mom holding newborn baby

As parents, we naturally worry a lot about our children’s development. What if I told you, as a pediatric physical therapist, that there are a few things that get a “bad rap” that you DON’T have to worry about as much as you thought? Here is a list of three common pediatric physical therapy concerns we see in PT clinics and why parents can feel a little bit more relaxed about them.

1. W-Sitting

Toddler w-sitting on carpet, pediatric physical therapy

I know, I know. It looks so uncomfortable, doesn’t it? People talk about how it will “ruin” kids’ hips and make their core weak. But does it really? The research hasn’t been able to show that w-sitting causes hip problems down the line or that w-sitting is bad for the core. For the most part, it’s pretty neutral.

Sitting this way might be more comfortable for your child if their hips already turn in, or if they have a low tone. However, w-sitting doesn’t cause these things to happen—they were already there. As long as your child can independently get in and out of w-sitting and can be functional in other positions (like criss-cross applesauce), I don’t worry about w-sitting. Most kiddos, like mine, w-sit just because they want to.

However, if your child has a medical diagnosis that directly affects their hip stability (such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or hip dysplasia) check in with your child’s provider to make sure it’s a safe position for them to be in.

2. Baby Bouncers, Jumpers, and Seats

These “containers” have a bad reputation in the child development community. Many pediatric physical therapy providers I’ve seen will basically ban them from homes. Unfortunately, this also comes at the expense of mom’s sanity.

Are they REALLY that bad? Once again, there are no studies that show that devices like bouncers, jumpers, or baby seats hinder long-term development. When I worked in IEP preschool assessments for 3-year-olds, I would not be able to tell you who was a tummy time rockstar and who loved bouncing in their Baby Bjorn. If a baby stander will give you a moment’s peace so you can shower or cook dinner, use it guilt-free. Just make sure you’re always close by and supervising.

However, if you find that you’re reaching for a “container” because your little one hates tummy time, reach out to your pediatric physical therapist. There are a lot of creative ways to sneak in tummy time in a way that’s more comfortable for your baby.

3. Toe Walking

Toe walking is a common reason that parents bring their kids in to be seen for physical therapy. And while yes, sometimes toe walking can be a sign that something might be going on, I don’t worry much about the toe walking itself. This is because toe walking under age 3 is pretty developmentally appropriate. Toddlers start being able to walk on their toes at around 18 months. For a while afterwards, toe walking becomes this cool trick they can do with their bodies. If you notice your toddler going on their toes for a bit here and there but they can walk flat-footed, they are most likely just experimenting.

You may notice that your older child toe walks if they have sensory sensitivities, are on the autism spectrum, or have another neurodivergency. In these cases, I still don’t worry much about toe walking. Why? Mostly because there isn’t a whole lot we can do to change it. We can stretch, strengthen, and even brace a child’s foot. But most of the time, it doesn’t last long until the child goes right back up on their tiptoes. When this is the case, I recommend just letting them walk how they’re happiest.

Are there times when you should ask your doctor about your child’s toe walking? If you notice your child is now exclusively toe walking and has other symptoms (like a headache, overall weakness, difficulty seeing, or more potty accidents), go ahead and call their doctor. Other than that, relax. You’re doing great and so is your kiddo. Keep it up.

Wrapping It Up

If you find yourself overly worrying about things like milestones or sleep patterns, consider reaching out to a therapist for support. Also, check out this article on how to feel more like yourself in the fourth trimester.

The content above is not to be taken as a substitute of medical advice from your trusted medical provider. If you have a concern regarding your child’s development, contact your provider for more support regarding your child’s unique case.

Shannon Brady
Shannon moved with her husband to Cape Cod during the pandemic to be closer to family. She is originally from Providence and married her high school sweetheart Tom. She went to college at Boston University and earned her degree in human physiology. She worked as a preschool teacher before applying to graduate schools to pursue her degree in physical therapy. She attended USC to get her doctorate in physical therapy and spent 10 years in Los Angeles with her husband. During the pandemic, she and her husband bought a home in Dennisport to be closer to family. After over two years of infertility, they welcomed their daughter Lily. They then welcomed their second daughter Hailey a short sixteen months later. Shannon is a physical therapist and a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist, although she currently stays home with her girls, who are now one and two years old. She is passionate about using her knowledge in physical therapy to empower parents and give them confidence around their baby’s development. She is an avid runner and former Girls On The Run coach with a strong desire to advocate for young women and girls in sport. She also enjoys reading, cooking, snuggling with her dog Jack and watching reality TV. Shannon’s favorite part of living on Cape Cod is being able to watch fireworks from Chatham to Hyannis from the beach on the 4th of July.


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