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Our 6 months old son wants to walk and gets upset if either of us won't support him while he's doing so. He can't crawl yet, can't sit up without tipping over eventually, and he can't stand on his own. He can put considerable weight on his legs and sometimes outright refuses to sit (he literally bends backwards, lifting his tushy so we can't sit him down in a car seat or high chair), but lacks balance to stay in an upright position. He also can't stand on his own, even if he supports himself.

If we don't stand him up or help him walk, he becomes fussy, screams, or cries. Occasionally, he won't have trobules with sitting down, but a lot of the time he just wants to stand, and often walk while we support him, or in a baby walker.

We've recently been told this is bad, but weren't told why. Is it bad, why, and what do we do?

  • It's not unheard of for babies that age to walk although it is unusual. My son could pull up to standing before 7 months though and he's not unusually advanced. He wasn't fully walking until around 13 months. It doesn't sound like a problem to me. – MiniMum Nov 12 '15 at 14:57
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    This question addresses whether early standing (2 month old) can be harmful. It doesn't address walking before crawling, though. – Acire Nov 12 '15 at 15:01
  • My son also did this. Biggest suggestion would be to invest in a walker that is also a seat; no weight, son loves independence and he will tire faster! – DankyNanky May 25 '18 at 10:10
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Actually walking at six months is highly unusual, but "cruising", or walking holding on to furniture, is less so. The Denver II indicates that 25% of seven month olds can walk holding onto furniture (and while that test is controversial to use for diagnostic purposes, it can be useful to get a broad idea of when stages are likely to occur). My oldest sounds very similar to your child; his daycare had cruising height shelves all around and through the room he was in, and by six months he could pull himself up and cruise along them with ease.

What makes me a bit confused here is that you say he can't sit up. Sitting up is something that should come before walking, in particular because it is a similar set of muscles: the abdominal muscles that help you sit up also keep your balance. This is actually where walkers, bouncers, or even assisted sitting devices (i.e., chairs, bumbos, etc.), can be a bad thing; they let your child sit/stand/whatever without using those balance muscles.

So, my suggestion is to lay off of the walkers (or bouncers or assisted sitting devices), and instead set up his room (or wherever he spends most of his time) with some appropriate height furniture that he can pull himself up on. That would be things that are around 18-24" high; a coffee table can be a good start, or a low couch. Something heavy enough that he won't move it by accident (and not bookshelves or other high things that can fall, certainly!). Give him several options around the room, and then encourage him to work on pulling himself up. That should allow him to work out his 'stand up' needs while helping develop his abs. And if he sometimes wants to walk with you helping him out - that's perfectly fine; but make sure he's getting plenty of work in where he's doing the balancing too.

At the same time, you have lots of things you can do to help him develop his abs (and his other muscles) while he's on the floor. Give him toys that are fun to play with in a seated posture: baby pianos, things that make noise when you hit them from above, etc. Then, sometimes sit him at those toys (so he can work on staying sitting up), and sometimes put him near the toy but not seated (so he can work on sitting up from lying down). Giving him plenty of things to do, while letting him develop the muscles and gross motor skills he needs to be working on, should help him get to where he wants to be.

And, on a related note, this kind of thing will be common all throughout childhood. He will want to do things he can't do yet, and be frustrated and upset when he can't. Helping him do things is totally fine, as long as you're doing it in a way that you don't inhibit his development of those skills himself. But even past that, he'll simply be frustrated sometimes, and one of the skills you can help him with is learning to manage that frustration. When he's 2 or so, he's going to hit a point where he can talk pretty well, but you can't understand some of the things he says, and that's going to be so incredibly frustrating for him. When he starts riding trikes, he won't be able to pedal at first, and he'll be incredibly frustrated by that. Each of these are teachable moments, where you combine teaching him how to handle frustration emotionally and process that emotion with helping him work out a plan to overcome the obstacle.

  • "can't sit up without tipping over eventually" probably means he does lose his balance eventually, which at six months is not a problem. – anongoodnurse Nov 12 '15 at 18:56
  • Can't sit up from lying down is what I mean by sit up (as opposed to 'stay sitting'); and I don't think it's a problem per se, but rather that it's a developmental goal that's usually met before walking or cruising. – Joe Nov 12 '15 at 19:04
  • That's even later on the DDMATII; it occurs about the same time as pulling oneself up to walk. – anongoodnurse Nov 12 '15 at 19:06
  • can't understand why this was downvoted. It's SOLID advice. – dwoz Nov 12 '15 at 21:29
  • He often does what looks like crunches, especially when he's in a car seat and only has this one degree of freedom when he's not strapped in yet (to reach for a toy, for example), and he executes those quite well. Also, he easily lifts his legs all the way up and grabs them with his hands. Last time I tried doing that, I had to use my abs, so I'm assuming he has to use those too. You're right, however, that the environment at home is not really set up so as to stimulate him sitting up, so we'll certainly change that. – Nikola Novak Nov 13 '15 at 7:17
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First, you should be aware that baby walkers are considered harmful today. Stimulating walk before the child is in the right development phase is bad too.

A 6-months old's usual activity is to lay or crawl, not stand and walk (it's very early for walking, although standing can be OK not overstimulated, as seen here). Do you have an idea why he wants to stand up? Is it because he lacks interesting activities at near-ground level (laying down or crawling) and therefore wants to stand? Do you stimulate him to get him to stand or walk (hence the baby walker)?
If yes, you should probably stop and try to stimulate him with laying and crawling on the floor. Try to find different activities and encourage activities laying on the floor or crawling, e.g. catching toys or stuffed animals, playing with bells or rattles, enjoying small books with things to see and to touch. You can even lay and crawl yourself with him -- kids love to see adults behave like them from time to time.

Now, every child is different and yours might be more "walky". But still: he won't learn walking before crawling. And trying to rush through the phases of development won't help him -- early walkers are good crawlers first.

As a side note: Beware also of car seats and similar equipment for long hours: a 6-months old's place is to play on the ground, not stay seated. Only that way he'll learn crawling and from there walking.

  • "it's way too early" -- can you elaborate on this? It's certainly earlier than average, but only a couple of months. Is it going to impede normal development, etc.? – Acire Nov 12 '15 at 14:59
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    I think this answer is a bit too black and white, but largely has the right idea. Baby walkers are indeed a bad idea, at least very often, and thinking of things from the point of view of how to help him when he's not walking is the way to go. But I don't think I'd go as extreme as this overall; every child is different, and maybe this one is a bit more walky than others. – Joe Nov 12 '15 at 15:06
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    @anongoodnurse: This is based on research telling that baby walkers also delay motor and mental development (Siegel/Burton 1999, cited in the NYT I cited; is it the 1999 study you're referring to?). Several studies suggest that they may actually delay walking by two to three weeks (e.g. Burrows/Griffiths 2013). These devices have also led to many injuries. Health Canada, CPSC, American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Danger, and other organizations have issued warnings to discourage parents from using baby walkers. – tricasse Nov 12 '15 at 16:43
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    I know with walkers (of the sort in that article - I assume not the kind that you push behind them) that our pediatrician didn't like them because they do too much of the balancing work for the baby - they're not standing in an normal position - and so they don't develop their abs as well. Thirty minutes a day was our limit for bouncers or walkers with seats according to her; and that seemed to be consistent with the data I found when we researched it. I don't think walkers of the sort where it's just like a push cart have the same concerns (As long as he's not doing it near stairs!) – Joe Nov 12 '15 at 17:59
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    since baby walker-seats that aren't employed near the top of stairs or other obvious danger zones are often "parenting-saviors-first-order" I disagree that they're bad for baby. Like anything, they're not a viable "crutch" that you use all the time, but they have their uses and baby finds it stimulating to be in an upright position for a bit of time during the day with a responsible parent. I therefore disagree that in and of themselves, baby walkers are "bad." It's all about usage and perspective. – dwoz Nov 12 '15 at 21:35
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When a child wants to climb a tree for the first time, do you wait until they've developed the capability completely on their own, or do you help them, steady them, and be there in case they fall?

The same is true of walking. Probably since the beginning of communication, people have expressed different opinions about this. But long before that, babies have wanted to walk long before they were able to do so on their own, and parents have played the little game of holding their hands/wrists (not just hands) and doing so with their delighted child. Because it pleases their child, and there's nothing wrong with it. When the baby is tired, they'll signal that it's time to stop by not supporting their weight.

