Justin Morgan, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician who practices general pediatrics in Louisville, Kentucky. He cares for children of all ages.
Around 9 months old, many babies are already pulling themselves up into a standing position and using furniture as a support. You know what this means: that first step isn’t far behind. Dr. Justin Morgan answers some questions about helping your baby learn to walk.
Bundoo: When is the normal range for most babies to take a first step? Do they always crawl before they walk?
Dr. Justin Morgan: Many infants begin crawling and pulling up to standing between seven and 10 months of age. This is followed by cruising. By 12 months, some are walking independently. Many babies actually transition from cruising to walking in only a few days. Most will walk alone by 15 months of age. A few babies may even skip the crawling stage, which is OK. They may rock, scoot, or thrust themselves wherever they want to go. Some even prefer going backward! In no time, your baby will stand up (but may not know how to get down). Once standing is mastered, a baby’s first steps may seem awkward with open hips, a wide stance, and feet turned outward.
Is there anything parents can do to help their babies learn to walk?
Offer something of interest (i.e. a toy) just beyond your baby’s reach. With increased agility, your baby will begin to reach for the object and be interested in maneuvering toward it.
What about baby shoes? Do they help or hinder walking?
There are no special shoes required to help babies walk. Babies should be good at walking without shoes before they become good at wearing cute shoes and walking outside. Many shoes are marketed as “for babies” but they are merely fashion statements and offer no real aid or function. All babies have “flat feet” to some extent. When you do buy shoes for your baby or child, make sure they are comfortable and flexible with soles that won’t skid or slip.
What should parents not do at this stage? Do you see common practices that are actually harmful?
Don’t use infant walkers. They actually encourage babies to stand on their tip-toes and they reinforce bad walking mechanics. More importantly, infant walkers can be dangerous. They can tip over when the child bumps into an obstacle or even cause other objects to fall onto the child. Children in walkers are more likely to fall down stairs. In that regard, make sure your home is baby-proofed. Install a sturdy, horizontal gate at stairways to prevent falls. Install child locks on doors and toilets and make sure all accessible electric outlets are covered.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019