Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | All About Crawling with Eliza Parker

Podcast Episode #338: All About Crawling with Eliza Parker

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, Paleo and Primal, Podcast Episodes Leave a Comment


  1. Welcoming Eliza Parker back [2:51]
  2. The concept of crawling [11:20]
  3. Propping devices [19:40]
  4. The magic of crawling [23:05]
  5. Creative options of crawling [30:08]
  6. Underlying needs [36:46]
  7. Skipping the crawling milestone [41:40]
  8. Setting up for success [48:09]
  9. Acting out as communication [52:00]
  10. What if my baby skips crawling [57:46]
  11. Crawling trough cultures [1:02:20]

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You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 338.

Liz Wolfe: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I'm Liz; a nutritional therapy practitioner, and author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller Eat the Yolks; The Purely Primal Skincare Guide; and the online program Baby Making and Beyond. I live on a farm in the mystical land of the Midwest, outside of Kansas City.

I'm the co-creator of the Balanced Bites Master Class, with my podcast partner in crime Diane Sanfilippo, and we've been bringing you this award-winning podcast for more than 6 years. We're here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week's episode, and submit your questions at or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram account. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let's hear from one of our sponsors.

Diane Sanfilippo: Today's podcast is sponsored by Perfect Keto. Dr. Anthony Gustin and his teams have created lines of supplements that are super clean and effective, no matter what your dietary needs. I've been blending the MCT oil powder into my matcha latte lately. Not only are MCTs, medium-chain triglycerides, a premium source of your body's preferred type of energy and help to fuel your brain and body, but there's also no added flavors or sweeteners, and it makes your coffee, or matcha, wonderfully cream. Check them out at and use the code Balanced for 20% off. And you can use that code over at their sister products as well at

Liz Wolfe: Hi everyone. Liz here, once again, with an interview with Eliza Parker. One of the most impactful people in my life when it comes to how I raise my child. If you haven't listened to my first interview with Eliza, be sure to do so. It's a good foundation for your understanding of what we're going to talk about in this show, and it's an extension of our discussion about how babies move and how we can empower proper motor and structural and neurological development with just a little bit of extra knowledge. This is not the knowledge you're going to get anywhere else.

So, before we get started I want to state up front that this information might run contrary to what a lot of people are doing, and have done. That was certainly the case for me when I ran across it. And that's ok. There's no judgement here. There's no shaming. There's no suggestion of wrongdoing. I want to completely deactivate and push aside this whole mommy-wars thing that we hear about. This is just information. And if it resonates with you, that's amazing. It certainly did with me. So just keep an open heart, see what might resonate, see what might fit into your life.

1. Welcoming Eliza Parker back [2:51]

Liz Wolfe: My guest today, once again, is Eliza Parker. She is a certified infant development movement educator. The last podcast we referred to that as IDME. Aware parenting instructor, body mind centering practitioner, and trained Feldenkrais practitioner. Eliza respects babies as whole people who enter the world knowing how to communicate, learn, and self-heal within relationship. Her conscious baby practice employs a unique approach to baby led, “I can do it myself” milestone development as well as attunement to nonverbal cues and crying. Eliza's life-changing perspectives and respectful solutions toward common parenting questions transcend typical parenting advice. Her work addresses babies on the well-baby spectrum and those experiencing challenges, such as developmental delay.

Eliza and I spoke in a previous podcast about IDME and about infant movement about all kinds of things. I gave her an official addendum to her bio, where I talked a little bit about how meaningful Eliza's work has been for my family. I won't read that again, but please if you haven't listened to the first episode that I did with Eliza, go back and listen to that. Because it helps set the stage for why we're talking about what we're talking about, and why it's important. And I also talked a little bit about my personal experience with Eliza.

Long story short, there are so many reasons to work with her one on one. It's probably the number one gift I would want to give a new mom or new parents, because the information that she provides is so valuable. And she's just a phenomenal person. So I'm excited to welcome you back to the podcast, Eliza.

Eliza Parker: Thank you, Liz. It's so fun always to talk to you.

Liz Wolfe: Well, thank you. I try and be as entertaining and whatnot as I possibly can be. But yeah, it's always so good to talk to you. I feel like we always end up, I don't know. I always come away with something really major. Some kind of big lightbulb type moment. So I think what you have to share is so important. Could we, before we jump into what we're going to talk about today. Could you just give us a little recap of what IDME is and why we should care and why you do the work that you do?

Eliza Parker: Yeah. So, IDME stands for, as you said, infant developmental movement education. It's kind of the overarching thing, is that it's about looking at a child's early movement and touch experiences. Because it has a huge effect on so many aspects of their lives. So it's about the everyday level with your baby. Things like tracking and supporting motor development. Milestones from a baby-led perspective. Which means how to raise your baby in a way that they find things like sitting, standing, and walking on their own.

So really understanding how movement develops. Tips for ways to hold and move your baby that support development. And then other things too, kind of on a bigger scale. Like bonding and self-regulating wellbeing. Problem solving. Relationships. That kind of thing. It's for both babies on the typically developing spectrum; kind of well-baby spectrum. And then also for those having challenges, like motor delay.

Liz Wolfe: And this, what would you call it? Is it a philosophy? What would you call it?

Eliza Parker: Approach.

Liz Wolfe: Approach. Was developed by, I believe you said in the last episode, an occupational therapist. Is that correct?

Eliza Parker: Yeah. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Who is an occupational therapist, among many other things. And it's part of a bigger body of work called the body mind centering approach to somatic education. So, it's from the perspective of wellbeing through awareness, how we're moving, the different body systems, how everything works in tandem.

