Infants Can Practice Walking At Only 10 Weeks Old, But That Doesn't Mean They Should

Ad failed to load

No matter how much you may want to try to be in the moment and enjoy every aspect of new parenthood while you can, it's often easy to get caught up worrying about milestones, and whether your baby is developing as they should be. When should they be smiling? Sitting up? Crawling? It seems only natural that parents would want to give their infants as much of an advantage as possible, so a new study showing that infants can begin practicing walking at only 10 weeks old might seem particularly eye-opening for eager moms and dads. But there's no need to panic if infant walking practice hasn't been on your new-mom radar — it definitely isn't something that will make or break your child's motor development.

Researchers at Lancaster University looked at "reflex walking," a form of walking-like movement that involuntarily occurs in young babies as a result of the stepping reflex, according to Science Daily. That is, in the same way that infants will grasp onto your finger if you offer it up, or start rooting for food if you stroke their cheeks, babies held slightly forward with their feet placed flat on the floor "will reflexively walk by placing one foot in front of the other" up until they are about 12 weeks old.

Bridget Johnson on YouTube
Ad failed to load

The existence of the stepping reflex is certainly not a new discovery, but the researchers did find that the early walking reflex can actually affect a child's perception of walking long before they actually begin doing it. In the British study, 10-week-old infants were divided into two groups: one that was allowed to experience reflex walking, and one that wasn't. The babies and their mothers then watched a film that showed "human figures walking and crawling," while researchers measured the babies' brain responses. What they found was that the babies who had reflex walked showed signs of recognizing the walking movement shown in the video, in a similar way to older children who are actually learning to walk.

In other words, the physical experience of taking steps — even involuntary ones — influenced the way the infants were actually able to perceive walking in a way that babies who hadn't taken steps weren't. But that doesn't mean we should all be making our tiny infants reflex walk to help them learn to walk later on: the study didn't actually suggest that reflex walking had a direct effect on intentional walking, but just that there may be "a link between action perception and action production" in very young children. But even if it did, it seems that it still might not be necessary for parents to specifically encourage their babies to walk as soon as possible anyway.

Ad failed to load

As much as we might want our children to walk early — whether because we think that means they are completely brilliant and advanced, or because we're just eager to see them plodding around — it sounds like it doesn't make much of a difference long-term. In 2013, researchers at The Zurich Children’s Hospital found that there is "little or no link between such early ‘motor milestones’ and later development," according to The Daily Mail, with the researchers concluding that "children who start walking early turn out to be neither more intelligent nor well co-ordinated" than those who don't.

If there likely isn't any real benefit to having a baby who walks earlier than their peers, then trying to teach your baby to walk before they may be ready probably isn't necessary. But some parenting approaches advise against it entirely, suggesting it could do more harm than good.

Ad failed to load

Although many parents might enjoy holding their young kids up and "walking" them (there are also a number of products on the market made specifically for this), author and RIE parenting educator Janet Lansbury argues that, actually, it might not be such a great idea. In an article on her blog, where Lansbury offers parenting advice based in the RIE principles of respecting infants' autonomy and trusting them to guide their own interaction with the world around them, she writes that while "walking" a baby might not necessarily affect them physically, it can have unintended effects, such a restricting their movement and discouraging body awareness.

Similarly, parents who attempt to encourage walking-like movements through the use of ExerSaucers or doorway jumpers might unknowingly be doing their kids a disservice: in an article for children's health website Dr. Dina, occupational therapist Lauren Hershfield wrote that the devices can actually affect a child's muscle development and sense of balance if they spend too much time in them.

Ad failed to load

According to BabyCenter, most babies will be taking their first steps anywhere from 9 months to 15 months of age. But children who walk later aren't necessarily delayed: children develop at different rates, and may not always fall in the typical range. Since being slow to walk could indicate a developmental concern though, BabyCenter recommends that parents check in with their doctor if they have a child who isn't standing with support at 12 months, if they can't walk at 18 months, or if they aren't walking steadily by the time they turn 2.

In most cases, children who are able to walk will eventually do so, and focused parental instruction won't be necessary. Of course, there's nothing wrong with offering up lots of love and encouragement, but for now, it seems safe to say that no new parent should have to worry if they haven't begun teaching their tiny infant to take a few steps.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack