All parents worry about their new baby and if they’re developing normally. One of the first things we do when a baby is born is inspect them from head to toe, checking out every little part.
Of course, all babies are perfect in their own way, but sometimes we may wonder about certain parts of development and if everything is normal. If your baby is showing signs of being bow-legged, you may be wondering what this means for your little one.
Is being bowlegged normal? Should you be concerned? What kind of treatment is available for a baby who is bowlegged? Here's what you should know.
What is bowlegged?
First of all, what does it actually mean to be bowlegged? It may be more difficult to tell if your baby is bowlegged if they’re not walking or standing yet, but the best way to tell in an older baby is if there is a space between the lower legs and knees while standing.
To check if your baby is bowlegged, have your child stand with the feet together and look between the lower legs and knees. If there is a space between the lower legs and knees and you notice that the legs curve outward, your child may be bowlegged.
Also have them walk and notice if walking makes the legs look more bowed. In children who are bowlegged, walking usually makes the bowleggedness even more pronounced.
Is being bowlegged normal?
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), it actually is normal for toddlers to be bowlegged.
This condition is called physiologic genu varum and happens in toddlers under the age of 2. In general, the bowlegged appearance of a toddler will start to improve around 18 months old and continue as the child grows. By the time your child is 3 or 4, the bowleggedness will disappear on its own and the legs will look completely normal.
The AAOS also explains that sometimes the degree that your baby or toddler is bowlegged can be quite marked, so it may be alarming to notice at first. Many times, toddlers who are bowlegged also have feet that point inward, which is called intoeing.
Is being bowlegged dangerous?
For most toddlers that are bowlegged, no. The AAOS says in most cases that a toddler who is bowlegged who can walk without a problem will simply grow out of the condition. Generally, being bowlegged does not cause any pain, nor does it interfere with how your little one will learn to walk.
If the bowleggedness persists into the teenage or adult years, the bowleggedness may cause some discomfort, but in the toddler years, the only real danger may be some increased tripping as your little one learns to walk and move in the world.
But then again, what toddler isn't a bit clumsy sometimes? Being bowlegged may cause the parents more worry than it hurts the toddler. It’s usually nothing to worry about.
When to see a doctor
The key to knowing when being bowlegged is "normal" and when it may need further evaluation from a doctor is looking at how symmetrical the legs are.
If both of your toddler's legs are bowlegged and they have no problem walking, more often than not, that's normal. If, however, only one leg is bowlegged or if your toddler has trouble walking at all due to the bowleggedness, there may be a problem that you will have to investigate further with a doctor.
What causes a baby to be bowlegged?
There a few different reasons that a baby or child may be bowlegged, which can include the following.
Normal body type
In children under 2, sometimes bowleggedness is simply normal and will not pose a problem. This type of bowleggedness does not have a definite cause behind it.
In older children especially, sometimes being bowlegged can be caused by excess weight putting strain on the legs and causing them to bow out.
In rare cases, being bowlegged may be caused by a medical condition.
For example, there is a disorder called Blount's disease that is caused by abnormal growth in the shinbone, which can result in one bowlegged leg. Usually because of the way children grow, doctors can't diagnose this condition until the child is older than 3.
Rickets can also cause bowlegged legs. The disease is more prevalent in countries where children are at risk for malnutrition, but the disease can also be caused by a genetic abnormality that interferes with how the body absorbs Vitamin D. It can't be ruled out completely in cases of extreme bowlegged appearance and other symptoms, such as pain or difficult walking or standing.
If your baby is under 2 years old and has legs that appear to be bowed equally on both sides and is not having any trouble standing or walking, being bowlegged is generally not a problem. They’ll eventually grow out of it.
However, if you have any concerns about your child, only one leg appears to be bowed, or if your child is having trouble standing or walking or appears to be in pain, you should schedule an appointment with your child's doctor right away.