Liz Wolfe: So this is something I did not ask you in the previous podcast. I think I almost said it for you. {laughs} Without permission. Can you describe a little bit about what makes you so good at this work? You're just so; just give folks an idea of why this work called to you so much, and why you're so good at it.

Eliza Parker: So I speak baby pretty well.

Liz Wolfe: You do! You guys. She does.

Eliza Parker: I speak cat pretty well, too. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughing}

Eliza Parker: If people out there listening; dog people or cat people, you'll kind of understand.

Liz Wolfe: {laughing}

Eliza Parker: It's just this thing. I personally tend to resonate on a very spiritual level just in my own being and the way I interact with being alive. And I also have this crazy ability to see a million things about something at once. Like, the past, the present, the future, all the possibilities. It's all there at once. And I think, too, I'm very much a conceptual thinker. And I think in concepts. Literally, not verbal concepts. But concepts. And I think all of that together, also I'm a very highly sensitive person; HSP. So I'm very aware of communication and cues on a subtle level. I think all those things together allow me to tune into babies pretty well. Pick up on cues. And things that happen that are nonverbal.

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm. I feel like for some folks, those types of things are almost; you have to experience it to understand it. And I just want people to know that I experienced it. {laughs} Eliza, what she writes about is very; it's scientifically sound. You've got that part down. But it's also the way that you introduce these ideas, and the way you talk about them, and the way you're able to communicate them to the families that you work with.

I have been working with you; or we. My daughter and I. Since my daughter was 4 or 5 months old. I think we decided that was around the first time we spoke. And from the very first Skype call, there was absolutely a connection there between Eliza and my daughter. And between me and Eliza. And then a greater, more open channel between myself and my daughter. And that was just in the first phone call.

When you see that in action, when it's actually happening, it's almost like; I don't know how this is possible but I'm completely bought in.

Eliza Parker: For whatever reason, I have pretty strong baby radar.

Liz Wolfe: Yes.

Eliza Parker: I remember a very cool moment from your thing, about how she was playing with your phone cord.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, I remember that too. I was going to say, we probably are thinking of the same thing. And also that she knew what you were communicating, even though I had my headphones in.

Eliza Parker: Yep. She did.

Liz Wolfe: It was crazy. It was one of those things where you rub your eyes a couple of times, and you're like; is this real?

Eliza Parker: Yeah, that's the multilevel thing, I think. The way that I see all this work is there's everyday stuff, and then there's the why it applies to your life and the rest of the world layer. And I feel like that happens for me in communication, also, when there's a baby around. There's just kind of all those levels at one time.

Liz Wolfe: And I've seen this. I've referred a couple of folks to you, and I've had them say the same things. So it's not just me. We have a wider sample size than just me. So that's important to establish.

Eliza Parker: Cool. Thanks. I'll say, too, just for the movement piece as a fun fact for folks, that I'm a dancer. Mostly rhythm tap dance, but I'm a dancer and a mover, so that's my link to the movement part of this. Why the movement makes sense to me.

2. The concept of crawling [11:20]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So, what we had kind of established as our topics for this episode; we're going to center heavily on; I don't know if this would be considered a milestone or multiple milestones. But I want to talk about crawling. Because it's such a cool concept with so many; it's more than just babies starting to move. There's stuff going on in the brain, and there's stuff going on in the body. It's such a cool thing to watch. So one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is why crawling is so cool. And how we can kind of empower parents and kids to develop these abilities naturally in a world that's kind of set up to; I don't know what the word would be. Maybe interfere with that. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: Yeah. {laughs} Yeah, we can touch on that too. Crawling is amazing, and it's so fun to watch and get into. This is a really fun topic. And it's a popular topic, too. Just because I think, I can get philosophical about pretty much anything. But crawling is something that you can see. It's an actual thing. And it's fun, and it's how babies get around. And they get really excited in this stage and they go explore the world.

So, let me put this into some perspective, too, about crawling. And kind of start out with; there are two main ways of crawling, and that's belly crawling and hands and knees crawling. I think we want to focus mostly on hands and knees crawling, but I want to say a word about belly crawling. This is also referred to as army crawling, or commando crawling. It's when your baby moves on the tummy.

So, around 5 or 6 months is often when this starts happening. Some will see it at 4. And some will see it at 8 or 9 months. It depends on what floor surfaces you've had your baby on, and just your baby's timing and some other things. But you may see your baby pivoting in a circle on his tummy. That's legit. You may see pushing backwards.

So here's an important thing that this belly crawling, some people refer to it also as pre-crawling. But it's a completely legit stage, and it's completely different, actually. It's a different organization from hands and knees crawling. Before I get there, I want to say that sliding backwards on their tummy is also a legitimate motor skill. Because you might be like; oh no, my baby is going backwards! She can't figure out how to go forward!

Liz Wolfe: We've got to fix this! Go forwards!

Eliza Parker: And it's the most frustrating time, because they want something, and they try with all their might and they go backwards, bless their hearts. But it's a really powerful body organizer, this sliding backwards. And it's kind of what opens the door to go forwards.

So the going forward, kind of like you said. You said something about babies moving. Oh, by the way; all of this stuff, that we want to talk about right now, fits under the topic of locomotion in general.

So here's the magic of belly crawling. So imagine you're a baby, and all you know so far is lying on the floor, and course being held and carried. But so far, being on the floor, pushing up on your hands. Maybe you've learned to push your head up. But all you can do is be where you're put. And maybe you can roll, but pretty much you are where you are put, and you are loving family. Your parents, your mom or your dad. That's who's mobile; who carries you or moves you. And you're stable, so we're going to look at this kind of mobile versus stable.

