Developmental milestones: crawling

Developmental milestones: crawling

Crawling is probably the first way your baby will get moving. They may start by shuffling around on their tummy – also called the commando crawl!

Soon your baby will learn to balance on their hands and knees. From this position they can push off with their knees to move forwards and backwards. They’ll be scooting around your home in no time.

When do babies crawl?
Your baby may start learning to crawl from about six months and most babies are moving around by the time they’re nine months old. By the time they reach their first birthday, they’re likely to be crawling well and exploring their surroundings.

Each baby is unique though and they all develop at different rates. Not all babies follow the same pattern of sitting, crawling and then walking. Some babies never crawl and get around by bottom-shuffling instead. Other babies move directly to pulling up, standing and walking. It’s getting mobile that’s important, not how your baby does it.

How will my baby learn to crawl?
Six months to seven months

Your baby will learn to crawl after having spent time on their tummy to strengthen the muscles in their arms and shoulders. By the time they’re about six months old, they will be able to do mini push-ups. They will lie on their tummy and lift their head and chest up, using their arms for support.

Your baby may then start to move around by commando-crawling, pulling themselves along on their tummy using their forearms. They may then get up on all fours and rock backwards and forwards, with their arms straight and their body parallel to the floor.

By the time your baby is about seven months old, they may be able to sit well without support. They may then try to move from a sitting position on to their hands and knees. Their arm, leg and back muscles should be strong enough to keep them on all fours.

Eight months to 10 months

Your baby will work out that pushing off with their knees gives them just the boost they need to get moving. At first, they may go backwards before they learn to go forwards, getting further away from the toy they have their eye on. Gradually, they’ll learn to go from a crawling position back into a sitting position.

Your baby may also learn to cross-crawl to move forwards. This is where they move one arm and the opposite leg together.

While they’ve been learning to crawl, your baby has been practicing standing and pulling themselves up too. From about nine months they may have been standing supported for a few moments and then falling backwards with a bump.

One year

Practice makes perfect and your baby is likely to be crawling confidently by the time they’re a year old. They’ll be keen to tackle any challenge, including the stairs. They may “bearwalk” too, where they crawl on their hands and feet with their bottom pushed up in the air.

How can I encourage my baby to crawl?
You can help your baby to crawl by encouraging them to spend time on their tummy.

Start with just one or two minutes of tummy time to begin with and then gradually build it up. Always make sure your baby is fully awake and alert when you’re doing tummy time and never leave them on their own while they’re on their tummy.

You can start putting your baby on their tummy soon after they are born. To begin with, you may like to start giving them tummy time in your arms, rather than on the floor. Try lying your baby on your forearm, face down with their head well supported. You could also try lying them on your chest while you’re lying back or supporting them on your shoulder while they look over it.

When your baby is three months to four months old, start introducing more tummy time on the floor. Encourage them to push themselves up on their arms, as this action strengthens the muscles they need for crawling. Putting a favourite toy just out of reach in front of them or in a half circle around them is a good way of motivating them to move and reach.

Once your baby has started crawling, let them crawl around the floor as much as they like. They’ll be full of energy and keen to explore. Lots of crawling is good exercise, and it may tire them out a bit before bedtime!

You can make things fun by creating an obstacle course around the living room for your baby to negotiate. Try using pillows, boxes and sofa cushions. This will help to improve their confidence, speed and agility. Always stay with your baby, in case they get into difficulty.

How do I keep my crawling baby safe?

A crawling baby can get into a lot of mischief. Make sure your house is child-proofed and put stair gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Your baby will be drawn to stairs like an explorer to Mount Everest, but enticing as they are, stairs can be dangerous. It’s best to keep them off-limits until your baby is walking well. Even then, always watch them when they’re climbing the stairs.

It’s a good idea to move low furniture away from windows as well, so your baby can’t use it to climb out. Keep windows closed and locked or have catches on them that stop them from opening wide.

Make sure there are no loose bedding, pillows or toys in your baby’s cot. Not only do these increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but as your baby starts crawling they may try to use them to climb out of their cot.

Once my baby can crawl, what comes next?

Now that they’vr had lots of crawling practice, they’ll work on getting upright and learning to walk. They’ll keep pulling themselves up on everything they can reach, whether it’s the coffee table or your leg.

Once your baby gets the hang of balancing on their legs, they’ll be ready to stand on their own and cruise. Cruising is where your baby will move around in an upright position while holding on to furniture. Once your baby has mastered the art of cruising, it’s just a matter of time until they’re walking, running, jumping and leaping.

Does my baby need to wear shoes?
You don’t have to invest in shoes for your baby just yet. They won’t need their first shoes until they’re walking confidently, and going outdoors regularly.

Let your baby go barefoot around the house and keep any shoes for outside only. Going barefoot can help to strengthen the arches of their feet and their leg muscles. Your baby may also find it easier to balance when their feet are free to feel the different textures they’re walking on.

My baby is 11 months and they’re not crawling yet. Should I be worried?
Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others. Some babies never crawl. They bottom shuffle and then walk, or they go straight to standing and walking.

If your baby reaches 18 months and isn’t yet walking, talk to your GP or health visitor. If your baby was born early (before 37 weeks), bear in mind they may reach this and other milestones later than most babies.