When Do Babies Crawl?
March 31, 2021
Crawling may be the cutest milestone ever, and almost from birth, parents begin wondering, at what age do babies crawl? A belly lurch forward, a backward scramble—crawling is baby’s first attempt at moving around independently and a natural next step after rolling over and sitting upright. In our baby crawling guide below, we’ll answer all your top questions.
So when do babies crawl? Typically, babies start crawling anywhere from 6 to 10 months old. A lot of new parents worry about whether baby is keeping up with their friends’ babies, and stress about when babies crawl. But it’s hard to predict the exact age babies crawl, as each baby progresses at their own speed. Don’t worry if your little one seems completely content staying seated for now. In fact, some babies skip the crawling milestone altogether and go straight to standing, cruising and walking.
Instead of fretting over what age babies crawl, keep your eyes out for indications that your child is ready to move. There are a few signs baby is ready to crawl that will clue you in that it’s time to grab the camera.
For starters, baby will have already mastered rolling over on their own and sitting up without any help. “Look for your baby to sit upright with pretty good control and no support,” says Ashanti Woods, MD, a pediatrician at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. Baby may also get on all fours and just rock back and forth in place.
In the beginning, those first attempts at baby crawling may look more like boot camp drills. Crawling baby might start out by “creeping,” or dragging their belly and legs, using just their arms—this looks a lot like baby’s tackling the barbed wire obstacle on a Tough Mudder course. Baby may also scoot their bottom along the floor, roll from point A to point B or even slide backward before moving on to traditional on-all-fours crawling.
No matter what approach baby takes, rest assured, all of these stages of crawling are normal—not to mention adorable.
One baby’s preferred style of crawling may look completely different than another’s—and that’s okay. There are seemingly countless ways baby can propel themselves forward and, especially in the beginning, even backward. From the classic crawl to the bear crawl, tripod craw and belly crawl, babies will find a way to move around that feels most comfortable for them. There is no right or wrong way. “If there’s a way people can move, there’s probably a baby who’s done it,” says Michael McKenna, MD, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. These are some of the most common types of crawling, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• Classic crawl. While putting weight on the hands and knees, baby moves one arm and the opposite leg forward in tandem. Also called “cross-crawling,” this type of crawl helps teach baby balance.
• Bear crawl. A variation on the classic crawl, the bear is when baby moves on all fours but keeps the elbows and knees straight, which makes them look like—you guessed it—a little bear cub. This is definitely one of the more humorous types of crawling!
• Belly crawl. Also known as the “commando crawl,” this is when baby drags their belly along the floor as they move. Like the classic baby crawl, it’s another common way for your crawling baby to get started.
• Crab crawl. You’ll spot this rather interesting crawl when baby uses their hands to scurry sideways or backward. Baby will also push themselves along with just one leg out to the side while keeping the other leg bent in front of their body, which adds to the funny, crablike effect.
• Bottom scoot. In this type of baby crawling, baby scoots around on their bottom and uses their arms to propel themselves forward.
• Rolling crawl. Now a master roller, baby makes a series of 360s to get wherever they need to go. It’s not exactly crawling, but just “roll” with it—after all, it’s pretty adorable!
• Tripod crawl. This baby crawling style occurs when baby uses two hands and one knee to scoot across the floor. The other leg hangs back and takes it easy while the other leg does all the work.
• Leapfrog crawl. With this type of baby crawling, baby looks like, well, a leaping frog. The pose involves baby getting on hands and knees, bridge-style, and then thrusting forward to make headway.
Like so many baby milestones, crawling is all about control. In order to begin crawling, baby first has to master head control, then rolling over and sitting upright. As baby checks the box on each of these milestones, they’ll naturally be ready to explore the ever-widening world around them. You’ve likely heard the saying, “you have to crawl before you can walk,” and in this case, baby has to learn to roll over and sit up before progressing to the crawling and walking stages.
As baby learns to sit upright on their own, which happens around 6 to 8 months old, they’ll use their hands mainly for support to keep from falling. Baby may place their hands between their legs and lean on them for support—a position known as a “tripod sit.” But as your little one gains control of their torso, they’ll use their hands less for support and more for exploration, reaching for toys and other items just out of their reach. The more baby does this, the stronger they’ll get.
