My son didn’t walk until he was almost 2 years old and I spent every day for weeks googling.
“When should you worry when your baby doesn’t walk?”
“My toddler isn’t walking”
“How to help my baby learn to walk”
“Medical reasons for baby not walking”
“Am I the worst Mum ever because my baby just will not walk?”
And there was the odd helpful thing, but of course, as with a lot of the internet, there was also a lot of scaremongering – to the point that my MIL thought he had Cerebral Palsy and I cried for several hours straight. So I wanted to write about our journey, for other parents who are worried about the same thing, and also to document what happened for when Roo is older and can read this back.
Ruben was hitting milestones perfectly as a tiny baby. He rolled, he sat up, he grasped things and he was really bloody cute. I had no worries about his development and in fact I was sure he was a tiny genius. But the closer he got to one, and still wasn’t crawling, the more upset I got. People would say that “he’ll do it in his own time” and then in the same breath, ask a million questions that almost felt like accusations. I was told it was because we sat on the floor and played with him. Because he wore cloth nappies. Because we baby wore. I frankly felt pretty crappy about the whole thing.
People would try to show him how to crawl. Move his limbs. Coax him over with the promise of treats. He wasn’t having it. My stubborn little boy.
Finally just before he turned one he started to crawl and I was so relieved. But by this point, his friends were walking. Comparison is the thief of joy and in no area is this more true than parenting. And yet, I couldn’t stop. My heart felt sad that he had only just managed to start to crawl with his friends and now they were off walking and he couldn’t keep up.
It got to the point that in his little group of friends, his 3 besties were all walking, running and spinning around and once or twice I came up with excuses not to hang out because my heart was so sore at the thought of Ruben being left behind and not being able to play.
I googled everything. I spoke to the Health Visitor. I spoke to the GP and looked at videos online. Id flit between “he’ll get there!” And “Oh God, why won’t he walk?!”. He had to stay in a group where he was the eldest because all the other children in the group for his age could walk and he wasn’t able to join in. I was heartbroken.
But at the same time, he was bloody brilliant.
He’s naturally super musical. He can keep a beat beautifully, and loves to play instruments. He could sign so many words and he’s bright as a button (whatever that phrase is supposed to mean) – he understands everything.
And he so affectionate and kind. It’s my favourite thing about him. If he thinks you’re hurt, he’ll give you a cuddle. His instinct with cuddly toys and dolls is to cuddle them and nurture them. So I came to terms with the fact that maybe my little boy would be a crawler for a lot longer, but also the cuddliest baby in the world.
The Health Visitor sent us a referral to Physio which thanks to Covid we did via video call. It was scary and I cried beforehand, working myself up and worrying that she would say something was terribly wrong, or that it was all my fault.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case. It seems that it was a few issues, mainly linked with Little Roo’s dodgy bowels (he has a flabby bowel. Very weird. Lots of poop issues). Ruben ‘W’ sits a lot, with his legs like a little froggy. At the time, if you put his legs in front of him, his tummy would play up and you’d get a shaking, panicking and in pain little boy. So we let him do it. But when a child sits in that way, they don’t have to use their core strength, and so Ruben wasn’t building up the muscles in the way he needed to to learn to stand and walk.
At this stage, he was pulling up on things, but not progressing in the way most babies do, where they cruise along furniture, or get themselves up to stand even if they don’t take any steps at first. He refused to use a walker (which we got him for his first birthday) until the first physio appointment. I cried because he just hadn’t ever been able to do that before.
So, because he could crawl at lightning speed, and therefore didn’t need to learn to walk, and his muscles hadn’t developed in the right way yet, he hadn’t ventured to take those first steps.
It wasn’t our fault. And our baby wasn’t broken.
She gave us a few exercises to try, and gave us a few months before the next appointment, while we worked with the paediatrician to get the right balance of medication to help my boy’s poor tummy.
Ruben started to want to walk holding out hands – something he had never done before. He even did a little sponsored walk with his walker.
People kept saying “Make the most of it, when he walks you won’t be able to keep up and you’ll wish he was still again” and I know they meant well but it’s just not helpful. I want my baby to walk. I want him to enjoy splashing in puddles and chasing after his friends and exploring the world.
This was all during lockdown so it wasn’t as easy as it would have been if we could have gone to classes and soft play etc. in fact, a large part of us enrolling him into nursery was because we wanted him to be around other children walking and want to play with them. It was hard with the enrolment as they had to do an extra risk assessment – he was the only child in the 2-3 room not walking so they wanted to make everything accessible for him, and they were so great with helping him walk.
Finally, out of nowhere, my baby started to walk. Just a little bit at first, and with him being a bit older, falling over certainly knocked his confidence in a way that doesn’t affect younger babies as much, but it was happening. He was enjoying walking. And when he started nursery officially, from his first proper day, he was a tiny walking machine.
Now he’s 2 years and 4 months and you deffo couldn’t tell that he took a little longer. Seeing him run into a music class and play with the bubbles for the first time made me cry. And the support from other parents who knew how we had struggled and celebrated his success was just amazing. Even now, 6 months on, I love seeing him walk. It took a while for him to be able to get up from the middle of the floor, or crouch down, but after a few weeks he nailed it and it’s just changed everything.
I guess I don’t have any real advice. Know that people aren’t being unkind (usually) but by trying to say the right thing they’re potentially making you feel rubbish. It’s probably not something you have done, or a huge issue, but it’s okay if you feel like it is. Steven was always laid back about it. I would cry myself to sleep regularly. Ask for support. Tell your health visitor. Speak to the physio. And my various inboxes are open.
I hope this has helped you feel a little more chill if your baby isn’t walking as much.
Now to tackle the speech!