Your newly mobile baby can get around faster than you think! Step up your childproofing:
* Remove low tables with sharp corners that are hard to cover well enough to prevent injury. (Lacerations above or at the eyebrows are so common among kids learning to walk that in hospital emergency rooms they're called coffee-table lacerations!)
* Put away furniture that topples easily.
* Scour your home for trailing cords or other items your child might trip on. Put away throw rugs, retack loose carpet, and have siblings pick up their toys.
* Install safety gates at the top and the bottom of the stairs, and supervise your baby whenever he's on the stairs.
* Lock up all potentially harmful household substances.
Should I buy a walker?
The short answer: No! Canada has banned the sale of walkers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics supports a similar ban in the United States. Each year, thousands of children end up in the hospital due to injuries from using walkers, such as toppling down the stairs or reaching a hot stove.
Bouncers and elliptical seats aren't good ideas, either. While they hold kids in an upright position, they don't help them learn to walk any faster. In fact, these devices may even delay walking if they're used too often. A child's body is not aligned correctly when he sits in one of them. Your baby's much better off on the floor or in a playpen.
Baby's first shoes
When indoors, it's best to let your child walk around barefoot. Her feet can grab slippery surfaces, like wood and tile floors, better. Outdoors, she'll need a pair of shoes. For a perfect fit:
* Don't shop for shoes first thing in the morning, since feet grow about 5 percent by the end of the day.
* Your child should be standing when you check for fit. You should be able to press the full width of your thumb between the tip of the shoe and the end of her toe, and there should be just enough room at the heel to squeeze your pinkie in.
* Let her toddle around the store in the shoes for five minutes, then take them off and look at her feet. If there are any irritated spots, nix those shoes -- she won't be able to break them in.
* Check the fit monthly, since feet grow rapidly at this stage. And be ready to make a trip to the shoe store every two to three months.
As excited as you are about your baby taking his first steps, try to be patient. Every child has his own time frame for reaching this milestone. The best help you can offer: Be encouraging, set up safety measures, and wait. Soon enough, the pitter-patter of little feet will be all over your house!