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How important is it for your baby to crawl?

Remember those moments of firsts with your child? First bath, first haircut, first laugh… They are very special moments. For many kids, the first time they crawl is between 7-11 months. This crawling stage usually lasts for a few months before they begin to walk. Some of you are probably asking “what if my baby only crawled for a short period or didn’t crawl at all?” Or maybe your child did more of a “scoot” instead of a traditional crawl. This is a very common thing we see in our pediatric chiropractic office. Let’s explore what happens when your baby learns to crawl. We’ll break it down into 3 things: cross-crawl, spinal development, and neurological strength.

Cross-Crawl Patterning

Crawling is an extremely important developmental stage that is often overlooked. Crawling allows babies to create a connection between both sides of their brains. When they are practicing and trying to move their adorable, squishy little bodies for the first time, they need to first move their right arm and left leg, followed by left arm and right leg. This back-and-forth motion is called “cross-crawl patterning”. These signals start on one side of their brain and need to cross over to the other side. This means that when your sweet baby crawls, both sides of their brain need to work together very quickly. The incredible part is that this is the same thing that needs to happen later in life for things like walking, running, multi-tasking, and tons of other things. If the crawling stage is skipped (or if they “scoot”) their brain is unable to “cross” signals as quickly and can result in coordination problems at the very least.

Spinal Development

This actually begins even before your baby becomes mobile. When a baby is born, they have one big primary curve in flexion (called kyphosis). When a baby spends enough time on their tummy it begins the strengthening of the muscles in their neck which creates the first curve (cervical lordosis). Once they begin to crawl, their trunk rotates and new muscles in their back begin to strengthen. This prepares them for an upright posture when they start to walk. This also begins the curve in their lower back (lumbar lordosis). Without these curves they are not able to withstand the normal forces of gravity when they stand. This is also why we strongly discourage the use of chairs and devices that prop your baby up artificially before they are able to do so on their own.

Neurological Strength

When your baby crawls, their body is fighting against the weight of gravity. Not only does this strengthen their muscles, it strengthens their delicate little nervous system. They touch new surfaces and textures and will develop the senses in their hands that will later allow them to grasp and hold small objects. They also start learning depth perception and the distance between their eyes and their hands, the ground, and objects around them. This is called optical convergence. This helps the baby begin to understand the distance from the sofa to the ground and whether it is safe to go down head-first or feet-first. This ability is important in the future to see things clearly that are near or far and to focus between them quickly. This sets the basis for reading, writing, problem solving, and tons of other things.

The more a baby crawls, the faster and stronger these connections do their job. This process literally transforms their amazingly powerful brains! All babies have their own timing so, as tough as it may be with percentiles and ‘norms’ being thrown at you, try your best not to compare your baby to others.

What can parents do?

Tummy time! Some resources say 20-30 minutes a day, I personally feel that isn’t enough! Try to do 30 minutes every time they are awake. When they are first born it will be less, but try to work in as much as possible. Make sure to encourage them once they begin to push themselves up. They respond very well to parent encouragement!

What if my baby cries during tummy time?

This requires a longer answer, but in short, there are common things that can be happening. Things like neck tension, muscle imbalance, gas pains, etc. that can be making tummy time difficult. This is a great time to have your baby checked by a pediatric chiropractor like ourselves. We are often able to alleviate the cause of the problem to help make tummy time easier.

What if my child is past the crawling stage, but never crawled?

We see this a lot. It is important for your child to be checked by a pediatric chiropractor if this is the case. One cool thing is that their bodies are so powerful it can be trained later in life! Have your child crawl around the house on all fours for 30 minutes or more per day. This can begin re-training their brain to crossover and develop similarly to if they had earlier. This process isn’t ideal or as strong as them learning it the first time, but it does help!

Should my child be checked?

As you learned, this stage of crawling is extremely important for proper neurological development of your child. If your child isn’t crawling, has difficulty during tummy time, is “scooting” instead of crawling, or if you just feel something is “off” in your head, it would be a great time to get them checked. Sometimes it is thought that something needs to be “wrong” with a child to bring them to a pediatric chiropractor. This is absolutely not the case! There are so many amazing things to be gained from pediatric chiropractic care, and we would be happy to show you it all!

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