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When Your Baby is “Late” to the Walking Game

Everyone says kids develop at that their own pace, and I have recently learned just how true that is. Tomorrow my son turns sixteen months old. (I say that I like I keep track religiously, but I had to look at the calendar just now to figure that out.) He just started taking steps a few weeks ago and only really started walking a couple of days ago. At his fifteen month pediatrician appointment, the doctor didn’t express a lot of concern but did drop the label – “late walker.” As in, your son looks like a “late walker.” It’s not like I had never thought about that before, or discussed it with anyone, but hearing it from an authority of sorts was a little disconcerting.

When Your Baby is "Late" to the Walking Game

Ugh. Labels. Can we just agree that they’re a necessary evil? Sometimes there really is no good way to communicate a message, but using a label really stinks. Until the pediatrician used those words, I have to say that I really wasn’t all that concerned about my son’s lack of mobility. After all, he could crawl like a champ so he could get around and let’s face it: a slow progression towards mobility equals less of a need to child proof. Once the phrase “late walker” was attached to my son I started thinking of all the possibilities. Does he have a developmental delay? Have I not done enough to encourage walking? Should he have been wearing shoes already? Is he lazy?

Turns out… no. All he needed was the ability to take his own sweet time. What’s true in my situation might not be 100% true in yours… but as I’ve processed through these questions and that pesky label over the past few weeks (and let’s face it… a little before too) I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Even if your kiddo is past the learning to walk stage, these lessons can be applied to development and challenges of any type.

Numero uno! Don’t compare.

Let’s repeat that: do not compare your baby to others. It’s hard, I know. ESPECIALLY when you see other kiddos walking (or doing _____) before your own sweet baby. Goodness, I saw it every Monday through Friday for six months. Other kids in my son’s daycare class have been cruising and/or walking since they were nine or ten months old. Especially those girls! I’m sure for moms of multiple kids this happens often too. But everyone is different, and there is a wide range of normal—especially with baby/toddler milestones since so many things happen in such a short time period. Chances are, the kids who are already walking are “lagging behind” with something else. No problem. It’s also helpful to step away from the Google so you don’t freak yourself out over what “might” be wrong. Your pediatrician will tell you if there’s a concern. Dr. Google is no help here. 

But . . . help your child.

If you are concerned about your child not walking (insert other milestone/concern here): do what you can to help facilitate this new skill. My son was content to crawl and cruise for months. He would “walk” with his lion push toy and cruise along the furniture only if he had motivation in sight—like a favorite toy or book. You can play games with your baby or mix up the scenery by exploring a new room, Grandma’s house, or a park. My son’s first “big steps” came at our neighborhood park. The video we got was precious! His little wobbly steps, using his belly for balance? It’s just the cutest! No wonder everyone wants to see babies take their first steps! #priceless

In the meantime, focus on what your baby does well.

Don’t stress out! It can be easy to focus on the “bad” stuff, but chances are—it’s just temporary. In regard to walking, my husband and I are convinced that the late development of this skill is just related to my son’s personality. Being a late walker can be indicative of your child’s temperament. As our pediatrician asked about other things at that same wellness visit, my son was praised for having a higher vocabulary and a longer-than-average attention span. There is some evidence that more laid-back babies move faster through social and cognitive development but develop motor skills at a slower rate. Anecdotally, that has been true for us! The same is often true vice versa, for the record.

When Your Baby is "Late" to the Walking Game

Now that my son is walking, I can breathe a little sigh of relief (when I’m not chasing him down, that is!) about this stage of his development. I know that as he continues to grow, there will be more challenges ahead so I hope I can keep myself grounded by focusing on the good, not the bad, and staying away from the comparison game.

Was your child a late walker? Any tips for mamas in the same situation?
How do you stop the comparison game?

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2 Responses to When Your Baby is “Late” to the Walking Game

  1. Avatar
    Sherry September 26, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Yes, one of my children was a very, very late walker- 2.5 years old (related to a lifelong medical diagnosis). It was a total relief when she did start walking independently. It taught me patience but also that a child’s worth is not tied to what they can do or when they do it. If 2.5 years were the norm, she’d be right on time!

    • Sarah Keil
      Sarah Keil September 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

      Thank you for reading and sharing your story, Sherry! I love this: “a child’s worth is not tied to what they can do or when.” Such a great perspective!

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