Your baby’s little piggies will be going to the market, staying home, and crying “wee, wee, wee!” hundreds of times during her childhood. Here are some things you need to know to keep those little piggies healthy and safe.
Healthy Newborn Feet
When your baby is born, the doctor will perform a neonatal exam to check for abnormalities. In what might be the cutest neurological test ever, the doctor will tickle the bottoms of your baby’s feet, looking for the toes to reflexively fan out.
Although it’s become a cliché by now, counting ten toes is actually one of the first things your doctor will do after the baby’s delivery! An extra toe or two is called polydactyly. Extra toes can easily be surgically removed in the early months of your child’s life to make it easier for her to walk and wear shoes. Post-surgery, her feet should develop normally and she should be able to walk, run, and play.
Some children are born with webbed toes, resembling a duck’s feet. A surgeon can separate the feet for cosmetic reasons, or if the webbing hinders the toes from moving freely.
Another common foot deformity is known as clubfoot, affecting about one out of a thousand newborns. These feet tend to be on the smaller side, and the feet appear to be turned inward at the ankles. A pediatric foot and ankle specialist will treat clubfoot soon after birth, while the bones are still soft and malleable. The condition is corrected with a series of casts, usually over a span of a couple months.
Those First Baby Steps
Although the average age for children to begin walking is around 15 months, parents can get pretty excited if their baby takes his first steps before his first birthday. Many babies build strength and confidence through “cruising” – walking while holding onto sofas, coffee tables, and helping hands.
A baby’s waddle is different in important ways from an adult’s. For one, your baby will spread his feet wider for more stability. He may also walk on tippy-toes for a few weeks. This is fairly common for brand new walkers, but he shouldn’t be walking on his toes for more than a few months. If he is, consult with your foot and ankle specialist. It could be the result of a tight Achilles tendon or other structural abnormality. In rare cases, toe-walking is symptomatic of a neurological condition.
Another abnormal walking pattern you should watch out for is intoeing, or pigeon-toeing. This is when the toes point inward with each step. Sometimes pigeon-toeing corrects itself with age and practice, but if it doesn’t, you may want to make an appointment with your child’s foot and ankle specialist. Encourage your child to sit with legs “criss-cross applesauce” in front of them, instead of sitting on their knees.
Bowleggedness and flat feet are common conditions in young toddlers that typically correct with age. If your toddler’s hasn’t by the time he’s three years old, seek an evaluation from a foot and ankle specialist.
What to Look for in Children’s Shoes
Some of the adorable baby shoes on the shelves at the store are so cute, it can be difficult to pass them up! However, be mindful of the fit of these shoes. Jamming your baby’s feet into shoes that are too tight can restrict movement and growth. And let’s be honest, at the rate that infants and children grow, most shoes you buy for your baby will become too tight in no time.
Pick socks that are comfortable and make sure the elastic isn’t constricting your baby’s ankle. Cribshoes are a great choice for their comfy softness and flexibility. Rigid shoes styled after adult shoes should only be used for very special occasions, like dress-up photo shoots. For learning to walk, allow your child to learn the shape and mechanics of her foot by walking barefoot, or in grippy booties.
The physicians at University Foot and Ankle Institute are nationally recognized specialists in pediatric foot and ankle care. If you would like to make an appointment or more information on the pediatric foot care, please call (877) 989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.
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