When the pediatrician asks if your baby has started creeping yet, you might not know quite how to answer. That's OK because your doctor might not be asking what he thinks he is, either. Some people -- medical personnel included -- use the terms, "creeping" and "crawling" interchangeably. To others, these terms mean two different things. The Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health defines creeping as moving along the ground using arms and legs with the trunk off the ground.
Creeping versus Crawling
Most babies crawl -- that is, drag their stomachs on the ground using an army crawl, pushing off with their feet, or some other method of moving forward -- before they creep. It takes more trunk control and coordination to creep. To creep, your baby has to coordinate his arms and legs in what's called a cross pattern, meaning that he moves his opposite arm and leg at the same time and alternates sides in a smooth, rhythmic pattern.
Your baby will most likely begin to creep sometime in the third quarter of his first year, between the ages of 9 and 12 months. Crawling, on the other hand, normally beings in the second quarter of the first year, between the ages of 6 and 9 months, physical therapist Jan Stephan Tecklin explains in the textbook, "Pediatric Physical Therapy." The average age for crawling -- the term that pediatrician and author Dr. Alan Greene uses to denote any type of movement -- ranges from 6 to 10 months, with hands-and-knees crawling normally starting between 8 and 10 months of age.
Importance of Creeping
Some child development specialists, such as physical therapist Glenn Doman, who developed the patterning method in an effort to rewire and teach the injured brain to move and eventually walk, place great emphasis on creeping correctly. According to Doman, not creeping can cause problems later with a baby's coordination. Some pediatric occupational therapists, including Felice Sklamberg of New York University's School of Medicine, believe that babies who don't creep don't develop strong upper body strength. Not creeping can also impact fine motor development since bearing weight helps develop the ligaments and joints in the hands. Moreover, creeping helps develop bilateral coordination, used in self-help skills such as feeding and dressing.
Creeping Doesn't Matter
Not all child specialists agree that creeping is an essential part of child development. Dr. Greene says it's a "myth" that children must creep -- or crawl and hands and knees in a traditional pattern -- to develop properly. As long as your baby moves each arm and each leg in a manner that moves him across the floor, you don't need to worry, according to Dr. Greene. In some cases, cultural factors can interfere with creeping. In the early 1900s, as many as 40 percent of babies didn't creep, perhaps because they wore long dresses that got in the way, Dr. Philip Zalazo of the Institute of Child Development explains in his textbook, "The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Psychology, Vol. 1: Body and Mind." Instead, they shuffled on their behinds or adopted another method of motion that their clothing didn't impede.
- Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health: Creep- Definition
- Dr. Greene: Crawling
- the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential: Patterning
- Pediatric Physical Therapy; Jan Stephen Tecklin; page 18
- The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Psychology, Vol. 1: Body and Mind (Oxford Library of Psychology); Philip Zelazo; page 411
- Parenting.com: Do Babies Need to Crawl?
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images