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Is it normal if the baby doesn't crawl? Experts say yes | My Baby My Star

It’s easy to get involved in tracking your child’s milestones from moment one – we all want reassurance that our child is developing at a normal pace; that we’re doing this whole parenting thing right. But the thing is, of course, that there is no such thing as a “right” way in child development, just as there is no “right way” in parenting. Not every baby is smiling at 2 months. Not every baby is crawling at 9 months. And that’s okay! Milestones are to be used as general guidelines, not specific rules.

When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their list of developmental milestones in February 2022, some child development experts pointed out that certain milestones, like crawling, had not may be removed from the list. But babies’ crawling schedule is a somewhat fuzzy yardstick — it can vary widely, notes pediatrician and parent coach Molly O’Shea, MD, FAAP.

“Unlike social and language skills, motor skills are not strongly influenced by parents,” explains Dr. O’Shea. “Babies’ brains are wired for motor development and learn skills on their own timeline.”

When do babies crawl?

Previous CDC guidelines said that 50% of babies are crawling by 9 months. But the actual range is much greater. “Most babies crawl after they sit up and before they pull themselves up, between 6 and 12 months,” says Dr. O’Shea. “However, some babies never crawl, at least not in the traditional way.”

Some can roll to get where they want to go, while others just use their arms, army-crawler style, and still others slide on their butts, she adds. “As long as your child pulls and crosses to stand, they don’t have to crawl.”

Is It Normal For A Child To Skip Crawling?

It’s perfectly normal if your baby doesn’t crawl, says occupational therapist Brittany Ferri, PhD, medical consultant at Medical Solutions BCN.

“Everyone develops at a different rate, and some children skip crawling and move directly to pulling to stand and walk,” notes Dr. Ferri. “However, if a child is around 9 months old and doesn’t show tendencies towards goal-directed movements (e.g., moving arms by reaching for objects, wiggling legs and toes, and trying to push himself up by bridging), then this is for You should tell your child’s doctor.”

It’s also normal if your child does crawl. When the CDC removed the crawling milestone from their list, they were essentially acknowledging the fact that it is normal for some children to skip crawling and go straight from cantilevered sitting to walking on furniture (cruising while sitting at tables, holding onto chairs and sofa cushions) to start walking.

“That’s not to say that crawling isn’t normal,” emphasizes Dr. Ferri. “Rather that it’s not a long-lasting skill that will accompany a child for years.”

Is crawling an important milestone for other skills like reading?

Not necessarily. “Some people used to think that crawling was a necessary step in development and affecting other things like reading, but we’ve learned that it’s not a necessary step,” notes Dr. O’Shea. Mainly because it’s so variable in timing and the way it looks.

That speaks to how development milestones should be used. They are intended as a way for pediatricians (and parents) to identify children who might benefit from early intervention—not as a checklist or guarantee of future ability. If your child doesn’t meet any of the milestones, this is intended as a starting point for a discussion with your pediatrician about next steps, not as a reason to immediately worry that something is wrong.

But of course, crawling is not without benefits. “Crawling can certainly help with coordination, as a child needs to move their arms and legs with good balance in order to move forward effectively,” says Dr. Ferri. “Crawling can also lead to increased strength in the extremities, as a child has to be on all fours to carry their entire weight. That way, crawling can certainly be beneficial as a child naturally reaches that milestone.”

It can also help with spatial memory, alertness, and creativity, since the neural pathways in the brain light up when we crawl, says Esther Ruber Lavi, occupational therapist, infant sleep consultant, and CEO/founder of Dream Big Baby.

Should you encourage your child to crawl?

That depends on your little one. “If a child shows no signs of crawling and is instead visibly trying to pull himself to a standing position and walk, parents should encourage this,” notes Dr. Ferri. “However, if a child is getting into a ‘on all fours’ position in preparation for crawling but is having trouble actually crawling, parents can certainly help.”

How to promote healthy movement and motor skills in your baby:

dr O’Shea and Dr. Ferri share their best tips.

  • Provide plenty of play time on the floor to enable exploration. Keep toys both within reach and out of reach, but within sight, to encourage your baby to be more interested in movement.
  • Help strengthen their legs by holding her under her arms so that her feet are slightly off the ground, which encourages her legs to move to try to reach the ground.
  • Limit distractions Keep TVs and screens off in the background so your baby can focus on other interesting objects and get more interested in movement. Don’t forget to baby-proof your home!
  • Encouraging tummy time is crucialbut parents should also allow their child to assume different positions (on their back, on their sides, and on their stomach) to encourage them to strengthen many parts of their body.
  • Model crawling behavior. You can crawl alongside your baby to show him how to move, which also promotes parent-child bonding.

At the end of the day, if you’re concerned that your child isn’t hitting developmental milestones, be sure to talk to your pediatrician who can provide you with expert advice about your unique child.

Selected experts

Brittany Ferri, PhD, OTR/L, CPRP, is an occupational therapist and medical consultant for Medical Solutions BCN.

Esther Ruber Lavi, OTR/L, is an Occupational Therapist, Infant Sleep Coach and CEO/Founder of Dream Big Baby, Doula and Parent Wellness Specialist at Wevillage.

Molly O’Shea, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician, counselor, parent educator, and speaker based in Birmingham, MI.

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