Not so long ago, in a social setting, I encountered proud father showing his darling baby girl to his friends. A comment was made about her strong leg muscles, the proud father in response said, “Yeah of course- she probably will go straight to walking”
I realised this could just have been a proud father thing to say, but really, is there an underlying understanding that walking sooner is better than crawling?
This has me a little concerned. As chiropractors we see many children and particularly those children with movement, behavioral and health issues. Understanding the body’s development is crucial in my profession. Understanding that crawling is important is just one of those.
Let me tell you why…
The curves of our spine are developed in the first year of our life. As are the length-tension relationships between muscles between our flexors and extensors. Encouraging babies to walk pre-maturely limits the amount of crawling the child does, which places unnecessary stress on the developing spine. It is not a race!
You see, if you encourage them to walk with aids, such as a walker or hand out in front of them the likelihood that they develop tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings increases. This leads to poor flexibility.
Crawling is a brain forming habit. This is where your baby’s brain begins to develop movement patterns and co-ordination. For example, when crawling, the baby needs to move both extremities at the same time, right arm, left leg, then left arm, right leg. This action fires up impulses on one side of the brain which then cross over the brainstem to supply the motor activity to the opposite extremity.
According to Glenn Dorman,
crawling stimulates the brain to develop convergence of vision, and children who have skipped this phase as babies may find it difficult to learn to read and write. It is very important that your child develops a cross-crawl pattern.
Studies show children who were categorised as early walkers, or those who have crawled for a comparatively short time, demonstrated lower performance scores on preschool assessment tests. This supports the importance of the early crawling experience in the development of sensory and motor systems of the body and general motor skill development.
(McEwan MH, Dihoff RE, Brosvic GM Early Infant crawling experience is reflected in later motor skill development, Percept Motor Skills 1991; 72:75-9)
If your child is having difficulty crawling, talk to your chiropractor. Otherwise. Encourage the crawl. Play with your child. Don’t prematurely hurry your child to walk, they grow up quickly enough as it is.