When your baby starts crawling

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 Photo: Getty Images

When my babies went through the crawling phase, there were many exciting, shiny bits of the milestone. It was delightful witnessing my babies moving from that sitting Buddha, to the rocking-on-all-fours, dog-like creatures who were just raring to go. Finally taking that first frontward heave, with a face of surprise and accomplishment, was certainly priceless. The realisation they could move from one point to another was definitely a joy to behold.

But once I overcame the thrill of my baby meeting a new developmental landmark, I realised the practical implications of living with a crawler were not so sparkly.

On the go

Put your baby down in one place, turn around and they're in another. That takes some getting used to. Be mindful that crawlers are curious and their newfound freedom to get around can have them in places you wouldn't imagine. With a lack of spatial awareness they can get themselves into some sticky situations; I've had babies crawling with curiosity, only to find them stuck under the couch, under the change table or between a cupboard and a wall.

Stairs

We have a house full of stairs, which is equivalent to an extreme adventure sport for crawlers. Some of them sense the danger and quickly learn to turn around and slide down on their tummies. Others, not so astute, learn the hard way that full frontal down a flight of stairs isn't fun.

Don't fret, we had stair gates everywhere. But it was the bright crawler who figured out he could climb into the gap between the railings that had us on our toes.

Dead flies & stray toys

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I don't care how immaculate your house is, when you set a crawler down, they find stray things. Mine always seemed to find the single dead fly and proceed to test it out as a snack. You can bet that a lost Lego piece will be located by a crawler, which is why being anally retentive about "a place for everything and everything in its place" becomes imperative when there's a rugrat around.

Baby-proofing your house when a crawler is on the loose can be a work in progress as they discover items you hadn't considered at their level. I found myself crawling around on all fours, analysing my home from their viewpoint; it was very useful until I couldn't get up.

Filth

As with the dead insect point, you can polish your floors until the reflection of your tired, haggard face stares back at you, but a crawling baby will always have dirty knees and filthy palms. Or, in a commando crawler's case, an entire layer of dog hair and dust coating their stomachs. And we don't even own a dog.

My firstborn was a commando crawler; had I thought to strap an Enjo to his front, he could've become a human swisher.

If you're not quick enough to sweep up the collateral damage from lunch in the highchair, then expect to find your crawler eating scraps off the floor. Like a stomach swisher, the crawling food machine has benefits: think 'human vacuum'. Not so handy if the food scrap lying on the floor is chilli beef jerky ... it turns out that human vacuums don't like random samples of chilli.

No two crawlers are the same

It's funny how as parents, we want our first baby to reach every milestone quickly. We are so excited when they roll, then look like they're going to crawl. Then they crawl and you want them to stand, then walk, then talk, then pay some bills and move out.

With our second children, we wanted him to do it all late - keep him immobile. Well, not quite, but we know what we were in for, so could be accused of being a little less passionate about certain phases.

I expected my second child would crawl commando-style like my firstborn. I was all over that by the time he was eight months, and was ready with the stomach rags for him to shine my floor. Instead, he chose a very labour intensive style; he leant to one side like he was about to roll, then pushed off his back foot and did it again on the other side. He sometimes forgot to get his arm out the way so would fall on his face. It was a harrowing time for all involved.

The third child mixed it up with some commando, some leg drag, and some bog-standard all-fours crawling.

The fourth was a more traditional crawler but actually preferred to crawl and sit, crawl and sit.

I never got myself a bum-shuffler, with the nappy being dragged down just enough to show off a bit of builder's crack. Shame about that.

The point is, the contingency plans you had in place for your first child may not apply when subsequent children start crawling. Each child has a unique style.

So although it was interesting to watch my babies on the move, I'll admit crawling was not my favourite phase. That was until I was introduced to climbing ... then I really knew I was alive.