Bow Legged Baby: What Causes Bow Legs And How To Correct It

Why Is My Baby Bow Legged, And How Much Should I Be Worried About It?

April 22, 2020 Updated August 12, 2020

bow legged baby
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Your baby is finally here, and you know what that means, right? Let the worrying begin! For real, though, it’s kind of what parents do. It’s our proverbial jam. And one of the things that routinely crosses parents’ list of concerns in that first year is bowed legs. Does your little one look like they spent a long day in the saddle? Well, sidle on up and take a deep breath. Your cute little cowboy or cowgirl is likely just fine, as bowed legs are a very common condition in young children. But if you are worried, know that you’re not alone in your frantic Googling. According to the most recent search data available, that topic is searched nearly 10,000 per month. Feel better? Good. Now, let’s take a closer look.

What are bowed legs?

Also known by the Latin term “genu varum,” bowed legs is a condition characterized by a distinct space between the lower legs and knees. One or both of the legs may curve outward to cause this gap, which in turn gives a trademark “bowed” appearance when walking. It can present in infancy all the way through adulthood and is usually considered completely normal in young children.

This is also completely normal in babies, after all, babies are born with roughly 300 bones (adults have 206) that will fuse and ossify over time. If they weren’t bow legged can you imagine what labor and delivery would be like? The bent bow shape also allows for a comfortable fetal position when they’re extra snug in the uterus, especially those last few months.

How can I tell if my baby has bowed legs?

Stand your child up as straight with their toes pointed forward. Are their ankles touching while their knees have a wide gap? Do their legs appear curved outward? Fortunately, bowed legs in both babies and young children don’t typically cause any sort of pain or discomfort, and they don’t seem to affect a child’s ability to move around.

What causes bowed legs in babies?

Listen, your legs would be a little scrunched up too if you’d just spent nine months in the tight confines of a womb. In fact, your legs probably were when you were an infant! Because space is so limited when babies are in utero, some of their bones have to rotate slightly while they’re growing. Accordingly, bowed legs are usually just another aspect of baby’s development. Their bone structure helps in all that in utero maneuvering too. Babies are born with nearly 100 more bones than adults, but they’re mostly made up of soft cartilage tissue that allows them to bend and scrunch up into a fetal position. Not to mention make their way out of the narrow vaginal canal. Babies are also born without solid kneecaps, a growth process that is not complete until the child is about 10 or 12 years old.

In rare cases, bowed legs can be caused by a more serious underlying medical condition such as rickets (a bone growth issue due to a vitamin D or calcium deficiency), Blount disease (a growth disorder that affects leg bones), and other conditions that affect growth around the knees.

Can babies become bow-legged from standing too early?

In a word, no. Standing or walking doesn’t cause bowed legs. However, as your child begins to put more pressure on their legs through these activities, it might increase the bowing a bit. But don’t worry; although children who start walking earlier may have more noticeable bowing, the condition usually improves the more baby walks and bears weight.

How long does it take for baby’s legs to straighten?

Normal, or physiologic, bowed legs usually improve dramatically by the age of two. The outward curving often corrects on its own by the time the child turns three or four (your child might even start to appear a little knock-kneed!). And, rest easy, because over 95 percent of children with physiologic bowed legs see the condition go away by adolescence without any treatment or surgery.

In the case of bowed legs caused by other medical conditions, the child might need a brace, surgery, and/or supplements. Their health care provider might do an exam if the child is over two years old. If Blount disease or rickets is suspected, the doctor might order blood tests and an X-ray to make a proper diagnosis.

When should I worry about my baby’s bowed legs?

Let’s say your little one hits the two-year milestone and they’re still your sweet bow-legged baby. At this age, their doctor will probably want to run some tests to rule out underlying conditions.

Are there special shoes for babies and toddlers who are bowlegged?

Shoes should always be chosen for protection, not correction. Bowleggedness in most children will correct itself, so parents should not force babies to wear shoes too early thinking it will straighten their legs out. Also, allowing children to walk around barefoot in warm and dry climates will actually strengthen their toe gripping mechanism and muscular strength.