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Crawling Delay

To Crawl Or Not To Crawl

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m hoping this’ll be a really quick question. I’m a first-time mama to a beautiful 9-month-old girly that is awesome as can be. Today during her 9-month checkup the doc asked if she’d started to crawl yet. The little one has not yet started to crawl, or put herself in a “froggy” crawling position, or any of those things other than flail and whine and cry when she’s put on her tummy. The doctor showed concern at this and gave us the number to get her checked out for a developmental delay. He wants to do it sooner rather than later, because if she is, in fact, delayed, he wants her to be able to go to therapy for it before she gets frustrated that there’s things she can’t do, or places she can’t reach, etc.

My whole family has always been convinced she’d walk before she could crawl, and I thought that was a normal thing, too. That she could skip the crawling stage entirely. Now I’m sitting here staring at the card for the developmental delay place and fretting. Should I call? Should I wait, increase the tummy time she gets, and see how it goes? She stood all by herself while holding on to the coffee table for a few minutes yesterday, but she had to be brought up to her feet. She won’t pull herself up on her own.

Do I have reason to worry? Should I call the Early Intervention facility? (Gah, that just sounds so serious.)

Thank you!
-first time, blind-as-a-bat-in-regards-to-parenting mama

Yes, you should call Early Intervention.

Now, I’m saying that to completely freak you out or imply that OH NOES THIS IS THE MOST SERIOUS WORRISOME THING EVER. Your daughter could absolutely be fine and going at her own pace and all that. Abso-freaking-lutely. But you should call for two reasons:

1) Because your doctor thinks you should. I am not your doctor, nor is anybody else in your family who may be downplaying your doctor’s concerns. Trust me, when you’re talking about developmental delays there will always, ALWAYS be naysayers ready with stories about kids who didn’t talk until they were four or walk until they were five and “turned out fine” blah blah blah. Take comfort in their words…while ignoring their recommendations.

2) Because your doctor is right that it is far, far better to get this stuff looked at and dealt with as early as possible. And even if it turns out to be nothing, you will feel so much better that you made the call and dealt with it, rather than attempting to live with this dark cloud of worry hanging over your head. And if it IS something that requires a bit of occupational or physical therapy, you will feel so much better that you made the call and dealt with it, rather than after her 12-month visit, or 18-month, or whatever.

The thing is, you’ve stumbled into controversial territory here. Many experts in the realm of developmental delays believe that crawling is an incredibly critical milestone, and that children who “skip it” and go right to walking are at risk of a myriad of problems later on. Sensory issues, fine and gross motor delays, low muscle tone, etc. However, other experts claim that’s all a bunch of nonsense and there’s a lack of definitive proof, and that the SIDS-related “Back To Sleep” campaign has simply led to more babies that hate being on their tummies and are more likely to skip crawling and walk instead. Here’s an article that covers both sides of the debate.

For the record, Noah crawled right on schedule. It’s a question I’ve answered about a bajillion times, every time we’ve had his sensory issues and delays evaluated. Yes, he crawled just fine. The first milestones he “missed” were gestures like pointing, clapping, playing “soo big”-type mimicry games, etc. From there he fell farther behind in communication skills, while developing a host of sensory quirks. But he absolutely crawled before he could walk. Meanwhile, I know at least one other child Noah’s age who skipped crawling, and who is still considered absolutely 100% typically-developing.

That said, Noah’s occupational therapist falls in the “crawling is super-duper important” camp, and always implored me to make sure Ezra and Ike got their tummy time and scooted/crawled first. (LIKE I HAD SO MUCH CONTROL OVER IT.) She knows a much larger pool of anecdotes than I do, obviously, so I admit I was pretty relieved when both of my younger boys got up on their hands and knees and crawled. (Both of them did their own weird tummy-scoot for awhile first, then the rocking back and forth thing, then finally crawling regulation-style around the same time they learned to pull up. Then cruising happened like, 24 hours after that. BAMBAMBAM.) I can honestly see and understand both sides of the debate. Better safe than sorry, get things checked out…yet also, let’s all not lose our collective heads over every kid who skips crawling and sentence them to developmental doooooom.

