Like many first-time moms, any little thing that happened to my baby was a cause of concern and had to be addressed immediately. From the cradle cap that wouldn’t go away to the shape of his legs and everything in between gave me a dose of anxiety.
One of these “concerns” was my little boy’s legs and walking.
As it turned out, there was no reason for any concern because everything was normal but, doing all those investigations I learned a lot about the mechanics of children’s walking and how to choose the best walking shoes for babies.
The information comes from the head of the Pediatric Orthopedics Unit in Quironsalud Malaga, Dr David Farrington Rueda, a wonderful, patient medic who took the time to explain everything in detail and plain terms.
This is the advice and the wisdom he shared with me when it comes to the normal position of babies’ legs, what is normal regarding children’s walk and the right shoes for when the baby starts walking, which apparently, is quite important.
Here is what I’ve learned:
Thinking about how these little humans spend their first 9 months in the womb, especially the last month squished in such a tight space, it’s no surprise that babies are born with their hips flexed, knees bent and their legs and ankles crossed up against their abdomen.
It’s only normal that they will assume the same position once they’re out. Their brain simply remembers the posture they’ve been in for 9 months so, in the vast majority of cases, there is no need for concern. This usually lasts for the first 2-5 months after birth.
When my son was born, I was told that he may have some problems with his hips and legs and he will require physiotherapy and, depending on the severity of his condition, maybe other types of treatments.
This is how I ended up visiting Dr Rueda who quickly calmed down a very alarmed mother with lots of explanations using simple terms and images.
A few things that the doctor stressed were that:
My son started walking at 15 months which is within the normal limit of time.
A generally accepted time frame for children to start walking is between 10 and 16 months. Many kids start walking around the age of 14 months however some will do it later than this which should be no reason for concern.
According to the doctor, many parents are worried about the way their children walk. What we need to remember is that after 9 months in the uterus and another 12 lying down or sitting we can’t expect the little humans to walk as we do. Babies learn how to walk on their own and they each have their own style.
An important thing to know is that kids start walking normally (as adults do) between the ages of 4 and 6. Until then all the funny wobbling is normal. You might notice things like:
Another thing that the doctor stressed is that he discourages the use of baby walkers. Besides posing a risk of injury, they don’t actually help the child walk earlier. On the contrary. Left on their own, babies will naturally gain muscle tone by standing up, then sitting down when they get tired and so on, thus strengthening their muscles.
The baby walker actually slows down this process because of the baby’s position and lack of freedom to sit and stand.
The first piece of advice that Dr Rueda gave me is that when it comes to babies learning how to walk, the best thing we can do is to leave them barefoot. It is what comes naturally to humans.
But, of course, this is not always possible and shoes are a necessity. So, when it is time to venture out and buy a pair of baby shoes, here are a few tips to remember.
Babies grow fast and before you know it all the clothes that you bought for them “yesterday” are small now. It’s the same with shoes.
It is extremely important to periodically measure their feet and make sure that the shoes are not tight as this can do damage to their developing feet.
A shoe that fits well should be snug at the heel and have approximately 12mm space between the tip and the longest toe.
When choosing your baby’s first shoes gravitate towards materials that are soft, flexible and allow the foot to “breathe”. Natural leather and suede are good choices.
Make sure that the sole is flexible and lightweight to support the child’s walking development and preferably non-skid to avoid little accidents.
A good type of fastener will ensure that the child’s foot is fully supported in the shoe.
Each type of fastener has its own pluses and minuses and most of the time it depends on the child.
For example, velcro makes putting on and taking off the shoes easy for parents but they’re also easy (and fun) to unfasten for children so they may take off their shoes when you least expect it.
Laces may take longer to fasten, especially if you have a wriggly baby, but they’ll make kicking the shoes off trickier. Just make sure that the laces are very well tied to avoid a trip hazard.
Buckle straps can also be a good option, as they are difficult for the child to unfasten, but like with the laces, it may take the parent a little longer to put on the shoes.
When it comes to fasteners, regardless of the type that you choose, the most important thing is that they support your child’s foot in the shoe.
High ankle shoe manufacturers that advertise better support of the child’s ankle thus making walking easier and safer are nothing more than a marketing stunt, according to Dr Rueda. A child’s ankle, especially one that has just started walking, should be kept free and allowed to build muscle strength on its own.
No orthopedics doctor will recommend high ankle shoes unless there is a medical reason for it.
Although they may be cheaper, second-hand shoes have been moulded to fit another child’s feet so they may not offer the best support for your baby’s feet.
Even though walking is a natural process for babies it is not wrong for parents to get as much information as possible. My only advice is that you get that information from trustworthy sources like a pediatric orthopedic doctor.
The doctor that I took my son to (and I am so glad that I did) gave me a lot of useful advice but I’d like to stress two things that he said and I consider to be important:
Now that you know all the things to watch out for when choosing your baby’s first shoes it’s time to go shopping and have fun finding the perfect pair(s) of walkers for your tiny human.
And, of course, don’t forget to fully enjoy this new chapter in your baby’s life.