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How Important Is Crawling During Infancy?

Addressing the RUMOR that crawling isn’t really developmentally necessary..........

I have been hearing more and more that parents are being told crawling isn't considered a necessary developmental milestone. Does it make sense that crawling would be a natural, innate component of infant development for generations, and now that babies spend significantly more time on their backs and in “containers” that suddenly crawling isn’t necessary?

Here is the short list of why crawling is an important stepping stone in development: 1. Upper arm, shoulder girdle and chest strengthening for coordination and fine more skills. 2. Hand arch development for fine motor skills. 3. Integration of primitive reflexes.

Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that assist in development, growth and survival during infancy. As the baby learns to move more intentionally vs. controlled by a reflex, these reflexes integrate (meaning the baby has volitional control over these movement patterns). When reflexes are not fully integrated they can cause confusion in the nuero-sensory-motor system resulting in anxiety, poor coordination, challenges with reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and attention. Lack of proper movement and developmental motor milestones is one reason a reflex may not become fully integrated.

“Tummy Time” is where baby starts to build shoulder and chest strength to lift her head and then her chest. The baby who never learns to enjoy "Tummy Time" and move and play on her tummy, can easily get to sitting at about 6 months without that foundational core strength work. These are the baby’s at greater risk for skipping crawling, crawling for a month or less, or adopting a modified method of crawling. These are also the babies who tend to use lots of back and leg extension to move vs. using a balance of extension muscles and flexion muscles (abdominal & core strength) to move. These babies love to stand on your lap and quickly learn to pull to stand on furniture. Are you starting to see how a baby might learn to walk and even walk early, making it appear they didn't need to crawl? The problem is that crawling isn't really about learning to walk, it's purposes are more related to core strength, upper body and fine motor development, and brain development, which may not be noticeable for years to come. It may be possible for a child to skip crawling and have no apparent developmental or learning consequences. It is common, however, for the school age children who are referred to me for occupational therapy to have a history of limited or poor quality crawling.

Be proactive! Join us for our next Tummy Time/Baby Development class to support your baby’s optimal development. Classes offered locally in Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota.

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