NOTE: This post has been reproduced with permission from https://www.firstfiveyears.org.au
Crawling is one of those milestones that assures parents that their baby’s development is nothing to worry about, however some parents find themselves worrying about why their baby isn’t crawling yet.
“Every baby is different, with some babies crawling for a short time, some for many months and others not crawling at all,” says Associate Professor Alicia Spittle.
“There is a wide range of typical development with most babies crawling between five to 11 months,” says Associate Professor Spittle who is an Australia Physiotherapist Association (APA) Physiotherapist and Research Fellow from University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Royal Women’s Hospital.
What’s ‘normal’ when it comes to crawling?
In the last two decades, researchers have found that babies are crawling later and later.
In 1994, the Back-to-Sleep campaign was launched to place babies to sleep on their backs in a successful effort to reduce the rate of SIDS.
In 1998, two separate studies1 from the United Kingdom and United States were conducted to assess the impact of babies sleeping on their backs and their motor development.
The studies found that babies who followed the important safe sleep guidelines and slept on their backs in line with the SIDS campaign had a slight delay in sitting, rolling and crawling.
However, by 18 months, the delay was no longer relevant. In other words, the toddlers showed no delay and had caught up with their tummy sleeping peers.
The research shows the age a baby starts to crawl (if they even do) and the length of time spent crawling isn’t significant.
However, if a baby does crawl, crawling on all fours (hands and knees) as opposed to the ‘bum shuffle’ is considered better, says Alana Gardini, an APA Physiotherapist and author of My Strong Little Body.
“Bottom shuffling babies can be very determined, and sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do about it,” says Alana.
“But bottom shuffling is probably the least desirable method of locomotion for a baby, predominantly because it is inefficient compared to four-point crawling, but also because the baby doesn’t get the opportunity to bear weight through their upper limbs for that period in their development.”
Associate Professor Spittle adds, “Many believe that crawling is important to develop strength around the shoulders and hips, along with learning to move the arms and legs in a reciprocal motion (one side, then the other side).
“But, there are many other creative ways an infant can learn to do this, such as climbing, pulling to stand and eventually walking.”
Alana adds that, “it is very well supported that children of today are weaker in their upper body than generations before.”
However, she says this isn’t necessarily because of whether or not that child crawled as a baby, or how they crawled, but rather because children are less physically active in general.
There are also babies who just never crawl.
“Approximately 10% of the typically developing population will never crawl,” says Associate Professor Spittle.
Is crawling an important milestone?
Both Associate Professor Spittle and Alana agree that crawling is an important milestone in terms of a baby learning to independently move around for the first time.
“For many infants it’s their first opportunity to be able to move by themselves to reach for toys, people or other objects in their environment,” says Associate Professor Spittle.
“This in turn is thought to help with other areas of development such as cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (socio-emotional) development.
“Crawling enables an infant to learn how to co-ordinate their arms and legs and spatial awareness.”
What if they are part of the 10% who skip crawling?
For parents concerned about their baby not crawling, Alana says it is important to look at the big picture.
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