And then I feel like other than being born, this very stage right here, belly moving, which is the precursor to hands and knees crawling. This belly crawling is this giant, enormous, major turning point in our lives. Because in order to get from this position where we're on the floor and we're pretty stable. Meaning we can't locomote. We can't travel a distance yet. In order to get from there to moving around in the world, and being able to sit, and stand, and walk, and be on two feet, and crawl, we have to do something. And that key is weight shift.

In order to move about in the world, and in order to progress through any of the other milestones after this point, we have to figure out how to weight shift. So belly crawling is the key place where this happens.

Now, I will say, not all babies find belly crawling. Some will skip to hands and knees crawling. There are ways to support belly crawling, which I won't go into right now. But there are also many benefits to belly crawling. But my point is, that in this realm and in this kind of general stage of both types of crawling, it's about weight shift.

And this is also where a lot of parents will start having their own milestone, in a way. Because it's when you're little sweet, in arms baby becomes mobile. And I think it's a transition for parents, too.

Liz Wolfe: {laughs} Yeah.

Eliza Parker: So all of the belly moving that you might see with your baby is fabulous, and it's about weight shifting and your baby figuring out how to maneuver and control his or her own body weight. So that's kind of the key. A key precursor to this hands and knees crawling.

Liz Wolfe: I still remember when my daughter did the whole army crawl. It was really cool. Because we had been working with you at that point. And I was like; whoa! One day she just kind of started doing it. I think I still have a video of it. She was going for a little ball that was on the floor. And she didn't stay in that place for long. I don't think she belly-crawled for very long. But it was still really, really cool to see. And yeah, it was definitely a milestone for me, as well.

Eliza Parker: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: It was when I really started; not believing in this process, but it was when I really had this solid proof of they discover these things on their own. I think she had sat up on her own, and she had figured out some of that stuff exactly as you had described she would. But it was just so out of nowhere. And I knew there had been a moment where it just clicked and it was ready to happen. How do you usually say that? It opens up?

Eliza Parker: The reflexes or the movements pop open.

Liz Wolfe: Pop open.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. I say that about reflexes because; well, here's a tangent but it might actually help, even if folks have heard the other podcast. I talk about reflexes a lot because they carve the pathway for movement. Maybe I did say this. But they carve the pathway. And the reflexes are very fast. And it's like laying a track for train. It's kind of like laying a track for movement.

So moving around on the floor, which is part of why freedom of movement on the floor in different positions; the back, the sides, and the tummy, is so important. That moving around and gravity on the floor triggers these reflexes to pop open, which then allows for the belly crawling and the sitting and that stuff.

3. Propping devices [19:40]

Liz Wolfe: So cool. And you did talk about some of the gravity stuff in the previous episode that kind of was more of an overview. Which I thought was really neat. So where did we stop here? We're talking about army crawling, that it's legit. What's next?

Eliza Parker: So, I wanted to give that as some background to crawling. Hands and knees crawling. And again, not all babies will automatically find belly crawling. But when they do, you'll see some links. Like how the legs organize helps prepare for hands and knees crawling. There's some hand-eye coordination stuff that kind of prepares the way for hands and knees crawling. The biggest thing is this weight shifting, then locomotion, then movement.

So with that, shall we go right into hands and knees crawling?

Liz Wolfe: Let me ask a quick question.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I think maybe this discussion is kind of predicated on, but I'm not sure so I'd like to just hear your thoughts on it. The previous episode, we talked about propping. And about devices. And about how the world is kind of organized and being marketed to us in a way that is different from how our bodies are actually optimized to move and exist. So, would it be accurate to say that one of the things that most enables these types of really cool things to happen in a baby-led; maybe not even a baby-led way. But the thing that enables these things to happen in the natural progression that we would want to see maybe is to ensure that you're not over-propping, or over-containing, or moving baby in nonoptimal ways as a habit.

Eliza Parker: Yes, 100%. And I have some other tips I can share eventually, too. About how to set your baby up for the best chance at crawling.

Liz Wolfe: Perfect.

Eliza Parker: Yeah that's a huge piece of it. It's partly the containment because what I said that thing about the freedom of movement and the reflexes opening up. A lot of that happens specifically in a relationship of tummy down and gravity with the floor. And that's partly because when we're tummy down, we have to use our limbs in a certain way to move ourselves around.

And then it's also because; so by propping, what we mean is devices that hold your baby upright, especially before they can get into those sitting or standing positions by themselves. Or holding them up habitually by hand a lot of the time.

So one thing that can happen there, is the brain will have what's called windows of opportunity. Which is a time when the child is ready to learn something new. So what we'll see sometimes is the brain says go, and the baby who has that floor time and is on the floor habitually, their brain says go and it turns typically into these ways of crawling. For the baby who is sitting, the brain says go, and that we see sometimes turn into scooting on the bottom. That itself can make finding hands and knees a little bit harder. So that's kind of the link there.

4. The magic of crawling [23:05]

Liz Wolfe: Gotcha. Ok. Good. So now we can talk about crawling.

Eliza Parker: {laughs} Ok. So let's talk some about why it's so magical and so important. The initial, the first biggest thing I feel like is that it's a crisscrossing of movement through the body and the brain. And this is like; it really is magical. It's like; how do these things happen. I just think it's amazing the way the body and the brain are set up to do these things.

So if you watch a baby crawl. And also if you get down on the floor and crawl. Which actually I highly recommend. Because crawling on hands and knees is actually really good for the brain at any age.

Liz Wolfe: That was going to be another future question. I was going to ask; I'm getting ahead of myself. But maybe you can answer this as you speak. But one of the questions I had written down was; what if baby didn't crawl. What if there was some impediment to that type of movement. Are there games, or movements, or anything we can do to reclaim some of that cool stuff that's going on?

Eliza Parker: The answer is yes. And let's come back to it.

