The first few years of your baby’s life are all about exciting changes as you witness his many firsts. Every baby is born unique, and everyone else develops a different pattern of habits and behaviors as they grow older. Even their milestones vary roughly as some infants are a bit earlier or later than others. However, what scares some parents is when their child grows a strange and weird habit – like knee walking. At first, it might seem amusing how a baby can get too lazy to try taking his baby steps. But if it lingers a bit longer, worries may start to kick in.
Babies walking on their knees are common, and it is a normal part of a child’s development. They have primitive reflexes, and walking on their knees will help them balance their bodies. Their leg muscles also need reinforcement to keep them upright. Over time, he will gain control of his body reflexes and movement, and he will start trotting on his foot. Sometimes, babies may also develop toe-walking when they are just learning their first steps. Toe walking and knee walking are not a problem unless it persists over the child’s second year of life.
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The usual walking stages in babies
The exhausting part of childcare is not the sleepless nights you would spend with your newborn. It is the phase where babies learn to move and eventually walk and run around on their own. I am not yet a parent, yet I can attest to this while babysitting my nephews. A toddler running around the house can drain your energy, no doubt. It will also give you so much anxiety no matter how bump-proof and baby-proof the floor, corners, and stairs can be.
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Before adopting their normal walking patterns, babies have to start somewhere. They will progress through various stages, which in themselves are not specifically cumulative. In the earliest phase, you may notice them adapting different styles like pulling themselves on their knees. Through constant practice, they will eventually perfect their strides.
Here are the common walking stages that your little one may go through:
Cruising on all fours
Anytime within six to eighteen months, babies will begin to exhibit their readiness in walking. You will realize his enthusiasm as he begins to bounce up and down if you hold him in a standing position. He will also try crouching and pushing himself up against his elbows and knees.
But then again, parents, remind yourselves that babies’ developmental milestones vary differently. So, do not compare your child with other children or your older ones. The fact is, not every child necessarily learns to crawl before walking. Some may skip this stage and proceed to helping themselves up the furniture and cruising on twos.
When your child’s muscle is ready, you will notice that he will start dragging himself on one leg. At this point, he will also lift his body and crawl on his toes with his arched back.
Pulling himself up on furniture
Pretty soon, your baby will start pulling himself up on furniture. And by this time, his leg and muscle coordination is getting better to support him independently. He may now also be able to bear his body weight.
Babies may stand awkwardly and stiffly on their legs at first. Let them take their time, do not stop them, but do not rush them either. Those wobbly little legs will gain their strength, and he can now stand and sit on his own. He will also start to take a few strides cruising beside the furniture for support.
Stand without support
Now brimming with confidence, your little one may let go of the supporting object and steadies himself on his feet. He will stand alone momentarily and show off his newfound ability.
He is also gauging the feel of his knees and legs as it starts to bear his weight. In this stage, he will learn to balance himself on his feet. And it will help boost his confidence.
Walking with assistance
The act of walking may be difficult to babies at first, or so in our eyes. But he will surely get there. Before he can fully walk unassisted, he needs to learn how to coordinate his steps. Some parents may start using a baby walker early on, but health professionals do not conform to this idea.
According to Mayo Clinic, a baby walker will only risk injuries and falling. It may also take away his thrill in learning how to walk. Babies need to shift their weight and maintain their balance, which gets defeated when using a walker. We will discuss an alternative for a baby walker later in this post.
Walking without support, finally
After the wobbly baby steps, you will no sooner realize your baby has gained control of his reflexes. After a few months, he will already master his walking skills. Trust me, you will need more of your energy chasing the tot around.
Sometimes though, little kids are hesitant about independent walking. That’s why you may notice that instead of walking on two feet, he is dragging himself on his knees. He may either find this convenient or do it out of habit. It is also possible that his muscles are not yet ready to fully support himself.
All you need to do if this happens is to encourage your baby to get up on his feet.
How to encourage babies to walk
Walking is a gradual process that generally needs your baby’s muscle development and coordination. His body proportion is also a contributory factor for his legs to bear his body mass. Throughout this milestone, parents’ encouragement and support mean a lot to them.
Here are some simple tips and supportive tricks to help your baby trust his legs and himself.
Give your baby a tummy time
A daily tummy time with your infant will develop his muscles so he can raise his head. Gaining their neck muscle control is a necessary step to help him ready himself for crawling and walking. Learn more about tummy time in this post.
Praise and cheer your baby’s effort
Little words of encouragement will help your baby gain his self-confidence. Extending your arms towards him will give him the reassurance that he needs to take his step. Showing your baby your full support will help him advance further with his effort.
Allow your baby more time on the floor
We know how you can’t get enough of your baby at the moment. Some mothers are fond of cuddling their babies all around the house doing their chores. While holding your baby is essential, you should not also overlook the fact that he needs his time to practice his other skills. Instead of confining him on a play-pen, give him a wider avenue by setting him down the floor.
Introduce a push-toy instead of an infant walker
Infant walkers have wheels that will push your baby around. While it is convenient for him, it also slows down his progress in learning how to walk. Once your baby starts cruising around in furniture, you can instead offer him a push-toy. It will help him walk with support and practice his step coordination. It may also stop your toddler from knee-walking.
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Let him take his time
Sure, you want him to progress at an early age, maybe more advanced than other children. But every child gets there at his own time. Remember that while his confidence is important, you should also mind his body proportion and muscle support. Let your baby take his time to gain control of his body. Introduce activities that will help him get up. If you think your baby is just too lazy to have to do anything with practice, give him nudges of encouragement.
When should I worry about my child not walking?
Talk to your doctor if your baby cannot stand up or bounce at the 14th month or does not walk at 18 months.
What should I do if my baby falls?
Falling is a part of the learning process. Just always be there to help your little one up and comfort him. It will offer him reassurances so that he will not waver with his effort.
Should I let my baby wear shoes or let him go barefoot?
Letting your baby go barefoot is necessary for his foot development to let their feet feel what it touched. You may use soft-soled shoes for the first few months and shift to firmer ones if he can already walk confidently.
The learning-to-walk process is a bit challenging, and sometimes frustrating to your eager baby. But eventually, he will learn the art of it. He will also outgrow the habits that have once helped him get from point-to-point in the room like knee-walking. If something is bothering you about your child’s walking habit, your doctor is still the best person to get an answer from.
It is amazing watching your little one takes his first careful baby steps. The next day, you will be running all over the house after him… until his space extends beyond your door and he is ready to walk out of your home once adulthood comes.
Share us your experience or questions about baby-walking below. We love to hear from every parent out there!
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.