This is a guest blog post written by Angela Fritz, PT, DPT, PCS, an infant physical therapist (PT) and board-certified pediatric clinical specialist (PCS) and the creator of bebePT.
As a new parent, you're watching your baby grow up right before your eyes. Each new milestone they reach may bring you some mixed emotions. On one hand, your little one is growing and learning new things which are exciting and amazing to see, but on the other hand, your sweet little cuddle bug is becoming not so tiny and cuddly anymore! 😭
While you're doing everything you can to savor the sweet moments, you also may be eager to help your baby reach the milestones that bring independence and curiosity. And remember that any form of mobility is beneficial for your baby, whether it be belly crawling, cruising on hands and knees, or rolling and grooving. So let's get started.
Before we start
Many babies continue to acquire new skills by following a typical developmental timeline, but some may achieve them later, and that can be normal! Keep in mind, though, this wider range is rarely reflected in your standard milestone checklist. It’s important to support your baby’s growth and development right where they are!
Our goals are to promote independence and mobility for your baby, and there are lots of ways to get there. So remember, these are just a few ideas to try at home, but if you're concerned about your baby's progress in any way, reach out to your pediatrician or medical advisor. It is important to work closely with your pediatrician, PT, medical team, or appropriate healthcare professional to ensure your baby gets the care and support they need to thrive.
Encouraging belly crawling
This is one of the most common ways that many babies learn to crawl. They push with their feet, pull with their arms, and wiggle their hips and trunk to move. Here are some ways we can help support baby in learning this form of mobility.
Pushing up on extended arms
This is an important part of crawling—building arm strength. And starting tummy time early is the best way to work on this from an early age.
How to do it:
- Roll up a towel and place it under your baby’s chest to encourage more weight-bearing through arms.
- Work on a “wheelbarrow” position over your thigh as an exercise to help with this as well.
Pivoting on the belly
Before crawling forward, babies often will pivot side to side first. This is an important building block to more mobility.
How to do it:
- Place toys slightly out of reach to either side to encourage baby to wiggle their way to get it.
- You can also help tickle the side of their core muscles to engage the right muscles to move sideways as well.
Crawling forward with assist
How to do it:
- Start by letting them push off of your hands to scoot forward while on their belly.
- You can start with just both feet at the same time to get the concept down, and advance towards working on one foot at a time.
Tip: try this activity on hard floors to reduce friction while your baby is learning. Also, if your baby wears a long sleeve and pants onesie with hands and feet free, this helps them slide along the floor easily while allowing them to move and grip easier.
Hands and knees crawling
This level of crawling takes an extra ounce of strength and stability compared to belly crawling.
- Start with rocking and reaching while on hands and knees. Baby might need support at first and then gain independence slowly.
- It can also be helpful to support their core a bit while they figure out the coordination needed from their hands and feet. A dish towel or swaddle blanket is a great tool to help with that!
Keep on movin'
If crawling and creeping are not right for your baby, there are many other ways to move! Some babies skip crawling altogether and move right along to walking or choose another way to get around. Rolling, shuffling, or scooting around are all other ways that babies can explore their environment. Talk to your PT to make sure we aren’t missing any possible asymmetries, however. Babies can also be wheeled and pushed to explore–check out the Go Baby Go program for some awesome forms of early powered mobility!
Remember, the goals are mobility and independence, and there are many ways to meet those goals. Talk to an infant physical therapist to get support to learn more ways to help your baby move!
Have you tried any of these crawling ideas with your baby yet? Share your experience with us in the comments below.
Angela Fritz is an infant physical therapist (PT) and board-certified pediatric clinical specialist (PCS) and the creator of bebePT. She works full time as a PT in the hospital setting supporting families and helping infants thrive with their own unique needs and strengths. Visit her blog, website, and follow her on Instagram.