I am sure the comment section will be flooded with comforting stories about babies who crawled late, or not at all. And I’m certainly guilty of publicly worrying about a late milestone, only to have the kid DO THE VERY THING I WAS WORRIED ABOUT precisely three hours after I hit the publish button.

But.

I still think you should call. Just to be sure, and safe, and to do what your doctor thinks you should do. I can’t tell you how many experts and therapists and teachers I’ve spoken with who read over Noah’s file and JUMP FOR JOY at the fact that our pediatrician referred him to Early Intervention when he did. Which was: Early, and at the very first sign of a red flag. And you know, he no longer has any trace of that original problem (speech delay). The stuff we’re still dealing with is — to be brutally honest — the stuff that I allowed Other People to tell me was no big deal and that he’d probably work out on his own. And we lost a lot of precious, early time and had to address it later, when the delays were even more pronounced and undeniable.

Too many people dither over the milestone charts and don’t want to upset/offend/raise-a-false-alarm and seriously: Nothing good comes of that, for a child that does need some help. And that’s all we’re talking about here: Help. It’s a good thing, even though it’s scary to admit that you need it, or your child needs it. If she doesn’t need it? Fantastic, but I promise you won’t regret going through the process of finding out, as nerve-wracking as it feels right now, staring at the number on the card.

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Dawn K.
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Dawn K.

Call. It will put your mind to rest, and if there is nothing wrong, then yahoo! Like Amy said, if there is something, then you caught it EARLY. I was on the opposite end of your conundrum. I was convinced that my little was a bit behind in speech starting at 15 months. Instead of listening to my inner “little woman” I put off scheduling an evaluation. At 19 months I finally insisted, and suprise! she was a bit behind what was acceptable. Now, a week shy of 2, she’s talking AMAZINGLY (her favorite phrase? Biscuit bubble bath book NOW!… Read more »

Michelle
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Michelle

I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t — that’s up to you and your doctor.  My 9-month-old doesn’t crawl either but she can stand holding onto things and she is fine on her tummy.  She pushes herself backwards, actually, but not intentionally.  At our 9 month check up my doctor didn’t even ask about crawling… I brought it up.  She pointed out that she never asked and said the reason is because it isn’t much of an indicator of anything anymore.  My point is this… if your baby is normal in every other way aside from crawling, rest assured that… Read more »

Corie
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Corie

I’m also firmly in the “go ahead and call” camp. My son still wasn’t sitting on his own at 9 months. I knew it was something that he needed to do, but he HATED sitting upright. He loved playing on his back and tummy, and he was mobile (he did this weird swimming/crawling thing to get around until he started for-real crawling) so I figured he’d get it on his own eventually. The pediatrician we saw at his 9 month checkup referred us to EI, and I was a sobbing mess, thinking that I’d screwed my son up forever because… Read more »

This Proud Aunt
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This Proud Aunt

When my niece was 9 months old and not sitting up, but her twin brother was rolling/frog-walking around, it got attention. She has a mild case of cerebral palsy and it was diagnosed super quickly. She uses a walker to get around (an almost three year old with a walker gets a lot of attention everywhere she goes) and just over the Easter weekend took ten steps on her own. We’re so proud of her. But she’s only made so much progress because she was evaluated early and gets lots of help through therapy and awesomely involved parents. I’m not… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

i love your pseudonym and yay for your niece!

