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Delayed Walking and Other Foot and Leg Problems in Babies

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Are Pigeon Toes a Problem for Babies?

Many babies have a slight intoeing, also called pigeon toes, when they're born. This usually disappears during the toddler years.

Pigeon toes may be caused by problems with any of three areas in the leg and foot. There may be deviation of the foot also known as metatarsus adductus. The other source may be problems at the head of the thigh bone at the hip. Finally, this could be due to problems in the tibia or lower leg bone -- internal tibial torsion -- discussed below.

Can intoeing, or 'pigeon toes', cause a delay in a baby learning to walk? 

Metatarsus adductus is the most common cause in the early months of a baby’s life whereas the others effect older children. This is a curve in the foot itself, usually created by the baby's position in the womb before birth although there are other possible factors. You can see metatarsus adductus when you look at the soles of your baby's feet. They'll curve towards each other like two half-moons.

Doctors disagree about whether to put foot braces on a child with severe pigeon toes. Some doctors advise bracing or casting if the feet are still severely curved when a child is 4 to 6 months old. The brace or cast is usually removed when a baby starts to walk. Other doctors don't feel that bracing helps pigeon toes or speeds up the development of the feet and legs toward a more true alignment.

If your baby's knees point straight ahead with intoeing, he may have internal tibial torsion which is more commonly seen at the ages of one to three years. This condition is caused by an inward turning of the tibia (lower leg bone). It usually resolves itself as a baby learns to walk. If it doesn't, see your doctor for possible treatment.

If your baby's knees point inward with intoeing, he may have a condition called excess femoral anteversion. This condition is caused by an inward turning of the femur (upper leg bone) and is often seen in children who sit with their lower legs behind them in a W shape. Again, it usually resolves on its own -- typically by age 8 or so.

In all these conditions, spontaneous resolution is the most common outcome with little or no intervention. However, in all cases where the situation is persistent or worsening you should consult your child’s doctor.

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