Eventually, baby will pull themselves onto their tummy from a seated position. “Once you start seeing their resting face down on their hands with their butt raised high in the air, that’s usually a sign they’re trying to move,” Woods says. At this point, your days with an immobile baby are numbered, as your little one will soon begin propelling themselves forward in one of the types of crawling outlined above.
If you’re wondering how to help baby crawl, there are several ways to encourage baby to get moving.
Encourage tummy time
The best thing you can do is offer lots of opportunities to practice tummy time, which simply involves placing baby on their stomach and allowing them to move around and begin exploring the world around them. This mini workout will help baby strengthen their neck, back and shoulder muscles and master head control—two crawling essentials. Plus, all that time face down will help baby get used to and comfortable being on their stomach. With plenty of tummy time practice, baby will be scooting along in no time. (What’s more, tummy time can also help alleviate gas—a win-win if you ask us.)
Along with tummy time, you can also help baby stand up by placing your hands under their arms so they’re putting all their weight on the legs and thighs. This simple exercise wakes up those little-used muscles in baby’s lower extremities. Or work on helping baby sit upright, which engages pelvic and back muscles. “To crawl, you need both the lower extremity muscles and the ab muscles,” Woods says. Try a game like peekaboo or patty-cake to keep baby interested (and sitting upright longer). Baby will get more familiar with using and engaging these muscles and continue using them until they work their way up to a crawl and eventually a walk stance.
Praise baby and offer incentives
Don’t discount the value of a good incentive. Babies don’t need any special toys or gear to learn to crawl, but parents sometimes like to introduce one as they figure out how to teach baby to crawl. A little praise and encouragement on your end can go a long way in supporting baby’s progress. A play tunnel can spark baby’s curiosity and entice them to get moving—just keep in mind that you might need to crawl through it first a few times to show baby how it’s done.
McKenna also suggests placing a favorite toy just out of reach and encouraging baby to crawl or scoot toward it. Anything that’s visually stimulating makes a great learn-to-crawl toy—try activity balls that roll around and make sounds, play music or flash lights. But, McKenna adds, “anything you can use to engage your child in activities is good, whether it’s a toy or a box or an empty plastic two-liter bottle.”
Create a safe crawling environment
As soon as you have a baby on the move, anything is fair game. Baby will want to reach for, tug on, pick up and taste anything they can get their little hands on. That’s why it’s so important to finish babyproofing (if you haven’t already) and make sure you’ve covered any and all potential danger zones before baby begins crawling. “The best way is to get on your hands and knees and see what you can find,” McKenna says. That way, you assess the room from baby’s point of view and see what might be tempting or enticing.
In addition to sharp corners and breakables, look for choking hazards (coins on the floor, a dropped thumbtack or pin); easily accessible chemicals (household cleaners, dishwashing pods); dangling cords, or anything baby can yank on to pull things down on him or herself; and any exposed outlets. Also, don’t forget to secure or lock any cabinets or drawers that baby could potentially open. And be sure to install a baby gate at both the top and bottom of your stairs, and double-check that all heavy furniture and electronics are securely anchored to the wall or floor. As exciting as it is to have a crawling baby on your hands, it can certainly open up the floodgates for potential accidents if you’re not properly prepared.
You’re likely waiting with excitement (and your camera at the ready), wondering when do babies crawl, but don’t be too alarmed if it never happens. Contrary to popular belief, the crawling milestone is actually not a major one. Some babies bypass crawling altogether and move right on to standing and walking. If baby doesn’t crawl, it’s generally not a sign that they’re about to stop hitting other major developmental milestones.
That said, there are other ways to gauge when should baby crawl: if by 7-months-old baby feels loose or floppy in your arms or refuses to bear any weight on the legs after multiple attempts to support them while standing, a call to your pediatrician may be in order. “We expect muscles to bulk up around that age,” says Woods. “When babies have a low tone or are very floppy, that could be suggestive of other things.”
Another tip to consider if you’re stressing about when babies crawl is to keep an eye on baby’s overall progression. If a handful of months have passed with no new developments, consult your pediatrician. “Parents have a decent sense of when something is wrong with their child,” McKenna says. “There’s not a problem every time, but if you’re worried or have questions or think something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor.”
About the experts:
Ashanti Woods, MD, FAAP, is an attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC and completed his residency at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore, Maryland.
Michael McKenna, MD, is a general pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Ascension Medical Group in Zionsville, Indiana. He earned his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine, where he also completed his internship and residency.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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