This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Alexis Lieberman, the founder of Advocare Fairmount Pediatrics, in Philadelphia. She has been a pediatrician for over 25 years, as well as a parent, and brings her experience and openness to new ideas to her patients, practice, and reviews.
As soon as your baby gets out of the “Oh my God, am I going to break this thing?” newborn phase, you might start asking yourself a new question: “When do babies crawl?” It’s basically your next big worry marker, right? Because although the idea of your baby being on the move is exciting, it’s also sort of terrifying (and you probably want to triple baby proof already ). As you’ll come to find with babies, though, they tend to do things at their own pace.
What does this mean? Well, there isn’t a super-specific age when babies start to crawl. The date isn’t fixed. Some days it will feel like an ever-moving target. However, to put your mommy mind at ease, we’ve pulled together some general information about what to expect when your baby gets close to “crawling age.”
Do babies sit up or crawl first?
We can’t stress enough that every baby has their own unique pace. Some take their time getting where they’re going. Others get there quickly. So, when we say that baby begins to sit with help by six months and sit without support at around nine months, we mean that’s true for many babies. Others need a bit more time to strengthen their core muscles enough. Since the same thing can essentially be said for crawling, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for which happens first. As a general rule of thumb, though, most babies learn to sit up before they are comfortably crawling.
Before your baby can even think about crawling, they must first figure out how to roll over. The beginning stages of this looks like a lot of rocking back and forth. However, your baby will eventually make the full journey from tummy to back at around four months old. At that age, they’ve developed enough upper body strength to use their arm to flip themselves. This is thanks to all the tummy time and head raising. And you can continue to build that strength by putting your babies on their stomachs and encouraging them to flip. It’s also important to show them how it’s done by helping them roll over. Once your baby is a regular ol’ rolly polly they’ll have no problem getting to the next stage— crawling.
When does crawling generally begin?
Around six months old, your baby will probably begin to make it clear they want to be on the move. They might rock their body back and forth while on all fours. They might belly crawl, also known as “commando” crawl, across the floor by pulling themselves along on their little arms. By nine months old, many babies hit their crawling stride. Some babies start much earlier, around six months, and others skip crawling altogether and go straight to walking. Kids — they keep you on your toes, eh?
How can I help my baby learn to crawl?
As a mama, you want to help your little one in any way possible. So, hit the floor! Getting on baby’s level can encourage them to want to get closer to you. They’ll inch and “scoot” and rock and move and, one day, they’ll figure out how to actually crawl on all fours.
In the meantime, make sure that baby is getting plenty of tummy time. This will help strengthen baby’s back, neck, arms, and core — all of which your little crawler will need when they’re zooming around the house. One trick to build momentum during tummy time is to place something baby wants (think a favorite toy or their bottle) just outside of their reach. That tantalizing item could motivate them to figure out how to crawl.
Does crawling hurt my baby’s knees?
Luckily, babies are born with cartilage and soft tissue padding around where their kneecaps will soon ossify into bone. All that padding means they can crawl their way around the house without hurting themselves. We can’t say the same about parents who may be getting down on all fours to crawl with their little ones. Unlike your little tots, your kneecaps are now all bone and hurt much more.
Does my baby need knee pads while crawling?
That’s a hard no since Mother Nature already has you covered in this department. Your baby has built in knee pads, so to say, in the cartilage and fat deposits around their knees. If you want, you can have your crawling novice start on a foam mat or keep them in leggings to keep their skin from being irritated. Other than that, enjoy your new crawler.
What should I do to crawl-proof my home?
If you haven’t already baby-proofed your house, you’ll want to hop on that before baby starts to crawl. Since crawling is a stage when your little one is still getting their bearings about them, they’re prone to bumping into things and even toppling over. The first time your little one gets a goose egg from hitting their head on the exposed corner of a coffee table, you’ll want to cover every discernible inch of your home in bubble wrap. Fortunately, a little baby-proofing can go a long way.
In addition to taking hard and sharp surfaces and corners into account, consider what baby might pull down and break accidentally. Tuck up or remove tablecloths, especially if there’s something decorative that might hurt your new crawler. And it goes without saying that little tchotchkes that might end up in baby’s mouth should be put away out of reach.
You’ll also want to put a little thought into baby’s comfort during this time. Try crawling around on the floor for five minutes. Your knees will be begging you for mercy! Granted, babies have more fluff and cartilage than we do in our knees, so this mode of transportation isn’t really painful for them. Still, covering baby’s knees with stretchy pants can help minimize bumps, bruises, and scratches.
Is there a point when not crawling becomes a concern?
As with most developmental milestones, there’s a pretty wide window of what’s considered “normal” when it comes to crawling. It often happens anywhere from six months to 10 months. However, some babies start earlier than this, some start later, and some skip crawling in lieu of straight-up walking.
But if you notice that your baby doesn’t seem to try to get anywhere, it’s probably a good idea to alert their pediatrician. Again, your baby might just be biding their time. Nothing to fret about.
By a year old, though, your little one should be scooting or rolling or something to indicate mobility. Things to look out for and report to baby’s doctor include dragging one side of the body, the inability to bear weight on a certain limb, and the inability to sit up.