Many parents eagerly await the day their baby takes his first steps towards independence. Children progress through developmental sequences at a different pace. It is important to monitor timely developmental milestones and seek support from professionals, such as a pediatric physical therapist, if needed.
Reasons why a baby may not be walking
- Hypotonia – low muscle tone
- Hypertonia – high muscle tone
- Other abnormalities in muscle tone and power
- Stiff limbs or poor balance
- Baby is carried everywhere and not given the opportunity to try walking
- Intellectual disability
If a baby is not walking by 16-23 months, a medical examination should be conducted to check muscle strength, range of motion and joint flexibility. Delayed walking could be an initial warning sign for cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or other genetic conditions. A physician can rule out some of these common disorders.
When to be concerned
- Baby cannot sit without support by 9 months
- Baby is not standing with support by 12 months
- Baby is not walking steadily by 16-23 months.
- Baby or child consistently toe walking (walking on tip toes)
- Baby is consistently late progressing through common developmental milestones (lifting head, rolling over, sitting up)
How to help your baby to walk
- Limit the use of baby walkers and bouncers which can prevent leg muscles from fully developing.
- Delay introducing shoes until the baby walks well inside. Walking barefoot improves balance and coordination.
- Child proof the home/ setting and allow the baby to walk in a safe and familiar environment.
- When a baby is cruising along furniture, challenge them by increasing the distance between each piece of furniture, as possible, to encourage him to take small steps.
- When a baby is close to independent walking, walk with him with support the skill everywhere until he can do it on his own. Walking is a mindset!
- When holding a baby’s hand, bring your hand down lower to lessen the support you are providing. This will help build endurance, balance and confidence in a child.
- Have a baby stand with his back against a wall. Step away and call out to him with your arms outstretched. Encourage him to take lunging steps towards you and into your arms.
If you want help with these suggestions or notice any of the above mentioned warning signs, a physical therapy evaluation can determine if there is simply normal variability in gross motor development or if the child can benefit from intervention.
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