When do babies start walking?
Every new parent looks forward to the milestones in their baby’s life. One of the most anticipated milestones is baby’s first step. You, like most parents, may be asking, when do babies start walking?
First of all, don’t rush it. The first step your child takes can be both exciting and bittersweet. It’s a signal that your baby’s advancing to toddlerhood. They’re that much closer to being independent.
But how do you know when to expect those first shaky steps? Some parents may brag about having a 6-month-old who already walks, while your baby is still crawling at 8 months.
Don’t worry. All babies are different, and most babies don’t reach this stage until at least 9 to 18 months old. Their journey to walking is an important part of their development.
It all begins with the tummy
Before walking, newborn babies actually have a natural reflex to stand and move their legs as though taking steps. You’ll notice this if you hold her up over a flat surface. Her feet will push against it, however, her legs aren’t strong enough to support her weight yet.
She will go through a series of mobility stages to develop what it takes to move on two feet. First, there’s tummy time. When your baby’s very young, you’ll need to make sure she has lots of time on her tummy when she’s awake in order to strengthen her head and neck muscles.
Play mats like this one from Bright Starts are a great way to make tummy time fun and enticing!
Now she’s rolling!
After two to three months, tummy time will help her learn how to roll over. Around 6 to 8 months old, she may be strong enough to sit up by herself. This is when a lot of babies differ developmentally. Some babies will start crawling at 6 to 7 months old, while others may not crawl until 8 months or later.
Holding her up to balance and bounce on her legs at this stage will help strengthen the muscles she needs to stand. This is often a great time to invest in a baby jumper. Just be sure she’s getting more time on the floor than in a jumper so she’ll learn the art of balance and coordination.
Baby jumpers like this one from Baby Einstein are all the rage at this age!
From crawling to standing
Around 9 to 12 months, many babies will start pulling themselves up to stand. Help her by placing her near the sofa which is a great place to hang on. She’ll learn how to bend her knees and will discover how to sit from a standing position (often by accident).
It won’t take long for her to start cruising – walking while hanging onto furniture. At this stage, some babies are timid when it comes to letting go, so they might stay in the cruising stage longer than you expect. Try holding her hand to let her walk a few steps without holding onto the sofa.
Some babies can gain a little confidence and strength with a push-along baby walker, but limit her time with it so she doesn’t become dependent on it.
Some push-along walkers like this one from VTech can convert to a seated toy station as well.
Look, Ma, no hands!
This is the point when you really need to pay attention. If you blink, you might miss it. Sooner or later, your baby will be brave enough to let go of the couch and take a step all on her own. She may only take one or get enough momentum to take two or three.
Some babies might get spooked if they fall and revert to cruising for a while longer. That’s okay. You can encourage her to try it again by sitting a little distance from the couch and calling her over to you. Eventually, she’ll let go again and take a few tentative steps until she reaches you.
Walking is an exciting milestone for you and your baby. But it can also present new challenges. Before she’s even crawling, you’ll want to baby proof the house.
- Never leave your baby alone while she’s trying to walk.
- Make sure all breakable, sharp or electrical items are out of reach. Get down to her level for a better idea of what those little hands might get into.
- Add safety locks to drawers and cabinets, especially those that contain cleaners and medications.
- Anchor large pieces of furniture such as dressers, TVs, bookshelves, etc.
- Opt for a carpeted room with no loose rugs to soften her falls and prevent tripping.
- Block access to any stairs by keeping basement doors closed and locked and using sturdy baby gates.
Baby-proof door locks like this one from Door Monkey can keep baby out and little fingers from getting pinched too.
Baby gates for stairs like this one from Evenflo prevent falls but are easy for Mom and Dad to open.
Baby-proof cabinet & drawer locks like this one from Jambini keep sharp and toxic items out of baby’s reach.
How to help her along
Babies can learn to walk with very little help, but the process can be much easier and safer with your encouragement. She’ll be that much prouder of herself for conquering this milestone. Plus, your involvement will make it more memorable for you.
- Show her how to do it & then let her do it. Let her see you walking, stooping, bending and sitting down on the floor. She may be timid and may cry when she stumbles, but don’t immediately come to her aid if she’s not hurt. Encourage her to keep trying.
- Praise her efforts & make it worth the effort. Shower her with lots of encouragement. Sit down a few steps away and offer a favorite snack or toy if she can make it to you.
- Practice on your downtime. If you’re getting ready for work or need to fix dinner or answer emails, wait until you can be 100% there and focused so you don’t miss the first step and to keep her safe.
- Ditch the baby shoes. They may be cute, but shoes can throw her off balance and mess with her coordination. As long as she’s not on a rough surface, let her go barefoot. PS: Baby feet are cuter that way.
- Don’t carry her as often. Even if she’s still only crawling or cruising, encourage her to keep moving on her own to increase her muscle strength and confidence.
- Minimize time spent in walkers, bouncy seats, and playpens. They’re all fine for occasional playtime, naps or snack time. They can help strengthen leg muscles early on, but they really won’t help her walk and could inhibit her natural progress. She needs to rely on her own weight and balance on a safe floor.
Late walker or developmental delay?
By their first birthday, many parents worry if their babies aren’t walking. In most cases, they’re simply late bloomers and may only be pulling up or cruising by 15 months. What you should look for is a forward progression of mobility.
If she’s not even trying to crawl or pull up by 12 months or has gone from walking back to crawling (not just temporarily), these can be signs of a physical problem. Consult your pediatrician with any concerns you may have about your baby’s progress.
Don’t forget the camera!
Whether it’s a camcorder or cell phone video, keep it close by to capture the moment. For working parents, it’s a sad fact that sometimes you miss the very first steps. So, ask your caregiver to try capturing a video for you.
Don’t worry. You’ll still get to see plenty of shaky attempts when you’re home. Enjoy it while you can. Before long, you’ll be chasing her everywhere.