Every child develops at his or her own pace, but it’s fairly common for all babies to follow a somewhat predictable path of muscular development and coordination. This development especially is evident when it comes to the walking process.
A child who spends most of his or her waking hours crawling or scooting across the floor is only a short few months away from letting go and taking a few steps. The turning point is when pulling up begins to happen.
An inherent skill for most babies — similar to crawling — pulling up is a developmental milestone that naturally happens when a baby’s body is ready. According to most experts, pulling up usually takes place between 8 and 10 months of age. Although this is a good general guideline, parents shouldn’t worry if their baby is a few months late in pulling up. More than a couple of months, however, and parents may want to contact their pediatrician.
“Lauren started pulling up when she was around 8 months old,” says Allison Duff, a Florida mother. “The first safety precaution we took was lowering her crib, because that’s the first place she pulled up, and we were afraid she would propel herself out of her crib.”
The Duffs then installed child-safety gates in the living room and removed all tabletop items that would topple over if she pulled up on the furniture.
Babies tend to grab whatever is in reach as a pull-up aid, whether a sofa, end table, chair or television stand The problem is that not everything is sturdy enough to support the weight of a baby— especially during the pull-up process itself. Top-heavy tables, plant stands or kitchen chairs easily can topple on top of a baby. And the same can be said for items that have electrical cords.
Experts recommend these safety precautions during the pulling up stage of infant development:
• Remove or secure any items throughout the house that have a cord and can be easily reached by a baby.
• Place sturdy furniture only in rooms where the baby spends most of his or her time.
• Arrange furniture so sharp or hard surfaces aren’t next to areas where the baby tends to most often practice pulling up; falls are frequent and items easily can cause serious injuries when “bumped” by a falling child.
Up … and Back Down Again
Ultimately, the goal of pulling up is to facilitate “cruising” — a process where a baby pulls himself or herself up from the floor, maintains contact with a secure object and walks along the length of the object for a short distance. As babies gain strength in their legs and develop a sense of balance, cruising can progress to object-to-object navigation. This normally occurs in rooms where furniture is spaced a short distance apart.
Oddly enough, one of the most frustrating aspects of pulling up isn’t so much the effort it takes to go from sitting to standing, but rather not knowing how to sit back down.
“When our daughter first started pulling up in her crib, she would wait until we came in to help her down because she had to learn how to sit down on her own,” says Duff. “I had to show her how she could do it on her own several times. Within two weeks, she got the hang of it and now carefully sits down when she no longer wants to stand.”
Many babies don’t learn how to get back down to the floor once they’ve stood up (at least not without falling) until a month or two after they’ve mastered the skill of pulling up. The key is for parents to gently guide their children through the process by physically bending the baby’s knees and slowly lowering him or her to the floor until the skill is mastered.
“Some kids may skip a stage,” says Beard, cautioning parents not to be alarmed. “It’s possible to go from scooting to standing and totally skip the crawling.”
Most important, parents should allow their baby to take their time while learning the pull-up process. Delays are normal and frustration is normal—the only solution is to provide a safe environment for pulling up to happen naturally.
Jacqueline Bodnar is an award-winning writer based in Port Orange, Fla.