While there’s a wide range for when a baby begins crawling, this generally happens by the first year of life. It is a stepping stone on the way to walking. Some babies never crawl.
Your baby may be content to sit in one spot, captive for your admiring glances (and probably your camera, too). But you know what’s coming: crawling.
Your little one might not be mobile now, but pretty soon, they’ll be on the move. Are you ready? If not, get ready and learn how to prepare for this big milestone in your baby’s life.
It’s easy to get impatient waiting for your baby to start crawling. Your friend’s baby might be an early crawler, and it’s hard not to compare your child to theirs. But there’s a wide range of normal when it comes to crawling.
Most babies begin to creep or crawl (or scoot or roll) between 6 and 12 months. And for many of them, the crawling stage doesn’t last long — once they get a taste of independence, they start pulling up and cruising on the way to walking.
There’s more than one way for a baby to move from point A to point B without walking. In fact, there are a variety of crawling styles, and your baby will probably have a favorite one. And experts say that’s just fine. It’s all about getting from one place to another, after all.
Here are some of the most common styles, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Classic crawl. This is what everyone thinks about when they hear the word “crawl.” Your baby creeps across the floor on hands and knees, alternating hands with opposite knees, with their tummies off the floor.
- Bottom scoot. This is just like it sounds. Babies sit on their bottoms and push themselves along with their hands.
- Rolling. Why crawl when you can roll? You still get to where you’re going, right?
- Combat crawl. You might also hear this mode of transportation called the “commando crawl.” Babies lie on their bellies, with their legs out behind them, and pull or push themselves forward with their arms. No camouflage required.
- Crab crawl. In this variation, babies propel themselves forward with their hands while keeping their knees bent, like a little round crab scuttling across the sand.
- Bear crawl. Remember the classic crawl? This is a variation on that style, except babies keep their legs straight, rather than bent.
When your baby’s playing on the floor, you’re probably already keeping a close eye on the situation. Start watching for the most common signs that your baby’s getting ready to crawl.
One sign is when babies are able to roll from their stomachs to their backs and vice versa. Another sign of readiness is when your baby manages to get herself from her stomach up into a seated position by herself.
Some babies will get up on their hands and knees and rock back and forth, while you hold your breath and wait to see if they start moving forward. Others even start to try to push or pull themselves with their arms when they’re lying on their stomachs, which you may recognize as the beginning of combat crawling. These are all cues that your baby may be about to start moving on.
Often, just when your back is turned, your baby will choose that moment to start crawling or scooting across the floor. Until then, you can encourage your baby to get ready to crawl with these strategies:
Give your baby lots of tummy time
Even young infants can benefit from some wiggle time on their bellies. Think of it as very early strength training. Tummy time really does help them develop strength in their shoulders, arms, and torso. Eventually, they’ll use those muscles to help them start crawling.
Create a safe space
Clear out an area in your home, perhaps your living room or your baby’s bedroom. Remove any potential hazards and make sure the area is safe. Let your baby have some unstructured, but supervised, free time to explore.
Tempt your baby with toys
Set a favorite toy or maybe an intriguing new object just out of your baby’s reach. Encourage them to reach for it and see if they move themselves toward it. This can also prepare them for walking in the near future, which may be the next milestone on your mind.
In fact, research suggests that crawling babies who set their sights on objects across the room and retrieve them by the age of 11 months are more likely to be walking by 13 months.
Don’t wait until your baby’s on the move to start babyproofing your home. Go ahead and start addressing potential hazards such as:
- Cabinets. Install properly functioning safety latches and locks on cabinet doors and drawers, especially if they contain cleaning products, medicines, knives, matches, or other items that could harm your baby.
- Window coverings. That dangling cord from a set of blinds or curtains could be a very tempting object for your baby to grab, but it could also be a strangulation hazard.
- Stairs. A sturdy safety gate is a must-have, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as it can keep a baby from tumbling down a set of stairs. Gates should be at both the top and bottom of stairs.
- Electrical outlets. Buy a stash of outlet covers and install them in all your outlets to keep curious fingers out.
- Sharp corners. Your coffee table may be beautiful, but if it has sharp corners, it’s also dangerous. Rubber corners and edges can make your furniture and fireplace safer for your baby on the go.
- Heavy objects and furniture. You can install anchors or other devices to secure televisions, bookshelves, and other heavy objects so your child doesn’t accidentally pull on one — and pull it on top of them.
- Windows. You can buy special window guards or safety netting to prevent falls from doors or balconies.
- Faucets. Anti-scald devices on faucets can prevent burns from super-hot water. (You might also adjust your hot water heater temperature.)
The National Safety Council also advises putting other hazardous items, like batteries and firearms, well out of the reach of your curious baby.
Some babies skip the whole crawling stage altogether. They go straight to pulling up to standing and cruising (walking with support from furniture or other objects). And before you know it, they’re walking — and you’re chasing them. Your baby might be part of this club. Eventually, almost all babies will join them.
At what point do you need to worry? Before you panic that your child is 9, 10, or 11 months old and not crawling yet, let’s run down your checklist. Have you:
- babyproofed your home?
- given your baby plenty of time to play on the floor?
- freed your baby from the stroller, crib, bouncy seat, or exersaucer as much as possible?
- encouraged your baby to streeeeetch for that toy just across the floor?
If you’ve done all those things, and your baby’s not experiencing any health problems or other developmental delays that could be an issue, it may just come down to one thing: patience. Yours, that is.
You may just have to watch and wait. Some babies just reach milestones a little later than others. Give your baby some time to experiment and figure it out.
But if your baby celebrates their first birthday and still doesn’t show any interest at all in crawling, pulling to stand, or cruising, go ahead and check in with your child’s doctor. If your little one isn’t using their arms and legs on both sides of their body or drags one side of their body, it may be worth investigating.
Occasionally, a baby might have a developmental issue or a neurological problem, and depending on the diagnosis, your child’s doctor might suggest trying occupational or physical therapy to address it.
It’s easy to get impatient when waiting for your baby to reach a new milestone, but babies tend to have their own time frames. Try to stay patient but give your baby lots of safe opportunities to gain the skills and confidence they need to start crawling, in whatever mode they prefer.
If you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right, it’s OK to check in with your baby’s pediatrician. Trust your gut and speak up if you’re concerned.