Liz Wolfe: Co-oa.

Eliza Parker: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: That was a combination of cool and ok. Co-oa. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: Yeah. {laughs} Thought so. And I even have my own story of having to problem solve something after I came back from my training of crawling all summer.

Liz Wolfe: Perfect.

Eliza Parker: So if you get on the floor and crawl, or you watch your baby. You reach out your hand; one hand starts. It's a reach pattern. One hand reaches out forwards, and then the opposite knee follows through. So that movement is crisscrossing through the body traveling from one arm, through your spine, to the other leg.

So in your brain, you've got your two hemispheres, and then you've got the corpus callosum that is a band of nerve fibers that runs between the brain halves. So what this cross lateral, or crisscrossing movement through the body does is help develop that band of nerve fibers. So it helps integrate. It helps the two sides of the brain integrate, and the body works a whole. It just helps activate the two hemispheres to work together in a balanced way.

So I think that's the main key, and a pretty magical thing about this. Some other things about why crawling is important and the benefits that babies get from it is it's a culmination of all the previous milestones. So your baby rolled, pushed up on their forearms. Maybe pushed around on their belly some. Belly crawled, if they did. That's kind of a side-side pattern. All of those things, without going into all those details. It's things like the way the spine moves and the way the limbs organize and the shaping of the movement.

All of that comes together in hands and knees crawling. And suddenly hands and knees crawling, because the baby has done all those previous things, opens up this doorway for the baby to crisscross in the body and do all of the previous things at one time. So it's kind of the gateway milestone from baby movement to three-dimensional human movement in the ways that we can move in any direction at a time. So that's a cool thing.

Another one is the ability to cross midline. Which means if you were to divide your body in half, between your right side and your left side. The ability for you to take your right hand across your body and touch your other arm, or your other knee. That's crossing midline. And it's like; if we can do this as grownups, we kind of take it for granted. But this is something that crawling helps open up, to allow this crossing midline. Which is important for sensory integration. Like the two eyes. The two ears. Sensory information coming in, and how the brain organizes it. And just coordinating our body in this way to kind of interact with the three-dimensional world.

Some other things that are cool about crawling. One is, if you think of the baby's position in crawling up on hands and knees. Especially the hip joints are at a 90-degree angle. So part of what's happening here is this crawling motion is actually contributing to forming the hip sockets. So the shaping of the femur bone, the leg bone, and the hip socket. And then also just preparing the movement of the folding and straightening in the hip joints, and the knees, and the ankles for walking.

There are other things, like it strengthens the lower back. And this is really important. So the crawling; the organization of the legs in relationship with the pelvis and the spine has a lot to do with our back. How our spine, our lower back, organizes itself. And we actually see when back problems show up for adults, we can actually sometimes trace it back to a baby who didn't crawl. And it's because of this relationship. And again, we'll come back to your question about; “My baby didn't crawl, what do I do?”

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm.

Eliza Parker: Yes, there are things you can do. And then it also supports hand-eye coordination. So that reach of the arm going forward. The baby is organizing his movement with his motivation. And what he sees, what he wants, what he's going after. So he's aiming for the thing he sees. He's judging distance. So there's a lot there about hand-eye coordination.

And then all of that; the hand-eye, the crisscrossing, the brain halves, crossing midline. All of that then supports reading skill, actually pretty directly. And there's science around that. Pretty sure there's research around that. But I've also had parents who have had multiple kids tell me; yeah, the kids that crawled were really strong readers, and it was different from their kids who didn't crawl. So there's that link too. So lots of amazing things about crawling.

5. Creative options of crawling [30:08]

Liz Wolfe: Interesting. So do you feel like; I think you are going to get into what you can do to; I don't know if the word would be catchup, but that's what I'll say. Do you also feel like there are times when maybe baby did not have maybe the opportunity or just did not end up crawling. If there are ways that baby kind of; if there's some innate wisdom to a baby or a child that they will try doing other things to kind of make up for that lack of; I don't know what the word would be. Lack of locomotion in a particular way?

Eliza Parker: Yeah. Really well said. This kind of brings me to other options, other creative options, and the brain saying go. I'll talk about this and tell me if it answers your question.

Liz Wolfe: OK.

Eliza Parker: You'll hear often talked about, do other creative options count? So other creative options being like scooting on the bottom. Kind of pushing off with the hand and scooting. Maybe with one knee up. Or crawling with one knee and one foot up. Things like that. Different ways of crawling. You will see literature saying; yes. They're all good and they're all creative ways.

What I would say about those is that it happens out of wisdom. Your baby is very wise to find a solution. And again, the brain says go, and your baby, because humans are amazing this way, is going to find a solution. But those other so-called creative ways can indicate that they're having difficulty finding both hands and both knees.

And again, this might be a good time to say none of this is in judgement. Because this can happen for so many different reasons. It can be related to things we're doing. Devices, propping devices. But it can also just be the foot was this way in the womb. Or the weight; there's kind of a shift of weight to one side that's habitual and they just need to find the other side.

So if they don't get the actual hands and knees, they can miss out on some of those benefits of crawling. Because the thing about crisscrossing, for instance, you're not going to get the crisscrossing action from scooting on the bottom. The movement is not going to travel through in the same way.

So here's my thing about holding all of the possibilities at one time. It's like; yes, that baby is very wise and creative. At the same time, I would love to see, to come and kind of how can we support that baby to actually find some other options also. And by finding, I mean add. To add some more options to that baby's repertoire so that they're able to find the weight shift to the other side so they're not hindered, but that they can increase their options and actually then access more of their movement ability and potential.

Liz Wolfe: Do you have any cues for that? Any kind of favorite tips, I guess, that you are able to describe with an audio-only podcast? Or is it something that you need to actually show.

