When do babies crawl? Well, it depends. Does slithering across the carpet constitute crawling? Does the wounded soldier count? Or is the elevated speed crawl the only answer?Crawling is a major milestone in a baby’s development and an event parents wait for with cameras ready, but there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach. That makes answering the question when do babies crawl a little challenging.
Here we’ll answer:
- Why is crawling so important?
- When do babies crawl?
- Are there different types of crawls?
- How do I get my baby to crawl?
- When should I talk to my pediatrician?
Videos of my children learning to crawl
Here’s my firstborn, Griffin, going through all the crawling milestones and stages, from 6.5 to 8.5 months:
And here’s my daughter Paloma going through different stages of crawling:
These videos are proof that it’s hard to give a definitive answer to the question when do babies crawl. As you can see, babies—even siblings!—can learn to crawl at different times and have very different styles. Every child has their own personal developmental timeline.
Why Crawling is Beneficial
Crawling isn’t just a stepping stone to walking, crawling is an incredibly complex process that requires use of both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
The type of motion crawling requires (simultaneous movement of both sides of the body) activates both sides of the brain at the same time—an important step in building cognitive processes like comprehension, concentration, and memory.
As a result, some research suggests that kids who crawl longer may even show higher academic performance later in life!
Crawling also helps develop spatial reasoning and binocular vision, the ability to look both near and far at the same time. When baby crawls, he has to look down at his hands, while simultaneously looking at his destination in the distance. (source)
As your child becomes more proficient at crawling, she also develops other important skills, such as problem solving (determining how to get from point A to point B), exploration, and self-sufficiency (crawling to grab a toy they want).
Crawling is also important for developing physical strength and balance in the core, arms, and legs that will be needed when they are ready to walk. (source)
When Do Babies Crawl?
This milestone may come in fits and starts, and how a baby learns to crawl may vary wildly from child to child.
Most babies start crawling between 6 and 10 months.
Some babies may crawl as early as five or six months, some may not crawl until closer to 12 months, and some may skip crawling entirely.
An unexpected result of the 1994 “Back to Sleep” guidance to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is that babies are crawling later and a higher percentage of babies are skipping crawling entirely.
Experts say this is likely a result of less time spent on the tummy. (Note: This is NOT a reason to put your baby on his/her tummy to sleep. Since the recommendation for back sleeping was made, instances of SIDS has dropped by more than 50%! See below for more on the importance of tummy time and other ways to help encourage baby to crawl.)
Wondering when your baby will be on the move? Look for these signs that baby will likely crawl soon:
- Able to easily hold his head up when on his tummy
- Able to do a “plank,” supporting his/her weight with his/her arms
- Rolls over from front to back and back to front
- Sits up without support
- Balances on hands and knees, but does not move
- Rocks back and forth on hands and knees
- Lifts his/her knees off the floor and balances on arms and feet like the top of a push-up position
- Pushes up into a yoga-style downward dog position
Once you notice these signs of crawling, it’s a good idea to start baby proofing!
Types of Crawling
Wait, what? There are different types of crawling? Everyone is familiar with the classic hands and knees, but there are other types of crawls as well.
- Hands and knees or cross crawl: This is the most common. Baby will crawl with his/her weight on their hands and knees, moving the opposite arm and leg simultaneously in a forward direction.
- Army crawl: Baby will crawl with his/her belly on the floor, pulling his/her weight with their arms.
- Bear crawl: Baby will lift their knees off the ground and crawl on their hands and feet. Think of Mowgli’s crawl in Disney’s Jungle Book.
- Crab crawl: Like a crab, baby will move sideways or backwards using their hands to propel movement.
- Bottom scooter: Baby will sit on his/her bottom and use their arms to move forward.
- Roller: Instead of crawling, baby will roll across a room to reach their destination.
How Can I Help My Baby Crawl?
Crawling is a natural part of baby’s development and she will crawl when she’s ready.
However, when do babies crawl is also dependent on the strength of their core, back, neck, and arms. Looking for something to help this process along? Enter tummy time. Tummy time is by far the most important and beneficial way to help babies prepare for crawling.
Babies are spending less time on their tummies, but it’s this very action that helps build the muscle strength necessary for crawling.
And if you need more convincing, according to microbiologist, Mary Ruebush, babies need to be exposed to the dirt and debris on the ground (yes!) as “this allows for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.” (Read more about this here.)
When (and how long) to do tummy time?
Tummy time can begin fairly soon after birth by laying belly-to-belly with baby while doing skin-to-skin contact. As baby gets older and stronger, slowly increase the length and frequency of tummy time.
Pediatricians recommend placing alert infants on their tummies 2-3 times a day, for 3-5 minutes each time. By 3-4 months, try for around 20 minutes of tummy time each day. If your baby is content and alert, allow them to stay on their tummy as long as they like, working up to 40-60 minutes each day.
Some babies will love tummy time while others will hate it. If your baby is unhappy during tummy time decrease the duration. If baby is fussy or crying during tummy time, you can also try getting down on the floor with baby and talking, singing, or providing toys.
Other Ways to Encourage Baby to Crawl
Avoid bouncers, seats, and walkers.
Container Baby Syndrome is a real condition that affects babies who spend too much time in carseats, loungers, bouncers, and other “containers.” Because these seats allow for little to no movement, prolonged use can cause severe problems like flat head syndrome, decreased muscle strength, poor coordination, ADHD, obesity, and more. Experts say some containers, like Bumbo seats, can also cause incorrect postural alignment.
Place objects out of reach.
Once baby is comfortable with longer stretches of tummy time, has good head and neck control, and can support their upper body weight on their arms, place a favorite toy just out of reach. Although it may be initially frustrating, having a desired object out of reach will encourage baby to get moving.
Get a tunnel or tent.
Interesting toys and age-appropriate obstacles, like tents or tunnels, can make crawling more exciting for baby.
Get down on all fours with baby on the floor. Crawl around so your baby can see. You can even make a game out of it and pretend to be a dog or other favorite animal. Baby will understand by your actions what he needs to do. Bonus: Experts say imitation builds trust and is vital to the way babies learn.
A Note About Baby Proofing
When baby starts crawling or showing signs that crawling is imminent, it’s time to start thinking about baby proofing your home. While it is impossible to make your home completely risk free, the goal of baby proofing is to reduce the amount of trouble that your child can get into.
Three of the most prominent hazards are blind cords, open electrical outlets, and stairways. Other hazards to consider include tip-prone furniture, items on low shelves, open toilets, cabinets, drawers, sharp corners (like on coffee tables), pools, and fireplaces.
There are a plethora of available products to mitigate these safety issues, but your attention to your child is the best defense against harm’s way. The more present we are with our children, the safer our homes will be.
For a full guide to baby proofing check out my Common Sense Guide to Keeping Baby Safe.
When to Talk to Your Pediatrician
Remember: Each child will develop differently and some babies never crawl. As long as baby is progressing, there is nothing to worry about.
If baby is making age-appropriate progress in other developmental areas such as speaking, engaging with others, observing activity around them, and playing with toys, he/she is likely just going to be a late crawler or may even skip crawling entirely.
Watch baby to make sure his/her strength and coordination is improving, and talk to your doctor if anything seems amiss. If you notice your child is favoring one side over the other, it’s worth noting to your doctor—in rare cases this could be an early sign of cerebral palsy. If your child just turned one and you’re still wondering when do babies crawl, it’s time to talk to your pediatrician.
How About You?
When did your baby crawl? Any tips for encouraging baby to crawl?