Why is my baby not walking? Not even trying?

  • May 6, 2019

Simple answer: it is hard for her.
And possibly even scary.

Probably as hard as it would be for most of us adults to learn to walk across a fast running stream on a 6-inch tree log 100 feet over the rushing waters.

Walking is a very complex skill.
A skill-set to be precise.
And each skill-set has several components.

Learning to walk takes an average of 12+ months.

Important: If your baby is 14-18 months old and you are concerned that she is not even trying to walk most likely, she is facing unusual challenges. Please ask your doctor to help you.

infant standing independently drawing

Why is it so hard for her?

Walking has many
skill-sets and components:

Muscle strength
Motor planning
to name a few.

And every element has to work well on its own and in combination with the others.

Walking starts with a thought

There is a lot of reflex based movement your baby has that helps her learn to roll, sit, crawl and eventually walk.

But its not enough.

The reflexes will help, but before your baby walks, she also has to think, has to "decide" to stand, take a step and eventually walk. 

She needs to want to get to you or get a toy.

Infant thinking is not same as our adult thinking, but infants also need a reason to go somewhere.

If your baby has muscle weakness or -
has challenges planning his moves or -
has challenges formulating thought or -
has a balancing and coordination issues he will have different or no thoughts at all about walking.

Why is he not even trying to take steps?

"It would be so much better for him if he would walk."

I hear this a lot from the moms I work with.

Yes, I agree (however it is debatable from the baby's perspective...), walking makes life easier.

Baby thinks differently.


Our adult minds think in a complex way.
We think in the present, but we take into consideration the past and the possibilities of the future.

Your baby's rational mind is not mature yet to think like that. He cannot predict the future in a complex way as we do because he has a small database of past experiences and has challenges predicting the future.

Without the rational mind, he does not see that the effort he has to put into learning a difficult task today will pay him off later.

He prefers a cause and effect of the "now".
Only now.
And a pleasurable effect preferably... like getting a snack.

Thus, if his attempt to get to the snack walking does not work, he will try something else instead.

He chooses a very smart route.

He adapts.

For example, he will sit down and crawl.

Some babies choose a different adaptation.

Some will start to walk on their knees.
Some will walk if you hold their hands but will sit down if you let them go.

Unfortunately, not all adaptations are a good choice.

Some babies will adapt and try walking with a different, wrong gait pattern.
And some babies have bodies that cannot move according to their will at all.

Seek medical help if you suspect your baby has difficulties or delays.

Your baby will adjust his strategies of walking to his abilities 

Adaptation is one of the best strategies for survival, maybe even longevity.

So rest your mind.
If your baby is not diagnosed with medical challenges, his choice to postpone independent walking is a wise one.

Even though adults have their rational mind developed well, adults don’t act that much different either when it comes to a new or a difficult task.

Most of us choose safe, well known actions.

I bet you would choose to walk on a bridge over that creek we talked about earlier... if you had a choice.

Unless you love Adrenalin rush of course...

Your babies adaptation also depends on his personality

Broadly speaking some babies are “thinkers”.
Some are “doers”.

Nobody is a 100% of either though.
So we have many variations.

Thinkers will most likely adapt by giving up the physical aspects and escape into their dream world.

If your baby is a "thinker" he will rather sit and watch others play and walk around. 
Or he could just plays with his toys not paying attention to his surrounding.

Doers will most likely adapt by pushing their bodies to extremes.

If your baby is a "doer" he will try walking even when it is unsafe.

And to make things a bit more complicated your baby (and you as well) could be a thinker when it comes to one task and a doer when it comes to a completely different task.

If something is easy for your baby he will love to "do it".
If it is hard he will try to avoid "doing it".

Can I encourage my baby to walk?

Yes, you can.

However, you can not work only on muscle strengthening or balancing exercises right away.

You have to start with your baby's mind, her personality.

If you work with your baby without taking into consideration her personality, she will resist you.
She will work hard to find a way to avoid that movement instead of learning to walk.

To teach your baby to walk, or to do any challenging task you need to work with the whole child.

His body structure, his muscle tone, his balancing and coordination skills, his motor planning skills and his personality and his soul.

How should I teach him to walk?

Helping your baby walk is a complex approach.

Best is to seek professional help.

And educate yourself about baby development and walking.

Here are some resources for you to learn more about walking

To help you understand how a baby learns to walk read this article here.

If you are looking for tools, toys - the gear to help your baby learn to walk, you can find my recommendations here.

And I have a blog post on "walking strategies for children with cerebral palsy" as well. Read it here.

If you need one-on-one help from a pediatric physical therapist ask your doctor,  or you can contact me here.

The best approach to teach your baby is to educate yourself about overall infant development and behavior.

And keep records about your baby's development.

With intention, a vision, a clear goal, patience, persistence, daily repletion, and a joyful firm belief in your baby, in yourself and the universe anything is possible!

As always, enjoy your baby and motherhood.

See your baby (babies) as a gift for you to love and cherish.


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