10 May 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
“My friend’s baby started crawling at six months. My son’s almost eight months and he hasn’t shown any interest in crawling. Is he delayed developmentally?
When I read this question in my copy of “What To Expect: The First Year”, it was as if the authors had taken the words right out of my mouth (I guess that’s why the book is still a best seller and must-have in every new mother’s eyes – the authors can read our minds!)
My trusty book assured me that:
– Crawling, unlike sitting or pulling up, is not a predictable part of every child’s development pattern. It isn’t included on most assessment scales.
– Some babies crawl as early as six months, but seven and a half to nine months is more typical.
– A few babies never crawl at all – they just pull up, start cruising and then take off and walk.
– Before a baby can crawl, he has to be able to sit well. Whether or when he begins to crawl after that is an individual matter and not one for concern.
– Good crawlers are often late walkers, while children who never take to crawling may walk early.
Given that crawling is not a developmental milestone, I felt reassured that it was okay if my baby never learned to crawl. After all, once she mastered balancing, standing, walking and sitting back down, how difficult could it be to figure out crawling retrospectively? After all, what did it matter if the order was wrong (i.e. walking then crawling) as long as she eventually could do both?
That, apparently, is conventional logic.
It seems that such schools of thought — that there is no harm in skipping the crawling stage — have been surpassed by modern studies.
I only discovered that not everybody thought like I did when my friend looked alarmed when I mentioned that Coco had no interest in learning how to crawl, and seemed to be moving straight on to walking.
She highlighted that recent studies have shown that mastering the skill of crawling is critical to certain synapses “clicking”, which are necessary for normal brain development and there have been cases of teenagers being put through therapy to learn how to crawl in order to correct developmental delays — a painfully longdrawn and expensive process.
Can somebody say….. “FREAK OUT!!!!”
Alarmed, I Googled for answers to my frantic questions: “Why isn’t my baby crawling?”, “Can baby skip crawling?”, “Do babies need to crawl?”, “What if my baby doesn’t want to crawl?”
The Internet says…
I came across an article on Parenting.com that highlighted that a growing number of paediatritians say that crawling is actually a critical developmental milestone whose long-term benefits are only just becoming apparent. The author’s check with almost 20 medical experts yielded the following opinions:
(1) Crawling helps strengthen the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Skipping crawling results in weaker upper body muscles.
Thus, non-crawlers are not as strong. As older children, they have a harder time pulling themselves out of a pool or even picking themselves up from the floor.
(2) Crawling helps develop the hand and wrist muscles needed for fine motor skills e.g. controlling utensils and writing. Children who skip crawling may have messier handwriting.
(3) Crawling is practice for bilateral coordination, which is needed for getting dressed, self-feeding and sports. Children who skip crawling may struggle to catch up.
(4) Crawling encourages hand interaction and navigating on ground helps develop visual spatial skills and depth perception.
At this point, my heart sank. Oh great. Coco was going to have a weak upper body, messy handwriting, poor spatial judgement and suck at sports.
Well, thanks goodness I didn’t close my Internet browser there and then and march off in search of my daugher to force her to crawl. Because page two said….
Don’t freak out just yet
(1) There is no data showing that children who don’t crawl will have developmental problems in the long run.
(2) Almost all children in a study conducted were walking by around their first birthday, regardless of whether they had crawled.
(3) As “What to Expect” advised, crawling isn’t a skill used to measure children’s development. Bypassing one milestone is not usually a cause for concern.
(4) As long as a child is making an effort to move around indepdently, it doesn’t matter what method he chooses.
The article concludes that while medical opinion is divided on whether babies need to crawl, all experts agree on one thing — that tummy time is important for babies to learn how to use their muscles, a pre-cursor to independent locomotion.
Also, babies should spend less time in jumpers, car seats and strollers and instead be placed on the floor and encouraged to chase or reach for a toy.
So we embraced the advice, put our baby on her tummy and encouraged her to move on her belly.
Then we realised why. Somewhere along the way, she has figured out that:
Falling onto the mat = PAIN
Falling onto the bed = FUN
Furthermore, no ball, toy or book was deemed attractive enough to risk falling over for. If it lay beyond her reach, no matter how much she stretched, she just lost interest completely and played with something else.
FINE. We plonked her onto our bed and revealed our Secret Weapon as a last resort: THE NEW iPAD
It worked. Coco is super hard-up for the iPad. A few days ago, she wasn’t even creeping on her belly. Barely a week later, she was soldier crawling down the length of our bed. Just today, she progressed to rocking and inching forward on her hands and knees. She is able to get her little hands on more things now — wet wipes, powder puff, mobile phones — and already, we’re wondering why we were in such a rush to make her crawl?
And yes, we’re also finding ourselves on the slippery slope to surrendering our iPad to our child — far, far earlier than we expected to.
Now that will make a good story for another blog entry.