When do babies crawl? Muscle development starts with the head and neck, and moves down the torso, through the legs to the feet. As your baby’s neck muscles become strong enough to hold up her head, she’ll try to roll over and then sit up. From there, she’s ready to start cruising along furniture and, eventually, walk. What can take mere minutes in the animal kingdom—a foal often stands within an hour of being born—can require between 10 and 14 months (or longer) to develop in humans.
Crawling (six to eight months) and walking or cruising with help (nine to 12 months)
While many babies start crawling or scooting around the six-month mark, some kids will often sidestep that stage altogether and head straight to walking. That’s not to say that if your baby skips a step she’s missing out. “Some kids don’t crawl. They ‘bum shuffle’ or roll and then go to walking,” says Asha Nair, an Ottawa developmental paediatrician. As long as they’re moving forward and building on the last skill, all is good, says Minhas. “That’s just part of who they are—they still manage to do the milestones that come after.”
Your doctor will look for red flags, such as muscle stiffness or general floppiness, which may indicate conditions including cerebral palsy or gross motor delay. These issues can be diagnosed as early as eight months and may warrant physical therapy from an occupational therapist or other health professional. Worried because your child is not yet walking? Your doctor will be watching his progress, and will investigate further if he isn’t walking by 18 months.
What parents can do
Two words: tummy time. Babies don’t generally love it at first—they can see more with less effort while lying on their backs. But you should aim for four or five periods of at least a few minutes of supervised tummy time a day, Nair says, “so they know it’s part of their routine.” And yes, having your baby lie tummy-down on your belly while you’re lying down or reclining on a chair counts, as long as she’s trying to lift her head and look at you. (Just stay awake!)
Tummy time leads to gross motor wins, and not getting enough can delay strengthening of neck and back muscles. Once tummy time is a cinch, put your baby on her hands and knees in what’s called a four-point stance to encourage crawling.
A version of this article appeared in our March 2016 issue with the headline, “A really big year,” p. 55.