Baby not Crawling – Causes and Tips to help them

A mother watching her baby trying to crawl

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Your baby is the centre point of your life and rightly so. When the baby is not crawling all parents need to know why this is happening and how to help the baby reach this important milestone. We shall go through the most common reasons for delayed crawling and tips on how to help the baby through this phase.

Is Delayed Crawling in Babies Normal?

From a completely-folded-fetal position, all babies go through a gradual extension of the arms and feet and learn to roll over, then crawl and finally stand up erect. Crawling is nature’s way to help strengthen baby’s muscles as they learn to stand up from the supine position and is an important phase and milestone. Don’t forget they learn from what they see and the motivation they receive from you in flailing their arms, legs, and crying, of course, to get attention and love from you.

The first weeks after they are born is stretching time for the little one. By 3 to 5 months they are able to roll over and start discovering the lower limbs. Normally at the age of about 8 months babies will learn to crawl and become mobile. When babies delay attempting to crawl or go through delayed crawling developmental problems, there are several options listed below to help see you through. Most times there are normal reasons that can be corrected. But when should you worry?

An immediate visit to the paediatrician is recommended if:

  • Baby makes no attempt to wriggle or move arms and feet when touched.
  • Even when a year old and the baby does not attempt to crawl or move towards objects and favours one side over the other.
  • If your child has low energy levels and can’t support his body weight.
  • If by 6 months your baby does not wriggle the legs, just flops when carried, does not move the legs to support the body when held erect.
  • Baby moves the arms but the feet are stiff and rigid.

What Causes Late Crawling in Babies?

In most cases, there is no cause for worry if a baby crawls by the end of 12 months, and other activities are age appropriate. Simple exercises like stretching the legs, supporting in a sitting position, or gently pushing the baby when on all fours, providing a rolled-up blanket under the belly when on all fours and enticing them to move towards objects that kindle their curiosity like phones, mirrors, tunnels, cats and dogs, food, and even their own pee is sufficient to initiate crawling.

Importantly, there are babies who just do not crawl and stand up with just a few side-step moves. Not to worry! That’s just your baby’s personality! But there are reasons for the delayed crawling phase that you can help with.

1. Curved-in Feet

Curved-in feet, flat feet and bow legs are very common in infants and may be the reason for delayed crawling.

How You Can Help

  • Curved-in feet can be rectified by stretching the limbs and exercise.
  • Flat feet normally disappear as the arch forms by age 3 years.
  • Bowlegs just after birth are completely normal and disappear with the strengthening and movements of the baby.
  • Motivate the baby by standing him up, encouraging reflexes to pick up toys, and letting the baby discover the world of movement in a safe environment.

2. Lack of Encouragement

Not enough motivation to encourage crawling or spending time on their belly.

How You Can Help

It is important for healthy growth of babies to discover motor coordination and reflexes. Don’t pick them up every time they cry or look like they are unable to roll-over or crawl. They love the attention they get and patience is the keyword here.Get on the floor and try crawling before them. Put a few cushions and mats on the floor with their toys just out of reach to nudge them to move.

3. Not Enough Tummy Time

Baby’s need plenty of tummy time to develop neck muscles and initiate their crawling reflexes.

How You Can Help

Let the baby sleep on its back. But place them face down with their favourite toys just out of reach to encourage them to move towards it. A lot of fear connected with Sudden Infant Death syndrome has led to babies sleeping on their backs and learning from adult examples many infants go from the back directly to walking, completely missing the crawling stage. Crawling helps the child move its body in balanced unison which empowers growth and balanced movement right through their lives. So while missing the crawling stage may be completely normal, it is what the baby learns and achieves by crawling that needs to be the focus.

4. Baby Hates Belly Time

If you baby cries when placed on his belly, you may be hesitant to do it.

How You Can Help

  • This is a completely normal response.
  • Just remember that you must not give in each time he cries by lifting and soothing.
  • Provide encouragement and motivation to crawl, and help him discover motor and physical development.
  • You may also mimic crawling moves for your baby.
  • Start placing baby face-down for 5 to 15 seconds four or five times a day between crying spells.

5. Baby is Overweight

Weight problems in infancy mean the baby has to move more and requires more effort.

How You Can Help

  • Optimum weight can be soon achieved by moving around. Encourage and motivate baby to crawl.

6. Baby is Not Yet Ready to Crawl

Your baby may need more time to prepare himself to crawl.

How You Can Help

  • Encourage crawling through exercise and providing a safe area for the baby to explore.

7. Restrictive Clothing

If your baby’s clothes are not conducive to crawling and are very restrictive, it may prevent him from crawling.

How You Can Help

  • Encourage crawling through example and exercise and providing a safe area for the baby to explore.
  • Use one piece rompers to allow free movement on the belly without feeling the cold floor.
  • Barefoot is always good. When the baby is ready to go outdoors choose non-skid, flexible and soft shoes. Use booties to keep baby warm.
  • Use of disposable diapers introduces bulk between the legs. Switch to cloth diapers if needed and allow baby to be naked for some time each day.

8. Delay in Other Milestones

Baby’s movements and progress are restricted due to delays in other developments like strengthening of neck muscles.

How You Can Help

  • Watch for the milestones and reassure yourself if any are skipped without any cause.
  • If your baby has missed more than one milestone, has progress and cognitive problems, the baby is stiff and has problems with swallowing, baby’s movements are rigid, weak and inflexible expert advice and guidance is a must.

What if your Baby Skips the Crawling Stage Completely?

A baby trying to crawl

If all other movements and body control is good, remember crawling is not on the doctor’s chart for milestones and should not be a cause for concern. Between 4 and 6 months, babies discover and attempt using their feet, between 7 and 10 months babies get up on their hands and knees, and some kids find other ways to get around, such as rolling, shuffling or creeping on their bottoms.

As early as 5 months, prop the baby erect or in a crawl position with support, supervision and in a baby-safe environment. Place a mat on the floor with toys just out of reach. He will try to walk and crawl to please you!

If the baby is too weak to be able to stand erect or attempt crawling by the age of twelve months, don’t panic. Explore whether the baby has poor muscle tone, weak muscles or a weak hip. When you have a 9-month-old baby not crawling independently, is unable to stand erect at 15 months, walks on toes, overall balance hasn’t improved, falls frequently and takes no steps or takes very tiny unbalanced ones, seek medical help immediately as low muscle-tone could be the culprit. Seek help when in doubt, as the risks of joint and muscle problems, autism, and other neurological problems need to be ruled out as early as possible.

All babies develop differently and it is important to show progress rather than strictly achieve milestones. At times, at 6 months, a baby may actually pull himself up and then crawl or avoid crawling between the ages of 9 and 12 months. A good thumb-rule is to wait and assess your baby’s progress for two to three months beyond the milestones before you start panicking.

Also Read: Baby Growth Spurts