Once a baby has learned how to move forward by crawling, their next challenge is to stand up and then start walking.
Your baby’s motor skills have been developing since birth, of course, but learning to crawl or scoot around is the great ‘liberation’ milestone. This liberation doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t want to be with Mum or Dad – it’s a sign that their motor skills are developing and they’re ready to take the next step.
Two developmental steps that usually occur at the same time
What happens after the crawling stage? Dr Göran Kendorf explains that crawling and sitting independently are two developmental steps that usually occur around the same time.
“A baby who’s about to walk tries to get up from a sitting position mainly by using their upper body — i.e. arms and hands – and then develops motor ability in their legs, hips and feet. Just like crawling, development occurs gradually from head to toe.”
From standing to walking
A lot needs to be in place before babies who have pulled themselves up can take those first steps. Dr Kendorf explains:
“You see babies as young as eight months old who are able to pull themselves up into a standing position. But then they stand and sway back and forth to find their balance.
Putting one foot in front of the other requires the activation of many muscles. Several of these muscles are autonomous and controlled by the brain without our having to think about it.
The ability to stand usually appears at around 8-10 months of age. But this age may vary between 9 and 18 months and still be within a normal range.”
How do you encourage a baby to walk?
Parents are eager to assist or even accelerate baby walking. How can you help a baby who is learning to walk?
“If you want to encourage baby walking, there are baby walkers and similar aids”, explains Dr Kendorf. “But you should remember that these are not suitable for all babies. Some babies prefer to simply stand and then walk holding on to Mum or Dad’s hand. As always, you should adapt the process to what your baby seems to like.”
If time passes and your baby doesn’t start walking
If time passes and your baby doesn’t start walking, Dr Kendorf advises contacting your health visitor or GP for support. Hopefully they can put your mind at rest. They can often provide advice and recommendations for seeking further help in the health care system.
He explains that babies who are learning to walk must have progressed far enough with their motor development in order to maintain balance and put one foot in front of the other.
When and how this happens can vary enormously. The baby walking age may vary between 9 and 18 months without it being out of the ordinary. And, last but not least, a nappy gives your baby rather a wide-legged gait – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Family: Married with six children (but only two still live at home)
Works as: Medical doctor, specialist in paediatric orthopaedics and general practice
Background: Göran Kendorf is a proud Stockholmer who grew up in one of the city’s southern suburbs. He previously worked at the children’s orthopaedic clinic at Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital as a children’s hip and foot specialist. He has worked at a private paediatric orthopaedic clinic in central Stockholm since 2014.