Baby milestones: crawling

Crawling is the first real milestone towards independence. Your baby is likely to develop her own method of getting around – and it's not always the most elegant.

When does crawling happen?

For many babies it happens on average at around 7-9 months, but it can be either earlier or later. And some infants miss out the crawling stage altogether and go straight to walking.

 

Interestingly, the movement to put babies to sleep on their backs to avoid sudden infant death has meant that babies are starting to crawl slightly later than in previous generations. This is because babies now spend less time on their tummies.

 

How does the baby learn to do it?

The building blocks of crawling start long before the crawling begins. Putting your baby on her tummy, so that she lifts her head and then starts to push herself up using her hands and arms, is the start of the crawling process. As she builds up her muscles and her strength she wants to try more. She also needs to learn to maintain her balance whichever method she chooses. It usually happens not long after your baby starts sitting by herself.

 

Once she is propping herself up on her arms, she may start rocking backward and forward. Then, she’ll realise that if she pushes off she can move forward on her own. Some babies find it easier to start by going backwards. Getting proficient at crawling takes practice.

 

Crawling can take many forms: commando-style as she wriggles along on her tummy, animal-style on hands and feet with her bottom sticking up in the air, or hands and knees. And some babies simply shuffle along on their bottoms, or just roll over and over to get to what they want. Some babies stick to just one style, while others change style as they progress.

 

But it is not just motor skills, babies will also be learning to gauge distances and remember directions – she needs to go to this particular corner to find her toys.

 

What can you do to help?

Give your baby some tummy-time while you watch over her, to help her strengthen her muscles. Some babies don't like it much, so try to make it enjoyable by laying by her side and playing with her, or lying on your back and putting her face-down on your chest.

 

During tummy-time put a favourite toy just out of reach and she'll have more motivation to reach it. Try putting the palm of your hand behind your baby's foot when she is on all fours to give her something to push off from.

 

Make sure your home is safe for a crawling baby – for example, if you have a wooden floor make sure no nails are sticking up, and that any stairs are safe. You might also want to think about what she is wearing, to help protect her knees from scratches and scrapes.

 

Once your baby is more adept at crawling, you can make it interesting for her by creating a safe obstacle course. Put cushions and boxes in her pathway, but always while you’re there to supervise.

 

And don't forget, lots of crawling is good exercise which will hopefully make her sleep better at night. On the other hand, some babies find all the new things they are discovering so exciting that sleep can be disrupted around this time, too. If your baby is like this, make sure she has plenty of time to wind down before bedtime.

 

Research1 has shown that starting to crawl changes babies’ relationships with family members. Parents can be excited to see their baby reach such an important motor milestone, but may also find themselves having to be much more watchful and controlling, as the child tries to explore anything he or she can get to. It's the first of many changes as her skills grow, so be patient and try not to get frustrated.

 

What's next?

Once she's got the hang of crawling, she'll move on to walking – starting to pull herself up. See more on walking

 

Poll question

What style of crawling did your baby adopt?

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