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Taking a Walk

Of all the stages of my eight children's lives, it's their toddler years that stood out most. Though as babies they warmed my heart every day, after one year they got really interesting as their personalities emerged. But the toddler stage can also be the most challenging. Just when you thought you'd figured out your baby's feeding, sleeping, and pooping habits, suddenly there's a slew of new situations and quirks to get a handle on. Here's one of the most common questions that I'm asked at toddler checkups:

My 13-month-old hasn't started walking yet. Is there anything I can do to help her along?
When moms in my practice come to me with this concern, first I jokingly tell them to count their blessings. Once a toddler's up on her own two feet, you'll be busier than ever chasing after her!

Then I explain that a child who isn't walking by 13 months  -- or 14 or 15 for that matter  -- isn't delayed. When kids start to walk varies greatly from baby to baby, anywhere from 9 to 16 months (my eight kids sure ran the gamut). Parents often ask me if letting their baby go barefoot will speed up the process. That idea has been around for some time, but there's no evidence that wearing shoes  -- or not  -- affects when a child begins to walk. Once she is walking, however, going barefoot may make it easier for her (her feet can grab slippery surfaces, like wood and tile floors, better).

To encourage your child, you can let her walk in front of you while holding her hands  -- and periodically let go of one hand so she can experiment with balance. Or stand a few feet away from her and cheer her on when she's standing on her own. But above all, try to be patient, and let her ease into this stage of development at her own pace. It'll happen, even if it takes her a little longer than your friend's baby.

What's more important than timing is progression. Is she doing more this month than she did last, like getting a little bit more of her body off the ground? If so, you've got nothing to worry about  -- but get ready to hustle, because it won't be long before she's up and running.