Q&A: "Late" walker

Anon writes:

"I'm getting concerned about my son. He's almost 14 months and isn't walking yet. He crawls, and pulls up, and he can hang on and kind of sidle around furniture, but he can't walk on his own yet. All the moms in my baby group keep telling me 'He'll do it on his own time,' but it's really easy for them to say when their babies were all walking before a year.

At what point do I mention this to my doctor?"

This question honestly made my heart hurt.

The range of "normal" for starting to walk is 9 to 18 months. Let me repeat: 9 (nine) to 18 (one-eight) months. Think about that: A 9-month-old is almost a different species of creature than an 18-month-old is.

Also, I'd like to submit that my grandmother started walking at 8 months, and one of the kids in my moms' group from my older son started walking at 20 months. So even outside the range of normal can still be normal, if you get my drift.

There are two ways I want to go with this: One is that I think it's way easier to have a kid who walks on the later side of normal. Mine both started walking at around 14-15 months, so we basically skipped over the drunken sailor stage of bumping into things and having poor spatial judgment that the earlier walkers went through. By 18 months they were all walking equally well, except for the kid who didn't walk until 20 months, and by 24 months who even remembered anymore who walked when.

The other way I want to go is that milestones are only guidelines. If you're worried about your kid (and there's definite worry in this email), there's only a limited amount of usefulness in checking off stages on a list of milestones. A better guide is to pay attention to the way your child interacts with you. Is he engaged? Receptive? Does he understand and respond to what you say (in words or not)? Is there something that makes you think there's just something different that you can't put your finger on? Those are the things you should pay attention to.

I have never, in writing Ask Moxie or in talking with parents in the same room, heard of a parent who was taken totally by surprise by a delay or special issue with their child. A parent who pays attention knows there's something going on, even if they have no idea what it is, if there's something not on the usual path.

So if your child is happy and engaged, since he's moving well (with the crawling and sidling), it sounds like you can relax and stop looking at the numbers and let him walk when he's going to walk.

If, however, you're focusing on the walking because there's something else going on that you just can't put your finger on, put the walking out of the picture for the time being and see if you can find other clues, and bring those to your doctor. And if s/he doesn't listen, keep gathering clues and get a second opinion.

Can we hear from people about when their kids started to walk