Within a few weeks of learning to pull himself to a standing position, your baby will probably start shuffling along while holding onto furniture; this can start anywhere from 8 to 11 months. Called cruising, it's one of the last steps on the journey toward walking independently. Cruising tends to begin with your baby inching along by sliding his feet, but gradually he'll put all his weight on his feet and use his hands only to steady himself. From there, he'll progress to moving hand-over-hand while picking up his feet, and finally he'll travel between pieces of furniture by clutching one while reaching for the next.
No matter how proficient your baby becomes at cruising, remember that walking totally unassisted is no easy task, so don't worry if it seems like it's taking your baby awhile to completely let go. Your baby's legs and feet are still disproportionately small compared with his trunk and head and he'll need to figure out how to coordinate separate movements of his hips, knees, and ankles without toppling over in the process. At any stage of motor development, weeks or months may pass while your baby concentrates on other areas of growth (like language) or simply works up his courage take those first few steps. Although you can't coach your baby to walk sooner than he's ready to, you can help by giving your baby lots of opportunities to roam free; try not to keep him confined to a playpen or play yard for too long. Resist the urge to carry your baby everywhere, and let him try to make it on his own. You should also make your home as safe as possible. Make sure your baby has access only to stable furniture (small, spindly chairs and tables should be secured or removed) and protect him from slipping by having him walk barefoot (which also helps to build arches and strengthen ankles) or, if it's cold, in booties or socks with nonskid soles.
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