Helping Your Baby to Walk
When Will My Baby Start Walking?
How Does My Baby Learn to Walk?
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.
Should My Baby Use a Walker?
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.
How is the Baby Walker Dangerous?
Danger 1: Baby walkers cause babies to walk later
Danger 2: Baby walkers can cause atypical walking patterns
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.
Danger 3: Baby walkers can cause serious injuries
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.
How Can I Encourage My Baby to Learn to Walk?
- Do not use the walker any more. Use a playpen or play-centre that is stationary
- Allow a safe, unrestricted floor space for exploration
- Help your baby exercise his muscles e.g. supported standing or cruising
- Provide sensory stimulation e.g. baby massage
- Provide vestibular stimulation e.g. gentle rocking, bouncing or swinging with baby