Your adorable baby has finally reached that age. You know the one. Where you and your partner eagerly lay them on their stomach, back up a little bit, and start cooing, hoping that your baby will try something new like crawling. You wait excitedly, watching their every move as they lift their little head up and watch you, reaching out and trying to get to you. But when exactly that your baby should be ready to move? Is your baby meeting their milestones on time?
We're going to break down everything you need to know about when babies start crawling, how to encourage them, what to look for, and what to do if your baby doesn't want to crawl just yet.
When Do Babies Start Crawling?
So, when should you start keeping a closer eye on your child in anticipation of their exploration? Around nine months is the general estimate, although some children naturally master the skill earlier, as early as six months.
Common Types of Crawling
You've read all of the parent books. You know what's going to happen, right? Your baby is suddenly going to look up at you, put their arms determinedly on the ground, and push themselves up to an all-fours crawling position. From there, they are ready to take on the world. Well, not exactly.
There are plenty of ways that your baby can learn to move around. So, don't be alarmed if he or she starts moving unconventionally. Many babies never execute a 'proper' crawling technique at all. It's mostly there as an in-between step to give them a little taste of freedom and some limited mobility before they learn to walk.
So, you might see your baby moving around in ways that you wouldn't necessarily call crawling, and that’s completely ok! Let's take a look at some of the most common alternative movements!
Also known as the Army Crawl, this movement may also be a precursor to crawling, depending on how well your baby can move in this position. The legs splay out as if they were swimming a butterfly stroke, and most of the crawling is accomplished with the arms. As many people in the Army will tell you, it requires a lot of upper body strength and keeps you low to the ground.
While that's great in combat, keep an eye on your baby's belly and legs to make sure they don't get a little rug burn if they are Army crawling over the carpet.
Sometimes babies would rather just propel themselves while still keeping their little booty on the ground. It can take a while for a baby to learn that putting their arms down can help their locomotion, especially if they like to hold things like a security blanket. A baby can keep a hold of their blankie and just use their legs and bum to scoot around. But the good news is that it still counts as crawling since they're building their leg and torso muscles.
Rolling on Down
Forward momentum can be a challenging concept to grasp. Most babies start by rocking back and forth or laying down and using their arms or shoulders to propel them into a roll. They'll probably soon discover that rolling only takes you so far, especially if your home doesn't have very much open space in it, and switch to another form of movement. If you have a lot of furniture, make sure to pad the edges properly so that when your baby crashes into one, there won't be any boo-boos!
Hands and Feet
When you're that small, your arms and legs are just about the same length. Plus, babies are often quite flexible. Because of this, your baby might decide that they want to go a little bit faster than hands and knees and switch to all fours with hands and feet. In fact, some babies might see the family pet on four legs and think that it's a pretty nifty way to get around. Most children do this when going upstairs (although it’s best not to let your baby go near stairs when they're first learning to crawl!).
This form of movement is one of the most fun for other people to watch, although babies can't get as far or move as fast with the leapfrog movement. A baby might get into a normal crawling position, but instead of moving their hands and knees independently, they just launch themselves forward all at once. Don't be alarmed if they topple forward; they'll get the hang of the leapfrog soon enough.
It's not always intuitive for babies to put their arms forward; sometimes, they put them behind. Crab walking takes a little more practice to go in the direction you want, which babies soon learn. You might see your baby move backward by crab-walking and then seem confused, thinking that they should have gone forwards. This is an unusual way of crawling, but some babies feel more comfortable with the arms in the back, making a bridge with their bellies.
How to Encourage Your Baby to Crawl
Learning to coordinate all of those limbs and muscles is a significant challenge! So, it's only natural that your baby might be hesitant about crawling. The best way to encourage your baby to move is to have them spend a lot of time laying on their stomach and then either sitting or putting beloved toys just out of reach.
If your baby becomes frustrated and starts crying, simply cut the tummy time short for the day.
What to Do When Babies Start Crawling
If your child starts moving around on their own, there are a few things you need to do. One of your first moves is to baby-proof your house. Mainly, you need to cover anything sharp and make sure places like electrical outlets and stove dials are securely off-limits.
You also need to be prepared to follow them wherever they decide to go. They might be a little unsure at first, but once babies learn to crawl, they never stop moving again! You also may need a handy diaper bag that is also a changing table in case you start smelling a poopy diaper in the middle of crawling time.
What Happens If Your Baby Doesn't Crawl?
Hey, here at Paperclip, we get it. You're new at this, and you're worried about your baby doing everything right. Those nine or ten months have come and gone, and your precious bundle of joy refuses to crawl. It happens to many parents. But what do you do?
First of all: don't panic. Some children skip crawling entirely and just go straight to walking. This may happen seemingly out of nowhere. Your baby might use a chair or other piece of furniture to pull themselves to a standing position around ten or eleven months and use that furniture to take their first steps, a process known as cruising.
Other times, kids who are a little big for their age can have some difficulty crawling since there is more to move around. Plenty of babies just aren't interested in crawling and want to spend their time working on other skills. There's a lot to learn when you first arrive in the world, and moving might not be a priority yet. That's completely normal and not something to stress about. Instead, they might practice grabbing, interacting with toys, or just learning to move other parts of the body. Every baby discovers new things in their own way, so trust them to find their way around.
If your baby doesn't feel like crawling, never force them. Some kids are perfectly content where they are and may not learn to crawl until they're a year old. You only really need to talk to your baby's doctor if they are only crawling or moving with one side of their body or if, after a year, they're not making any attempts to scoot or crawl.
Now that you know more about the crawling process and what to expect with your baby, get out there and put them on their tummy! Simply take a deep breath and try to relax. There's so much going on with a new baby, and the first year is chock full of important milestones. As long as your baby meets most of them and your doctor says it's okay, there is no reason to stress. Even though 6-9 months is the norm, don't worry if your baby takes a little while to start crawling because as soon as they do, they will be unstoppable!