When do babies crawl?

Learn more about the exciting time from baby’s first days until the crawl-roll-scoot stages. We’ve asked doctor and pediatric orthopedist Göran Kendorf to explain the development from a tiny bundle to a baby who moves around independently.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – When do babies crawl? A little baby learning how to crawl, roll or scoot around.
Crawling and sitting independently are two developmental stages that usually occur around the same time.
Photo: Johnér

To answer the question “When do babies crawl?”, Dr. Göran Kendorf begins by summarizing the entire process behind your baby’s first independent movements.

More child development: How babies learn to walk

“From a pure motor skills standpoint, it begins with your baby’s gaining increased control over their head and head movements. Then development continues downwards through their bodies with increased control over their arms and finally their legs.

This type of motor development occurs in the first and second years of life and eventually results in your baby’s ability to move around independently. It’s part of the process of independence for the vast majority of human beings.

 

Head first

But if we take one developmental step at a time, it all starts with the head. An infant’s head makes up almost one third of their total body weight.

  • Approx. 1–2 months: many babies begin to be able to lift their heads when lying on their tummies. Many parents experience this as an important milestone in their baby’s motor development. Their tiny bundle is showing clear signs of wanting to discover the world!
  • Approx. 3–4 months: Once the baby can lift their head, they then need to discover how to balance it, something that usually occurs at about 3–4 months.
  • Approx. 5–9 months:  Crawling usually occurs around 5–9 months and that’s when the baby is able to sit without support too. Crawling and sitting independently are two developmental stages that usually occur around the same time, once the abdominal and back muscles are sufficiently developed.
  • Around 10–12 months: Dr. Kendorf says that crawling should be developed by 10–12 months of age, but some babies skip the crawling stage.

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It can be frustrating for parents when time passes and “all the other babies” seem to lie on their stomachs and lift their heads. But their baby seems to have no intention of ever letting go of the safety of ground contact. “Some children are a bit smaller, others a bit larger, and this can affect the age at which something happens”, Dr. Kendorf explains.

My baby isn’t crawling: At what age do babies crawl?

You may be worried if your baby isn’t crawling or showing interest in moving around. When should you contact someone about it? Dr. Kendorf advises contacting your ob-gyn or pediatrician to answer your questions. Hopefully this will put your mind at ease.

“In Sweden, where I’m from, we have well-equipped child healthcare centers where you can always talk to an experienced nurse and get support for your concerns. It’s important to understand that some babies never crawl. Some sit up right away. Others scoot around on their bottoms. None of this is out of the ordinary.”

Can you tell when your baby is about to start crawling?

“One sign is that your baby will make attempts to raise their bottom and try to get up on their knees. They need to use their back and abdominal muscles to do this. If you want to encourage this development, you can put your baby on their stomach and let them try to reach toys or get to you,” suggests Dr. Kendorf.

A baby who can turn around is usually also able to manage getting up on all fours and crawling. Leg development always comes last.

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Why are babies crawling?

What happens exactly is that the baby responds to different stimuli and as a result wants to move. Some babies pull themselves up and then remain still. That’s because they are trying to find the balance and motor power to move their legs forward. You can see that the arms are often already ready for this since many babies scoot around using their upper body.

Crawling is a part of independence

Crawling is a part of independence, where the baby is able to move between two places and is not totally dependent on Mom or Dad. So what does this independence mean for a little baby? Dr. Kendorf explains:

“This doesn’t mean that your baby doesn’t want to be with Mom or Dad – it’s a sign that their motor skills are developing and they’re ready for the next step.”

Once your baby is able to move forward by crawling, then comes the next challenge – standing up and eventually walking.

Read all our articles about baby development

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Pediatric orthopedist Göran Kendorf.
 
Photo: BabyBjörn

Göran Kendorf

Family: Married with six children (only two still live at home)
Works as: Medical doctor, specialist in pediatric orthopedics and general medicine
Background: Göran Kendorf is a proud Stockholmer who grew up in one of the city’s southern suburbs. He previously worked at the children’s orthopedic clinic at Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital as a children’s hip and foot specialist. He has worked at a private pediatric orthopedic clinic in central Stockholm since 2014.

How babies start to crawl

  • It begins with your baby’s gaining increased control over their head and head movements, then it continues to their arms and finally their legs.
  • This type of motor development occurs in the first and second years of your baby’s life.
  • The child’s size (big or small) can affect at what age they start to crawl.
  • Crawling is a part of the child’s independence.
  • The crawling should be developed by 10-12 months of age.
  • Some babies never crawl. Some scoot around on their bottoms.