Meg
Guest

My sister-in-law caught a couple of major things with two of her kids early, despite all kinds of comforting advice from other people, including my parents. One had vision problems and the other had speech delay problems, and I am positive that the people who told her not to worry about it were just trying to make her feel better, not prevent them from getting help.But my niece is now learning braille, and my nephew with speech problems is now 3.5 and finally starting to repeat works and communicate after months of speech therapy, and I honestly don’t know if… Read more »

cindy
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cindy

It sounds like there might be a little bit of low muscle tone going on. It happened with one of my daughters when she was a baby, we called Early Intervention, and then we had exactly one home visit where the therapist showed us some exercises to do (IIRC, it was her ab muscles that needed to be strengthened). We did the exercises for a few weeks, and she caught right up to her milestone! I remember feeling awful and feeling like I’d done something wrong that my daughter needed physical therapy, but no. I did something right in calling… Read more »

Corie
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Corie

I forgot to put in there that my son started pulling himself up about two weeks after our evaluation, and began cruising almost immediately after that (so right around 10-10.5 months). I figured that actual walking wasn’t too far behind, but he had other things in mind – he didn’t start walking until he was almost 16 months old. I’ve realized that he just doesn’t like to do these things until he knows he’ll be good at them, and as long as I remember that, I can usually talk myself down from major freak out mode.

IrishCream
Guest
IrishCream

I’m a “better safe than sorry” type worrier, so I’d call, if only to put my mind at ease.

I’ll chime in with what is hopefully a comforting anecdote, too: my little sister never crawled, only scooted on her bottom, pulling herself along with windshield-wiper legs. To this day she is a bit of a klutz, but she’s also got multiple post-grad degrees, does triathlons for fun, and is completely well-adjusted. Good luck, and don’t beat yourself up over any of this!

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

My kid didn’t crawl until 8.5-9.5 months, and it happened pretty fast when it finally did come about. I thought 9 months was perfectly normal!

But, like Amy said, if your doctor said to call, call. All the EI people I’ve worked with have been nothing but super-nice. You’re not wasting anyone’s time. Only two things could happen: a delay is detected and your little one gets the help they need, or they tell you she’s developing fine for now and you get reassurance.

Hillary
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Hillary

A very similar thing happened to me. At the 9 month appt the ped raised concerns about rolling over and crawling and then had me stand up and do weird things to test MY flexibility (she said she was looking for a hereditary flexibility syndrome? UGH, totally freaked me out). Then she said she noticed my daughter had a little hypotonia. She said that while we weren’t behind on any milestones, it takes a long time to get into a developmental ped, plus EI can take a few months, so she recommended we look into it and then if the… Read more »

Mona
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Mona

Mine too… He rolled everywhere he wanted to go, didn’t crawl until almost ten months and we never thought much about it.  Then it was crawl, pull up, walk, BAM!  All within about four weeks.  And dude has never looked back OR stopped moving.
I agree with the get it checked out camp just to put any concerns to rest, but know so many whose wee ones weren’t crawling yet at nine months.  

Annie G.
Guest
Annie G.

When my son wasn’t walking at 15 months, our ped recommended calling EI because, even though he wasn’t late YET, by the time we got through all the hoops he might still not be walking. He wasn’t when we scheduled the evaluation, but started about 2 days before the evaluation actually occurred. We had about 2 sessions before they pronounced him “on target”, and everything now is fine with his gross motor at 3.5. However, I was so so so glad I got it checked out, and I encourage you to do the same. The other thing I have heard… Read more »

Alissa
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Alissa

Call.  EI is lovely, and free, and you can do absolutely no harm by calling.  Better to call and get a perfectly clean, normal diagnosis by them, than to worry about doing the right thing.  And if your daughter has a delay, then way better to work on fixing it now, instead of waiting til later.  Call.  Good luck!

Kaitlin P.
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Kaitlin P.

My son was behind with the gross motor skills, so our pediatrician recommended an Early Intervention Evaluation (probably at around 6 or 7 months old).  He didn’t qualify, so we did a couple of months of private PT until he was about 9 months old, which honestly (in my opinion ) didn’t do much other than let me feel like I was DOING something.   He finally started army crawling at 11 months, got up on his hands and knees crawling at 14 months, pulling up and cruising at 15 months, and then last week (at 16 months old), he… Read more »

