What age do babies crawl and when you should worry if they’re not

As your baby grows, there are more and more milestones to wonder about during this monumental first year of growth. Crawling is the big step from stationary to mobile, which will be a big change for you and your baby. But at what age do babies crawl? You’re probably both anticipating your little one getting moving and wondering about it, so we’ve put together the answers to your top questions.

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What age do babies crawl?

Babies usually start crawling between 6 and 11 months. As with all milestones, every baby is different and working at their own pace, so it’s absolutely fine for them to fall anywhere in this range, and there’s not always a concerning reason to fall outside of this range. About 50% of babies begin crawling by 8 months. A baby’s body length, head size, and other physical attributes may influence when they crawl since it takes more strength training to lift a heavier head, for example.

Some babies never crawl and go straight to cruising and walking. Crawling can be beneficial, but it’s also OK if this ends up being your baby’s path.

Why do babies crawl?

Babies get a lot out of crawling before walking. It takes a lot of strength and coordination to crawl, and they gain both mental and physical strength from the process. Dr. Rallie McAllister, co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, says that crawling takes gross motor, visual-spatial, and cognitive skills. “Crawling babies develop navigation skills and memorize facts,” Dr. McAllister continues. “For instance, they’ll learn that they have to go around the coffee table and beyond the recliner to get to the basket of toys.”

Babies want to move, but if they aren’t motivated to crawl, they may find other ways of moving like rolling or cruising. If they can get around, they might be satisfied with whatever version they end up with, even if that means never crawling before walking. Crawling has specific physical and mental benefits for coordination and muscle development, but it is fine if they never crawl.

When should I be concerned if my baby isn’t crawling?

If your baby isn’t crawling at 12 months, ask your pediatrician about it. Dr. Gwen Dewar says not to be concerned if your baby never crawls and instead skips to walking: “It’s perfectly normal for babies to skip crawling altogether.”

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How can I encourage crawling?

Tummy time helps babies develop core muscles they need for crawling. In fact, studies have shown that in countries where tummy time isn’t as encouraged as the US, babies crawl less. They have also shown that babies with more tummy time crawl sooner. The neck and shoulder muscles they work in tummy time need to be developed to hold their head up to crawl. Giving your baby tummy time is the main way parents can encourage crawling.

You can also encourage your baby to try moving forward by getting down on the floor with them and encouraging them with smiles and talk to lift their head up in tummy time to look at you. Toys and other motivators can also help babies make it through more tummy time.

When your baby is starting to practice getting into a crawling position on their hands and knees, you can help by putting your hands against the soles of their feet. Then your baby can push against your hands to get some resistance for building the leg muscles and also understanding how to move forward instead of backward.

If your baby isn’t sitting up yet, you can also help them get into a sitting position and stay there with your hands or a pillow so they can flex those muscles to prepare for crawling, too.

In the end, floor time, in general, is a big help: “Just hanging out with them on the ground encourages them to crawl or scoot,” explains Dr. Aishwarya Deenadayalu. “Give them the opportunity to try to get to stuff. You can entice them to get to the things they need to get to. It’s nothing fancy. Just having them on the ground is the most important thing.”

The other important step to prepare for crawling? Baby-proofing! Now is the time to make sure your baby can’t pull anything heavy down on them or open any ground-level cabinets.

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