Crawling is one of the biggest milestones during your baby’s first year. Think about it: Your little one goes from being a beautiful blob sitting on a blankie to actually becoming mobile. But if you’re expecting your baby to suddenly spring up on all fours and start sprinting across the floor, think again. Babies crawl in a variety of ways, but why do some babies army crawl? Although it can be cute to see your little cutie doing their own version of a covert military mission across your kitchen floor, you might wonder why they’re dragging their body across the floor and when they’ll grow out of it.
What is army crawling?
When you think of your baby crawling, you might imagine them using their arms and legs to move all around. Army crawling, on the other hand, is something entirely different. “Army crawling — also called belly or commando crawling — is when a baby props themselves on their elbows and moves their body forward while dragging their tummy and legs against the floor,” Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D., a pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby On The Block explains to Romper. “Army crawling is a bit of a graduation from baby scooting, where little ones sit on their bottoms and use their arms to propel themselves forward.”
Why do babies army crawl?
In and of itself, army crawling isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it can often be a precursor to classic crawling… if your baby even crawls at all. “Not every baby crawls in the traditional hands-and-knees manner — in fact, some babies skip crawling all together,” says Karp. “That said, babies often army crawl because their shoulders and core need to gain a little more strength before progressing to the next phase of locomotion.” And with crawling (army or otherwise), your little commando is learning to control their little bodies, better their balance, and hone in on their hand-eye coordination, a PubMed study found.
What is the difference between creeping vs crawling?
Technically, what we consider traditional crawling is actually called creeping. “Crawling is where the baby’s belly is on the floor, and they use their elbows and knees to propel themselves across the floor,” Lily Baiser, MS, OTR/L, a licensed pediatric occupational therapist tells Romper. “Crawling helps develop the muscles to allow for creeping, which is where babies' bellies are off the ground and bear weight on their hands and knees.” If it sounds confusing, here’s an easy way to remember it: If your baby’s belly is touching the ground, they’re crawling. And when your child is ambling about on all fours, they’re creeping.
Can army crawling be a sign of autism?
“It’s true that studies have shown children with autism spectrum disorder may be less likely to engage in traditional hands-and-knees crawling, but most of the time, army crawling doesn’t point to any developmental delays or issues,” says Karp. “As long as your little one is trying to explore and move independently, they’re doing great!” So if Baby is hitting all of their milestones — and both you and your pediatrician are pleased with your child’s development — you shouldn’t be worried. Still, if you’re concerned about your little one’s gross motor skills or overall progress, schedule an appointment to speak with your baby’s doctor.
No matter how your baby moves around, keep in mind that there are a myriad of ways in which to do it. They might army crawl, creep, or just stand up one day and take off. As long as your pediatrician is happy with your baby meeting their milestones, there’s really no reason to worry about it. Soon enough, Baby will be totally mobile, and at the end of the day, it won’t be your child but you crawling — into your bed from exhaustion, that is.
Adolph, K., Franchak, J. “The development of motor behavior” 2016.
Lavenne-Collot, N., Jallot, N., Maguet, J. “Early Motor Skills in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Are Marked By Less Frequent Hand And Knees Crawling” 2021.
Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D., a pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby On The Block
Lily Baiser, MS, OTR/L, a licensed pediatric occupational therapist
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