During their first year, babies learn some of the basics like raising their head and sitting up. Parents often wonder, “When do babies crawl?” Crawling is one of the milestones all family members look forward to witnessing — it’s so darn cute.
Since every baby is different, it’s not a question with a precise answer. Many parents get worried if their baby is a late crawler, or if they skip the milestone entirely. We’ll help to ease your mind by covering everything you need to know about crawling.
At What Age Do Babies Crawl?
Babies begin to crawl at around 7 to 10 months of age (1). However, don’t worry if your little one isn’t crawling by then.
During the early crawling phase, your baby may look like a soldier in training. Premature crawling often consists of a baby dragging their belly across the floor, using only their arms to build speed. Later, when the legs catch up, they’ll probably be on all fours.
Babies can use various styles when it comes to crawling, and even twins can use completely different techniques. Some babies may scoot around on their bottom, while others resemble tiny monkeys.
Don’t worry about their style — being mobile is what matters the most. Here are a few common crawling methods:
1. The Classic
Although we call it the classic, it’s not the most common method. The classic crawl is where your baby is on all fours, distributing their weight onto the hands and knees. As they move, an arm and the opposite leg work in tandem to propel the body forward while keeping balance.
This crawl will teach your baby balance, but don’t worry if your little one isn’t using this technique. They can learn using any method.
2. Belly Crawl
Belly crawl is a typical technique babies use when getting started. It’s where they drag their tummies along the surface while utilizing their arms. At this point, the legs are hanging at the back without contributing much to the movement.
3. Rolling Crawl
The rolling crawl is when the baby rolls around to wherever they want to be. It isn’t crawling, per se, but it’s a beginning. Rolling typically occurs after 6 months old when the core muscles have become strong enough to enable rolling from the back to the belly (2).
I describe this phenomenon to my parents as “rolling to navigate.” When your baby achieves this milestone, it is important to be mindful of where he or she is rolling to prevent injury (i.e. off a bed).
My little one was a constant roller, and it’s quite adorable.
4. Bear Crawl
The bear crawl is one of the stranger, but more humorous, variations of crawling. As a modification to the classic crawl, a baby using this technique will be on all fours but with straight knees and elbows.
This form resembles a bear cub and how they move. It’s also reminiscent of Mowgli’s elephant march in Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”
5. Bottom Scoot
Bottom scooting should also be called the monkey crawl. It’s where your baby will be sitting on their bottom, and then use their arms to move forward, much like a monkey. Although it may not sound efficient, you’ll be surprised by how fast a baby can get around like this.
6. Crab Crawl
Babies who crab crawl may look like they’re still figuring out how to be mobile. They will use their hands to move backward and sideways. Then they’ll generally only use one leg for speed, keeping one bent under their body while the other is out to the side.
How Do Babies Learn to Crawl?
Crawling isn’t an easy job for a baby who’s still developing muscles and coordination. It requires both body and mind to accomplish.
Before your baby can crawl, the muscles in the neck, shoulders, back, core, and arms must be strong enough. These have to support your baby’s weight while maintaining their balance so they don’t tip over.
Did You Know
Binocular vision is where both eyes work together to focus on the same target so the brain can combine the images.
This type of vision enables the baby to switch back and forth between scanning the distance and looking at their hands. Doing this helps them build depth perception while giving their mental muscles a thorough workout (4).
Once on the move, your baby develops their memorization and navigation skills. Soon you’ll notice they recognize different routes while heading places such as the couch and around the coffee table to their toys.
When your baby begins to crawl, they’ll gradually learn how to get from a sitting position onto all fours. It may take some trial and error — a few tumbles to the ground is normal before mastering it.
Most babies get on all fours and then slowly rock back and forth before gaining the confidence to move forward.
They’ll use one of the crawling styles above, once the confidence is there, or a mix, to gain momentum. Generally, around 9 to 10 months is where they gain considerable speed. By this time, they have figured out how to use their legs and arms efficiently.
As confidence is gained, your baby will probably try to get from all fours back to a sitting position, typically by 9 to 10 months old. By the age of 12 months, they will be a fully confident crawler ready for the next milestone, cruising or walking (5).
How You Can Help Your Baby
1. Tummy Time
Tummy time is necessary from infancy. By placing your baby on their belly and playing or interacting with them, they’ll develop the muscles required for crawling (6).
The best opportunity for tummy time is during the hours when your baby is alert and in a relatively good mood. Gently turn your baby over and let them stay there for a couple of minutes, or until they have had enough.
For infants who seem to dislike tummy time, I recommend doing it for only 1 minute but more frequently throughout the day. For example, I recommend one minute of tummy time after each diaper change.
Most infants need their diapers changed at least 6 times a day, so coordinating tummy time with this task increases their opportunity to practice it. Limiting the time frame to one minute prevents babies from tiring too quickly.
Editor's Note:Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Always stay close to observe your baby and ensure that they’re breathing. The best places for tummy time are either on a blanket, low-cut carpet, or a specialized mat.
In addition to building muscles, tummy time also works to prevent flattening of the occipital skull bones on the back of your baby’s head. You may notice similar flattening on one side of the head if your baby prefers keeping his head turned in one direction. This occurs when your baby spends too much of their time on their back during infancy (7).
