This will be the first of several blogs in a series on baby milestones!
We want to remind you that every baby is different when it comes to developmental milestones. There's a range of ages when each milestone may occur, and there will always be outliers on either end of the spectrum from earlier to later.
Every baby is different! Some babies start walking around nine months old, while others take their first steps when they're almost two. If your infant is delayed on a particular milestone, it's a good idea to discuss it with your pediatrician. However, please know that there is no need for concern most of the time.
The journey from newborn to first steps.
Watching your baby learn to toddle their way to their independent steps is one of the great joys of parenthood! Imagine learning to walk for the first time. So much growth and effort go into your little one taking their first steps.
When your little one is a newborn infant, their legs aren't strong enough to support their body's weight. Still, the instinct for walking is immediately evident. If you hold your baby upright with your hands under their arms and their legs dangling, they’ll push against a surface with their feet. This reflexive action usually lasts for the first couple of months.
In their first year, your baby will be busy developing the coordination, balance, and muscle strength they need in every part of their body to walk. When they’re about 6 months old, they’ll push off with their feet from your lap when you bounce them. This might be their favorite activity for a couple of months which is good because it strengthens their leg muscles.
While their leg muscles are growing and strengthening, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up and crawl. These stages all help prepare them for walking.
Around nine months, most babies will learn to pull themselves up to a standing position and balance by holding onto furniture or a caregiver’s hand. If you prop your little one up by the sofa during this stage, they'll hang on tight. It's a good idea to make sure that everything in their path is stable enough to hold them.
Between 9 and 10 months, babies start to figure out how to bend their knees and sit down again after standing. This is no easy feat for a little one!
Once they are comfortable standing, your baby will start to cruise, moving themselves from one piece of furniture to the next. They may even be able to stand for a few minutes without support.
Don't worry if your child takes a little longer. Most babies take their first steps between 12 and 14 months old. Some perfectly normal children don't walk until they're 17 months old. Your baby's physical strength and personality play a role in determining when they take their first step. More cautious little ones might take longer, whereas bolder babies, who care less about falling, may reach this milestone earlier.
Also, sometimes the age that a baby takes its first step is influenced by genetics. If their parents started walking late, there’s a higher chance your baby will walk a little later as well. In addition, if your baby was born early, it may take longer for them to reach this milestone.
The journey from toddling to running.
Once they take their first steps, your baby’s confidence and balance will improve. You might find that one day your little one can only stand by holding onto the sofa, and the next they’re able to toddle hesitantly into your waiting arms. In no time, they will be off and running, leaving babyhood behind.
Baby walking looks a bit unusual. They typically start walking in big wide steps, with toes pointing out, and outstretched arms. As they master the complex skill of moving and balancing on their feet, their gait will begin to look more normal but in the meantime, enjoy that cute toddler waddle while it lasts.
Expect lots of falling at this stage. Babies fall an average of 17 times an hour while they're learning to walk and falling will be the only way they can stop for a little bit. It's best to try not to fuss over them when they fall and instead give them the time and space to figure out how to get back up again.
Also, know your little one is likely to revert back to crawling every now and then, especially if they see something that attracts their immediate attention. For a little while, after they learn to walk, crawling will still be the most efficient way for them to get around.
Most children are proficient walkers by the time they are 18 months old. Around this age, they like to climb on the furniture and are getting good at going up the stairs. They may also enjoy learning to kick a ball or dance.
Around 26 months, their steps will even out, and they'll get the hang of executing the smooth heel toe action required for grown-up walking. They'll also start to enjoy jumping.
By the time your little one's third birthday rolls around, walking will be natural. They'll be able to quickly go up and down stairs and no longer need to concentrate to stand, walk, or run. Some more complex actions like standing on tiptoes or on one foot might still require a little attention and effort.
How to help them along.
Starting around 6 months, babies can support their weight if you stand them up. Let them balance on their feet on your thighs as you bounce them up and down.
Around 7 months, you can put toys on the furniture to encourage them to pull themselves up onto their feet. Initially, they will fall back down with a bump, but they will get stronger over time. Place objects or toys they love along with your sofa and encourage them to 'walk' along the couch to get them. You can help them by holding them up with two hands and then one hand.
If they get stuck standing up, you can gently bend their knees and help pull their bottom towards the floor to show them how to sit.
As they get better with cruising, you can place their favorite toys a couple of feet apart, maybe one on the sofa and another on a chair, and encourage them to walk between them. Or you can encourage them to walk from one parent to another.
Keep your baby barefoot as much as possible while they’re learning to walk, even outside if safe. Bare feet help them find balance, learn coordination, and aid in the proper development of their feet. Babies don't need shoes until they are capable outdoor walkers.
Ensure your baby has a soft, safe environment to hone their walking skills. This is a critical time for babyproofing your house, padding sharp corners and removing anything you don't want them to get into.
When should I talk to my pediatrician?
If your little one isn't walking by 18 months, you should discuss this with your pediatrician at their well-child check. Your pediatrician will determine if any further intervention is needed.
We hope this information helps with your expectations around your baby's first steps and provides some useful tips for encouraging them. Once they are walking, a whole new stage of fun, with constant chasing, begins!
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren
Read More: Baby Led Weaning & Introducing Allergens
Two moms created Littlemore Organics to create a new healthy standard for children's snacking.
Joana is a Harvard pediatrician, and Lauren is an MBA with a finance and management consulting background. Between them, they have 5 children under the age of 4! Together they created organic, melt-in baby's mouth snack puffs that contain only 4 simple, wholesome ingredients.
Littlemore puffs are peanut, tree nut, and gluten-free with no sugar, salt, corn, or rice. They're an easy and delicious way to add protein and nutrient-rich ancient grains to your little ones' daily diet and come in flavors that build adventurous taste buds.