Do Babies Really Have No Kneecaps When They Are Born?

do babies have kneecaps
PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Perhaps this is something that you have heard. It seems like a weird question but it’s actually a very good one. Do babies have kneecaps?

They don’t… well, okay, they sorta do. It’s complicated.

In this article we are going to discuss this subject and why this is important information for you to know. Your baby is going to develop them, of course. We all start without them. Let’s tell you what baby has instead right now and work up from there.

Babies are born without kneecaps? Really?!

Yes, indeed, babies are born without these. Your baby doesn’t have kneecaps… yet. There is no reason to panic, though. Your baby currently has a cartilaginous structure in place of their kneecaps. So what’s that? Well, that means they’ve got cartilage there, essentially the same stuff that your ears are made out of(but not the same TYPE of cartilage, as we will explain!).

A little more about cartilage

Let’s discuss cartilage a little so that you can understand this portion of your baby’s development. Cartilage comes in three varieties:

  • Elastic Cartilage – This is cartilage that bends and pops right back into place. This is the sort of cartilage that makes up your larynx, epiglottis, and your ears. This kind of cartilage is made out of elastic fibers.
  • Hyaline Cartilage – Your baby is chock-full of this when they are fresh out of the womb. This is a clear, glossy cartilage that permeates the respiratory system and connects the insides of your joints. This type is made out of collagen.
  • Fibrocartilage – Similar to Hyaline, this cartilage also resembles dense regular connective tissues. One type of fibrocartilage is found in your vertebrae, while in the knees the specific type of Fibrocartilage is called Menisci. This cartilage is currently acting as ‘baby kneecaps’ but they aren’t real kneecaps yet.

So this fibrocartilage turns into kneecaps? When DO

babies get kneecaps?

are babies born without kneecaps*
Taokinesis / Pixabay

That is what happens. The patellae (aka your kneecaps) develop around 4 years of age. A process called Ossification works on the cartilage, hardening it over time into those kneecaps.

Why kneecaps are so important

Mainly, your kneecaps are there to protect your knee joint from damage. Providing leverage for your quadriceps as well, while it’s not a function that you think about it’s certainly one that you’d notice if it was missing.

So why are babies born without knee caps?

You won’t remember it, but when you were a baby, you fell a lot. All the time. Hey, it’s understandable. When you are just learning to walk and stand, falls are inevitable. You also do a lot of crawling that would be fairly uncomfortable if you did it now. Your developing knees are actually quite well-designed for the ‘crawl and fall’ mode of mobility that we all have to go through. It’s not just the knees, though.

Built in protection

There are a number of bones in your baby that are going through the ossification process. This actually makes them more durable, to an extent, as these soft ‘bones’ can take quite a bit of falls and jostles better than an adult fully-formed skeleton could. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t worry about our little ones, of course, just that nature has designed them well in preparation for a lifetime.

“Cartilage is almost like rubber in its durability regard..”

What you can do to minimize damage on developing bones

We’re parents, we are gonna worry, so even though cartilage is almost like rubber in its durability regard, we are still gonna worry about the baby. That’s fine, it’s impossible not to. So, what can you do to help minimize danger during the ‘crawl and fall’ stages? We’re glad that you asked because this is where things get fun! Here are a couple of recommendations for making stumbling productive, yet fun.

Wonder Space deluxe kids round ball pit

when do babies get kneecapsWe bet your eyes just got huge seeing this one. Yes, it is a personal ball pit for baby. Frankly, we probably all want one of these in adult size, but your baby can have one. When it comes to happy baby photos and pure joy, it’s hard to beat a ball pit. This will set you back about $115 but we think that as far as impulse purchases go, this one is definitely a winner.

View this item on Amazon

Balanceform Kid’s puzzle exercise mat babies are born without these

A bit more on the practical side, this puzzle mat provides a play space that is a lot more friendly than that hardwood floor (or even the carpet, hey, it’s foam!). If you are worried despite the science (and who isn’t really? This is safety we are talking about) then you could do a lot worse than to get a nice, soft mat for baby to play around on. A little extra insurance never hurts.

View this item on Amazon

Foam Corner protectors

These come in packs of eight and add a little extra bump protection for those low corners that might be appreciably more dangerous than a fall to the carpet. Those corners are sharp so why not cover them up?

View this item on Amazon

Some final commentary

We hope that this article has helped to answer the question ‘do babies have kneecaps’ in enough detail to clear out the fog a little. Yes, it does seem like a weird question at first, until you know that there is indeed some merit to it. There are so many things going on as baby develops that you will run into questions like this and the best thing to do is to note them in your head and find out the answer. Our little wonders are almost like aliens when they are in their developmental stage. Durable, flexible, and tougher than you think, nature has certainly done a good job in their design. So do what you can to help… pad up those corners, set up some safe places to play, cover those electrical outlets and let your child go nuts during playtime! Don’t forget to take pictures because they’ll be in college before you know it. Happy parenting, folks!

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