Months before their babies take a step, moms don't hesitate to assert that their little ones are one-of-a-kind creations. There's no one else quite like your baby. You may fret if your baby isn't reaching this developmental milestone within the normal range of 8 to 18 months of age. Although many factors influence when your baby begins walking, remember that she will achieve new milestones at a rate that's right for her.
Premature babies, or "preemies," are born more than three weeks early, and they usually begin walking later than other babies. Preemie development varies from baby to baby, so your preemie may walk earlier or later than another baby of the same age. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests adjusting your preemie's age to get a more accurate assessment of his developmental progress. For example, if he is 16 weeks old and was born four weeks early, subtract 4 from 16.
Physical and Developmental Challenges
Health issues and developmental disabilities can delay walking and in some cases prevent it. Approximately one in 1,000 babies are born with spina bifida, which causes muscle weakness, stiff joints and abnormalities of the hips, knees and feet. Some children walk with special equipment and walkers after surgery and physical therapy. Additional disabilities that can delay or prevent walking include autism, cerebral palsy and hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 15 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities.
Give Your Baby Wings
Equipment that restricts your baby's active movement can hinder walking. She must be able to practice the movements associated with walking. You can help prepare her for the first steps by limiting the use of playpens, swings, infant seats and bouncers. Provide her with opportunities for activities that promote active movement, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics. Examples include floor play, games and opportunities to spend time on her tummy.
Your Baby's Personality
Your baby's temperamental traits -- or personality characteristics -- emerge early in her developmental journey. His temperament influences how he interacts with his environment and can influence when he walks. For example, an active baby may walk sooner than a timid baby who approaches new opportunities with caution. Your easygoing little one may feel content to sit on his blanket because he doesn't have an incentive to change what already seems just right.