What a miraculous moment — baby’s first steps. For so long, they’ve been a bit wobbly on their feet, but using things to hoist themselves up to a standing position. There have been a lot of falls, but in the words of Chumbawamba, they may "get knocked down, but [they] get up again," and you’re so proud. With such a huge and wonderful milestone, I'm sure you’re crying when it happens, but why do babies cry when learning to walk? Shouldn't they be thrilled at their independence? And when is this important milestone supposed to happen for babies?
According to Andrea Bell, RN, nurse manager of NICU and pediatrics for Salem Health, "Children walk when they are developmentally ready for both brain development and physical development … a child walks at their own pace," she says to Romper in an email.
According to BabyCenter, "most babies will take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months, and should be walking well by the time they’re 14 or 15 months old."
But why do some babies cry while they’re learning to walk? Are they as excited as you are? "Some infants will cry when walking, not because of the walking itself, but because of other factors (hungry, sleepy, diaper needs changed, injured, or another need)," Bell says. "Perhaps they cannot reach a toy, maybe they want a parent to hold them … infants do not cry based on the walking aspect."
Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says it’s fairly common for babies to cry in any situation. "If crying because the baby is not interested, that’s fine; however, if your baby received an injury (e.g., from a fall) and now starts crying when trying to walk, see your pediatrician immediately to rule out any injuries," he says in an email to Romper.
"Sometimes, a child is simply tired and would rather be held by his or her parents," Ganjian adds. "If the child is not interested in walking on a certain day, even though the parent has repeatedly tried, then stop. There is no need to force the child to walk if he/she is not interested."
Also, according to Ganjian, babies can sense your emotions and become uncomfortable. "If parents are too stressed out or are too intense about their child learning to walk, the child can feel very uncomfortable and will not want to walk because he/she doesn't like or respond to the parents’ emotion," he says. "Make it fun and enjoyable for both parent and child, then the child will be more likely to want to walk."
Unless your baby falls and then cries when they start taking steps, it should be nothing to worry about if they cry when learning to walk. Remember, babies are pretty good at crying, and do it often. Take a deep breath and marvel at the fact that your baby has taken their first step toward independence. Pun totally intended.