Friday, October 14, 2011

Babies' Firsts: How babies learn to crawl

In a previous post, we asked our readers to share stories about when and how their babies learned to crawl. Several readers responded and the comments provided an excellent example of the most important information about crawling – all babies are different and there isn’t a set age or way that all babies learn to crawl. When someone describes a baby who is crawling, most people imagine a baby on her hands and knees, but some babies never crawl this way. In fact, some babies never crawl at all and are content to roll or scoot around until they learn to walk.  Our readers’ children learned to crawl at all different ages, ranging from 6 to 12 months and each had their own way of moving that worked for them. For example, one of our readers explained that because they have hardwood floors in her house, her baby moved backwards first and even after she learned to crawl on her hands and knees, it was easier for her to army crawl.

Today, we’ll describe the different types of movements that can be considered crawling.  As you are reading, keep in mind that babies don’t necessarily use each of these types of movement to get around and that the ages provided are just averages. If you have concerns about your baby’s physical development, contact your pediatrician.

Pivoting is just what it sounds like – turning the body with the tummy on the ground. When pivoting, a baby will have her head up and her legs stretched out and she’ll use her arms and legs to pivot while curling her body. Some babies begin pivoting around 4 months of age and 50% and 90% master this ability by 6 and 8 months, respectively.

Four-Point Kneeling
Four-Point Kneeling is when a baby is able to support her weight on her hands and knees. While this is more of a stationary ability that needs to be mastered before learning to crawl on the hands and knees, babies in this position may rock back and forth and  even fall forward if they rock with enough momentum.  Fifty percent of babies can hold themselves up in this position by 7 months and 90% by 9 months. Although they may be unsteady at first, within about a month they become much more stable.  

Reciprocal crawling
In our house we call it the army crawl, moving forward by putting weight on one arm and the opposite leg and then switching to the other arm and leg, but not lifting the entire body up off the floor. Fifty percent are able to crawl this way at 7.5 months and 90% are able to by about 9 months.

Reciprocal Creeping
Reciprocal creeping is what most people consider crawling; the baby’s weight will be on hand and opposite knee and she’ll move by shifting weight from one hand and leg to the others. Fifty and 90% are able to crawl this way by 8.5 and 11 months, respectively.

Just like our readers, our children all had their own ways to move. Jen G’s daughter, Lily, mastered crawling on her hands and knees at 8 months, and Olivia, Jen B’s oldest daughter, army-crawled until 12 months. Charlotte (Jen B’s youngest daughter) started crawling army-style at 5.5 months, was up on her hands and knees one week later, and has recently (at 10 months of age) began moving around on her hands and feet. No matter how your baby learns to get around, one thing is for sure, once they start moving, it’s hard to keep them still!

Reference:  Piper M, Darrah J. Motor Assessment of the Developing Infant. Philadelphia PA:W.B. Saunders Company 1994.


  1. My daughter Lyra is 5 months and 2 weeks and is sitting unsupported, I attempted to put her on her front for tummy time today and she pulled her knees up as I put her down and supported herself in the four point kneeling position and then began rocking back and forth!I'm so proud of her!

  2. My daughter Sophie turned 5 months old on October 11th and she has been rolling from back to tummy and tummy to back for several weeks. She could push up with her arms last week and she also learned to pivot a few days after. Tonight she lifted her butt into the air and then put her head down and pushed up on her arms. She rocked back and forth and moved a little each time and she started over again. I'm so proud. Now that she can bear weight on her hands and knees, she's going to crawl really soon I think. :) She's still wobbly sitting up because she's so hyper is always wanting to go somewhere.

  3. My son is 4 months old (18 weeks) and has been rolling from tummy to back and back to tummy purposefully for a few weeks now. He just went up on his elbows and knees yesterday and will rock back and forth. His tummy is off the ground. He rocked hard enough to crash forward today. I think he'll crawl soon. So excited! I can't believe he's doing this so early! I better baby proof the house now!

  4. My daughter turned 10 months on 12/28/14. She started pushing herself backwards (she would raise her arms up, chest off the ground, and push herself) starting at 9 months and scooting on her butt a couple days after that. Though she never really scooted very far. Now at 10 months, she is just starting to army crawl, but slowly. Who knows if she will ever crawl on her hands and knees! She can't even get on all 4's. But every month she is making progress so we're happy. She didn't roll all over the place until 8 months (before then she would roll 1-3x/month) so she's a bit slower in terms of gross motor but she always meets the targets on her own terms. It's hard not to compare and I always do it but I'm glad to know there is such a huge range in terms of babies development!

  5. My son is 4.5 months. He has been sitting up since 3 months. Always liked to be up on his feet and loved tummy time. He rolls from his tummy to his back and from his back to tummy. He has been doing this since a little before 4 months. In the past two weeks, he has been getting up on all fours, rocking back and forth and even moving one arm and leg forward b4 falling and getting back up again. I am certain that he will be crawling by 5 months!