Eliza Parker: About?

Liz Wolfe: Just kind of maybe adding an extra option. Maybe an example if baby is mostly scooting on the bottom. A way to just kind of open that channel a little bit. A shift in positioning where you can kind of stimulate, maybe.

Eliza Parker: I'm going to do a very Eliza thing. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughs}

Eliza Parker: And kind of give people a way to think about it.

Liz Wolfe: OK.

Eliza Parker: So that you can kind of then trickle down. Because I feel like this may not give you an exact tip, but it will give you a way to think about it, so that you can then be creative.

Liz Wolfe: OK.

Eliza Parker: Which I feel like is useful. It's helpful to self-reference and do it yourself. So if you crawl yourself, notice the things; the elements of crawling. One of the elements is being on both knees. Being able to take weight in one knee versus the other. One of the elements is being able to take weight in the hands and the arms. Another element, which I'll point out. I don't know if you would recognize it, but it will make sense when I say it. The spine learns how to rotate or twist. Because when you're doing this cross lateral movement, you reach a hand out, it kind of twists your spine a little bit.

So for a baby who is doing one of those creative options; which also is a good time to reach out. And there are some specific handling tips that can be done. But to also take this way of thinking like; ok, what are the elements of crawling and to kind of break it down. Because it's not really about putting the baby into the position, and saying, “Do it this way. Do it this way.” Because for that same reason that the baby did that thing in wisdom; we don't just want to go in and say that's wrong. We don't want to give that message to the baby.

So again, if you can kind of break it down into pieces, like reaching. What if we play with reaching. If we kind of deconstruct it. Take the whole crawling out of the picture and just play with reaching. Or the legs part. Can the baby kneel. Or take weight to his knees? Or the baby turning the spine. Does the baby have a habit of turning only one direction? Or can they look the other way, too?

When you can look at it this way, and kind of break down the elements, sometimes you can discover something you didn't notice before. Like maybe this baby actually doesn't tend to turn to his right, where he always turns to the left. And our vision, actually, is a big part of how we organize movement. So maybe this whole thing got set up around that pattern in his body of turning one way and then the other. Or it might be completely something else.

So my tip there; and I have other tips in general. But my tip there would be to kind of, as you watch your baby, can you kind of find a piece that's not active that you could entice.

6. Underlying needs [36:46]

Liz Wolfe: So this might be a totally incorrect parallel. But I think when we're talking about missing milestones, or movement patterns and things like that. There is that tendency to just say; what are they not doing. What do we want them to do? How do we push them into that position to get that started?

I feel like what you're saying, which is to kind of just take that beat and look at it kind of globally. Is somewhat comparable to one of the things I learned from you about looking at babies emotionally. Where maybe the picture is this baby is screaming or crying or throwing a tantrum, and you want to fix that. You want to change that exact thing. But maybe part of the process of that is to take a beat and say; what else is going on? Like, what is it that we can clear in this situation? Whether it's; hey, maybe this baby is crying to relieve stress. What could be that stressor, and how can I help it.

It's not just, she's crying out of; you know. Crying and stress being the same thing or crying and stress being two different but related things, and you're kind of looking at the underlying thing, and the little pieces that you can move around to bring everything back into balance. I think that's the word I think of here. Moving pieces to bring things back into a balanced equilibrium.

Eliza Parker: The key behind all of that, I would say, also, is the underlying needs. So kind of going back and looking at what's underlying. Like in the sense of crying beyond immediate needs. Well, there's an underlying need to that. So the motor development is if the baby; well you can take that in different directions. But the underlying elements of crawling you can look at it that way.

But also with IDME, our perspective is kind of when a baby is not doing a certain motor pattern, we will back up and look. What is the pattern before that one? What are the elements, or reflexes, or movements that come in before that one? And does the baby have that? Because one of our sayings from body mind centering and Bonnie is support precedes movement. So often, if we can build up the support needed, the baby will find the movement herself.

It's kind of the same with that crying and stress release piece, and listening to that stress release. The crying in arms comes from aware parenting. It's also kind of addressing, if you support the underlying need, then the baby can move on from there on her own. Which is a very cool empowering thing for everyone, I think.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, that's the word that came to mind when you said that, was definitely empowerment. Do it myself empowerment, that type of thing.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. And there are times that I will, a little bit, put a baby into a position. But it's more about feeling a weight shift, or feeling something. And it's not just putting them there. It's kind of getting rolling them into it from the previous. Or kind of making a link. It's still never about forcing. And really it's more about if we can start from where the baby already is, and set up their environment through play and through the ways that we hold and move them and set them down and pick them up. That in itself will often open up the next reflex, without us even having to “put” the baby into any other position that they're not doing yet.

Liz Wolfe: OK.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I'm an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body's ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you'll be able to find a venue that works for you.

7. Skipping the crawling milestone [41:40]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So what else about crawling?

Eliza Parker: What else about crawling? Some people will say that crawling is not important. You'll hear that often. Kind of commonly in society.

Liz Wolfe: I'm guess that probably comes from the way it's being looked at is; oh well they will walk one way or the other. If the end goal is walking.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I didn't crawl, by the way, folks. I mean, my sister crawled funny and I crawled funny and we're walking. So that's true. That end point, we did reach that. But let's talk about this.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. So not crawling does not mean that your baby won't walk. And what I often hear is that; “Well, not all babies crawl so it must not be important. Your baby will be fine. Your baby will walk.” And there are some current parenting trends that do tend to contribute to babies not crawling.

