Walking milestones - step by step

baby learning to walk

Your baby's first steps are a special moment, but as well as representing a new chapter in her life they're also the culmination of months of effort on her part. She'll begin by learning to roll over and then sit (it's not so far off having a puppy at this stage), before beginning to crawl and stand, and then eventually putting one foot in front of the other and walking. Following her mobility milestones will help you to make sure she is developing as expected – and prepare you for life chasing after a toddler – so here's a guide to her movements from first shuffles to early faltering steps

When do babies roll over?

Babies usually begin to roll between two and four months.

This milestone marks her first attempt at becoming mobile. She'll only be able to roll over once she has developed strong neck and torso muscles, and enough control to twist her body.

My first rolled over once at five months and never again. My second never rolled over. My third was born with ants in his pants and was rolling over at eight weeks. Every child is different.

Some babies will roll from their back onto their tummy but most start by going tummy to back first, which is easier as they can use their arms for leverage. Your baby's first roll may take her and you by surprise – her world has just flipped upside down.

Plenty of tummy time is key to developing the strength for this skill although be warned: once your little one starts rolling over, you'll need to be extra vigilant so she doesn't have an accident. Don't leave her unattended lying on your bed or couch, just in case she takes that as her opportunity to roll over and onto the floor.

From this point, your baby will be keen to use her newly strengthened muscles and it won't be long before she's sitting up by herself and crawling. You may even find that she skips this stage entirely and, without warning, shoots off across the living room floor one day.

When do babies sit up by themselves?

baby sitting up

By the time your baby is three to four months, she'll have mastered holding her head up by herself. From there, you can begin supporting her to sit up. Again, tummy time is key in helping your baby get to this point. Every time she's on her tummy, she'll start naturally lifting her head to look around, strengthening her neck and spine.

Supporting her to sit is a great way to help stimulate your baby's development in other ways, offering her a new view of her world and improving her visual skills before she becomes mobile.

When supporting your baby to sit, keep your hands around her waist or use pillows to prop her up. If you have a nursing pillow, sit her into it for support. Not only will this help to strengthen her lower back and core muscles, she'll also develop balance.

From four to six months, most babies can sit for a few seconds propped up or by themselves but stay close by – she'll be wobbly at first and you may need to catch her from toppling sideways. She might start off by stretching her arms out in front of or to the side to steady himself.

From eight months, he'll be able to sit up by himself easily for a good long while.

If your baby can't hold his head up by four months or sit up unaided by nine months, speak to your doctor or health visitor.

“My first daughter sat up the day before she turned six months. She was a text book baby as far as milestones went. My second daughter didn't sit up until she was 10 months. However she was crawling by six months, so if you tried to sit her up, she just flung herself on her tummy and crawled away.”

When do babies crawl?

Most babies start to crawl somewhere between six and 10 months. All babies are different and some might start crawling earlier while others might not be on the move until 12 months or beyond.

What's important to know is that crawling styles can vary. They can include the traditional crawl where your baby pushes herself up on all fours and takes off across the living room. Alternatively, she might shuffle on her bum, crawl backwards (much to her own frustration) or crab-crawl sideways with one leg extended out and the other bent.

My son is 16 months and only learned to crawl recently. Don't get too caught up in the order things are meant to happen. It's easier said than done and I've had to wait a long time for some of these milestones.

Your baby will naturally learn to crawl so you don't need to try to teach her. Her first foray into crawling will usually begin with the commando crawl, where she'll shuffle about on her tummy and 'swim' with her arms and legs. Offering plenty of tummy time is the best way to encourage your baby to develop her crawl. This will help to strengthen her tummy muscles, arms and legs and eventually she'll learn to pull herself up into this position.

Some eager babies can bypass the crawling stage completely and move straight onto pulling themselves up into a standing position, so don't panic if your baby doesn't crawl. What counts is not how she moves but that she does move.

When do babies stand?

baby standing

Most babies are able to stand by nine to 12 months, although some start trying to pull themselves up onto furniture from as early as seven months. Initially, your baby will hold onto the couch, the coffee table, your leg – whatever is within easy reach and can be used as a prop. This includes her cot, so you might want to check that it's adjusted to the right height to stop her escaping over the side of it.

Her balance will improve as she wobbles, falls and stabilises herself. You can encourage your baby to strengthen her leg muscles by pulling her into a standing position while she's on your lap and giving her plenty of supervised play time. Place her toys on the couch or another lower surface, like a step, to entice her to stand up and reach for them. It's a good idea to place lots of cushions nearby to break her fall, at least until she's able to sit herself back down on the ground.

If your baby is not standing up by her first birthday, speak to your doctor or health visitor.

When do babies walk?

Most babies are able to walk by 16 months although some begin as early as nine months and some are closer to 18 months. For the first year of her life, she has been building towards this milestone. Rolling over, crawling, sitting and standing have all helped to build the muscle strength and confidence she needs to start walking.

baby walking

Once your baby has begun to stand, she'll naturally start to pull herself up and cruise around by holding on to pieces of furniture. She'll be unsteady at first but the more you allow her the space to do this and encourage her, the sooner she'll build the confidence she needs to let go and take her first steps. Avoid using baby walkers as these tend to do the work for your child and don't give her the opportunity to build up her leg muscles.

Even once your baby takes her first steps she may revert back to crawling at at times, but this is nothing to worry about. She's just taking her time to get comfortable with this new way of getting around. Some babies are quite slow to walk but if your little one is showing no signs of walking by 18 months, then is the time to speak to your doctor.

“My daughter was 22 months when she started walking properly. We just kept practising and letting her walk everywhere. She got there in the end. The thing that worried me was what other people were saying: 'Is she STILL not walking?' or 'You should take her to the doctor'. I think different babies just learn things at different paces.”