Ready, steady, crawl

Your baby’s first suc­cess­ful ef­fort at mov­ing for­ward on all fours is an ex­cit­ing mo­ment to wit­ness and rep­re­sents a huge jump in de­vel­op­ment, says Ni­cola Davies-laub­scher

Your Baby & Toddler - - The Dossier -

YOU KNOW YOUR BABY is get­ting ready to en­ter the pre-crawl­ing phase when he can sit with­out sup­port, be­cause that means he is strong enough to hold his head up and his back is strong enough for him to come for­ward onto hands and knees with­out fall­ing. This usu­ally hap­pens some­where be­tween seven and ten months, al­though some speedy ba­bies could start as early as six months. As with all de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones, com­par­ing your baby to a friend’s baby doesn’t re­ally serve much pur­pose. Our ba­bies are unique and de­velop at their own rate.

WHY IS CRAWL­ING IM­POR­TANT?

Crawl­ing is much more than just a way for your baby to ex­plore his en­vi­ron­ment. When a baby crawls, he car­ries his weight on his hands and this helps de­velop shoul­der con­trol and the arches of the hands, says Leny Loock, a neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal therapist from Nel­spruit. This de­vel­op­ment is im­por­tant for later fine mo­tor ac­tiv­i­ties such as hold­ing a pen­cil and draw­ing.

Crawl­ing gives your baby mo­bil­ity and al­lows him to plan how to get to ob­jects.

“Of course he will some­times get stuck in un­com­fort­able spots, but this teaches him con­cepts like body size and spa­tial ori­en­ta­tion. Later he will need ba­sic con­cepts such as top, bot­tom, left and right in or­der to learn how to read, write and do sums.”

When a baby crawls, he has to co­or­di­nate both sides of his body. “Crawl­ing there­fore also pro­motes the de­vel­op­ment of left and right brain ac­tiv­ity, and the con­nec­tion be­tween the two sides of the brain,” says Leny.

This con­nec­tion is es­sen­tial for the co­or­di­na­tion that your baby will use later as he grows, for ex­am­ple to par­tic­i­pate in rope-skip­ping games.

This is the rea­son why de­vel­op­men­tal ex­perts pre­fer it when ba­bies crawl on all fours in­stead of shuf­fling on their bum.

“Other meth­ods of mov­ing cer­tainly help baby ex­plore the en­vi­ron­ment, but they don’t pro­vide all the de­vel­op­men­tal ad­van­tages of proper crawl­ing,” says Leny.

HELP! HE WON’T CRAWL Stud­ies are be­gin­ning to show that more and more chil­dren are be­gin­ning to crawl later and later, or not at all, skip­ping straight to walk­ing. One of the main rea­sons for this is the re­sult of a cam­paign en­cour­ag­ing par­ents to let their ba­bies sleep on their backs, as this re­duces the risk for cot death.

An un­fore­seen side-ef­fect of this cam­paign is that par­ents are tak­ing the no-tummy rule into the wak­ing hours too! The re­sult is ba­bies that are so used to only ly­ing on their backs that they have lost in­ter­est in rolling over and crawl­ing. How­ever, this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that they are late to reach their other mile­stones.

In a study by Amer­i­can pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Beth Ellen Davis that ap­peared in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics, non-crawl­ing ba­bies be­gin walk­ing in the same time frame as their crawl­ing coun­ter­parts. In her study the ba­bies who al­ways slept on their backs started crawl­ing at an av­er­age age of nine months, but a third of them never crawled. All the ba­bies in her study group, whether they slept on their back or tummy, or whether they crawled or not, started walk­ing at more or less the same time: one year old.

A study by a Bri­tish doc­tor, Dr Peter Flem­ing, also pub­lished in Pe­di­atrics, looked at the long-term ef­fect of the back-sleep­ing cam­paign in the UK. His study re­vealed that since the be­gin­ning of the cam­paign, the age at which ba­bies start to roll over and crawl has moved later, and that an in­creas­ing num­ber of ba­bies never crawl. How­ever, by 18 months of age there was no dif­fer­ence in the de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones of the back sleep­ing ba­bies ver­sus the tummy sleep­ing ba­bies.

Leny says the com­po­nents of crawl­ing are more im­por­tant that the ac­tual crawl­ing ac­tion. Th­ese in­clude suf­fi­cient con­trol of the head, strong enough shoul­ders, hip sta­bil­ity, trunk sta­bil­ity, trunk ro­ta­tion and the abil­ity to move from a sit­ting po­si­tion to a crawl­ing po­si­tion and back.

So even if your baby has skipped the crawl­ing stage com­pletely, you should con­tinue to en­cour­age crawl­ing games such as stand­ing on all fours to im­i­tate an­i­mals, for in­stance. This can help with the de­vel­op­ment of crawl­ing skills even in the ab­sence of crawl­ing. YB

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