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When Should My Baby Start Crawling?

Exersaucer, Infant Development, Tummy Time

Children hit their various milestones (such as rolling over, crawling, talking) at various points in their lives. No two babies are the same. But when, as a parent, is it time to be concerned if your baby isn’t doing what they “should be” doing? How do you know if you’re helping or hindering your infant’s development?

Babies are flexible creatures who crave structure. Regardless of how little they are, their bodies are ready for routine. The routines parents set up for their children will impact them throughout their entire lives. Let’s use feeding as an example. Some parents will be more strict on a feeding routine then others, requiring that their child be fed every three hours on the dot, while others will choose to feed on the demands of their child. Whatever method you’re comfortable with is fine, but it is worth pointing out that babies who are fed on demand will use some of the outward symptoms of hunger (whimpering, crying) when they are in need of something else, like a new diaper, so knowing when your baby is hungry may take some guesswork. If this is a routine that works for you, by all means, follow your infant’s cues. On the other hand, parents who choose to feed at set intervals will more then likely have a child who will begin to know when they’re due for their next meal, and this child will be able to use their methods of communication more effectively when the object of their desire is that new diaper and not a bottle.

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What does this have to do with crawling?

Well, just like feeding, the age at which a child begins crawling can be prompted by routine. Where does your child spend most of their time when they are awake? A child who is constantly being held, or always placed in an exersaucer, bouncy seat, swing or other such device will tend to have an adverse reaction to simply being placed on the ground. Tummy time is very important for infants. During the time a baby spends on their stomach they strengthen their neck muscles, they begin to use their arms to push themselves up, and eventually will use their legs and back to twist around so they are rolling over. Infants that are restrained are not getting the same muscle exercises as an infant who is taught that it is okay to be on the floor. If your baby cries when you place them down, this can be a trigger: obviously, the baby is unhappy and wants to be picked up! Of course your child would prefer your constant, one-on-one attention. But developmentally, it is good to be able to give your baby time to work their muscles. It is also good to give your baby alone time. Babies cannot be with their parents twenty-four hours a day. Instilling tummy time into a child’s schedule will not only work the muscles needed for rolling over and walking, but could help to ease separation anxiety that can occur when a baby is out of sight of his parents.

Tummy time can be started at any age (always under adult supervision). Babies as young as twelve weeks are very interested in turning their head from side to side while they lay on their tummy. But when will the wiggling turn to crawling? By the ages of six to nine months, you should see some mobility in your baby. Whether this means rolling over to reach a desired toy, or “army crawling” on their tummies to get to your lap, mobility should be occurring. If your baby is not moving at nine months, don’t worry. Just examine your routine. Are you holding your baby too much? When your baby is looking at a toy and begins to whimper, do you deliver the toy to your baby or do you place it just out of reach and encourage them to work for it a little bit? Babies will respond to your encouragement, and most love the challenge of grunting and wriggling to reach their toys! This is a huge accomplishment, one your child will feel very proud of. You will be able to see it on their face!

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By twelve months of age, most children are completely mobile. Not all children crawl in the traditional all-fours style. Some will scoot on their bottoms, some will use one leg and their hands to move around a room. This is all considered crawling, and your baby is doing just fine. In fact, by one year of age, most children are more interested in pulling themselves up using a table or shelf in an attempt to stand and/or walk. Some children will be taking baby steps around twelve months, while others will be quite content to crawl. As long as your child is moving around, there is no need for worry, no matter what other kids you know are doing.

Children can be delayed in their crawling for a number of reasons. While most of the time the reason is as simple as stubbornness, or the lack of motivation to get moving (why move when someone brings me everything I want, or carries me to it?), sometimes there is a more serious issue at hand. Varying disabilities and illnesses can prolong the learning process when it comes to mobility. Babies who are premature or who were sick at birth commonly lag behind by a few months, taking up at as long as eighteen months to walk. If your child has no known reason that you can think of to not be interested in moving by the age of one, make an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss what could be going on.