The average age that an untreated baby with Down Syndrome starts creeping (crawling on hands and knees) is 17 months. Jett, who is treated, started army crawling (later referred to as "stomach crawling") at 10 months even though he had heart surgery at 6 months. He was creeping (on hands and knees/4-point crawling) by 13 months (and pulling himself to stand at 14 months).
You can get your baby to crawl much, much younger than that if you work on his muscle tone and do as much tummy time as possible, as soon as possible. I didn't do tummy time intensely until Jett was 3 months old. When we brought Jett home at birth, he was crawling on us immediately. But, I didn't realize that he would lose this ability as he gained weight if I didn't provide ample opportunity for crawling. And I also didn't realize how important it is for proper brain development.
Why is crawling important?
It helps your baby organize the wiring to his brain for higher level, cortical functions. Cross pattern activities help develop good communication between the right and left sides of the brain, which helps to avoid future problems of long-term memory, stuttering, etc. It also helps him feel and understand where his body is in space, as well as promotes good bladder and bowel control. Coordinated physical movement is dependent upon developing good tactility and corresponding good cross pattern movement.
-- Kay Ness, Jett's Neurodevelopmentalist
Down Syndrome: The Importance of Crawling on the Stomach
by Robert J. Doman, Jr. and Ellen R. Doman, National Association for Child Development
Why stomach crawl [army crawl]? ...What is to be gained by doing it, and why does your baby need this essential first form of locomotion? There are several reasons.
Your child’s eyes begin the work of learning to focus and converge together on near-point objects, a skill which is needed for everything from reading to depth perception. The tactile feedback given by the entire body moving against the friction of the floor teaches your child the location of the entire torso, arms and legs, and feet and hands.
Proprioception, knowing where your body is in space, is based on these early messages of tactile input on the floor and feeling every movement through the feedback of this contact. The child is learning that they have two legs, two arms, two feet and two hands because they can feel these parts moving against the floor. Crawling engages virtually all of the muscles of the body, from the arches of your feet to your abdominal and neck muscles, all of which are used in the process of moving your body forward across the floor. Arm, chest and back muscles are utilized in pulling the arms forward and then pulling the body forward. Quads, hips and hamstrings are worked during the leg movement. This is a workout!
Learning coordinated movement starts here with crawling on the floor. Whether the child picks up the cross pattern movement on their own or they learn it through parent assistance, this is the beginning of that very fundamental movement of a right arm and left leg, left arm and right leg-- the movement we use to walk and run, climb stairs and climb hills. When the child learns this by working on the belly crawl, they get all of that helpful tactile information through the limbs and through the torso, laying a strong foundation for more advanced forms of mobility.
They also develop a very critical physical piece through crawling-- muscle balance. The crawling movement is one of flexion and extension of the arms and legs, pushing and pulling using the flexor muscles, then the extensor muscles. One of the issues confronting many parents of children with Down Syndrome is that they are often advised that the child needs to begin developing trunk strength and tone through sitting because it is this lack of trunk strength and tone that creates the problem with crawling and walking. If sitting were the best thing for the development of the trunk, every adult would have strong backs and great abs. Sitting is not what develops the trunk; crawling and creeping is. The child should not sit independently until they can get themselves into that position independently, which is typically after they have learned to crawl on their tummy and creep on their hands and knees.
Another very significant aspect of crawling involves the integration of sensory input. Crawling provides the brain with what is quite possibly the best integrated sensory input that a child ever receives. This act of crawling sends simultaneous information to the brain from all of the tactile and proprioceptive receptors, the surface receptors, the deep receptors and the proprioceptive receptors in the joints. And not only is the brain receiving all of this input, it is receiving it through the simultaneous input from the movement of the right arm and left leg, and the left arm and right leg. This is very powerful sensory-integrating input....
Short cuts and quick fixes will lead to later repercussions. Don’t take the chance. Try to do it correctly the first time and avoid thousands of hours of time in the future in physical and occupational therapy trying to overcome the problems that are often created by skipping this critical developmental activity.