Having your baby spend less time on their belly might delay crawling. Some suggest that after the “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in 1994, babies now crawl significantly later (8).
The campaign has been successful at reducing the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by encouraging parents to let babies sleep on their backs.
If your baby uses their arms and legs equally, having them spend more time on their back won’t affect crawling. Always put your baby on their back to sleep.
When your infant was learning to grab things, chances are you used toys to motivate them. That also helps with crawling, probably more effectively since your little one can see better.
By placing a favorite toy or another desirable object in front of them, you’re encouraging them to move forward. Place it just out of your baby’s reach, but not too far — you don’t want them getting frustrated.
You can also make it fun by creating a small obstacle course once your baby is more confident. Grab some pillows, sofa cushions, and boxes to make a fun course to navigate through. By doing this, you’re helping improve your baby’s speed, agility, and confidence.
You can also invest in other fun stuff like crawl tunnels and tents, a favorite for my crawler. This is more interesting than simply going from point A to B. However, always stay close — your baby can get stuck or smothered under a pillow if left unattended.
3. Stand and Sit
When your baby can support their head , you can help them progress by standing them up. Place your hands under your baby’s arms and lift them so their feet are on the ground.
Even though you’re supporting, they place some of their weight on their legs. This acts as a wake-up call for the lower body muscles, which are essential when crawling and walking. Most infants can place their feet onto a flat surface when held upright and support weight on their legs at 3 months old (9). I encourage parents to practice this with their infant to increase leg strength.
Another thing you can do is help your baby sit upright, which engages the back, pelvis, and core muscles. If your baby can’t sit unsupported, place some pillows around them to soften a potential fall. Then try to let go so that they sit without your help.
You can encourage them by playing a fun game such as patty-cake or peekaboo. This might keep them sitting for longer.
Is Childproofing Necessary?
Childproofing your home is imperative — once your baby begins to crawl, they can get into plenty of mischief. A child-proof house will keep your baby out of danger zones, giving you some peace of mind (10).
I discuss childproofing at the 6 month well visit. At this stage, most babies have mastered rolling and will start to move from where parents have left them. The easiest way to find potential hazards is for parents to crawl around themselves, looking for what their baby may get into. Anything that could be dangerous for a baby should be moved or covered with a protective device.
Editor's Note:Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Stairway gates are important if you live in a two-story house. Babies tend to gravitate toward the stairs, but they’re dangerous for tiny crawlers.
If your baby loves obstacles, you can invest in foam blocks to create some stairs for them to practice. Or build your own using boxes and fabric.
Sharp edges and breakables are other things to babyproof. As your baby begins to explore the nooks and crevices of your home, they’ll encounter new places and objects.
Ensure there are no hazards on the floor like coins, thumb-tacks, or pins that can be popped into little mouths. Also, keep all chemicals and cleaning detergents locked away.
What Happens After Crawling?
Once your baby is a crawling master, there’s only one thing left for them to conquer, and that’s walking. As your little one becomes confident on all fours, they’re looking for the next challenge. Soon enough, you’ll catch them trying to pull themselves up on everything they can reach, including your legs.
The first sign of “pulling to stand” often occurs in the crib. You go to your little one in the morning, only to find him or her standing up, holding on to the crib rail. Once he or she has mastered this skill, it is important to lower the crib mattress to prevent accidents.
Initially, they won’t do much more than stand, but, as they build balance, steps are around the corner. This milestone is called cruising. Your baby may pull up on the side of the couch and then walk alongside while holding on. Soon, they will get the courage to let go and walk alone.
Hold The Shoes
What If My Baby Doesn’t Crawl?
Since crawling is a milestone many parents look forward to, it can be disappointing, if not alarming, when your baby skips it. Don’t worry, though, despite what many believe, crawling isn’t a crucial step, and plenty of babies decide to skip it (13).
Babies who bypass crawling go straight to pulling up, standing, then walking. If your baby doesn’t crawl, it won’t necessarily mean that they’ll walk before others. It’s also not a sign there’s something wrong with your baby.
In practice, I would say that about 30 percent of my infant patients never do what is considered a “classic crawl.” I see this most often when there are older siblings in the family to “keep up with.” Skipping the crawling phase has no detrimental developmental effect.
However, by the four-month mark, your pediatrician will probably check how your little one bears weight on their legs (14).
If your baby feels floppy or refuses to place their feet on the ground when you stand them up, more investigation is essential. By this age, the leg muscles should bulk up, enabling them to support most of their weight.
I have some parents who complain of grandparents telling them it is “unsafe” to do such leg weight-bearing activities. They believe it will injure the baby’s back in some way. This belief is not medically accurate. Holding a baby upright for weight-bearing on the legs is important for normal development and making progress in milestones.
Editor's Note:Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Low muscle tone or floppy limbs by this age usually requires further investigation. If you’re worried, contact your doctor.
Crawling Is Fun
Crawling is such a fun stage. It’s common for parents to wonder when babies will crawl, and it’s generally around 6 to 10 months. You can watch out for the various crawling styles, and perhaps your little one will do the bear or crab crawl.
However, don’t be alarmed if your baby doesn’t crawl — that’s perfectly fine. As long as your baby can stand supported and carry some of their weight with their legs, there’s no need to worry.