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Is it normal for babies to fall when learning how to walk?

Even in our safety-first world, it’s still pretty hard to learn to walk without taking a few tumbles. Most of those mishaps are going to be harmless, though. They might cause a little fussing, or a few tears, but before too long, Baby will be back on his feet and trying to toddle again before you know it. Every once in a while, though, those falls could really hurt Baby, so it’s important to know the difference.

Why is my baby so clumsy?

It can’t just be that he is just learning to walk, right? He was just learning to fling that tennis ball he found the other day, and he did that like a champ.

It’s true that Baby’s newly developing leg muscles are only part of the reason he can be so unsteady on his feet – there are also the muscles in his back, trunk, neck, feet and ankles, all of which are as new and still-growing as he is. He could also be carrying around a little extra baggage on his feet – if he is practicing his walking inside, shoes and socks aren’t just unnecessary, but could actually get in his way, as bare feet will give him the best chance to grip and balance while he learns.

There’s also the fact that, at this point, Baby’s head is still a little bit too big for his body, in terms of regular human proportions. As adorable as that fact is, it’s another thing getting in Baby’s way of a fall-free process of learning to walk. This is because the added top-heaviness not only makes it easier for Baby to overbalance and fall over, but also makes it more likely that those falls will end up giving him a bump on the head, which has a greater chance of turning into an injury than bumps in other places do.

One preventive thing parents can do when it comes to falls during early walking is to make sure babies wear properly-fitting shoes that are designed for early walking. It can be tempting to buy shoes with room to grow into, given how fast little feet grow, but shoes that are a little too big can cause problems for an early walker who already isn’t too steady on his feet.

What are the risks?

Most of Baby’s falls won’t do him any damage because at his height, he doesn’t have the time to build up much speed on the way down, and doesn’t generally hit the ground hard enough to really hurt him beyond a bump or a bruise or two. Falls from on top of pieces or furniture, or down stairs are generally more cause for concern, as falling farther leaves babies hitting the ground with more force.

However, some falls can cause more harm than others, even from a toddler’s height, and babies are young enough that they can’t always tell you what’s wrong. Signs that it’s time to seek medical attention right away include any amount of unconsciousness, even if he seems fine when he gets up, enough blood that it might require stitches, or any signs of concussion. Signs of concussion in children, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Loss of balance or unusually unsteady walking
  • Dazed appearance
  • Listlessness or quick tiring
  • Irritability or crankiness
  • Excessive crying
  • Changed eating or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in a favorite toy
  • Unequal pupils

Even if a child seems perfectly healthy after a fall, it’s important to keep a close eye on him, since not all concussion symptoms are visible right away.

On the other hand…

Most injuries Baby takes can be treated with nothing more than a quick kiss or a cuddle, or, at worst, a cool-pack on a bruise for a few minutes before you send him on his way. A lot of the time as Baby learns about the world, he looks to you to see what his reaction should be. If you show that you’re afraid and upset when he falls, there’s a good chance that Baby will be afraid and upset, too, even if it’s a pretty minor tumble that he can stand up from easily. Now, more than ever, Baby is learning from your example.

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