When Should Your Baby Crawl?
Crawling typically occurs around 9 months of age and is the first sign that your baby is trying to move independently. Babies initially transfer from sitting to creeping on their tummies and then from sitting into a four point kneeling position. Babies need to have good head, neck, shoulder and trunk strength before they are able to crawl.
What Are the Benefits of Crawling?
- Increased strength: Crawling helps to strengthen your babies core, the muscles around their neck, shoulder girdle and their lower limbs.
- Visual/ spatial awareness: This refers to your babies ability to perceive distance and depth and navigate the space around them.
- Bilateral Coordination: Crawling requires your baby to utilise both sides of their brain to coordinate movement of their arm and the opposite leg. It also assist in development of binaural hearing (the ability of the brain to integrate information received from both ears) and binocular vision (integration of information received from both eyes).
- Proprioception: This is refers to your babies ability to be aware of their body’s position in space and adjust as needed. Crawling stimulates your babies sensory system as they experience different loads placed through their muscles and joints in addition to different textures and surfaces. Your baby will learn to utilise different muscle groups and adjust their bodies position in order to maintain their balance.
Unusual Crawling Patterns
Not all babies decide to use a reciprocal crawling pattern, some babies chose to commando crawl, bottom shuffle or even roll to where they need to get to. These are not as effective as a normal crawling pattern, however they are not a cause for concern.
- Commando Crawling: This is usually how a baby begins to crawl. This involves pulling themselves along with their arms rather than using their bottom or legs to assist with movement. Babies who have lower muscle tone or weakness in their legs may not progress to crawling on all fours.
- Bottom Shuffling: Typically occurs in babies that have not tolerated tummy time and have spent increased periods of time on the back or in sitting. Babies who have extra joint mobility (hypermobile) tend to feel more stable in a seated position and tend to have a preference for bottom shuffling as this allows them to be mobile and continue to use their hands for reaching and grasping. Most bottom shufflers walk later than their peers, generally between 18-24 months of age.
- Rolling: Some babies find it difficult to transition from their back or front onto their elbows and knees. The easiest way for these children to mobilise is by rolling. These children may require assessment by a paediatric physiotherapist or general practitioner to investigate any reasons for delayed gross motor development.
When to Seek Help from a Health Professional?
Not all babies decide to move at the same time or in the same way, some babies may not crawl at all but rather choose to roll or bottom shuffle to get where they need. The opinion of a health professional is needed if your baby is demonstrating any of the following:
- Not initiating movement
- Appears floppy or stiff
- Is moving differently to other children e.g using only one side of their body
- Unable to bring both feet flat on the floor when in standing
- Bottom shuffling babies: information for parents. Poole Hospital NHS. (2012 May). Retrieved from https://www.poole.nhs.uk/pdf/Bottom%20Shuffling%20Babies%20%20PARENTS.pdf
- Hadders-Algra, M. (2005). Development of postural control during the first 18 months of life. Neural Plasticity 12( 2-3), 99-108.
- Does crawling matter? An occupational therapist explores the benefits of crawling. Mama OT. Retrieved from http://mamot.com/does-crawling-matter-occupational-therapist-explores-benefits-of-crawling/
- Baby development: All about crawling. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.kidspot.com.au/baby/baby-development/milestones/baby-development-all-about-crawling