When should my baby walk you may be asking yourself. Or perhaps your question revolves around another developmental milestone like sitting, crawling, or talking. As moms, we become major worry warts and comparison queens. Is my kid eating enough, talking enough, sleeping enough? Why is everyone’s kid but mine sitting already, crawling already, walking already? We all want what’s best for our kids. But, we’re also putting way too much stress on ourselves and our kids way too early.
Every child is unique and different and develops in their own time. When your child meets developmental milestones can depend on their environment, activity, physiology, personality, whether they have siblings, etc. My daughter was very chunky which I think made her slower to crawl and walk for example. She also had minimal contact with other kids to see them running around. She started crawling when she was just past 9 months and didn’t start walking until around 15 months. But it felt like most of the other kids her age were doing these things way before her.
When I took my daughter in for her 12 month check up they had us voluntarily fill out this survey. We live near a big research University so this is not a survey everyone is offered. She didn’t score as highly as they wanted and they used the big scary word, autism, at 12 months old, because that’s what the research was about. The doctor assured us she was only slightly behind and likely did not have autism but that she was “verbally delayed”. She gave us a flyer where we could possibly get extra help. My husband, of course, had a moment of panic. I felt that my daughter was fine, but was glad for the opportunity to possibly receive extra help and classes for free.
We went to the assessment and they determined that she did not qualify for extra help and was doing fine. So no free classes for us. They said her verbal development would probably take off once she mastered walking…and they were right! Once she mastered walking she started making some animal sounds and finally doing a bit of baby sign that I’d been trying to get her to do forever!
Lesson one: Don’t turn down help if it’s offered. Many of these programs are offered free of charge! If they say your child is fine it will help ease your worries. If they say they are a bit behind they will give you tools and classes to help them catch up. I, like most of you, are not physical or speech therapists and don’t know the best way to help a child who may be a bit behind in their development. Remember, every baby develops at their own pace, give yours the opportunity to develop on their timeline as much as possible. Often, they will seemingly start to do a new skill overnight that they couldn’t do just a few days prior, they are amazing little people!
Notice I labeled this section What’s Typical, not What’s Normal. I think the words normal and not-normal really carry a negative connotation. Typical and atypical sound a little more scientific to me and a little less worrisome. Even ahead or behind the curve might be better as we generally talk about weight and height via a child’s percentage and their curve of development. The way we talk about things and the words we use, especially online in places like mom groups where it’s harder to gauge emotion, can really alter our perspective on a situation.
To give you a little perspective here is a chart I created based off of the average age for motor development milestones according to the World Health Organization. (figures have been rounded to the nearest half month).
This means that the average age for walking is 12 months. So, half the kids will walk before and half will walk after. You don’t need to really be concerned unless they are not walking at about 18 months of age. The moms in your group posting/talking about their kid walking have kids who are earlier walkers. Others, with later walkers, are probably not posting about how great it is that their kid isn’t walking yet. As moms, we’re always so eager for our children to do something new…and then cry when they do it because they’re growing up too fast!
As far as verbal development goes, it’s not quite so cut and dry as there are many signs at each age that a child is developing typically. Here is a good chart describing typical speech and language milestones in children from birth to age five.
Try to stop worrying, I know it’s hard
Certainly, listen to your doctor’s recommendations and never turn down an opportunity for extra help, but don’t let it throw you into a panic. Doctor’s have to let you know how your child is doing compared to the standards, but that doesn’t mean there is an issue with your child’s development.
Your child may excel in one area and be a little behind in another. Every child is different and if your child isn’t running at 12 months like that baby down the street it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong! Your child is likely doing something that child is not. Perhaps yours isn’t walking but is sleeping through the night…most moms would trade being ahead in just about any area for some good sleep! There will be plenty of legitimate things to worry and freak out about. Enjoy the fact that you get a little longer before you have to chase your running child and keep them from running into the street!
Lesson two: If you can’t stop yourself from worrying it may be good for you to unfollow your online mom groups for a little bit. A mama doesn’t need any extra anxiety and I know it can be hard to see lots of photos/videos of babies doing skills yours has not yet developed. Once yours finally gets that new skill jump back in and share your proud mama moment! And whatever you do….don’t consult doctor Google, that way leads to madness.
So ditch the mom guilt and the expectations and just enjoy watching your baby develop at whatever pace is perfect for them. And if they do fall a bit behind or you’re concerned ask your doctor for advice, it’s what they are there for.