I debated writing about this topic in my blog. I assumed I would probably get negative responses but decided I not only wanted to write it – I feel like I HAVE to write it for other new parents out there. (Not that any of you are taking advice from me, but perhaps adding it to the back of your mind!)
I probably bought Mattelyn 10 pairs of shoes before she was three months old. KNOWING she wouldn’t wear them for any amount of time at all and knowing they wouldn’t stay on her feet. But the fact is, I love shoes and I love her as a baby IN her shoes. It completed her outfits and made for the cutest photos. That said, I never thought about them functionally. She couldn’t walk, so why would she need shoes? Right?
Baby Center is an online resource that I have gone to throughout my pregnancy and through Mattelyn’s first year. When Mattelyn began showing signs of an inclination to walk around 6 months, (pulling herself up, furniture cruising, pushing her toys in a standing position and “walking” holding our fingers), I looked up “walking and shoes” on Baby Center and ran across this article. “Is It True Babies Need Shoes To Learn To Walk?” The basic summary and learning of this short article is the answer is no, babies don’t need shoes to learn to walk. Crib shoes are for babies’ comfort and are stylish, says another article. I tend to agree with both statements and furthermore, my pediatrician made no mention of the need for shoes at her 6 month appointment. Nobody I was friends with or family made mention of shoes, other than to say that Mattelyn’s were cute. Everywhere I read said that a baby will most likely begin walking between 9-12 months and that all babies develop differently. As a side-note, I 100% subscribe to this knowledge! My wonderful family dentist tiold me his three children (all 18+ years of age now and in college) didn’t attain teeth until they were two years old. Some babies walk at 6 months and some walk at 2 years. I don’t hold Mattelyn to ANY developmental milestones because of this variance. It is wonderful to watch her grow at her own pace and I welcome her little individual milestones because they are all HERS and hers alone. No one else can compare to what she is doing because she is programmed her own way from the beginning. That is the background to my purpose in this blog.
Mattelyn is currently 10 months and 14 days old. Since right before her 10 month birthday, she had been letting go of furniture and standing on her own taking small, daring steps – as long as she didn’t think we are looking at her. It was astonishing to watch. She would fall down and get right back up and try again. I say daring because I could tell there was trepidation but it didn’t stop her – such a courageous little soul. We patiently stood by watching her and encouraged her by asking her to walk to mama or walk to dada – always met with collapsing, rubber legs – as though she wasn’t interested at all, but we knew she was. One Saturday about a week ago, we were out with friends who have a baby girl 6 months older than Mattelyn. This friend of mine has really been a wonderful resource and friend when it came to my pregnancy and now with baby, she even gave Mattelyn her babies first crib shoes and winter boots with fur! (Yes, we are BOTH lucky!) While we were out, she asked me where her shoes were? I mentioned that she had been trying to walk. She said I should take her to get her fitted for shoes to at least see what size she was. <ENTER EMBARRASSING FIRST MOM MOMENT>, “What size shoe does she wear? A four?” My reply, “She doesn’t wear shoes, she wears socks with rubber grippers.” At that moment, I made a mental note of everything she was saying. The next day, we took Mattelyn to the mall to the Stride Rite for babies and kids.
WOW, were my eyes (and my husband’s eyes) opened to something we knew nothing about. Here she was already in a whole separate category in the store – she was in level two’s – we completely skipped the “crib-to-crawling” level one shoes. She was measured by a knowledgable staff member and Mattelyn stood with the BIGGEST smile on her face and looked up at everyone encouraging her to walk. It was the cutest thing I had seen in a long time. But there was something special about that event taking place – it was as though she KNEW something was going on. Her little mind was processing it all – taking it all in.
That evening when we got home, after a car ride discussion that consisted of, “Wow, how did we miss all of that??”
Mattelyn got out of her car seat and within an hour, she was cruising furniture and letting go taking steps. In front of us, while we were looking on. The next day, she walked across the kitchen floor into my husband’s arms. You can watch her do it here.
A couple of thoughts –
This doesn’t change anything or prove anything. She might have walked at the same time with or without shoes. Had she had the experience and been fitted for the crib-to-crawler shoes, and then the walking shoes when she was first showing signs, perhaps she would’ve walked sooner. Who knows and quite frankly, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. My point in sharing this story with you is, I was astounded by the sheer CONFIDENCE it gave her. It was clear and obvious in the store. And then it was almost like a magic wand had been waved, she walked the very next day. And not just a few steps – across the kitchen floor – and she has never stopped since. I know now that shoes do make a difference and I guess 6 months seems awfully young but if a soft-soled shoe can add to encouraging their already rapid development and somehow make them more comfortable, then by all means, I am a huge advocate! I have a feeling this will be met with comments about the rubber-soled socks (which I am also a huge advocate for – specifically my favorites were Trumpette and Osh Kosh for fit and style – they don’t fade or get the lint balls when washed) and about how “barefoot is best” because they are using their toes to learn how to balance. Soft-soled level one and two shoes are also made so they can use their toes similar to being barefoot. I agree with both and understand the need for both. They need to be barefoot and they need time to just wear rubber soled socks! But I also think that getting sized for shoes is important as well – whether you take them for the experience or just print Stride Rite’s Sizing Chart – really accurate and handy! I kept the one from the store and marked her size and the date. The associate said their feet grow a size every two months or so and you can continue checking on the size chart and date. When you go to purchase the right size shoe, make sure they are soft soles while they are babies.
Good luck and happy confidence growing! I hope this was helpful and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and if this sparks another first time mom or dad experience you had that I have yet to look forward to, would you mind letting me know? Thanks in advance for that knowledge – I welcome it!
XO ~ Stephanie