It's things like those devices, for the reasons we talked about and more. But some of those things can actually make it harder for the baby to find crawling. So seeing skipped crawling doesn't mean that crawling is not important. It points to other factors that we can look at. So it indicates that there is something going on on some level. That, again, is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean a parent is a bad parent because a baby doesn't crawl. Even if you're using propping devices. None of this means you're a bad parent, or guilt trip, or any of that.

It's really to look at what the baby is communicating. And I look at this; skipped milestones, skipped movements. I look at that as communication, basically everything from a baby being communication. They're actually showing us something. And that it's our job to kind of investigate and come in and be like; how can I support you to find this and to open this up.

And again, we'll talk in a sec about if your baby didn't crawl, and what you can do. But the crawling just offers so many amazing benefits. And it's really wonderful if you can go back and get it. There is a window of opportunity in the body and brain to catch at it's typical progression point. Because it helps prepare for being upright, and helps prepare the brain. But also, like you were saying, if a baby didn't crawl there are definitely some things that you can do to kind of reclaim some of those tips for the brain.

You just; you may have to do a little more work around it. It's just like anything. I was C-section and I was bottle fed, so I kind of missed out on some gut stuff. So I have to do, for me, because of my sensitivities and my body and how that played out for me, I have to kind of attend to it. So you may find you need to actually consciously put these ways to play in place, kind of on purpose.

Liz Wolfe: Can I give an example of that really quick?

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: So, this is not related to crawling. But just to kind of; as a mom. My parenting perspective to this was, my daughter was C-section as well. And there was literally; we spend so much time dwelling on how that could have been prevented, and what the providers are doing, and blah, blah, blah. It is what it is. She was a C-section. I didn't want it, but that's how it happened. And we accept that. Right?

But, after that, I had to do a little extra stuff that you helped us with around spinning around. Getting that; because she didn't come down the birth canal. She didn't have that particular stimulus. And you worked with us on some of the stuff we could do around rotation. And it was incredibly helpful to us. And that's kind of an example of that.

So things happen. Maybe my daughter was being creative in how she needed to come out for reasons I will never know. That had maybe something to do with me; that maybe had nothing to do with me. But it's ok. It's all ok. I don't hold any judgement over myself anymore about this, and I don't want anyone to hold any judgement, or feel judged, or feel attacked if their kid didn't crawl. There's just; here are some things you can work with that might… you know.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. It's like, on one hand there's this ideal in typical development. And on the other hand, there's life and things happen. And the more important thing, is how can you work with it and come in and address it. And also, at some point, I feel this about kind of anything.

If your baby didn't crawl, somewhere in there, there's some wisdom in the system. Any time there's something we want to change, at some point in the history of this pattern developing, I assure you we'll find some piece of wisdom. So it's like the baby's brain said go, and for whatever reason they couldn't crawl on hands and knees so they did this. That's in wisdom. But at the same time, we want to come in and support and kind of open up the door for crawling.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Eliza Parker: And that's where I don't like to send the message that it's wrong, or you should or shouldn't, etc. Because if you hold the whole picture on a higher perspective like that, it kind of turns it into; well there's wisdom in the system, and sometimes there are things that didn't happen ideally, or like you would want them. And you can do stuff.

8. Setting up for success [48:09]

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. So what are the things we can do? What are the things we can do to reclaim some of that, or what have you.

Eliza Parker: So, let me talk first maybe about how to set your baby up for the best chance at crawling. Because I think some of that may give some perspective to kind of reclaiming going backwards, and we'll talk about that.

So one thing is making sure your baby has a lot of floor time. And by floor time, I don't just mean tummy time. Which is a whole other topic. And I will get there in a sec. But floor time on all sides; front, back, and sides, is actually really key to opening up all the reflexes and all the milestones. So floor time, and getting down there with your baby, and spending time with your baby on baby's level. So they have you there to be with in relationship. And it makes this about relationship.

And then that does bring us to tummy time. So the belly crawling and the hands and knees crawling, they do arise out of being on the tummy. And interacting with the floor and with gravity from the tummy, and the way the limbs have to push on the floor. So one thing is to make sure that tummy time is comfortable. And that's a point that if it's not, that's a great time to reach out.

Another is that belly crawling, if it seems like your baby is trying, and can't quite figure out how to move on the belly, that is the hardest movement pattern for babies to get. So, if that's becoming a challenge, or they're only using one leg. Or they're not using their legs at all and belly crawling, those things can play out also once they try to hands and knees crawl. So those are just some things to look for, again, and reach out.

But, as far as tips, again here's a really fun one. Floor surfaces. I don't know if this was y'alls experience, but some babies; actually a lot of babies at first, when they're at this locomotion stage of starting to move on their bellies, will chose different movements on different surfaces. Like, they'll roll on carpet or the bed, but suddenly you put them on a slippy surface like the kitchen or some wood or some tile or linoleum or whatever and they start moving all over the place.

So this is a really, really fun thing. Sometimes a family has never put the baby on a different surface. Just because you get used to putting your baby down on a soft surface. Especially until they learn to control their head when they roll. But if your baby can control the head, go ahead and put him on slippy floor surface and see what happens. Sometimes parents have a big surprise at their baby just exploding with movement. And that's sometimes when the belly moving backwards and forwards piece can come in.

And then, the other biggest tip is to, if you're using propping devices. Like seats or standing activity centers, or you tend to hold your baby up and standing, just start reducing that. And then avoid it if you can. But the more time the baby has to kind of explore moving around freely on the floor, the more that will open up some of these possibilities for catching crawling.

9. Acting out as communication [52:00]

Liz Wolfe: I want to make a point about habituation. And you can totally correct me on this. But one of the things that I think about; you're always talking about how this is all happening in relationship. And one of the things that I really feel like you opened up for me was the idea of the part that I play in everything. How what I'm doing or not doing is really important. And that seems like a no-brainer. But I feel like a lot of times, for me, as a mom, I would think about what my kid was doing and not what I was doing that might have carved out those pathways for her to go down.

