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all about crawling

From birth until the end of the first year, babies make enormous physical progress.  Born as helpless infants they will soon be holding things, sitting up, rolling over, crawling and maybe even walking.

When should my baby start crawling?

Between six and 10 months – although it might take longer if your baby was born prematurely. The process of learning to crawl is complex. Babies need sufficient brain development to be able to coordinate the movement of their arms and legs, and sufficient physical development of the muscles in their arms, shoulders and legs to support their weight. So the learning process can take a very long time.

Does it matter if my baby crawls sideways or backwards?

Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter. It’s really common for babies to be scooting backwards on their bottoms, crawling backwards, sideways and in all sorts of funny ways.

Here are the main normal ways babies start crawling:

  • Rolling around
  • Scuttling sideways
  • Commando crawling – on the belly
  • Not crawling at all, but going straight to cruising or walking
  • The ‘classic’ – alternating hand on one side and knee on the other

There’s no right or wrong way to crawl. As long as a baby is making progress in their ability to use their body to get around, that’s what is important.

That said, if a baby always favours one side, it could be a sign of a neurological condition so you should get them checked over by a health practitioner.

Can I help my baby learn to crawl?

Yes – you can help your baby to crawl by giving them lots of time on a safe surface like a carpeted floor. If they spend too much time in their pram, sling or cot they won’t get a chance to practise. Encourage them by lying them on their tummy and putting a favourite toy at a manageable distance away.

‘Tummy time’ is a great way to strengthen your baby’s muscles – you can do this by placing them tummy side down on your thighs, with your legs bent as you sit on the floor. Have their head peeping out above your knees. Read our article on head control for a full description of how to do this.

A lot of people believe baby walkers are not a good idea for babies – that they don’t let babies progress naturally, when they’re ready to do so. It’s best for babies to learn to crawl and walk in their own time, as their brains and muscles become ready.

What do I need to think about when my baby can crawl?

You need to babyproof your home for safety’s sake! Look around your home very carefully, room by room:

Any dangerous bottles, sprays, cleaners, poisons and so on need to be moved to a cupboard out of reach.

Any sharp corners need to be softened – you can buy products for this purpose or make do with foam or tennis balls cut at the back and slid onto the sharp corners.

Cupboards with anything you don’t want your baby to get at need to be kept shut – you can buy special cupboard fasteners from nursery stores and DIY shops.

You will need to put stair guards at the top and bottom of your stairs.

If you had cot bumpers, it’s a good idea to take them out now your baby is more mobile, along with any big toys they could climb up on and fall out of the cot.

If my baby isn’t crawling at 10 months to a year should I worry?

Probably not but it depends. Babies who were premature take longer to crawl. If a baby is particularly large or heavy they may take longer to get the muscle strength to crawl.

If your baby reaches a year old and hasn’t shown any desire to get moving, it’s probably a good idea to see your health practitioner.

Also, if by a year old your baby is trying to crawl but still can’t coordinate their arms and legs or is consistently lopsided, it’s worth getting them checked out.

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