image001When your baby is first born, he or she has a tendency to fold their legs inward. This mimics the way they were positioned when they were in the womb. In fact, you can easily “fold” your baby back into a small, tight ball during those first few days of life. The legs only unfold after delivery, and it takes several weeks before your baby is happy with stretching his or her legs out all the way.

The cramped quarters of the womb can lead to a bow-legged baby. When a child stands up with the ankles together and toes pointing forward, but the knees don’t touch, the child is considered to be bow-legged. Sometimes it is very slight and goes away quickly. Other times it might be very pronounced and you might hear others comment on the way your baby walks. Whether it is mild or serious, many parents have concerns when they see their baby walking “funny.”

A Bow-Legged Baby—Is It Normal?

This is very normal, and entirely understandable. When the baby is folded up tightly in the womb, the leg bones become a little curved. Those bones are still soft and growing while the baby is inside the womb. Even when a baby is first born, those little legs are still rather soft as the bones finish setting into their strong and healthy form. They remain a little curved throughout the infant weeks, but when they begin to walk and bear weight on their legs, the legs naturally straighten.

When a child first begins to walk, he or she might look like a bow-legged baby, even if they aren’t. That’s because when a child first learns to walk, they are very careful about where they place their feet. They have to keep their balance, and that’s hard to do. Therefore, they bend their knees to help them balance and support their body weight. This can make them appear bow-legged when they walk. Don’t worry about this at all, as it is perfectly normal.

Only get worried if the bones seem to be curved unequally, or if the curves are extreme, or if the curving seems to get worse over time. If your baby seems to be in pain when he or she tries to walk, or refuses to try to walk at all, then that might make you wonder if a bow-legged baby is actually experiencing more trouble than you thought.

How Long Do a Baby’s Bowlegs Last?

A bow-legged baby might look that way for several months after they begin to walk. Over time, the legs will straighten and the baby will walk with a more erect posture. The bones will appear to lengthen and straighten as this happens. For some babies this takes only a few months, and for others it might take up to a year or more. As long as your baby is walking normally and doesn’t seem to be in pain, things are probably fine.

What might happen next is just the opposite–a problem called knock-knees. When a child has knock-knees, it means their knees touch when they walk or run. Their lower legs angle out. This is usually noticed between three and six years of age. But just as with bow-legged problems, the knock-knees tend to go away as the child gets older.

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, your child is probably completely normal, and the problem with being bow-legged will sort itself out in short order. If you are worried about it, take your child to the doctor and let the physician watch the baby walk across the room. If there is any cause for concern, the doctor will spot it.

  • Most children grow out of being bow-legged by the time they are three. If your child is still suffering from the problem at that point, it’s time to see the doctor again.
  • If the problem affects only one side or seems to worsen over time instead of getting better, that’s another good reason to make an appointment with the doctor.

To recap, these are the time when you should call your healthcare provider about your child’s legs:

  • Your bow-legged baby is getting worse, and is at least two years of age
  • One leg is bowed more than the other
  • The child’s toes point inward while walking (this is often known as “intoeing” or being “pigeon-toed”
  • Your child is short for his or her age, has problems with walking, or has problems with standing up straight
  • The angle of the knees or legs leads to pain or problems with walking.

As always, if you are worried about the way your baby is walking, check with the doctor. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.

How Will a Doctor Treat a Bow-Legged Baby?

Expect your doctor to do some blood work, and possibly take x-rays of your child’s legs. If your child is found to have a vitamin deficiency, the doctor can prescribe what is needed to strengthen the bones. The x-rays are meant to rule out Blount’s disease. If your baby is found to have problems that need attention, expect to be referred to a pediatric orthopedist, who will then do further tests to evaluate how bad the problem really is.

In some cases, being bow-legged will persist or get worse in children over the age of two. If that happens, treatment might include braces or casting of the legs to help them grow straight and true. Sometimes surgery is needed, but this is only in very rare cases. Keep in mind that after the age of two or three, you can no longer expect your child to outgrow being bow-legged. In this case, waiting to consult the doctor could lead to arthritis or other problems in the knees, hips, and other joints.

To learn even more about bow-legged baby problems, check out the video below: