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  • Writer's pictureLivewell MFR

How Your Baby Crawls Matters. Helping Them Master The Criss-Cross Crawl Before Helping Them Walk

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

Sometimes as parents we feel pressure for our babies to whiz through milestones. You might be thrilled to see baby skip right through crawling and get a headstart on walking. You may even have a secret thrill thinking that baby is super advanced, destined to be an athletic superstar or, maybe even a genius! While we are right there with you in celebrating your baby as he or she grows and learns (high five!), there is definitely something to be said for slowing down mastering the basics.

The Physical Benefits of Crawling: Strength, Coordination, and Hip Health

Crawling works several important muscle groups. It helps build strength in the arms, back, neck, core, and legs. Importantly, the crawling muscle actions start to reshape the hips, pulling them inward and forward. As the baby gets stronger they become better positioned to lift their body and balance for walking.

Criss-Cross Crawling: Why Does It Matter?

In criss-cross crawling a baby moves a limb to the opposite side of the body. For example, she may touch the left hand to the right elbow. This is called crossing the midline of the body. This type of movement is key for developing vision, hearing, learning, and integration of reflexes. It also increases Low Back strength, prepares the ankles/feet for flexion with walking, encourages spinal rotation strength and strengthens hand-eye coordination.

Criss-cross crawling boosts brain development

The corpus callosum is a band of nerve fibers that passes between the right and left halves of the brain. Criss-cross crawling stimulates these fibers to develop in a balanced way, helping the two halves of the brain to communicate.

When a baby is criss cross crawling, its movements work both sides of the body evenly. Criss-Cross Crawling involves coordinated movements of the eyes, ears, hands, feet, and core muscles. These repetitive movements help support cognitive function, problem solving, and ease of learning.

Help Your Baby Get Crawling

Typically developing babies will begin crawling and creeping patterns between 7 and 9 months old. If you baby doesn’t seem to want to crawl, here are some ideas to encourage crawling. Remember, keep it fun! In a newly developing nervous system, we want to keep the baby in a content state. If your baby cries, comfort them. Start with short durations and build as baby will allow. There’s no rush.

Tummy Time

Baby can start doing tummy time every day starting the day they arrive home! Tummy Time strengthens baby’s neck, back, and shoulder muscles, which prepares them to enter the crawling stage. In the early days, start practicing tummy time with baby laying on your chest! As they get older, break out the play mats and have fun.

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Babies learn a lot by observing you. Practice pushups with your baby. Laying on the ground in front of your child, lift up your head and chest (cobra position). This encourages your baby to lift their own head and torso and strengthening the associated muscles. You can help them get started by using a small towel rolled up under their chest to give them a wee boost.

As baby gets ready to crawl and creep, place their toys slightly off the floor, such as on the couch or on a play table. This encourages baby to look up, lift their head, and push up onto their hands and knees to locate their toy.

Once they are able to get up into a crawling position, rock back and forth with them. This will help build confidence and balance!

Hands-Off, Mom or Dad!

Helping baby is part of parenting but sometimes you have to give baby the space to learn on their own! Minimize holding or propping your baby upright. Allow them to discover sitting and standing completely on her own. This way they will build strength and coordination necessary for crawling on hands and knees.

What if your baby uses another method of crawling?

Criss-Cross Crawling doesn’t come naturally to every baby. You may notice your baby using other combinations of limbs and movements to move across the floor. Scooting on the bottom, using one foot or knee to push or pull, crab crawling, leapfrogging, or even repetitive rolling are all common ways babies get around. It is important to know that while common, these different styles of crawling may indicate difficulty coordinating the cross-body movement necessary for hands and knees crawling.

Baby could be having trouble with this type of movement for a number of reasons. You don’t want them to miss out on important developmental inputs so, check in with a qualified therapist like a Manual Osteopath, Physiotherapist, or Occupational Therapist to see what you can do to help them out.


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