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What’s In A Milestone?

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One of the first things we’re aware of as new parents is the long list of pediatrician and fellow mom-promoted “Milestones”.  If you’re like me, you even bought a cute deck of adorable cards that reads like a baby resumé: “Today I rolled over for the first time!”, “Today I ate solid food for the first time!”, “Today I crawled for the first time!”,  “Today I stole my dad’s car keys and a bottle of Jack Daniels from the liquor cabinet for the first time!”.  We keep these cards in a drawer, practically shaking with anticipation for when we get to place them in our child’s chubby hands and snap a pic to post on Facebook.  But what about when your baby is (whisper it) late to reach a Milestone?

Well if you’re anything like me, you begin to panic.  Just a little bit.  You remember that one time while pregnant that you ate sushi, or had a glass of wine, or relaxed in a hot bath, or took a tylenol and you feel like maybe just maybe that one thing has derailed your child in their entire developmental life course.  Or maybe you laugh and pour yourself a second glass of wine.  (By the way, if you are this type of person, I love you and I need you in my life!)  In any case, I have had an education in this because Marlowe was LATE to hit a major milestone.  GASP!!!!!!!   So, let me just touch on the fact that the first bump came when Marlowe was a few weeks late to roll over for the first time.  I brought it up to my pediatrician and he shared with me that there is actually about a month-long window of padding for “normalcy” when it comes to these milestones.  Pretty funny when you think about how much they stress them (and stress us out!).  Anyway, she eventually rolled over and it was fine.  Ok, boring. 

Next came crawling.  Marlowe has been super strong physically from birth.  She was lifting her head up from day one, etc, and so I hadn’t really worried about her being able to crawl.  I noticed, though, that she really didn’t enjoy playing on her tummy, and would roll or wiggle herself to a toy and either play with it while laying on her back, or get herself to sitting to play.  But no crawling, and definitely no action on all fours.  This progressed to an army crawl at about seven months where she would drag her entire body weight with her arms to get from place to place.  And get places, she did!  It even began to assuage my fears as I felt that I had totally heard of “the army crawl” before and thus it must be totally normal. 

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My pediatrician had told me that if she wasn’t “crawling” by nine months old to give him a call.  By nine months, Miss Marlowe was still Call-Of-Duty-ing around our house.  She could get anywhere she wanted! She was even beginning to pull to stand, and so I figured we were totally on track.  Plus everyone (and my Mother) were telling me that everything was totally fine, and that she would just eventually progress to the more traditional crawl.   I called her doctor just to double check, and what he said really troubled me: “I think you need to get her in to physical therapy as soon as possible”.  I almost burst in to tears.  What? Why?! What could happen if we just let her go from this to walking? Apparently traditional crawling (with it’s alternating motion) patterns the brain in such a way as to effect everything from fine motor skills to behavioral issues such as ADD and ADHD.  I was shocked.  I booked an appointment with a physical therapist and hoped to learn more there. 

It ended up being so educational.  Marlowe’s physical therapist spent some time with her, watching her army crawl and playing with toys as well as testing her more basic reflexes.  She taught us about the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) also known as the Crawling Reflex.  It is present briefly after birth and then reappears from around six to nine months.  This reflex is what helps the baby divide their body in half at the midline to assist in crawling and other alternating arm/leg motions.  It disappears around eleven months.  And guess what? MARLOWE DIDN’T HAVE IT.  She told us that with some babies this is just how they’re born, and makes it a little bit more challenging to manually pattern them in to a crawl.  She stressed the importance of us showing her at this stage how to properly move her body, since without therapy she probably wouldn’t figure it out on her own.  I was blown away.  It made me feel better on one hand, because it was clear that waiting it out wouldn’t have solved anything, but I worried about how long it would take to fix the issue.  The physical therapist reiterated that there is a risk of poor muscle tone, inability to sit still and concentrate,  and sloppy motor skills if left unattended.  How was Marlowe supposed to become a celebrated neurosurgeon with sloppy motor skills?!

So we spent an hour there that day, just standing over Marlowe as she moved and holding her body up in to the traditional crawling stance.  We gently guided her hips and basically simulated the preferred motion.  By the end of the session she had worked so many new muscles that her legs were shaking when she pulled to stand.  The therapist said this was an excellent sign, and we made another appointment for a week later.  The next morning, Kyle worked with Marlowe in the yard.  He repeated the exercises that the therapist had shown us, and set out toys on one end of the grass to motivate her.  By just a few hours later, SHE WAS CRAWLING!!! When Kyle brought her inside to show me, I wept.  I felt relieved, but also so proud of my strong and determined child.  Sometimes she would go back down on her stomach and we would gently remind her “Marlowe not on your tummy!” and she would grumble but pick her self back up to all fours.  She kept progressing, and after a few days was crawling all over the house perfectly, as if she had never spent time in the Sherman Oaks Baby Army! 

