Dr Göran Kendorf begins by summarising the entire process behind your baby’s first independent movements.
“From a pure motor skills standpoint, it begins by your baby getting increased control over their head and head movements. Development continues downwards through their body, with increased control over their arms and finally their legs.
This type of motor development occurs in the first and second year of life and eventually results in your baby’s ability to move around independently. This is part of the process of independence for the vast majority of human beings.”
But if we take one developmental step at a time, it all starts with the head. An infant’s head makes up almost one third of their total body weight.
At approximately 1-2 months old, many babies begin to be able to lift their heads when lying on their tummies. Many parents experience this as an important milestone in their baby’s motor development. Their tiny bundle is showing clear signs of wanting to discover the world!
Once the baby can lift their head, they need to discover how to balance it, something that usually occurs at the age of about 3-4 months.
It can be frustrating for parents when time passes and ‘everyone else’s baby’ is lying on their tummy and lifting their head. But their baby seems to have no intention of ever letting go of the safety of ground contact.
But as Dr Kendorf explains, “Some children are a bit smaller, others a bit larger, and this can affect the age at which something happens.’
My baby isn’t crawling
You may be worried if your baby isn’t crawling or showing any interest in moving around. When should you get medical advice?
Dr Kendorf advises contacting your health visitor or GP to answer your questions. Hopefully this will put your mind at ease.
“I come from Sweden, which has well-equipped child healthcare centres where you can always talk to an experienced nurse and get support if you’re worried.”
Crawling usually occurs around 5-9 months
Dr Kendorf says that crawling should be developed by 10-12 months of age. Crawling usually occurs around 5-9 months, and that’s when the baby is able to sit without support, too. Crawling and sitting independently are two developmental stages that usually occur around the same time when the balance in abdominal and back muscles is sufficiently developed.
“It’s important to understand that some children never crawl. Some sit up straight away. Others scoot around on their bottoms. It’s all perfectly normally.”
What crawling means for young babies
Dr Kendorf tells us that many parents wonder if it’s possible to see when your baby is about to start crawling.
“One sign is that your baby will make attempts to lift their bottom and try to get up on their knees. They need to use their back and abdominal muscles to do this.
If you want to encourage this development, you can put your baby on their tummy and let your baby try to reach toys or get to you,” suggests Dr Kendorf.
A baby who can turn around is usually also able to manage getting up on all fours and crawling. Leg development always comes last.
What happens exactly is that your baby responds to different stimuli and as a result wants to move. Some babies pull themselves up and then remain still. That’s because they are trying to find the balance and motor power to move their legs forward.
You can see that their arms are often already ready for this as many babies scoot around using their upper body.
Crawling is a part of independence
Crawling is a part of independence, where the baby is able to move between two places and is not totally dependent on Mum or Dad. So what does this independence mean for a little baby? Dr Kendorf explains:
“This doesn’t mean that your baby doesn’t want to be with Mum or Dad – it’s a sign their motor skills are developing and they’re ready for the next step.”
Once your baby is able to move forward by crawling then comes the next challenge – standing up and eventually walking. Part 2: Dr Göran Kendorf talks about how babies learn to walk.
Family: Married with six children (but only two still live at home)
Works as: Medical doctor, specialist in paediatric orthopaedics and general practice
Background: Göran Kendorf is a proud Stockholmer who grew up in one of the city’s southern suburbs. He previously worked at the children’s orthopaedic clinic at Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital as a children’s hip and foot specialist. He has worked at a private paediatric orthopaedic clinic in central Stockholm since 2014.