"What do you mean Fletcher's not crawling yet?"
I'd been waiting to put my son on the swings at Mommy & Me, and another mom had overheard me bemoaning his steadfast refusal to move under his own power. "He's 8 1/2 months and still not crawling?" she asked incredulously. I stood speechless. I was the bad mom whose kid didn't crawl, would never crawl, and thus would never get into a good college. Or at least that's how it played out in my new-mom neurotic mind.
"He's probably just content where he is," my pediatrician said, unconcerned when I brought it up at Fletcher's 9-month well-baby visit.
Basically, in my doctor's gentle way, she was telling me to relax. But how do you know when you're making a big deal out of nothing or if your concerns are spot-on? To help you decide, here's a guide to how babies go from facile kickers to speed walkers.
Before They Get Mobile
A baby's first few weeks are spent stretching out his arms and legs, basically "unfolding" from the scrunched up position he was in for so many months inside the womb. Within the first month or two, and certainly by month four, he should be actively lifting his hips and wriggling and kicking his legs. "The baby is beginning to test the waters to see what he can do with those legs," explains Charles Shubin, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
If your baby's legs appear a bit bowed, don't be alarmed. Eventually, most infants' legs straighten out by themselves, adds Dr. Shubin. And don't be afraid to prop baby up on his feet. "The stresses of standing help straighten bones," he says.
Between 4 and 6 months, babies discover their chubby little feet, grabbing them and putting them in their mouths. They may also use their feet in the same way they use their hands, picking up toys and exploring the floor.
What to Watch For: You may notice that your baby's feet curve inward. In most cases, this is quite normal -- another result of being cramped in the womb. If the bones are flexible enough for your pediatrician to gently pull the feet into a straight position, there's no need to worry, says Kristin Hannibal, MD, clinic director of the Primary Care Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. But if they seem rigid, you may be referred to a pediatric orthopedist.
Contact your pediatrician if by 3 to 6 months, your child isn't wriggling her legs, seems to flop in your arms, or she doesn't put her feet down when you try to support her in a standing position.