MR
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MR

My first never crawled. She rocked back and forth on all fours exactly once and decided she didn’t like it apparently. She LOVED to cruise the furniture and started walking outright at 9.5 months. Crawling is totally optional. However, I’d still totally call EI. Because as previous posters have stated, it is free and doesn’t do any harm, so why not? Calling does not mean there IS something wrong. It just means you are being cautious and there is nothing wrong with that. Call!

tracey
Guest
tracey

My youngest daughter was speech delayed when she was nearly two, we were told that we could get her assessed for speech therapy, or wait a while and see if she got any better by herself. What made us decide to go ahead and have the assessment was our feeling that not being able to express herself was frustrating to her. We were right, once she had therapy, she was a different child, much calmer. We heard the stories from family and friends about kids who didn’t talk until they were four and did just fine, which I’m sure they… Read more »

Amanda
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Amanda

We were referred to EI because my son was premature and somewhat delayed in almost every area.  Even though I was pretty sure he’d catch up, I loved EI.  It was great having someone else come and take a look at what he was doing and suggest ways for me to help him along.  A lot of the activities they suggested I’m now doing with my developmentally average 2nd child.  I wish we could still be in the program as they’re great for helping out with ordinary parenting stuff as well as delayed areas.  Highly recommend checking it out.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Milestones are so stressful! I had a total freakout when the nurse so much as raised her eyebrows when, at my oldest’s 9 month visit, I mentioned that he wasn’t crawling or pulling up on his own. He’s fine now, and super awesome in the gross motor department, but it doesn’t change the fact that you will stress about it to no end until they get to those milestones. Anyway, I agree with everyone else that you should call, just to put your mind at ease and feel like you’re doing something. FWIW, my (limited) research into the crawling issue… Read more »

Kim
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Kim

Am not saying don’t call. Am offering the comforting anecdote. My first never crawled. And while I didn’t get EI, I did try a number of toys and other crawling motivators, and I DO NOT CRAWL, SAM I AM. At about 9 1/2 months, she started scootching on her little butt. One leg out in front, one leg ppulling her along, one arm oushing off, and she could get around like nobody else’s business. She motored. She is now perfectly fine, no processing disorders, no low muscle tone, she’s maybe not the most athletic kid, but eh, me neither. I… Read more »

Amy
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Amy

My daughter crawled around 10 months and walked at 13.  Several of her friends from our mommy group were on roughly the same schedule.  I totally thought that was within the realm of normal!  (All are normally developing 2-3 year olds now.)  Our pediatrician did not raise any concerns at the time.  I’m not saying don’t call EI, since maybe your doctor knows more than we do… But maybe I’m trying to put your mind it ease that when you do call, there’s a good chance it won’t be a big deal.

Maggie
Guest
Maggie

I’ve got a similar story to what others have posted, and I would agree with Amy that you should call. My daughter was not crawling at her 9 month check up. My pediatrician ultimately decided we should wait it out until 12 months out. J finally started crawling at 11 months (an army crawl, not on all fours). Right before her first birthday she started pulling up. Now she is 13 months and alternates between army crawling and crawling on all fours. She can pull-up with ease and is slowly inching sideways. I think full-blown cruising is right around the… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I too was worried about my daughter not crawling…but finally at 9.5 months she took off suddenly and got it down in two days.   Our doctor said most do by 10 months, some not at all. !   The books/sites give an average, with lots of early and lates in there!  

Miriam
Guest
Miriam

My oldest daughter never ever crawled, then went straight to a walk at 11 months. She’s never been a super athletic type but even so, now at 14yrs(!), she is a beautiful intelligent calm teen with a purple belt in karate.

I think it will likely turn out just fine, but I agree with Amy that it is worth the call just in case.

Amy B
Guest
Amy B

My son didn’t crawl until 10 months. My pediatrician wasn’t worried about it. He was walking by 12 months, and doesn’t show any other delays so far.

Not saying not to call. Just saying, it may be nothing so try not to fret. And even if it is something, there is help available. :o)

David
Guest

I would call.  It’s a win-win.  You get an answer for both you and your doctor, and a piece of mind about what to do (or not do) from here on.  Of course I’m sure your baby is ‘frogging’ as we speak and if not now, any second now.  Point is professionals have a wealth of knowledge that we wouldn’t know and simple tricks that can make a world of difference.  Good luck, and I’m sure once your baby begins scampering around the house you’ll be longing for the days when the baby was suck in one place.  

