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Most babies start taking their first steps between 11 and 15 months, but this milestone is hugely variable, and anywhere from 9 to 18 months is really considered normal.
Babies are actually born with an innate knowledge of the movements needed to walk; they just lack the physical strength to do it. If you stand a newborn up on her feet, you'll see that she instinctually moves one foot in front of the other in a walking-like motion. This so-called stepping reflex seems to disappear at around 4 months, but in actuality babies' legs simply become too heavy for their muscles to lift. By 6 months, when you support your baby standing up, she won't slump over because she is learning how to use her leg muscles for strength and her feet for balance. Once the muscles are built up, walking can begin in earnest. This just happens to coincide with the time when the brain is developed enough to handle balance and spatial understanding.
Once your baby can stand upright, encourage her to walk by holding her up by her hands and helping her get across the room. Creating a safe cruising environment and giving your baby plenty of practice balancing also helps give her the confidence to go it alone one day. You can also help encourage your baby to stand and walk by placing her toys on higher surfaces, like a babyproofed coffee table or couch. --Cynthia Ramnarace
Originally published in the February 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.