There are many milestones in a baby’s first year. The most exciting may be baby’s first steps. On average, babies take their first steps around the time of their first birthday. The timeline is different for every baby. Some babies start walking earlier than 12 months. Some babies don’t walk until after their first birthday. Don’t compare your baby’s progress to your friends’ babies or your other children. However, talk to your baby’s doctor if you are concerned about your baby’s progress.
Walking introduces a new independence for your baby. It can lead to a new set of challenges for parents, as well. The biggest challenge is keeping your baby safe.
Path to well being
Learning to walk occurs in stages for babies. As your baby’s muscles develop, the stages leading up to walking typically include:
- Learning to sit independently (around 6 months old).
- Crawling (around 6 to 9 months old).
- Pulling up to stand (around 9 months old).
- Holding onto furniture to take a few steps (around 9 to 12 months).
- Walking independently (one or two steps before falling between 11 and 13 months, or possibly later).
Make it easy for your baby to take his or her first steps in your home by moving furniture out of the way, if possible, to give your baby plenty of space to walk. Make sure furniture won’t tip over onto your baby when he or she pulls up to a standing position. Kits to tether (attach) large furniture to the wall are available at home improvement stores.
You can encourage your baby’s first steps by having one or two push toys to make it fun. Do not be tempted to buy an infant “walker,” as these are dangerous for your baby. Plus, the walkers actually discourage your child from walking on his or her own. Don’t forget to purchase sturdy shoes that stay on your baby’s feet. This gives your baby additional support when walking. It protects his or her feet from cuts and injuries, too. Shoes with laces may fit better and be safer than slip-ons.
Things to consider
Safety is your first priority when your baby begins to walk. Your baby will have access to things they didn’t have when they were crawling. Childproof your home to keep your baby safe, including:
- Putting child locks on doors and cabinets to keep your child away from unsafe items, rooms (bathroom and garage), and chemicals.
- Installing a gate across stairways to keep your child from falling down the steps.
- Padding sharp corners on furniture to protect your child from falls.
- Placing pots and pans on the back of your stovetop to protect your baby from burns.
Some medical conditions and developmental disabilities can delay your baby’s first steps. For example, babies born with Down syndrome may not take their first steps until they are closer to age 2. Babies born with cerebral palsy may have difficulty walking throughout their life. If your child was not born with a medical condition or developmental disability, and his or her walking is delayed, see your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
- If my baby is overweight, can that impact his or her walking?
- Do all babies crawl before they walk?
- What medical conditions impact motor skills?
- Can physical therapy help my baby walk?
- What is my baby started walking on time but falls a lot?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.