Help Your Baby Learn to Crawl
For the first six months, your baby is totally dependent on you to get from one place to
another. However, between the ages of 6 and 10 months, she’ll finally start moving around
on her own. By crawling, your baby will develop the strength, coordination and motivation to eventually try standing, cruising (taking steps while holding onto something) and walking. It may take a while for your little one to get the hang of this skill, but this guide will prepare you for the exciting journey ahead.
Build strength with tummy time.
Whether sleeping, lounging or lying on the changing table, your baby spends a lot of time on his back. To help build his crawling muscles, you’ll need to flip him over. “He should start supervised tummy time during the first few weeks of his life,” says Joseph F. Hagan Jr., M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of
Medicine. Begin by putting your infant on a blanket or play mat on the floor for three to five
minutes two or three times a day. Place a toy just out of his grasp, or encourage him to look up and reach for you. Whenever he lifts his head, looks to the side or kicks his legs, he’s building strength in his upper body, core and legs, says Hagan. As your infant’s muscles build, gradually increase his tummy time until he’s getting a total of 40 to 60 minutes each day. You’ll also want to give your little one some freedom. “If he spends all of his time in a swing or a seat, he’s not getting to use his muscles, which can slow his motor development,” Hagan says. Make sure your infant has plenty of opportunities to play in safe areas.
Recognize your baby’s readiness to crawl.
How can you tell if your baby is almost ready to crawl? Watch her head for clues. Around 1 or 2 months, she’ll only be able to lift it for a few seconds. But with enough tummy time,
she’ll be able to hold up her head for longer periods by 3 or 4 months. Next, she’ll do mini
push-ups—first propping up on her elbows, and eventually, on her arms. Soon after that,
she’ll push up onto her hands and knees—but likely won’t crawl yet. Instead, she’ll rock back and forth—which means the muscle tone is there, but she hasn’t figured out the movement, says Elisha McCoy, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee. Your child may try this rocking motion for days or weeks before figuring out how to coordinate her leg and arm movements. Then, one day she’ll suddenly push off and begin crawling!
Know what crawling looks like.
Don’t be worried if your baby’s first move doesn’t take him forward. “Babies usually start by crawling backward,” Hagan says. This is because infants’ arms are often stronger than their legs. Even if your baby isn’t moving in reverse, his crawl may still look a bit odd. He might scoot on his bottom, walk on all fours with arms and legs straightened or crawl like a crab with one leg extended. He could even get into a froglike position and hop forward. It’s all good, says Carlo Reyes, M.D., a pediatrician and assistant medical director of Los Robles Emergency Physicians Medical Group in California. “The important thing is that your baby has the coordination and strength to get from point A to point B,” he says.
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