Baby development

Learning to crawl

Tummy time develops skills babies need to learn to crawl

By Teresa Pitman
Learning to crawl

Lindsay Dean wondered if her son Julian was going to skip the crawling stage altogether. At 10 months, he was standing and walking a bit while holding onto the furniture, but if she plopped him down on the floor, he just sat there. Then she needed to take a cross-country plane trip, just Mom and Julian.

“I’d packed several toys to keep Julian entertained, and of course, one of them dropped to the floor.” Dean recalls. “I put Julian on the floor so I could get up and retrieve the toy — and he crawled to get it. I was so excited! I moved the toy to see if he would do it again, and he did!”

Your baby’s first crawling expedition may not be 35,000 feet above the ground, but it’s still an important milestone in his development. When will your baby crawl?

It’s hard to predict, but the chances are that he’ll crawl a bit later than babies a generation ago. That’s because parents today are advised to place babies on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. A 1998 US study found that babies who sleep on their stomachs will roll, sit and crawl at an earlier age than babies who sleep on their backs, although the study found no significant difference in the age when the babies learned to walk.

Giving your baby lots of tummy time when he’s awake will help him master these developmental milestones earlier. But don’t worry — the babies who slept on their backs were all within the normal range for crawling.

That range is quite broad, according to a World Health Organization study. The earliest babies learned to crawl was at about five months, and the latest was at about 13 months. Another 4.3 percent never crawled at all but went straight to walking.


Approach to crawling

Babies approach crawling in different ways. Some “commando crawl,” with their bellies on the ground as they use their arms and legs to move around. This usually evolves into hands-and-knees crawling. Some get partially up on hands and knees but keep one leg tucked under them and push with the other. And some start out by going in reverse, as Kristin Marshall describes: “My two youngest both started by crawling backward. They would see some toy they wanted, get up on their hands and knees and start moving — but getting further and further away from the toy instead of closer. They’d be so frustrated, and both of them seemed stuck in reverse for a few weeks before they finally discovered forward gear.”

When you’ve finished celebrating your baby’s discovery, you may find you have some work to do. Once he is moving around on his own, baby-proofing becomes essential. So this is a good time for you to get down at baby eye level to seek out the potential hazards — before your now-mobile baby finds them first.

This article was originally published on Aug 04, 2008

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