Your baby’s first steps are surely one of the most anticipated milestones. It might take her a while to get there but not to worry.
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
A baby’s first steps is a huge milestone. There are a lot of parents and caregivers can do to encourage their babies to walk. At the same time, parents shouldn’t blame themselves if their baby isn’t the first in his group to walk. It is important to remember that it isn’t possible to make a baby walk before he is ready.
Taking that First Step
Most children start to walk unsupported at around 12 to 14 months of age. Early walkers around 10 months and late walkers between 15 to 17 months, says Eudora Tang, senior physiotherapist, NUH Rehabilitation Centre.
Helping Your Child Walk
To help your little one take his first steps, allow your child to develop and exercise the muscles involved in walking. Encourage your child to move as moving helps your child increase muscle strength. It is important that the area that your child is moving in and exploring is safe, explains Dr Ho Kah Ying Selina, senior consultant, Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, SGH.
By six to eight months, babies should be sitting unsupported and as the limb and back muscles strengthen, babies will learn to get from the lying to the sitting position and then move on to crawl at around eight to 10 months of age. When crawling, a baby learns to coordinate both sides of her body as well as her arms and legs. You can place a favourite toy just out of reach and encourage your baby to crawl towards it. As she improves, you can continue to develop her movement skills by creating obstacles using pillows/cushions for her to crawl over or between. Join her in these activities, advises Dr Ho.
Soon your baby will be able to pull herself up to a standing position. Give her lots of opportunities to stand while holding onto a support.
You may also have to show her how to bend her knees to lower herself to the floor without falling. Subsequently, she will learn to take a few steps while holding onto a support like the edge of the cot or the sofa. Encourage her to cruise along by placing a favourite toy just out of reach. Allowing her to be successful in reaching her favourite toy will serve as a motivation for her to continue. You can try getting her to walk a few steps towards you or to reach a favourite toy. There will be times when she may stumble and fall. Be there to reassure her and continue to encourage her walking efforts in a safe environment, says Dr Ho.
Using a Baby Walker. Yes or No?
Baby walkers are not ideal as there may be more disadvantages than advantages, says Tang. Firstly, the baby walker has wheels which may see your child “gliding” or “zipping” around the house far too quickly. This can get them into trouble especially because some homes may have steps, stairs or open doors.
Secondly, the height of the seat may be too high for your child, inevitably resulting in your child developing a tiptoe walking pattern because they habitually push off from the floor with their toes when their heels are unable to contact the ground. Your child’s body will not be aligned correctly when they sit in a walker. Hence, says Tang, they will do much better playing on the floor or in a playpen.
If your child is not walking by 18 months of age, that will be a clear indicator to consult a doctor followed by the physiotherapist immediately.
Signs to look out for are:
Every child is an individual. It is very important not to become overly concerned if your baby does not follow a particular sequence or pattern of behaviour. Don’t compare your child to anybody else’s. Such competitions can be, at best, annoying and, at worst, potentially damaging to your child’s self-esteem.