If you’ve ever watched a newborn baby curl up to go to sleep, you might have noticed that it takes them time to get used to all the space they have outside the womb. They might sleep with their fists right up by their chin or even startle themselves awake when they stretch out their arms and find that there’s nothing there.
But, a few months down the line, lots of babies still have legs that look a little “scrunched” or turned inwards. This is called bow-leggedness.
Doctors see bow legged babies all the time and, although it’s natural to worry as you watch your baby grow, it’s usually a phase (just like everything else).
What causes bow legs?
Basically, bow-leggedness is where a baby’s legs curve out at the knees and their ankles touch. It’s really common for babies and toddlers to have bow legs for the first few years of their lives.
How does a baby become bow-legged? Babies’ bones are pretty soft. They’re born before their skeleton is ready to support their full weight, which is a good thing, because having more fully-developed bones would make birth even harder.
Your little one was folded up in your belly for nine months. There’s not a lot of space in there so, sometimes, the soft leg bones twist as the baby grows and runs out of space. If their knees end up turning inwards, they have “knock knees.” If they turn outward, bow legs.
If you’re concerned about bowing knees or legs, here are some signals to watch for:
- Your baby’s knees curve outwards.
- Both of their legs have a similar and symmetrical curve.
- Their toes point inward when they stand or walk.
- If they’re toddling, they have an awkward walking pattern and may trip over more than other children their age.
Do babies grow out of bow legs?
Can bow-leggedness be corrected in babies? There are exercises or braces that doctors can use if they’re concerned. But, for the most part, bow legs don’t stop children from learning to crawl, walk, climb, or run, and they grow out of their bow legs rather than having them straightened.
As your baby grows and especially as they learn to bear weight on their legs and walk, their bones will straighten by themselves. Because of this, if your baby is under two years old, your doctor will probably wait and observe your child’s growth instead of doing any tests.
Sometimes children’s legs don’t straighten as they get older. If this is the case, your doctor will keep an eye on things and advise you on what to do next. You’ll most likely be referred for tests to rule out rickets and Blount’s disease, and then to an orthopedic specialist for physical therapy.
You know every inch of your baby, and worrying about how “normal” their legs look is completely natural. Let us reassure you, mama, that bowlegged-ness is a common condition in babies and toddlers, and one that usually goes away by itself. Once they get moving, there’s very little that’s going to slow them down.