--Creeping and Crawling Foundational to Child Brain Development
In the beginning of the crawling stage the infant may move in no recognizable pattern or he may crawl in a frog-like pattern called homologous movement. He may also crawl using the arm and leg together on the same side of the body, which is called a homolateral pattern. The child soon abandons these movements in favor of the most sophisticated pattern, the cross-pattern. In a cross-pattern the left leg and right arm coordinate with the right leg and left arm. We walk and run in a cross-pattern. Nevertheless, a baby may use homologous and homolateral patterns before he develops the cross-pattern, both while he is learning to crawl and later again when he is learning to creep.
Stage II - Crawling
Children who are given abundant opportunity to learn to crawl in an infant track can enter stage II in the pons at 1 month of age, instead of 2 1/2 months, which is the norm. In stage I the newborn gained initial control of his limbs. In stage II he will master crawling. An infant enters stage II when he can crawl 2 or 3 feet non-stop in about 10 minutes. This makes him a beginning crawler.
...Your baby will learn to crawl like an expert in stage II if you continue to give him at abundant opportunity daily to master crawling in the track and on the floor. If you encourage him to crawl 15 times, each day, he will soon be crawling in a cross-pattern and will rapidly increase his capacity to 150 feet of crawling in a day. After so much crawling, the baby will then push himself up off the floor onto his hands and knees, which will mark his entry into stage III. This can happen sooner rather than later if you give your child abundant opportunity to crawl and plenty of encouragement to develop mobility.
Stage III – Creeping
After a baby has developed the cross-pattern and after much crawling, he will get up onto his hands and knees and begin to creep. Having mastered Stage II in the pons, he enters the midbrain area and Stage III of brain development. His infant days are just about over, so you can put away the track and save it for your next child. However, a baby will still be doing a lot of crawling in stage III, especially when he wants to get somewhere fast, but he will be working on learning to creep.
...In the midbrain area and Stage III of brain development the goal is for the baby to creep 400 yards in a day. (In Stage I, the medulla and cord stage of reflex response, the goal was for the infant to crawl 2 or 3 feet, nonstop, in ten minutes. The goal in Stage II in the pons was to reach 150 feet of crawling in a day.) How quickly your baby reaches mobility goals will entirely depend upon how much opportunity, how much love and encouragement you can provide.
The creeping baby definitely needs long pants and long-sleeved shirts. This goes for girls too. They shouldn't be wearing dresses; they get hung-up in the skirts. A creeping baby should wear socks, but not shoes. Thick rugs are best for learning to creep. Thick rugs are not as hard on elbows and knees. A kitchen floor is not where a beginning creeper does his best.
Your baby will still be crawling in stage III. He's not an expert creeper yet but, day by day, he will gradually do more creeping and less crawling until one day creeping will replace crawling entirely. You can then expect that his next accomplishment will be standing-up.
You help bring your baby to this point in Stage III of brain development by encouraging him or her to creep in many, many short creeping sessions. Doman says to get down on the floor 20 or 30 times a day with the baby and motivate him to creep. This seems like a lot, but the sessions are very brief at first. Then they gradually increase in length of time and decrease in number.
A baby remains in stage III until he is actually walking. One day after much creeping he will pull himself erect, and holding onto a piece of furniture he will stand. He will then pull himself up on every table and piece of furniture he can reach, and holding on to the edge he will walk its whole length. This is called cruising. His days in the midbrain are coming to an end. One day after much cruising, he will come to the end of the sofa and eye the chair and take his first independent steps, from the sofa to the chair. Now, the line is drawn. He has left stage III forever and has entered stage IV of brain development in the initial cortex. If you have given your child extraordinary opportunity to develop mobility from birth, walking can begin earlier as well.
Teaching Your Baby to Crawl
Toys that Support Crawling
Low Muscle Tone: What to Do
Promote Walking: Are Treadmills Good?
Deep Pressure Tactile Therapy