Category Archives: BELLY CRAWLING

tips for baby motor skill development: belly crawling


a baby learns belly crawling


When baby learns to crawl, whether it is on her belly or on her hands and knees, she is very happy.  She is now able to explore the entire room on her own!  Her curiosity motivates her and she travels around the room exploring toys, shoes, books, musical instruments, the family dog, and any other object left at her eye level.  What development in her muscles and bones has occurred to launch this new skill?  Although a few significant developments must occur in order for the major milestone of crawling to occur, one of the most important is the new movement of the hip joint.  While in tummy time, one side of the pelvis lifts a little bit up into the air so the knee on the same side can bend up toward the ribs.  The coordination between the pelvis and the ribs allows the knee to bend up quite a bit.  Soon, she will learn to push the bent leg down into the floor to propel herself forward in space.  This action of bending the leg is very important for baby to learn.  It is the key to learning the skill of crawling.


When baby is about five or six months old, place her in tummy time.  Gently squeeze the sides of her pelvis and lift one side up toward the ceiling and then the other side up toward the ceiling.  Try doing this movement at a very slow pace.  Go from side to side lifting one hip up toward the ceiling followed by the other hip.  Next, when you lift the right hip up toward the ceiling try and bend the right knee up toward toward her side ribs.  Repeat this by alternating from one side to the other.  This teaches the coordination of the movement.  If her legs are stiff, spend some time every day with her on her back bending and extending each leg several times.  The muscles will soften and make it easier for you to bend her leg when she is on her stomach.  And remember to avoid using equipment that puts baby on her feet such as an exersaucer or jumper.  Her bones and muscles are not ready for her to be on her feet.  Remember that she has the rest of her life to be on her feet, but only now to play on the floow.”


baby in tummy time with one foot up toward ceiling


One of the most common dilemas I see with new moms is how to solve the problem of baby constipation.   Some people suggest that mothers who breastfeed should remove dairy from their diet or add papaya to their diet.  Recently I spoke with an experienced doula on the topic and she advised moms to just be patient since sometimes constipation is a sign of developmental change in baby’s digestive system.  She mentioned that it is common for babies to have constipation around the three month age.  I  recommend that mothers learn a few hands-on exercises to practice at home when baby has constipation.  These hands-on skills help improve circulation and stretch the muscles surrounding the area of pelvis and hips.  Since constipation my bring tightness in the muscles around the abdomen and hips, movements to improve circulation and stretch the muscles in these areas may provide some relief.  And of course, always check with your pediatrician when you have concerns.  Try the following three baby exercise moves, in the order presented, to relieve infant constipation discomfort and improve digestion and elimination.


Begin with baby on her back.  Gently rub your hands along her abdomen in long strokes moving from her pelvis toward her head.  Take your time and brush slowly!  This can be done with baby clothed or with her bare skin.  Brush with a bit of pressure, it your touch is too light you will effect only her skin.  With just a bit more pressure this massage stimulates both her lymphatic system and nervous system.  The nervous system will feel which muscles are being tightly contracted and then relax them.  Your constipated baby may be sensitive to the touch if she is experiencing internal discomfort, so gage your pressure by her response.  Lighten your pressure if she looks uncomfortable with your touch.


While baby is on her back, take one leg and bend it in toward the chest and then extend it toward the straight leg position.  Repeat this several times with one leg and then repeat several times with the other leg.  The hand that is holding her leg should gently squeeze the leg so she feels the movements more clearly.  This baby exercise will gently stimulate circulation and stretch muscles in the lower abdominal and hip area.  A baby with constipation will benefit from this exercise which may help release gas.


Put baby in tummy-time with a favorite toy as in the above photo. The position of tummy-time gently stretches the abdominal area.  Place one hand under her thigh and close to her knee.  Place the other hand on her ankle.  Gently lift her thigh off of the floor just a little bit.  Make sure the hand near the knee is doing the lifting and move very slowly, pausing for a moment before returning to the starting position.  This elongates the muscles in the front of baby’s hip joint and abdominal area.


