Your baby goes through momentous change in their first year of life but one very important and memorable moment for you as a parent, is when your child takes their first steps alone.
Babies follow a developmental sequence in their first year. It will vary slightly, with some babies preferring to crawl, some shuffling around the floor on their bottoms. This is all to do with genetics, family history and the way a parent handles and positions their child. However, somewhere towards of the first year, your child will learn to pull themselves to standing. This is usually at 9 to 10 months old, but remember that this does vary on the individual.
Before a baby can stand they must have developed good head, shoulder and trunk control, and most importantly pelvic control. Avid crawlers spend a lot of time working on their pelvic control and this will serve them well later on. Once this is achieved they learn to pull themselves into standing holding on to furniture, but often fall down with a bump in the early days.
Once they have mastered this, they often “cruise” along the furniture, a sideways stepping motion to right and left. Then they can usually let themselves down to the floor safely. All this occurs around 11 to 12 months old.
Next they are ready to let go of the furniture with one hand and reach with another. Once they feel confident about this, it might be time to let go! Baby may walk with you with one hand held at 12 months, and may even venture a few steps on their own.
You may note that baby’s first tentative steps are accompanied by arms wide out or up in the air — they are just using that to help their balance. They will usually have a wide base and their gait is often flat footed. Don’t worry! All this is normal, the ligaments in their feet and ankles have not yet tightened up to give a good supportive arch to the foot. Their balance will improve the more they practice, so let them walk from person to person or chair to table, and let them enjoy their new-found freedom.
Some parents become very anxious that their baby isn’t walking by their first birthday. Remember that the average age for a baby to walk alone is 13 months old. However, if you do notice any of the following, contact your Paediatrician or Paediatric Physiotherapist to get baby checked.
1. Not pulling up to standing by one year old
2. Marked asymmetry in their spine, hips or feet
3. Not walking independently by 17 to 18 months.
4. Balance not improving after several weeks of independent walking.
Most babies will achieve this stage effortlessly and need nothing more than smiles and encouragement. So observe and enjoy those precious moments, knowing you will be chasing your child around for the next year or two!
Helen is starting a 3 week-long course of Baby Massage Classes at the YWCA on Wednesday mornings from 10.30am – 12pm starting 2nd November. Price $1,200 for YWCA members, $1305 for Non-members. Sign up by calling 3476 1340, or emailing Helen at the address above.