5 Foot Care Tips for Babies and Toddlers That You Need To Know
When children are small, we often overlook areas like foot health. After all, infants aren’t walking yet, so what’s the concern? And when toddlers begin to walk, their wobbly gait is adorable, right? All of this may be true, but it’s never too early to begin examining your child’s feet. In fact, it is important to start checking your child’s feet as newborns.
Here are five foot care tips for babies and toddlers:
- Check for abnormalities. Not all newborn abnormalities clear up on their own. Take note of anything out of the ordinary, such as ankle inversion, which could actually be a sign of clubfoot. When a club foot is identified early, a casting could prevent the need for surgery altogether. Also, check for any toenail abnormalities or discoloration. These are common and could be indicative of a detached nail from the nail bed. This condition makes it likely that as the child grows and inevitably stubs their toe, their toenail could easily come off. Thick toenails are also seen in newborns and could be a fungus. Infant-safe treatment options are available for these conditions, especially when caught early.
- Don’t swaddle your baby too much. Many babies feel safe and secure when they are tightly swaddled, in many cases helping them sleep. It’s okay to swaddle your baby when necessary, but swaddling them too much and too often can actually stunt your baby’s foot and leg growth and development. Kicking and moving the legs around can contribute to a stronger, more stable walk when they are ready to begin cruising.
- Skip shoes until your toddler is walking. Avoid putting shoes on your infant until they are old enough to walk in order to allow their feet to develop naturally and without confinement. Even then, allow your toddler to walk barefoot when indoors to develop arch strength in the feet and grasp strength in the toes when on various surfaces such as tile and carpet. When it’s time to shop for shoes for outdoor play, have your child’s foot properly fitted each time you purchase shoes and make sure they have minimal support and cushioning so that your toddler’s feet, ankles, and legs can form optimally in their natural range of motion.
- Pay attention to tip-toe walking. At first, watching your child walk on their tiptoes may seem adorable, but it can often be an indicator of neurobiological deficiencies if they continue to walk on tiptoe once they have already learned to walk. After the age of two, walking on the tiptoes can be cause for concern and a doctor’s visit might be in order to rule out conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, and other conditions. If no neurobiological issues are found, tiptoe walking can also be the result of muscular shortening in the lower leg compartment, and a podiatrist can help with prescribing exercises to lengthen the calf, ankle and foot muscles in order to create a normal gait.
- Avoid injuries. The majority of child visits to a podiatrist are due to walking barefoot in dangerous conditions, such as hot pavement, places with sharp items, or public areas where warts or fungus are contracted. Avoid these by keeping your child’s feet covered, cleaned regularly, and kept dry with nails trimmed straight across in order to avoid ingrown toenails. A child’s toenails are much softer and more permeable than an adult’s, so trim carefully as to avoid clipping the tender skin underneath the tip of the nail. Keep cuts, scrapes, and blisters on the feet covered until fully healed to avoid exposed, tender skin to open air. Foot injuries are more likely to get infected due to their contact with so much bacteria.
Ultimately, it’s a good idea to lead by example when it comes to foot health. Foot conditions in adulthood, such as gait problems and toenail conditions, often start in childhood, and teaching and showing them good hygiene is a great way to head off problems early in life.
For more information about foot care tips for babies and toddlers or to request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists, all of which work closely with families and children’s foot health, click here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
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