So, for us, making some shifts. One of the things I noticed is when I changed things a little bit, it would cause some frustration for my daughter. And I think at the beginning, my instinct was just to go back and not do those things. Like, oh, she's upset, this isn't going to work. But I started kind of thinking about what I was bringing to the picture. And maybe she prefers this, because I've been doing that. So kind of being with her through that change. And rather than just stopping the process. Just saying; you're acknowledging her feelings. You're frustrated that this is a little bit different. And kind of pushing through that. And that was kind of where the magic started to happen.

It wasn't like; oh, I really must insist because you need to do this. It was me kind of understanding that she had certain preferences; possibly because it had been where I had guided her.

Eliza Parker: Mm-hmm. I feel like that's an important thing in parenting, in general.

Liz Wolfe: Mm-hmm.

Eliza Parker: Sometimes children will act out in certain ways, and we'll feel like; oh my gosh, we've got to teach them not to hit, or not to whatever. But if you can really get honest with yourself, and look at the whole big picture and kind of start seeing; oh wow, I missed this cue. That just got by me. Yeah, I had to go do this stuff and didn't give you a lot of attention that day. Or whatever it is. You can kind of see; oh, actually the child is letting me know that this was me patterning her.

Kind of the same thing with movement development. We pattern babies a lot by how we hold and move them, or they develop habits in their bodies and their psyches by a lot. By how we hold and move and interact with them. So sometimes, it can be an offshoot of what we've been doing.

I think that's a fascinating angle to look at things from, too. Because sometimes you can see. If you learn this new way of putting your baby down that I teach by putting them on their side that kind of follows every stage, then it can open up how you see the body and how you see them. And you can kind of start seeing, oh, they actually brace when I do this way. And they don't brace and they're more relaxed when I do it that way.

And if you can kind of take an objective look at those things and say; oh yeah. How I'm doing this with her has an effect on it. And then the baby's response; the baby's got to get used to it, too. So if they're frustrated or having a response. Of course we want to make sure it's not a physical problem that they're not literally uncomfortable because the leg hurts when you put them down. But just that they're used to something being done a different way.

And actually, when you can allow that frustration to come out and listen to allow them to let off some steam while you stay present with them. That can, in itself, help them move on and open up these new pathways.

Liz Wolfe: So one of the concepts that we've kind of developed for Baby Making and Beyond with an amazing, amazing expert in this field named Denise. She's incredible. We've talked about what we want to call this idea of being present. And being engaged, but not necessarily fixing things that don't need to be fixed or changed. And what we came up with was BTC; be there and care. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I don't know if you like that or not, but that's kind of. We were searching for this idea that we could kind of encompass the idea that just being present is an active thing. You're not doing nothing. You are being present, and you are accepting, and you're being part of that moment. But you're not fixing anything that doesn't need to be fixed.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

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10. What if my baby skips crawling [57:46]

Eliza Parker: Shall we finally speak to {laughs} what if my baby didn't crawl?

Liz Wolfe: Yes, let's do. Because we're already at an hour, and I could talk to you forever. But let's talk about that, and then we'll get close to closing out.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. So if your baby didn't crawl, depending on the age, there are different things you can do. And like I said, at any age, honestly crawling is amazing. I literally felt a difference in myself when I came back from a summer in doing this in training.

So, games. If your child is old enough to play games; actually I just want to say a quick tidbit story. One of my teachers had a child who didn't crawl. And I think the story goes he was having seizures, so he hadn't crawled. So at age 5, she started having him crawl, and playing some crawling games with him. And he stopped having seizures.

Liz Wolfe: Wow.

Eliza Parker: So, it really, this is effective. It can be effective at any age. So crawling games, like chase. Or animal games. While you're at it, add in the belly crawling piece can be fun. If you crawl on your bellies like a lizard. Lizard is kind of the key animal parallel for the belly crawling. And then crawl on your hands and knees like a cat or a dog or a tiger. Whatever. So definitely games like that.

Going upstairs, doing creative things like; do you think we can go up the stairs on our hands and knees? Just things that give the body a little bit of a different creative problem-solving experience. Obstacle courses are great, too. And this can be fun for toddlers, if you can get your toddler, depending on the age, doing it.

So where you set up pillows, and maybe a stool and a chair they can go under. Just things where you can create these different levels so they crawl or climb up the pillows, and then they go down. And it just requires some creative problem solving and some different use of the limbs.

So if your child did not crawl, you can again think of it in two ways. One is directly crawling. How can you actually get them to do the motion of crawling playfully? And the other is how can you break it down and do elements of it. Will they kneel if it's a toddler; well, any age. Are they comfortable kneeling and taking weight on the legs. Or is there some fun thing you can do, like play on a ball and get them to reach their hand.

Or can you play with them in a way that you play on this side and they turn their head this way, and then you do a peekaboo or whatever the toddler equivalent. You know how toddlers like to go behind you and you turn your head. If you can kind of do the equivalent where they turn their head and get them to turn the other direction. Just this creative way of thinking.

Liz Wolfe: Something came to mind while you were talking about that. My daughter, and I'm sure a lot of other toddlers. She's almost 3. Sometimes they'll just want to crawl. And I feel like I've said to her before; I haven't said, “You're not a baby. You don't need to crawl.” But I've been like, “Get up. Walk. You know how to walk. So walk.” But maybe there are times when their brains are saying, “Let's drop down on all fours,” and maybe we should just go with that.

