs appear bent like a bow in a lot of children, but that doesn’t make them bow-legged for life. They are expected to straighten up between the ages of seven to nine years,” says Raina.
- Knock knees: Knock-kneed children have their knees very close to or even touching each other while they walk or run. This is also a condition which rectifies itself by the age of seven to nine years. In case it doesn’t, you need not worry, as it won’t affect your child’s life in any way unless she wants to become a first order sprinter, in which case you may consider surgery with help from an orthopaedic surgeon.
- Club foot: This is a birth defect in which the foot is turned downward and inward and walking is facilitated by the outer edge of the foot. “This condition affects one in a thousand children and may be present in one or both the feet,” says Raina. But, again a problem like this will certainly be noticed by your child’s paediatrician upon birth.
- Walker dependence: Research carried out on the subject shows that walkers do not help a child walk sooner. “In fact, they can be quite damaging as they may bend a child’s bones,” says Raina. But this isn’t all. The potential injuries that your child gets exposed to by using a walker can be dreadful. The wheels of a walker can take your child three feet in a second, which is a speed that can get beyond your control even if you are present for supervision. Numerous children are known to fall, topple, get a pinched toe or finger, and sometimes even get burnt, drown or fall off a staircase while using a walker.
Walking with support
After this comes walking with support—and you’ll see your furniture play the most important role in your child’s life. Raise your standard of living when your child learns to rise, say the wise, which literally translates into taking all the stuff that you don’t want to be touched, to higher levels. Once she starts cruising like this, it won’t be long before you see her standing on her own for a while. This may happen at nine to 10 months or later. In a couple of weeks, if you hold her hands, she may try walking a few steps on her own. If her toy falls, she may even bend down and pick it up! Within a month, she’ll learn to bend her knees and squat as well. And before long, you’ll find her taking her first wobbly steps on her own.
Ever noticed a baby standing at one place and crying? This is because she doesn’t know how to sit back again! The most difficult part about walking is not learning to stand up, as we parents may think. It is the process of sitting down again, which may take your baby longer to master, say experts. So, if you want to reduce injuries and tears, offer support with your hands to let her sit by folding her knees till the time she finds her way with it. Now that she can stand, she would want to move ahead as well, so hold her hands while you stand behind her and let her move ahead, step by step.
Your toddler has finally achieved independence with her first steps and is on her way to making the most of it. If she could walk at 14 months, she’ll walk backwards at 15. A few months later, she may try going up the stairs. She’ll need your help for coming down though. By the time she’s 20 months old, she will be a confident walker, sitting down on her knees and getting up again, squatting and even trying to kick a ball. If you ask her to dance, she may now lift her feet and move around, unlike a few months back when she just stood at one place and shook her head and hands. Once she’s crossed two years, she will be running and jumping and driving you up the wall!| MB