There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, on the used-worldwide Denver Developmental Milestone Screening Test, there's a specific entry for this - BEAR WEIGHT ON LEGS - starting at 2 months. Obviously at two months they can't pull their way up to the standing position. In this case, they stand on your lap while you hold them by the torso. I have always asked this question in my well-baby check ups. No one has ever asked if it was bad for the baby. I don't know where or when this myth arose, but it is a myth.

It is not only not harmful for the baby, but a normal part of gross motor development.

Edited to add: As to the use of the baby walker (which I didn't address in my answer; I referred to holding a baby's wrists to help them walk when they so desire), Pediatricians do warn against them for fear of injury. There are also studies that report that walking on their own is delayed by one to two weeks.

From the American Academy of Pediatrics position paper:

Because data indicate a considerable risk of major and minor injury and even death from the use of infant walkers, and because there is no clear benefit from their use, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ban on the manufacture and sale of mobile infant walkers. If a parent insists on using a mobile infant walker, it is vital that they choose a walker that meets the performance standards of ASTM F977-96 to prevent falls down stairs. Stationary activity centers should be promoted as a safer alternative to mobile infant walkers.

The Academy does admit that parents perceive their babies derive pleasure from walkers. The point is they don't think the risk is worth the benefit.

Again, in the AAP practice guidelines for injury prevention in the first year of life, the pediatrician is directed to ask:

  1. Do you ever place your baby in an infant walker?

and the following is the recommendation given to discuss with the patient:

Do not place your child in a walker. Every year, more than 8,000 injuries occur to children in walkers.

As a physician, I do not recommend baby walkers because babies do get injured in them. I believe the media hype is frenzied, but that is my personal opinion. Nonetheless, I would no more recommend them than I would recommend allowing one's child to crawl unsupervised at the top of an open staircase, because of the risk of injury (not because I think crawling at the top of an open staircase retards motor development or intellect.)

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Of course this can be problematic.
But far more for yor back than your baby's well-being!

Sorry for that slightly joking start, but let me re-phrase.

There are different "schools of thought" about whether you should support your baby in executing movements he or she can't do alone yet. This question and the answers have a few links that calm worries, others follow the principle to support only so much that the child can develop the strengths required for a specific movement. I leave that to others to decide, as far as I can see, the jury is still out on that (with a tendency to worry less and help more).

There are a few aspects that you should keep in mind though - and that will possibly have a general influence on your parenting style.

  1. Your child is six months now. He expands his radius of action every day and develops an idea of what he wants. Unfortunately, he also meets more obstacles on his long way to independence. Note that this are just the first steps on a very long way that will last at least until his Teens. You should start now developing strategies how to handle that as a parent. Of course, you can assist him in "walking" whenever he demands it, but at some point there will be the moment, where you can't or won't do that. So you might as well start today to find a way to live with the inevitable tantrums. Because:
  2. Let's face it: "walking" with a six months old baby can only be done in a very uncomfortable postion. Bent over or walking on your knees (yes, I have seen parents do this). Neither is a position the human body was designed for. Backaches etc. are sure to follow. Not a good idea if you have to care for an energetic baby, so find your own tolerance level and be firm with the boundaries. For your own sake. For the baby's reaction, see point 1.
  3. Some people think that "walking with a baby" helps them walk faster. In my observation, this is not the case. A child will start to walk when he is a) physically able to do so and b) figures out that this method has advantages, e.g. that you can carry a toy with you or see more - as oposed to crawling. It often is also a leap of faith: Let go of the table / sofa / wall / other support and walk towards your destination. That leap is not required when you can get your support (aka Mom / Dad) walk with you. And where 2. comes into play again.
  4. Speaking of support: Many parents love their baby walker, partly because they believe that their children will learn to walk faster. Studies have proven that this is not the case, but instead the natural movement is resticted and it can lead to a "wrong" foot position, that will actually delay independent walking. Various organisations have issued warnings against them, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The sale of baby walkers is forbidden in Canada since 2004. If you insist on using one, always supervise, limit baby's time there and consider it a toy. Many babies love them, might it be for the position, the possibility to get somewhere or even the little thingie and dodads on the walker. So understand what is is (something to entertain your child) and what it is not (a tool to learn to walk) and use it accordingly.

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