Why babies need to crawl before they walk

We have been really blessed to have 2 new babies added to our Northern foot family over the last 12 months. Janice our superstar podiatrist mum with the beautiful little 1 year old Jasmine and Danni our amazing practice manager with her adorable 9 month old Eden.

The arrival of the girls has got me thinking and talking about the importance of crawling.

Babies should crawl and it is an important milestone, babies reach their milestones at different ages however sometimes delayed milestones can be a red flag. The average age for crawling is 6-9 months old.

The benefits to crawling are many, including:

  1. Muscle development: It will help strengthen and stabilise neck, shoulder, core, hip, leg and feet muscles.
  2. Bony development of the hip, the leg bone gets pressed into the hip capsule and helps form and a nice deep hip cup.
  3. Fine motor skills of the hands. The muscles of the hands stretch and this will help with the development of the fine motor skills of the hands which is important for your baby to be able to feed themselves.
  4. Vision is developed through crawling as the changing between objects close up and then far away.
  5. Brain development, the reciprocal movement of the left and right arms and legs help the brain development which will help with dressing themselves later on. Not to mention the problem solving skills that are developed.
  6. Sensory development is developed by crawling over different surfaces.
  7. Nervous system is developed with something called proprioception, in other words you are aware where parts of your body are in relation to other parts.
  8. Immune system – yep all that crawling around with hands on floor and then into mouth helps to build the immune system. This is a good time to make sure your flooring is clean and safe but the aim is not sterile.

Okay I hear you say, so why do some babies skip crawling? There are many reasons babies can skip crawling including; lack of muscle strength or muscle tightness, poor vision, difficulty in transition positions (eg. Sit to tummy), preference for standing, restricted access to floor space and probably what I see most commonly is the less access to soft surfaces ie carpet.

Hopefully you have an idea now about how important crawling is so lets discuss..

How to encourage crawling:

  1. Encourage tummy time during waking hours and let your baby have plenty of soft safe space to practice their crawling skills. Our modern world has baby furniture that prop our babies up ie walkers and chairs and that can rob the baby of the opportunity to get some tummy time.
  2. Get on to the floor with your baby, they will likely start to use you as a baby gym and this a great time for bonding.
  3. Rolling toys – balls and toys that roll away are a great motivator to get baby moving and crawling. Place toys to the side, out in front and up higher (like the couch), this will help baby move and pivot.
  4. Sensory items – are great too, these could be sand bags. Letting baby crawl on grass safely and other surfaces is a good idea as this will get them used to crawling over different surfaces.
  5. Encourage rocking on hands and knees in early stages and baby pushups. Hold baby under their tummy and let them practice getting their hands and knees underneath them.

Red flags or signs to look for:

  1. Inability to play on hands on knees
  2. Not sitting independently by 6 months
  3. Inability to transition from sitting to tummy
  4. Babies not wanting to lie on tummy during play after 4 months

Our Podiatrists are here to help you and your baby with their journey and development. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development or would like to have chat please book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists. We advise and encourage all babies and children to have at least a yearly check with a podiatrist.

Iona Millar, Podiatrist and mum to four grown kids who all mastered the crawl