Julia
Guest
Julia

I would call EI.  As a preschool teacher, I’m amazed how many pediatricians say nothing about delays and quirks (don’t get me started on peds!) and parents who go on unknowing until we point things out.  So if your pediatrician is suggesting an evaluation, you should do it.  I’m also in the camp that believes crawling is critically important for future motor skill development, so I would want to find a way to help the baby crawl before walking.

Jamie
Guest

I would call, too. I have three kids – each of whom have grown out of the baby/toddler stage and each of them developed at vastly different rates. But, in my experience, when you’re worried about whether to call the doctor, just call. That way, you feel like you’ve done the right thing. I’m about 99% sure that the specialist will say that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. And then you can truly stop worrying.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I had no idea that crawling was an indicator of such importance!  We have a five year old (and now a 12 week old, but no crawling there yet) who never crawled.  She went straight from sitting up at 6.5 months (a touch late) to pulling up to walking…and the walking started just after she turned a year old.  But she was also GI-NOR-MOUS.  7.5 pounds at birth, but 20 pounds by six months, 30 pounds at 18 months and now having just turned five, she is 53 pounds…..and her height/length kept pace with her weight.  She always hated tummy… Read more »

heather
Guest
heather

Be easy on yourself Mama! My daughter didn’t crawl until 10.5 months, but she was doing comfortable tummy time by then. If your ped says to call, then call. The best possible scenario is that you have an appointment and they assure you that she is, indeed, the sweetest, smartest, most perfect baby in the world who will crawl (or not) in her own sweet time and that you have no cause to worry. Or they determine there is something else to be done. I guarantee that whatever the outcome it will not be as bad as the worrying you’re… Read more »

Zarah
Guest

Call. My son (now 2) was late hitting almost every physical milestone (didn’t crawl until 12 mos, didn’t walk until 19 mos). He are now dealing with a language delay (assessed at 15 mo level at age 24mos). I don’t know where you live, but for me to get access to low-cost therapy services (state funded), he has to assess at half his age. With the language right now he doesn’t quite hit that mark, and I’m kicking myself for not trying to get him in sooner when he might have met that guideline for one of his physical delays.… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

I know that with your first child, the possibility of a delay and resulting therapy–hell, even the idea that your pediatrician is concerned about something–is enough to send you over the bend. But I’m with the others who say just make the call and see what’s up. I got some early intervention help with my younger son when he seemed to have some speech delays at around 18 months, and I don’t believe it helped; he was just one of those kids who learned to talk when he was good and ready. It sure made me feel better to be… Read more »

liz
Guest

Call, because if it’s nothing, she’ll crawl 2 hours before the appointment, and if it’s something, early intervention is important.

Jen
Guest
Jen

I think the important thing is what else she’s doing. My husband apparently never crawled but he walked at 8 months. And my SIL didn’t crawl because of some arm problems she had at birth (so she wans’t expected to crawl) but she got around by scooting using the other arm. I would agree that traditional crawling isn’t a milestone anymore but you do want to see your baby get around in some form, whether that’s scooting on her butt, or army crawling, or pulling up. Or even scooting around backwards.

lh
Guest
lh

Call. Your baby is her own person and not anybody else. You shouldn’t be pacified by what other people, even in your own family, did as babies. As someone who called, and was really really helped by it, please do so. If it turns out to be nothing, yay! If it turns out to be something, you won’t suffer any regrets.

Kimm
Guest
Kimm

Like everybody says, it won’t hurt to call, and might help. My little guy was barely learning to crawl at 8 1/2 months, but took his first steps at 9 months and is running around at 12 months. It would be good for you to ease your mind, and if she gets a little help, good too- but she is probably just on her own schedule.

MicheleH.
Guest
MicheleH.

