When Do Babies Crawl?
Along with all the other milestones of infant growth, there is one that puts babies on the move for the first time—crawling.
When Does It Happen?
Most babies begin crawling somewhere between 6 and 9 months old. By this time, she will be sitting without support, and her major muscle groups will be strong enough to support her body. “From sitting, a baby will begin to pivot, rock, and go over onto her hands and knees,” says Laurie LeComer, author of A Parent’s Guide to Developmental Delays. “The strength necessary to crawl can be traced all the way back to the newborn days when she was placed on her tummy and slowly began to strengthen her neck, and then her arms and shoulders, as she pushed up for a better view.”
Steps In Between
The transition from sitting to crawling may occur gradually over several months. Some of the steps in between include learning to balance on all fours, rocking back and forth on hands and knees, and eventually figuring out that pushing off with the knees will give them the forward motion they need to begin to crawl.
Not every baby crawls in the same manner, though. Some crawl forward, as typical, but some have their own methods. Some crawl backwards! Crawling backward is probably the result of uneven muscle tone (arms a little stronger than legs), but that will soon right itself as Baby progresses in
developing gross motor skills. They will soon shift from reverse to forward on their own with no intervention from parents. As long as they get moving in some way, they are perfectly normal, no matter which direction they choose to go first.
His Own Timeline
And don’t worry too much, though, about pushing your baby to move on your time schedule. Courtney Ramirez of Sanger, California, worried a little when her daughter seemed to take too long to crawl. Though still within the normal age range for crawling, she was at the upper end of the range, causing Ramirez some concern. She learned, though, that unless there are specific developmental problems that your doctor has identified, there is nothing wrong with “slow development.”
Been There, Done That
“My best advice to first-time moms is to remember that every baby is different,” says Ramirez, who decided that relaxing was the best approach, rather than frustrating herself and her child. “I encouraged her to be more physically active, but didn’t try to train her to crawl. I figured that when she was ready, she would.” Ramirez’s instincts were right on target. “She skipped the scooting stage and just began crawling one day.”
The Purpose of Crawling
Crawling is a precursor to walking, of course, but also primarily a way for infants to begin to explore their environment. “Crawling helps walking because it allows babies to utilize the muscle groups in their arms, trunk, pelvic girdle, and lower legs,” says Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and coauthor of Baby 411. “Practice builds tone, strength, and coordination.”
Can Parents Help?
It can’t hurt to give your baby some incentive to crawl. Making things too easy on them (always handing them toys they want, etc.) just encourages them to stay seated. Instead, find ways to encourage them to become active.
Parents should place age-appropriate toys slightly beyond their child’s reach when Baby is in a sitting position, LeComer says. “They can also engage their babies in airplane games, where baby flies through the air and then lands on his hands (supporting some weight from his body),” she says. “Or parents can use games and songs that entice Baby to come to them in whatever locomotion way possible.”
Should You Worry?
Actually, crawling isn’t even listed as a major milestone in baby development. Some babies skip crawling and dive right into walking. Both of our experts agree that crawling is not a necessary step in development, as long as Baby has some other way of locomotion. “Some babies skip crawling altogether,” confirms LeComer. “But parents should begin to be vigilant at
10 months if their child has not found a way to get around.”
Signs to Watch For
Exploring the environment is very important, whether by “cruising” around holding onto furniture, rolling, scooting, etc. LeComer suggests watching for these warning signs that may signal a need to talk with your pediatrician:
Not exploring the environment in some way by 10 months of age
Clearly favoring one side of his body
Unable to coordinate her body in some way that allows both sides to work together
Safety for Crawlers
Be prepared! Once babies are on the move, there’s no stopping them. Here are some suggestions to keep things safe for your newly-crawling tot:
Get on the floor and look at things from your baby’s perspective.
Remove any small objects from the floor (dropped coins under furniture, etc).
Remove anything your baby might be able to pull, like phone cords, electrical cords, or drape pulls
A small area rug on un-carpeted floors will protect Baby’s hands and knees
Use gates in front of stairs at the top and bottom
Never leave a baby unattended!
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