Baby crawling: A guide for parents on this major milestone
When do babies usually start crawling? How can you encourage your baby to crawl and when should you be worried that he is not crawling? Find out the answers to these and more on the topic of baby crawling now.
Parents get very excited about their baby reaching major milestones… and it’s really no surprise that they do. After all, baby milestones* indicate that your little one’s growth and development are right on track, and nothing gives parents more pride and happiness that seeing this.
Crawling is one such milestone many parents look forward to. It’s bittersweet in a way because once your little one starts crawling, it’s the start of a brand new road to independence. It also means you’ll need to amp up babyproofing in your home!
If you think your little one is on the cusp of crawling and you want to arm yourself with every bit of information you can find on this important phase, then you’ve come to the right place.
*Keep in mind that every child is unique and so is his development. As such, some children may hit certain developmental milestones earlier than the average age, and others later. Some milestones, like crawling, may even be skipped altogether. All this is perfectly normal.
Baby crawling: Why is it so important?
- It contributes to baby’s holistic development as it requires the use of both mind and body coordination.
- Crawling helps strengthen baby’s muscles, especially those in his back, neck, shoulders, arms and core. In fact, these muscles need to be strong enough in the first place for baby to crawl.
- It assists with your little one’s eyesight, in particular, binocular vision. This is because when baby crawls, he needs to use both eyes a the same time in order to focus on his ‘target’ destination.
- Baby’s navigation skills and memory are improved via crawling. Dr. McAllister explains, “For instance, they’ll learn that they have to go around the coffee table and beyond the recliner to get to the basket of toys.”
- When your little one crawls, he “is using the limbs on either side of the body to develop bilateral co-ordination” — and this helps prepare him for walking more efficiently.
- Crawling helps your baby develop his sense of independence and decision-making skills, as he figures out where to go and how to get there.
When and how do babies usually start crawling?
First, remember that not all babies crawl. They may bypass this phase altogether and go straight to pulling up, cruising and walking.
However, in general, babies will start to crawl between the ages of 6 and 10 months. Look for signs of crawling readiness in your baby such as:
- Sitting well without support (at around 8 months old)
- Lifting himself up on his arms, almost like he’s doing mini pushups.
- Balancing on both arms and knees.
- Rocking forwards and backward on his arms and knees
Soon after you observe these signs, it’s likely your little one will launch himself on his very first crawling expedition! He’ll probably get started by moving to all fours from a sitting position. Once he has mastered the art of rocking back and forth on his arms and knees, he will figure out how to push forward on his knees to get mobile.
A seasoned crawler will be proficient in an advanced technique know as “cross-crawling”, where he moves forward by coordinating a arm and leg on the opposite sides of his body, rather than from the same side. This can be expected by the time your little angel is around 12 months old.
Keep in mind that not all babies get about on their knees and arms. Some shuffle about on their bottoms, creep on their tummies and even roll about to get to their destination.
In the end, you shouldn’t be concerned about your little one’s style of locomotion. The main thing is that he is moving independently, however he chooses to do it. And as long as you see that he is learning to coordinate and use his arms and leg equally, on both sides of the body, you probably don’t need to worry at all.
On the next page, read about the best way you can prepare your baby for crawling.
Tummy time and crawling
As parents, you probably know about the importance of tummy time in relation to baby’s physical development. Providing your baby with adequate tummy time is especially important when helping him get ready for crawling.
Tummy time encourages your little one to raise his head, which helps develop and strengthen his neck, arms, torso and shoulders. His legs and hips are also strengthened when he kicks out his little legs while on his tummy.
With all this muscle development that happens with tummy time, your baby should find graduating to crawling a breeze.
While your little one is on his tummy, you can also encourage him to move forward by placing a toy in front of him, just beyond his reach. Soon, he’ll learn to creep forward on his tummy to get to the toy, and before you know it, he’ll be crawling at top speed!
Crawling and your baby’s safety
“Babyproofing” (and “mischief!”) takes on a whole new level of meaning when your little one starts crawling.
It’s really important to childproof your house thoroughly before baby gets mobile. Remember, even previously unreachable spots — such as counters and tables — will soon be accessible once your little one starts pulling up and cruising.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Do not keep hot food and drink at the edge of tables and/or counters.
- When cooking, ensure the pot handles are turned towards the back of the stove, and remind your helper to do this too.
- Fasten the oven door with a childproof latch.
- Keep all toiletries out of reach of your baby. Consider storing them in a wall cupboard that your baby cannot reach.
- Do not buy or use clothes for your baby that have drawstrings or ribbons that could come loose. These pose a strangulation risk, especially once your baby is crawling around.
- Remove all hanging toys and mobiles from above your baby’s cot once you see he can get on his hands and knees. This is to prevent him from trying to grab them and falling over the side of the cot.
- Use outlet covers on all plug-points that are low to the ground, as well as on those that your baby could reach once he starts cruising or standing up.
- Block the entrance to your balcony if you live in a high-rise apartment. Get safety grilles for your windows.
- Ensure that blind cords are not hanging down to the ground. These are a major strangulation hazard to on-the-go and curious babies.
- Block access to all unsafe areas (especially stairs and the kitchen) with good safety gates. Secure dustbins or place them when baby cannot reach them.
- Don’t use tablecloths especially while baby is learning to stand. He could pull it down, including whatever is on it.
- Secure all furniture that your baby might hang on in order to stand (e.g. bookshelves), to the wall. The same goes for TVs.
- Fix corner guards on all sharp corners of furniture, especially low-to-the-ground coffee tables.
- Get rid of all toxic houseplants.
A good way to check if your babyproofing is thorough is to go down on your hands and knees to baby’s eye level and check for any spots you might have missed.
Read this article for more on babyproofing your home.
Should your baby only crawl or carpets or other soft places? And what should you do if your baby doesn’t crawl? Head to the next page to find out.
Where should your baby crawl?
You can try as hard as you like to confine your baby to a carpet or blanket once he starts crawling. It may work at the beginning but once he gets a taste of the new-found freedom that comes with mobility, there’s no stopping him from going places!
In other words, let your little one crawl where ever he wants to in the house, of course, keeping safety in mind.
If you are concerned that the tender skin on his knees might roughen and darken by rubbing so frequently on the floor, you could always dress your baby in thin, cotton pants or tights to protect them. You can also purchase specially designed knee pads for crawling babies.
When to worry if baby doesn’t crawl
As pointed out before, some babies bypass crawling completely and move straight on to cruising and then, walking. Other babies may start crawling at a later age, especially if they were born prematurely.
You will only need to worry if by the age of one, your little one is not showing any interest in getting mobile in any way other than crawling, whether this is creeping, rolling or scooting around on his bottom.
Speak to your baby’s doctor too if you notice that your little one cannot move his arms and legs in a coordinated way, as well as if he cannot seem to support his body weight or have enough energy to get around.
Parents, we hope you found this article useful. Share with us in a comment below — when did your baby start crawling? And how did you encourage him or her to crawl?