I’m not going to comment on normal or not-normal behavior. I want to comment on Early Intervention. They are GREAT. They are SO NOT something to be worried about. You will be set immediately at ease as they run through the myriad of observations and interactions with your baby. I did an evaluation with the program for my daughter, chose not to use their service and did my own therapy with her, and then they came out again several months later to confirm for me that my efforts had paid off. On both visits I was overwhelmed with how gentle,… Read more »

AU
Guest
AU

I’m also a first time mom and I think you should think about it very hard, which you obviously are.  I know soooo many people tried to tell me my daughter was autistic or had some sort of spectrum disorder because she didn’t crawl.  She did however sit and “read” a lot, it was and is her favorite thing to do.  She was working on other stuff like talking when she should have learned to crawl, she did start rolling from place to place and started scooting around.  From what I understand it’s only important that they have a means… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

Just wanted to chime in on the crawling issue. I have two herniated disks in my neck from a snowboarding fall in my 20’s. I see a PT occasionally because I need to keep my neck strong to prevent nerve problems. My PT constantly harped on me to make sure my daughter crawled. She said it is a super important window of time when humans have an opportunity to develop the back of the neck muscles. She is starting to see more and more patients in their 20’s and 30’s, especially women, seeking help for pinched nerves and general chronic… Read more »

Lauren @ Turquoise & Gold
Guest

I am sure you have already called by now and are feeling less stressed about it. Either way, it sounds like you genuinely don’t have any instincts telling you that something is “wrong” so don’t worry about anything other than adressing this one thing that may very well turn out to be nothing. It sounds like you have a great doctor that you can trust to be on top of things and be open with you about his concerns. Good luck, and you are so blessed to have an awesome baby girl!

LydiaK
Guest
LydiaK

I know this is super late (way super late), and hopefully the issue has been resolved, but I tgought I’d chime in in case anyone else like me is wandering around and area it. My youngest sister didn’t even roll over til she was 8mos old.  She had a house full of older siblings who loved carrying her around, and was simply lazy.  She is almost 20 now, graduated high school and working full time. She never had any other speech or developemental delays, and now wants to study law. However, she is still the slowest (not developmentally) person I… Read more »

jjacki
Guest
jjacki

She probably has low tone. Watch for autism.

Athena
Guest
Athena

From what I’ve heard, the “crawling” milestone is Super Duper Important, BUT… not necessarily as actual, honest-to-god hands and knees crawling. Rolling everywhere, commando crawling, butt-shuffling, or actual crawling… it’s not the mode of transport so much as the development of transport. I almost wonder if the importance is less as a motor skill and more as a mental concept – both the transport itself and the connections made doing the things you can do once you move around. After all, sheer motor ability doesn’t translate to actually moving around – Toshy could roll both ways by about five months… Read more »

Athena
Guest
Athena

Before that, “lying there screaming” totally abounded. Only on his back, because as soon as he could roll off his front (4 months) you can believe he did, every time. His tummy was a totally horrible place to be. He occasionally rolled the other way, but rarely – even after he learned to crawl! So “lying there screaming for mummy” continued a significant length of time after learning to crawl, like only recently started consistently rolling over to crawl away instead of just staying on his back.

cherrick
Guest
cherrick

I am a pediatric physical therapist who specializes in early intervention and I say make the call, calm your nerves, and feel better about it. In my experience (which is quite extensive) doctors are usually the ones who say things like “he will be just fine, and crawl in his own time”. many times doctors do not tell parents all that they have uncovered because they don’t want to worry the parent too much. But if he asked you to make a call, please take his advise and make the call.

Concerned Auntie
Guest
Concerned Auntie

I have a niece that just turned 1 last month. I’m so concerned about her because shes not crawling, walking, scooting nor sitting up. I’m concerned because during her moms pregnancy with her she smoked and drinked. I have kids of my own and they were very normal sort of speak
I don’t want to overstep my bounderies as an aunt but I know something’s not right.

Miss Wormwood
Guest
Miss Wormwood

Not your kid. Simple as that.