When babies becomes mobile and start to explore the world around them, crawling is an exciting first stage.
This is an exciting and anxiety-producing time for parents.
As your baby moves away from you, a whole new world of learning opens up, but there are also some new hazards.
Because of this, it’s no surprise so many parents are keen to discover the answer to the question: ‘When do babies crawl?’
Wise parents will want to support this important milestone in their baby’s motor skills development. They also need to know how to take safety precautions when the crawling stage begins.
When do babies crawl? Read on to find out.
When do babies crawl?
Most babies get up on their hands and knees and start learning to crawl between the ages of 6 and 10 months.
Every baby is unique. There’s a wide range of normal in the timing of crawling.
There is also a variety of crawling styles, such as:
- The bear crawl
- Crawling with one leg, or on one side
- Doing a bottom scoot
These are all variations babies might use to move across the floor, as they learn to crawl.
It’s even common for babies to belly crawl backwards at first, before they figure out how to go forward.
Although all of these different methods are normal, at some point most babies still go through the two main stages of crawling:
- Belly crawling
- Hands and knees crawling
These movements strengthen specific muscles, and prepare both body and brain for more advanced motor skills development.
Belly crawling or ‘commando crawling’ strengthens the muscles that help babies get into and out of a sitting position independently.
Once these muscles are strong enough, babies will start spending time on their hands and knees, rocking back and forth.
Hands and knees crawling comes next.
The baby moves with a ‘criss-cross’ pattern, where the hand on one side reaches forward and the opposite knee moves at the same time.
Movement of opposite-side limbs is an important part of motor development. It also stimulates brain development, as the two sides, or hemispheres, of the brain work together.
This coordination of arms and legs prepares a baby’s body for walking, because it:
- Rotates the spine as the hands and feet move with a lateral motion
- Makes the muscles of the lower back stronger
- Readies the ankles for the movements made in walking
- Prepares the hip sockets
- Helps with hand-eye coordination.
The time spent in each stage can vary, and depends on how early babies begin.
If babies start learning to crawl early, they tend to crawl for a longer period of time.
Some babies seem to learn to crawl overnight, but for most it takes a bit of practice.
You can expect your little one to have mastered crawling by her first birthday.
Can babies skip the crawling stage?
If babies move through the stages quickly, it might seem as though they have skipped the crawling stage altogether.
Some babies do skip crawling and move straight to pulling themselves up, standing, cruising and walking.
This is more common if babies don’t have much tummy time.
If at any time you’re worried about your baby not meeting developmental milestones, contact your healthcare provider.
How will my baby learn to crawl?
Your baby will learn to crawl naturally, as she develops the strength and coordination to become mobile.
One small study found babies born in the winter began crawling sooner than babies born in the summer.
What could be the reason?
The researchers said:
‘The season influences the babies’ experiences in a number of ways, including layers of clothing that are worn, the opportunities babies are given to spend on the floor on their stomachs, and the hours of activity and daylight. Awareness of the seasonal effect is important so that parents will give their babies proper movement and development opportunities in the winter as well’.
Your baby needs to learn how to sit up first
First, your baby will need to master sitting up unaided. Belly crawling develops alongside, or immediately after, this skill.
Babies need the muscle strength to stay upright, and the ability to move into a sitting position from their tummy and vice versa.
Then they’ll discover they can stay in position on all fours, and rock back and forth.
At some point, they will push off from their knees, and become mobile.
Once babies start moving, it could take a few weeks for them to perfect their crawling style. They gradually learn how to move each of their limbs where, and when, they want.
7 tips to help your baby start crawling
Before babies start to crawl, they first need to build up their muscle strength.
Since 1994, parents have been advised by health experts, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, to put babies to sleep on their backs, instead of on their tummies. This is to reduce the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Although this has been very effective, some experts believe it has caused some babies to reach physical milestones later.
Spending less time on their tummies means some babies take longer to develop the strength to hold their bodies up and begin to crawl.
There are several things you can do to support your baby as she moves into the crawling stage.
Here are our top 7 tips:
Tip #1: Tummy time
Spending time on her tummy is important to help your baby develop the strength to move her body and hold herself up.
If your baby cries when you place her on her tummy on the floor, try lying her on your tummy instead.
That way, she can see you and feel safe, but will also be working her muscles.
Each time she lifts her head to look at you, she’ll be doing a mini workout.
Find out more about tummy time and how to make it fun for your baby here.
Tip #2: Wear your baby
Being carried around might not sound like the most effective way of building muscle.
But this lovely, connected activity can help your baby get ready to start crawling.
As babies shuffle to reposition themselves in wraps and slings, they strengthen their muscles.
When babies lift their head out of the slings to see what’s going on, they improve their neck muscle strength.
Supporting good muscle development is only one of the benefits of babywearing.
Tip #3: Make it fun
If your baby is having tummy time on a play mat, entertain her with toys to keep her happy.
Dangling toys in front of her, singing, and keeping your face close to hers are all great ways to keep your baby happy during tummy time.
Tip #4: Moving toys
A couple of toys that move might encourage your baby to start to crawl.
Trains, cars and balls are all great toys that can roll out of baby’s reach as she plays with them.
Her desire for these moving toys can help to get your baby crawling.
Tip #5: Time limits
Try to limit the amount of time your baby spends in a car seat, pram or bouncer.
Babies need time to move and explore in order to master new skills, so give them the freedom to do this.
Tip #6: Use a tunnel
There are lots of play tunnels and tents on the market.
If you like, get down on all fours and play peekaboo, or chase baby around to encourage her.
Crawling has many benefits for brain development and physical coordination in adults too.
Join in with your baby for these activities. It’s a win-win situation!
Tip #7: Don’t stress!
Although you might be desperate to see your baby take her first few shuffles across the floor towards freedom, try not to get hung up on it.
Don’t compare her with other babies, or push your baby to crawl when she isn’t ready.
Just wait, have fun, and support her as she develops this new and exciting skill.
My baby is crawling! What now?
Now your baby is on the move (or ideally, just before), you need to think about childproofing your home.
One of the best ways to do this is to get down on all fours and crawl about yourself.
What can you see that might be dangerous for a baby?
Dangling wires, sharp corners and cupboard doors are all things you should look out for.
If your baby has access to your stairs, install a safety gate now, to stop her getting into danger later.
Safe-guarding your home means you can allow your baby to explore her environment (with supervision).
You’ll need to be stringent about keeping your floors clean now you have a little adventurer in the house.
Remember, babies will put pretty much anything in their mouths. This includes food crumbs, pebbles, and loose change from under the sofa.
Check whether there is access to power strips and outlets. You can buy plug covers and gadgets to organise and cover electrical cords.
Start to think about the next stage, when your baby will pull herself up using tables and shelves. It might quickly follow the crawling stage.
Make sure that shelves and furniture are securely fastened to the wall and will not topple over onto the baby if she pulls up on them.
Tables with sharp corners might need to be removed or corner bumpers installed.
Look at what you have on low shelves and what a curious baby could reach. You’ll have to move breakables or chokeables higher and higher as your baby grows and becomes more agile.
When to worry if your baby isn’t crawling
Remember, babies follow their own timeline.
If you’re providing opportunities for your baby to develop these skills, she’ll figure out how to get from point A to point B in her own time.
She might do it sooner, later, or at the same time as other babies.
You should contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your baby hasn’t become mobile (crawling, shuffling or rolling) by 10-12 months old
- Your baby is only using one side of her body to move around (e.g. dragging herself around with one arm)
- Something doesn’t seem right.