Baby's First Step: To Tell or Not to Tell, That is the Question

Infant caregivers often enjoy the experience of watching a baby take his first step during child care. The decision of whether to tell the parent is not always the same. Generally, it is best not to tell the parent, so that they can “see” this important milestone on their own, however, each particular situation comes with a different perspective because each family is different. The one consistency, however, is based on your relationship with the family.

When working with the family of an infant that is getting close to taking his or her first steps, there must be an understanding of the family dynamics and ongoing communication between the family and the care-giver. By using the daily notes and impromptu conferences with the parents at drop off and pick up times, we can have a good idea about the desires of the family when it comes to reporting the baby’s development. Is this the first child and maybe even the first grandchild? If so, this family is often dedicated to celebrating every “first” as it happens. In that case, I almost always will not tell the parents that she has taken a step, but say instead that the baby is getting more and more confident when standing alone, and that those first steps will be coming very soon! I might even suggest that they keep the camera handy, because it might happen at any time. Then in the morning I will ask if the child has taken her first steps yet, or if we should continue watching for them.

On the other hand, I have had a child in my care that was very slow to walk. The parents were getting concerned because their other children had all walked earlier than this child is doing, and they were beginning to express concern about developmental delays. By giving the parents brochures and other information with developmental timelines, we can reassure them that each child is different and the timing of the first steps is just as individual as he is. In this particular case, however, the parent continued to worry, asking us every day when she picked him up if he had taken a step that day. In this situation, the parent was less concerned with celebrating the baby’s first step than with the baby’s ability to walk. When the baby did take a step on his own, one caregiver grabbed a camera and took a picture for the parent. We then emailed the picture to the mom at work, and followed up with a telephone call. She was so thankful that not only was her baby standing alone, but we had gotten a picture for her. This set her mind at ease and we were able to celebrate with her when she picked the baby up at the end of the day.

The primary concern is our continued observation of each child and what the parents tell us as each developmental milestone comes. One of the best guides is the parent’s reaction to the baby’s first tooth breaking through. If the baby has the second tooth before the parent has noticed the first, we can assume that it is not as much of a priority to them. In that case, as the caregiver, I celebrate for and with the parent, perhaps by making a card in the shape of a tooth that says “I have been fussier than usual, but all my hard work has finally come through! I cut my first tooth!” By doing this, we are able to teach the parents to observe their baby’s changes and how exciting each “first” can be with their new baby, and even how to celebrate each milestone as it occurs.

Return to childcare-resources home page

Return from first step to articles