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There are many ways that babies can learn to sit.  Remember our post Baby Sitting Up?  It discussed the importance of baby learning to get in and out of the sitting positon on her own.  In the above video from nvyork’s youtube channel, baby Tris demonstrates one of the ways to sit from the crawling positon.  From either the 4-point or the belly crawling position, Tris brings his left knee forward and then pushes backward with his hands to sit down on his bottom.  Watch how easily he gets in and out of the sitting position.  This is wonderful motor skill development!  He is much more independent when he can decide for himself when to sit and when he would like to go somewhere else in the room to play.


What do baby diapers have to do with baby learning to crawl?  A lot, actually.


A wet diaper is a heavy diaper.  Not to mention that it makes baby uncomfortable and can lead to diaper rash.  A baby can feel when her diaper is wet and heavy and often she is not happy about it.  If ahe is not happy, she is not likely to explore new movements such as crawling.  If baby is content she is much more interested in playing with new movements.  So, what is the best way to keep baby dry, clean, sweet, and happy?  It is quite simple, you need to stay on it!   Keep checking the diaper to see if it needs to be changed, and when it does please change it immediately.


Not too small…

Remember that babies need to be comfortable.  Therefore, the diapers must have a good fit.  Diapers that are too small put too much pressure on the hip joints making it difficult for baby to move. The hip joints also must be free for baby to step down a stair. The tightness of the diaper may also cut off circulation and put pressure on the lower back.  The breathing can be negatively effected as the pelvis and abdomen become restricted.

Not too big…

When diapers are purchased that are too big there is excess material that impedes movement.  It pushes the legs too far away from the pelvis and widens structure of the hip joints.  She may still manage to crawl, but usually her legs will be too wide.  Since the bones are still soft at this age, the large diaper can negatively influence the developing alignment of her legs and knees.

….but Just Right!

A diaper that fits just right is very comfortable for baby.  They are able to crawl around and climb up and down stairs without any hesitation.  Her hip joints can move freely, her pelvis can shift from side to side, and she travels quite quickly with some practice.  We all know the image of a smiling baby crawling quickly across the floor with the pelvis moving from side to side.


At seven months, Madison shows us how to scoot:

a seven month old baby demonstrates the motor skill of scooting

First I feel how my knees can bend in toward my chest...

A seven month old baby feels her feet get pressed into the floor with her knees bent.

...then I feel my feet firmly press against the solid ground.

A baby focuses on the feeling of her feet pressing into the floor.

This is an interesting feet are being gently pressed into the floor.

A baby scoots while in a Stellar Caterpillar motor skill lesson

....oops....scoot! What happened when I pressed my feet into the floor?!?

A baby prepares to scoot by pressing both feet into the floor.

Let's try it again!

A baby scoots during a motor skills lesson.

I did it again! I can scoot!


Scooting, an important motor activity for babies, can occur while she is lying on her stomach or on her back.  It can be an important step toward developing the strength and the skill of pushing against the floor.  This action of pushing against the floor gives  movement much more power.  The above scoot, performed while lying on the back, also develops the muscles that extend the hips (straighten the legs).  These muscles are also used in crawling and walking.  The short and quick burst of the scooting movement can be fun and playful!


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Watch the “bunny hop” coordination of a baby crawling from grao5′s channel on  Notice how as baby “crawls,” she takes both arms forward at almost the same time followed by both legs forward.  This is the same coordination as a bunny rabbit hopping down the lane.  This is one coordination possible for the motor milestone of crawling, and many babies learn it.

To encourage a baby’s gross motor milestone development toward optimal coordination, the contralateral  (alternating) pattern, I offer two tips.  First, I recommend putting baby on her back and moving her legs in an alternating pattern.  Right-left-right-left,  this will help teach her brain the alternating coordination.  Second, as I recommend to all parents, avoid putting baby in a jumper or bouncing her on your lap.  Just show baby the elements of the skilled coordination of crawling, and she will learn!  The baby in this video has a wonderful determination to her movement, and with these tips her parents will be running to keep up with her soon!