As mamas, sometimes it can feel like we spend our days worrying.
Worrying over what our little ones can or can’t do, and whether their behavior is “normal” or not.
And when it comes to our baby walking, this feels like a huge milestone.
Even before they’re even born, we might have pictured the moment of their first steps… not to mention the fun and chaos that follows.
But when do babies start walking? And what can we do as parents to help them learn to walk?
Here’s our simple guide, to help you know what to expect.
Do most babies walk by 1 year?
As your baby’s first birthday inches closer, “being able to walk” can be a frustrating generalization to have in the back of your mind – especially if they don’t seem interested in learning to walk yet.
So, let’s start by saying relax, mama. You’re doing a great job!
As with most things when it comes to baby development, there’s a huge range of “normal” behaviors.
The saying “walking by 1, talking by 2” is relatively accurate, as in both the US and the UK the average age for a baby to walk is 12 months.
But it’s also common for babies to take their first steps anywhere between 9 and 16 months of age – so the window of opportunity is pretty wide.
Some medical authorities suggest getting advice from your family doctor or pediatrician if your child hasn’t started walking by 18 months, but there’s often no cause for concern.
You can trust your instinct, but seek reassurance if you’re starting to worry.
We shouldn’t expect all babies to follow the same timing and developmental progression, but we know it’s hard not to compare children of similar ages.
Rest assured, though.
Research has shown that the age a baby learns to walk bears no significance on their motor development and cognitive ability as they grow up.
So, try not to stress. It’ll happen when they’re ready!
How do babies learn to walk?
When we’re new to the world, walking is a pretty big deal.
Babies have to develop enough muscle strength to hold themselves upright and be able to transfer weight between their feet.
No small thing, considering 70% of our body mass is above our hips!
And it’s a mental challenge as well as a physical one.
Some babies might be outgoing, toddling across the room in no time after figuring out how to stand.
Other babies who are more timid might take more time to learn to walk, because they need to gain confidence. That’s fine, too!
When do babies start to walk?
This builds the all-important muscle tone.
Sometimes, the period between learning these movements is a matter of days – or sometimes, months.
Lots of babies walk about 4 months after learning to pull themselves up onto their feet – and they’ll be cruising along the furniture before taking those first cautious steps out into the big wide world (or big wide living room).
But again, this isn’t the same for everyone.
When they’re in the process of learning to walk, you might notice an increase in fussiness when they’re awake (oops, sorry!) and some disruption to their sleeping habits (REALLY sorry!).
Your baby walking is a big developmental step, so it can knock everything else out of sync a bit.
How to help your baby learn to walk
It’s easy to go into helicopter-mama mode when your baby starts moving, but the bumps and falls are all part of the journey.
In communities where it’s traditional for babies to be carried most of the time, children tend to walk later than those encouraged to move independently.
So, the best thing you can do to support your baby learning to walk – and minimize your stress at the same time – is to give them plenty of open-ended playtime and a safe environment.
What do we mean? Here are some tips that might help:
If you know your environment is safe, it means you can relax a bit more as your baby starts to get around the house.
It also means they’ll develop confidence more quickly, knowing they can try these new skills and not hurt themselves every time.
If you have hard flooring, padded play mats can help protect bums, knees, and heads from the inevitable bumps and bashes.
Plug covers, corner cushions, and drawer locks mean they won’t cause too much mischief once they’re more mobile.
Having this all sorted out pre-walking means no last-minute panic when they surprise with their first steps!
There’s no need for a walker.
Despite the name, baby walkers are a big no-no when it comes to your baby learning to walk, and many health professionals are actually calling for them to be banned.
Walkers can prevent healthy leg muscle forming because of the position they hold your little one in, and they can leave them at higher risk of injury, too.
Instead, stationary activity centers or push/pull along toys can help build leg muscle and confidence when your baby is learning to walk.
Encourage your baby’s movement.
This is everything!
Your baby loves to please you, so praising them for pulling themselves up or doing some cruising along the edge of the sofa will mean they know they’re on the right track.
While supporting your baby’s arms, you can encourage them to take some steps across the room.
You can try using their favorite toy as an incentive, and plenty of cheers and clapping when they start to become more independent will keep them motivated.
Be gentle and understanding.
While plenty of encouragement is fantastic, pushing a baby too hard can have the opposite effect.
From a very young age, our babies develop their own personalities.
As every mama will know, it’s impossible to make a baby do something they just don’t want to do – so pushing too hard (or too soon) could create a negative association, which won’t help them learn.
Before you know it, your little one will be running rings around you, and you’ll forget what all the worry was for!
Once your baby is walking confidently, experts suggest giving them 3 hours per day of fun physical activity.
So there’ll be plenty of time to explore!
Now they’re walking, when will they talk?
And just like that, it’s on to the next milestone!
While your baby may have nailed a pretty cute “mamama” or “dadada” type of sound, forming proper words and small sentences is still a little way off.
For now, you can enjoy this exciting time and get your camera ready to capture those adorable, bumbling and stumbling, first steps!
👶 More baby milestones:
When Do Babies Start Talking?
When Do Babies See Color?
When Do Babies Start Smiling?
When Do Babies Sit Up?
When Do Babies Start Teething?
When Do Babies Stop Spitting Up?
When Do Babies Start Cooing?