According to most experts, pulling up usually happens between 8 and 10 months of age. Although this age range is a good general guideline, parents shouldn't worry if their baby is a few months late in pulling up—more than a couple of months, however, and parents may want to contact their pediatrician.
It's important for parents to keep in mind that pulling up is an inherent skill for the majority of babies. Similar to crawling, it's a developmental milestone that naturally happens when a baby's body is ready. "These are normal developmental stages that infants go through," says Dr. J. Mark Beard, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Washington. "Some kids go from scooting to crawling to standing and then walking. Some kids skip a step or two—skipping scooting and going directly to crawling is common."
While every child develops at his or her own pace, it's fairly common for all babies to follow a somewhat predictable path of muscular development and coordination. This development is especially evident when it comes to the walking process. A child who spends most of his or her waking hours crawling or scooting across the floor is only a short few months away from walking—albeit somewhat clumsily—from one object to another.
The turning point in this timeline comes with the important skill of "pulling up." Without the ability to pull oneself up from the floor, even the most intelligent baby won't be able to master the skill of walking—their leg muscles simply won't receive the needed stress that comes with standing in a vertical position for extended amounts of time.
Not surprisingly, household furniture is the most common device that babies use when developing the skill of pulling up. Whether it be a sofa, end table, chair, or television stand, babies tend to grab whatever is in reach as a pull-up aid. The problem with such a situation is that not everything is sturdy enough to support the weight of a baby, especially during the pull-up process itself. (Learn 5 tips for preventing tip-overs.)
Top-heavy tables, plant stands, or kitchen chairs can easily topple on a baby when pulled on. The same can be said for items that have cords attached to them. Experts recommend several safety precautions during the pulling up stage of infant development, including the following:
Removing or securing any items throughout the house that have a cord attached to them and that can easily be reached by Baby (i.e. computers on desks, small appliances, etc.).
Placing only sturdy furniture in rooms of the house where Baby spends most of his time.
Arranging furniture so that sharp or hard surfaces aren't next to areas where Baby tends to most often practice pulling up—falls are frequent and items such as coffee tables and television stands can easily cause serious injuries when "bumped" by a falling child.
Parents also can opt for installing low-level bars to various walls in the house. Not only do they provide a safe, reliable source for babies to practice pulling up, they can also be varied in length to give babies a chance to practice walking on their own as they navigate along the length of the bar.
Ultimately, the goal of pulling up is to facilitate "cruising"—a process where a baby pulls himself or herself up from the floor, maintains contact with a secure object, and walks along the length of the object for a short distance. As babies gain strength in their legs and develop a sense of balance, cruising can progress to object-to-object navigation. This normally occurs in rooms where furniture is spaced a short distance apart, for example in a family room or bedroom.
Oddly enough, one of the most frustrating aspects of pulling up isn't so much in the effort it takes to go from sitting to standing—it's the fact that many babies don't know how to sit down once they've stood up. It's important for parents to realize that many babies don't learn how to get back down to the floor once they've stood up (at least not without falling) until a month or two after they've mastered the skill of pulling up. The key is for parents to gently guide their children through the process by physically bending Baby's knees and slowly lowering him or her to the floor until the skill is mastered on a child's own.