Generally what this whole experience taught me was this:  babies are not robots.  They are as specific and “flawed” as their adult counterparts.  And they are perfect, even in their imperfections.  As her Mom all I can do is support and guide Marlowe through who she is, and what her strengths are.  I’m glad that I got her help for this problem, but it taught me a lot about patience and understanding, especially with myself.  If your kid is late, don’t judge.  Gather information and work through it, but definitely don’t panic.  Trust your child that they are becoming exactly who they’re meant to be, no matter the path. 

xoxo
EAM

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16 Comments

  1. Amy Herrmann says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, very helpful.

    07.23.15Reply
  2. Liz says:

    I worry about this all the time, Eva! I stalk message boards for my daughters birth month (October, 2014) and scope out what other babies are doing. For every baby that’s saying Donald Duck (someone literally posted that the other day, come on) there is a baby who’s still learning to roll over or sit up. And I think the most fasciating thing is how quickly things happen. Our daughter started crawling 3 days after her 9 month birthday and I worried about it everyday for a month leading up to that milestone. I’m certain this worrying will only get worse but maybe we’ll get better at it? xo

    07.23.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Hi Liz,
      Try your best not to play the comparison game, it will just give you unnecessary stress and pressure! Your daughter will have so many special qualities throughout her life that are different from anyone else’s, and that’s because you’re doing a great job! Focus on what an awesome job you’re doing for YOUR baby, and you will feel much better!
      xoxo
      EAM

      07.24.15Reply
  3. Kim says:

    Beautiful post. I love your blog.

    07.23.15Reply
  4. Shireen says:

    As the momma of a boy who didn’t crawl till 11 months I feel your pain. He did end up in PT when he was 4 because he couldn’t cross his midline during certain tasks. He had a fabulous OT who worked hard with him every day for a year to develop his tummy muscles and midline crossing and today he is a healthy, strong 8 year old boy. Listening to your gut and trusting your intuition is what makes you a great mama! Keep up the good work 😘

    07.23.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Hi Shireen,
      Wow, so interesting! So glad to hear that your son is doing great now!!
      xoxo
      EAM

      07.24.15Reply
  5. Lauren Ribelin says:

    Another great post!!!! Many glasses of wine were consumed when our son was not reaching the walking milestone. He would crawl and cruise, but no walking. Did two physical therapy appointments where we were assured everything was okay. He had been having a lot of ear infections around this time and after many failed fixes with antibiotics, he got tubes in his ears. The day he got the tubes in he started walking AND running that same day! The ped thinks the ear infections were affecting his depth perception, etc. You just never know!

    07.23.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Hi Lauren,
      Wow, I can only imagine how frustrating that must have felt, and scary! I’m glad you guys were able to identify the problem! But now do you wish he was back to crawling??? Running may be even scarier…haha 😉
      xoxo
      EAM

      07.24.15Reply
  6. Rian says:

    Thanks for you post. It has really has me thinking. My May 2014 baby was a late crawler. She crawled right at 10 months after I had spent a month of worrying and constantly encouraging her. Everyone told me that babies develop in their own time and that she is just a “late bloomer”. Now we are struggling with walking. She stands by herself and will walk holding onto our hand or behind a push toy, but will not strike out on her own. She will be 15 months on August 10th. Her pediatrician told us at her 12 month well visit, that if she wasn’t walking at 15 months, we “would have cause for concern”. !! Now I feel like I am on a hard deadline. I know she will get it eventually, but after reading your post I will do a little research in case we don’t meet our 15 month goal.
    Love your blog and Marlowe is adorable!

    07.23.15Reply
    • Happily Eva After says:

      Hi Rian,
      I feel you, and I’m sure I will still be waiting for Marlowe to take those first steps by 15 months! Try not to focus on what she isn’t doing, and instead focus on how well she’s doing in other areas. Each baby progresses differently and that’s ok!
      xoxo
      EAM

      07.24.15Reply
  7. Anne says:

    Great post! I love, love, love your blog!
    My daughter, who is now almost three and a half, was a late crawler. She didn’t start crawling on all fours until she was almost 11 months old. I was so worried that there was something wrong since she was so “late” in comparison to other babies her age. Like you, I was a first time mom who worried about everything (I still worry about stuff – just try to not do it as much). She ended up taking her first steps about a week or so shy of 14 months and within DAYS was running around the house. And hasn’t stopped since.
    You’re so smart to be such a proactive parent. Not everyone would do that! 🙂 Marlowe is absolutely adorable – love seeing her sweet pictures and reading about her on your blog.

    07.23.15Reply
    • Happliy Eva After says:

      Hi Anne,
      This is so great to hear, thank you!
      xoxo
      EAM

      07.24.15Reply
  8. lydia says:

    love the photo at the top of the post, very sweet and glad to hear she is crawling! even though she was ‘late’ its so amazing how much they learn in year one!

    07.26.15Reply
  9. Brynn says:

    I have 7 children. All hit their milestones at different times, some early, some late. You really see how you can’t compare when you raise twins, who will grow as the individuals they are. Now ages 7 to 26, all are excelling, and it’s not an important issue if they were the one who walked at 9 mo or the one who refused to walk until 18 mo.

    07.30.15Reply
  10. Liz says:

    Don’t worry Eva, my son was born the same day as Marlowe and they’re right on point with each other. As much as I can tell from Instagram 😂😂😂

    09.10.15Reply
  11. Stacy says:

    I love this post! My son started PT at 6months for torticolis, he has been late to hit every milestone but he did reach them all on his own time!! I was (and still am !) comparing him to every single baby around us but I’m slowly learning to trust my mom intuition and accept that I have a baby who is mellow and will do things when he’s ready! Thank you for being honest, love reading your blog!

    01.09.18Reply