Baby's First Steps
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About a month after your baby first pulls himself up to a standing position, he will start cruising. (No, that doesn't mean he will start frequenting bars and looking for dates.) Your baby will start by pulling himself up to standing using a couch, chair, or low table for support. Then, using sideways shuffling steps, he'll slowly, carefully move along the edge of that piece of furniture. Without letting go, your baby will slide both hands in the direction he wants to go. Then he'll move his lead leg over without lifting it off the ground. Finally, he'll catch up with the trail leg, sliding it over next to the lead leg.
If your little cruiser finds a piece of furniture that he can move without pulling it down on top of himself, a kitchen or dining room chair, for example, he may even fashion his own makeshift walker. By pushing the chair in front of him as he totters along, he can now walk all the way across a room.
You can encourage your baby to cruise from one support to another by moving furniture closer together in rooms where your baby plays. If you put enough low, solid pieces of furniture next to one another, your cruiser can move all the way around the room while remaining on his feet!
Within a few weeks of first cruising, your baby will lift his trail leg instead of sliding it. Though this may seem like a small thing, it represents an enormous developmental leap: At least for a moment, your baby has supported himself on just one foot-a feat he must master before he can walk.
After a month or so of cruising, your baby will probably need only one hand for support. This new skill will free him to move from one piece of furniture to the next-if it's close enough for him to reach. Tentatively, your baby will let go of his support with one hand and reach out for another piece of furniture to support him.
Releasing one hand from his support will not only give your baby greater freedom of movement, it will also give him the freedom to play while cruising. He can reach out, pick up a toy, bring it to his mouth, or even throw it from his new lofty height. When he becomes especially absorbed in play, your baby may even let go of his support with both hands. Without even realizing it, your baby may be standing and maintaining his balance on his own!
Sshhhh! Don't scream or shout. You'll surely startle your baby into falling. Just watch and admire with pride. After a few seconds, he'll drop down and (hopefully) land on his bottom. Sadly, your baby won't be able to repeat this trick on demand. But now that he's done it, you'll know that your baby is almost ready to start taking his first wobbly steps.
Step by Step
Whether your baby is a cruiser or an early walker, she doesn't yet have any use for shoes when she's inside. In fact, shoes can be detrimental to your child's development. Your baby needs to be able to feel the shift of weight on her feet in order to maintain her balance, and shoes make this more difficult. In addition, walking in bare feet will help strengthen your baby's ankles and build her arches. If it's too cold for bare feet in your home, try slipper socks with skid-proof soles instead of regular socks (which can be too slippery) or shoes. For safety, your baby will need shoes outside. But even then, choose shoes that are flexible rather than stiff. Again, skid-proof soles will help.
Once you've seen your baby stand on her own, even by accident, it's tempting to try to push her to walk, too. You may sit in the middle of the room calling to your baby to come to you. Meanwhile, your baby stands holding on to the sofa, wondering what the heck you're talking about.
Although it isn't easy, try to be patient. Encourage your baby, but don't push. Let your baby develop at her own pace. If your baby fails to do something that you're trying to get her to do before she's ready, she will see your disappointment and that will be a blow to her self-esteem. But if she does something (like walking) successfully according to her own timetable, her confidence in herself will skyrocket.
If she's like most babies, your child won't take her first steps until the months after her first birthday. But even if your baby isn't walking until about 18 months, there's probably no cause for concern. Though you should consult your pediatrician if your baby isn't walking by 18 months, your baby is probably just fine. She's just not in any hurry to walk.
Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!
Inevitably, standing, cruising, and, of course, walking all mean one thing: falling. Your baby will almost definitely suffer more bumps, bruises, and even cuts over the next three months than he has during the previous nine. As your baby's mobility increases, babyproofing again becomes very important. Do everything you can to ensure that when he falls, he falls safely.
Supervision at all times becomes even more important once your baby is on his feet. Gently steer him away from dangers. But at the same time, don't constantly hover over your child trying to prevent all accidents. (Thorough babyproofing will make hovering unnecessary.) Try to avoid sending the message that the world, and even your home, is unsafe or threatening.
Try not to overreact when your baby falls. If you cry out and rush over to him, you'll spook your child, who will probably cry as much or more in response to your alarmed reaction as from the fall itself. Unless you know your child is really hurt, try to shrug it off with a "Whoops! You're okay, try again." If you can train yourself to take it in stride, your child is much less likely to become shy of falling.
More on: Babies
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.