Babies develop at their own pace. Typically, they start cruising (holding onto furniture to walk sideways) from 8 – 12 months old, and start walking from 10 – 15 months. These ranges provide a guideline to baby’s development. If your baby is delayed in achieving these basic motor milestones, consult your paediatrician for advice.
Walking is controlled by two different systems in the brain, known as the motor and sensory systems. They control the leg movements, and maintain the posture and balance in walking respectively. Your baby’s body then awaits basic changes in body proportion – the legs grow longer, shoulders broaden, and the head smaller – making it easier to balance in an upright posture. Walking depends on practice. Babies must clock many hours of standing, cruising and walking with some type of support before they can develop the strength and balance to walk on their own.
It is NOT advisable for babies to sit and “glide around” in walkers. A baby walker is a device that can be used by infants who cannot walk on their own to move from one place to another. Baby walkers usually have a round plastic base sitting on top of wheels and a suspended fabric seat with two leg holes. This type of walker does not help your baby to learn to walk. It is dangerous and potentially fatal. In fact, Canada has already banned the sale of baby walkers.
Baby walkers do not help babies to walk earlier. In fact, walkers may even delay your baby’s movement skill development or discourage him from learning to walk on his own. Most walkers are designed such that babies are not able to see their feet while walking. This can slow down the development of movement, as they are unable to make mental connection that it is their legs and feet that are moving the walker. Walkers make it too easy for babies to move around. Babies who are in walkers tend to explore and satisfy their curiosity without developing their balance or walking skills. This may lead to slower development of balance and walking skills. Studies have shown that babies who spent 2 hours each day in the walker were more delayed in learning to walk than babies who did not use a walker.
The baby’s legs are not straight when “walking” in the walker. The hips and knees are bent and he/she will tend to walk on tiptoe. This causes baby to use and develop the wrong leg muscles for walking. Such walking pattern may be difficult to correct even when baby is out of the walker. Studies have shown that the walking pattern of babies worsen with the use of walkers especially if they are already walking in atypical ways.
Walkers are unsafe. Babies can reach a speed of 1 meter per second in a walker, which is too fast even for an attentive parent to catch should the child speed towards an open door, down the stairs or towards a boiling pot.
Consult your paediatrician if you notice that your child is walking on his toes or on the sides of the feet.
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