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My baby's toes curve in. Is this anything to worry about?
It's a good idea to point it out to your baby's doctor, but it's probably no cause for concern. It's very common for babies to be pigeon-toed (also called intoeing).
What causes a baby to be pigeon-toed?
Intoeing usually happens when a foot, shin, or thigh twists inward and causes the toes to turn inward too. While intoeing can be genetic, the misalignment often develops when the baby's feet or legs turn to fit in the cramped space of the womb.
Take a look at the sole of your baby's foot while he's lying on his back. If the top part (from the middle of the foot to the toes) bends in and the outer edge curves like a half moon, then his intoeing is probably being caused by his curved foot.
Doctors call this metatarsus adductus, and it can be mild and flexible or more severe and rigid. It usually gets better on its own before a baby turns 6 months old.
If your baby's foot isn't curved but his lower leg (or tibia) twists inward, it's called tibial torsion. The lower leg tends to untwist after birth. As the tibia grows longer, it usually rotates outward and aligns properly.
Parents often notice tibial torsion about the time a baby begins to walk, and it often corrects itself before a child heads to school.
The third common cause of intoeing is a twisted thigh bone (or femur), which is called femoral torsion. The condition often doesn't become obvious until a child is a preschooler, and it usually gets better by the time he's between 6 and 8 years old.
Does intoeing need to be treated?
Probably not. Doctors used to recommend casting, braces, special shoes, and even surgery, but in most cases intoeing corrects itself without any treatment at all. In fact, experts now point out that treatment can inhibit a baby's ability to play and in some instances even cause other physical problems. (In rare instances, casts or surgery may be required to correct severe intoeing.)
Talk with the doctor if you're at all concerned about your baby's intoeing. She can tell you whether it's something that's likely to correct itself. (Severe intoeing can resemble clubfoot or accompany other foot problems that need to be addressed.) If she thinks it's serious enough to need an expert eye – or that your baby may have a more serious condition – she may refer you to an orthopedic specialist.
Can intoeing cause my child problems down the road?
When your baby is learning to walk – and even once he's young and running – he may trip as he catches his toes on the opposite heel, but intoeing itself causes no pain. And it won't affect your child's athletic ability or cause him to develop arthritis or back trouble later on.
At any time, let the doctor know if you think your child's gait becomes worse or you notice that his feet or legs aren't symmetrical. Also take your baby to the doctor if he develops pain, swelling, or a limp after he's started walking.