EXPERT ADVICE: Why is my child not crawling?

Some babies skip the crawling phase altogether. Find out from the experts if you should be concerned.

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From day one, you will be bubba’s only mode of transportation — whether you strap them into a stroller, put them into a carrier or just cradle them in your arms.

When they’re 9 months and up — or when they can sit well without support — your mini-me will try to crawl. They gradually become more confident in switching from being seated, to being on all fours. By 10 months, they’ll learn that pushing off the ground with their knees allows them to move about and thus start crawling.

“We should consider the child's overall development. If the child is slower in other aspects, parents should consider consulting a paediatrician.”

Besides a newfound freedom, your curious cherub will also benefit in other ways:

* Improve gross and fine motor skills Crawling involves the movement of larger parts of your child’s body like their arms, legs and feet as well as finer movements like their hands and fingers.

* Gain balance Your baby needs to balance his body when he gets on all fours before he learns how to move while resting on his arms and legs.

* Better hand-eye coordination Crawling requires your child to use his eyes to see where he’s going and his hands to stop his movements, when needed.

* Learns how to navigate During their first few attempts at getting around, you might see your munchkin trying to crawl through tight spaces, rather than going around it. But through time and experience, your child will eventually discover new and more efficient ways to get around and learn to slow down to avoid hurting themselves.

* Builds self-confidence Giving your little one positive encouragement and feedback when they crawl from A to B might boost their self-esteem.

Thomson Paediatric Centre paediatrician Dr Yang Linqi and NUH Rehabilitation Centre’s senior physiotherapist, Chong Hui Ngoh, offer expert advice on encouraging your baby to crawl:

Should parents be worried if their baby isn’t crawling?

Dr Yang: Some babies may not crawl at all and may just move on to the next milestone, which is pulling to stand and cruising. There is no negative impact on the child as long as they develop the rest of their milestones appropriately.
Chong: We should consider the child's overall development. If the child is slower in other aspects, parents should consider consulting a paediatrician. Children who do not have opportunities to stretch the soft tissues in their hands and to strengthen their upper body or practise using both hands may face challenges in the future when using them for things like self-feeding, handwriting and sports.

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Does it mean that these babies may have a developmental delay?

Dr Yang: A baby who isn’t crawling may have discovered other ways of moving from one place to another. Some may butt-shuffle, some may crawl backwards, some commando-crawl or even creep. However, parents should always highlight this worry to their paediatrician, who can perform a thorough examination to look for possible causes, such as muscle weakness.

How can parents boost their infant’s ability to crawl?

Dr Yang: They can provide a safe and conducive environment for the child to learn crawling. For instance, getting a padded play mat that provides a firm yet safe surface. They can also entice the child to move forward by placing toys or items in front of the child. Encouragement and positive reinforcement would also be helpful during the learning process.
Chong: We should let the child start to play on their tummy when they are younger — at about 4 to 5 months old.

“A baby who isn’t crawling may have discovered other ways of moving from one place to another.”

What changes should be made to baby’s diet once he starts crawling?

Dr Yang: Naturally, a crawling baby would require more energy compared to one who is stationary. Most babies at this stage should have started on solids and weaning food, and these will help to provide adequate nutrition and calories to fuel the child’s new development. There are no specific changes that need to be made, but care should be taken to ensure a well-balanced diet of both solids and milk feeds.

Should parents change their tot’s crawling styles?

Dr Yang: No, there is no need to and it wouldn’t be easy to change their style either. Do teach them how to take a step down with their legs first and tummy side down. This will help to ensure that the child doesn’t plunge head first down the step. Teach your child by guiding them repeatedly about the correct technique and correcting them immediately if they do otherwise.

Any safety measures parents should take?

Dr Yang: A useful and practical tip is for the parents to get on their knees and inspect the home environment. Watch for sharp edges, steps, glass surfaces, small items which may be choking hazards, and electrical points, just to name a few. Childproof the area with edge protectors, baby gates and other relevant equipment to ensure that the child has a safe environment to explore.
Chong: Block the entrance to toilets and kitchens, remove all wires and cables within reach, secure drawers, cover all electrical outlets, remove table cloths, remove small items like buttons.

Photos: iStock

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