Eliza Parker: If you are in a space where you can do that.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. Maybe not in the middle of Target. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs} I would actually say, if your toddler is doing that, then just take that invitation for yourself to get some brain work for yourself. Get down there with them and actually indulge both of yourselves.

Actually, that reminds me. If you have an older child, also who's having maybe some learning challenges in school. Or not even technically having learning challenges, but just frustrated or stuck. Or you're stuck with a project you're doing or something. Get them on the floor and do some movement. Take a movement break and crawl. Do this cross lateral brain stuff. I'm telling you; it can really help.

11. Crawling through cultures [1:02:20]

Liz Wolfe: I want to bring in something. This is totally a tangent that we don't have time for. But I'm going to do it anyway. I think one of the things I'm very passionate about is that we don't pin everything on an evolutionary approach any more than we pin everything on a typical mainstream conventional wisdom approach. And one of the things that I've had folks say to me, kind of in my community, is “Well did you know hunter-gatherer babies sometimes; they were stood up from the moment they were born. They have these different reflexes. They could stand up. And they would go almost directly to walking at 6 months old.” I hear that type of thing.

And my thought on that is, just because it happened at a time when we were free of a lot of the conventional, pigeonholing, device modern life related stuff, doesn't mean that that is optimal, or congruent with the way we were designed. So just because that happened doesn't disprove anything about the benefits about that cross-locomotive stuff that you were talking about. And I think we're in this amazing time right now where we can know better and do better by taking everything into consideration.

That's where we are kind of in the paleo diet community. We know that we were designed to not eat certain things. But that doesn't mean that we all need to be out eating raw meat in a cave. So we can put all of these pieces together in a way that kind of acknowledges the multifaceted nature of this discussion in a way that benefits us and our children.

Eliza Parker: And in that example, there's also some cultures will have had a reality of their environment. Maybe they couldn't put their baby down. But also on the same time, if it was a hunter-gatherer society, and the baby wasn't put down and they went straight to walking, they also probably, from there on, had a whole lot of movement opportunity of running. Societies where running was valued, and something that everyone did, and bodies were strong for. As opposed to our society where we do a lot of sitting and looking at computers and not moving in that way. So I don't know, maybe that kind of helps balance it out.

But also, in some cultures, when a baby is worn in a certain way. It depends how. But in a certain way if the baby is on the body, sometimes that baby is going to get, depending on how they are on the body. They're going to get the movement of the grownup moving. So sometimes that baby is going to get the twisting. Like if the baby is attached on the back. Not on a board on the back, but directly on the back, they're going to feel the movement that the adult is doing and get some of that in their bodies. So there is that element. That's all I have to say on that topic.

Liz Wolfe: It's just that we're nuanced. It's just, it's always in my head. Context and nuance. I do think that's important. So, is there anything else before we close out the show?

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: Tell me.

Eliza Parker: There's a big bonus. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: A big bonus!

Eliza Parker: There's a bonus tip, which is really fun. If you can allow your baby to crawl, once your baby is crawling on hands and knees, allow that crawling for just as long as your baby will without walking her. Without actually taking her hands and walking her. Just let her find walking on her own. Allowing that crawling, you will sometimes see this amazing feat of a human baby where you'll be completely blown away by the fastest speed crawling you'll ever see. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughing}

Eliza Parker: And really, the baby's that I have been a part of their lives in this way of development will be out in public, and people will really do a double take and be like, I've never seen a baby crawl that fast. And yes, that partly may be the baby, but it's also partly this baby-led crawling and just letting them crawl as long as they will and letting them figure out walking in their own timing. And it just is this amazing smooth movement, gorgeous thing that you will see your baby do. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I love that.

Eliza Parker: It's very cool.

Liz Wolfe: So folks, I can't remember if I said it in this episode or the previous one, but I began working, or we began working with Eliza around 4 or 5 months old, and have worked with her. Had several consultations with her between then and now. And quite a few little touch bases in the meantime. So I cannot recommend enough that folks look into Eliza's work. Visit her website. Schedule a consultation. Work with her.

Not just on this movement stuff, but on a whole even other realm that we will record some episodes on eventually, and that you were on the Modern Mama's podcast discussing with my friends Jess and Laura. They're wonderful.

You discussed some of the aware parenting stuff. Some of the crying in arms stuff. Stress release and all of that, and those were really profound conversations, as well. So you work on what would seem like a broad spectrum of issues, but all of it is really interrelated.

Eliza Parker: It's all about drawing out your baby's innate abilities, really. And also I would say kind of pertaining to crawling in particular when to reach out. One, if you're just curious about how to support this and kind of set this up from the beginning. Two if your baby is not crawling and you're concerned. Or they're crawling in one of those other creative ways. There are some respectful and noninvasive things that we can do that are really fun, actually. These handling tips and ways to play that we can address. And then third, if you just have a gut feeling and you don't know why, but you're just not sure about something about your baby's movement. All good times to reach out.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. Reach out, reach out, reach out. It's been one of the most transformational things in my parenting world. And I'm just so grateful for you, Eliza. So thank you so much for everything that you've done for me and my family. And also for coming on the podcast.

Eliza Parker: You're welcome, goodness. Thank you.

Liz Wolfe: Alright, friends. That's it for this week. You can find me, Liz, at and Eliza at you can find her posts about infant motor development under the blog categories motor development and baby-led versus parent-led. She also has some extremely popular blog posts that will help expand on this a little bit. You can go to the blog and search crawling. There's a post about why crawling on hands and knees is so important. How to set your baby up for the best chance at crawling. How many types of crawling there are. All kinds of posts. And I think they're well worth checking out. And you can also contact Eliza through her website.

And of course, remember to join our email lists for free goodies and updates that you don't find anywhere else on our website. While you're on the internet, leave us an iTunes review. See you next week.

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