"My baby hasn't started crawling yet"
We know that crawling is an important milestone, but many babies crawl late or not at all. What does this mean for your baby?
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Crawling is a hot topic among parents because there is such a wide range of what is normal in the timing and methods.

Around the time that a baby develops a strong attachment to his mother, when he can hardly bear to be separated from her, he is already beginning to leave her. The conflict between security and dependence, exploration and independence is being played out.

In order to investigate interesting objects, he cuts the ties with mom and goes off to explore new worlds. In the majority of babies this is an innate, self-starting, self-perpetuating process.

Read: What is separation anxiety?

But what if your one-year-old is still happy to view the world from the safety of your lap or from a sitting position in the centre of the room? Is this a problem or an individual preference?

Perhaps your late crawler is going to be more of a talker than a mover and has developed other skills to show his intentions, you may think, like pointing and vocalising to have his needs met.

You oblige, responding to his requests by moving towards him when he calls, or fetching the object he desires. But how important is this physical milestones for his development?

Why movement matters?

Occupational and physiotherapists view crawling as an important developmental milestone, which preferably should not be omitted, as it provides important foundations for other areas of development, like sensory stimulation and bearing weight through the hands and knees, hand-eye coordination and even later reading and writing.

Why is this? Children use binocular vision when crawling, which means they look forward to see where they are going and then back down at their hands again. Much later they use this skill in school, by looking up at the blackboard and then back down at their workbooks to write.

Slow on the uptake

There are many reasons for a delay in crawling in which both hereditary and environmental factors play a role. These factors include insufficient nutrition, premature birth, infections passed on from the mother and genetic disorders. All of these can affect a baby’s developmental trajectory.

In a small percentage of cases, the absence of crawling can also be an indication of orthopaedic problems or of a neurological condition. Children with visual, hearing or sensory processing difficulties will experience extra challenges when it comes to the establishment of their “security blanket” across space.

If your baby tends to be a little passive or fearful, withdrawn or distractible, you may need to spend extra time helping him to develop the desire or the physical skills to move independently (crawling and walking).

The average issue

In most cases a delay in crawling merely indicates that your baby needs more time to develop the physical components he needs for this particular type of movement.

Babies need trunk stability to be able to hold their bodies up against gravity, a key component of crawling. Spending too much time in supported sitting positions, like in a car seat, can contribute to weakness back and/or tummy muscles.

Tummy time is very important as it provides unrestricted daily exercising for developing postural foundations. Time in walking rings and jolly jumpers at this crucial stage when foundations for crawling are being laid,should be kept to a minimum.

How you can help

  • Ensure your home is childproof, with enough floor space to move around safely and that stairs are blocked.
  • Frequent short periods of tummy time during waking hours will enable your baby to get the practice he needs.
  • Start off by lying your baby over your thighs, with an interesting toy in front of him, so he needs to stretch out his arms to reach for it.
  • Graduate to supporting him under his chest over a rolled up towel on the floor or a bed. You lie facing him, entertaining him by pulling funny faces.
  • Finally lie him over a small ball so that his hands and knees touch the floor, gently rocking him back and forth while singing a song like “Row Your Boat”. Using movement to your advantage will enable him to sustain the prone position for longer.
  • Position him on your lap while you sit on a swing or lie him on your tummy while rocking in a hammock, talking or singing to him to extend his endurance.
  • When he is comfortable in the prone position your role is to entice him to move.
  • Place a multicoloured, noisy or tactile ball just out of reach, motivating him to move out of his comfort zone.

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