While rolling over for the first time usually comes as a surprise both for baby and her parents, don’t be surprised if rolling from tummy to back soon turns into one of your little one’s favorite tricks.
With growing strength in her arms, back and neck, your baby is beginning to discover new ways of moving her body, rolling included.
Be sure to keep her safe on the changing table and in other places where all those exciting new moves that come with this big milestone could result in a fall or other hazard.
When do babies roll over?
Some newborns will actually roll onto one side to sleep in their very first days, but most babies seem to lose the ability to roll onto their sides independently within the first month.
- Rolling from tummy to back: By 4 months of age, your little one will have developed sufficient upper body strength and muscle to use her arms to propel herself up and over from the belly-down position to her back, usually as an unintended result of one of her mini push-ups during tummy time. She may even demonstrate this ability as early as 3 months.
- Rolling all the way over: Though many 4-month-olds get pretty adept at rolling over, by 6 months old, most babies have mastered not only the stomach-to-back roll but also the reverse back-to-stomach maneuver.
How to help your baby roll over
Making sure your baby gets plenty of tummy time helps her build the strength in her back, neck and arms that she’ll need for the big push to roll over (which is a big step in baby development).
You’ll want to start tummy time as early as the first week, laying your infant face-down across your lap for a few minutes during alert wakeful periods.
As baby’s first month progresses, help your little explorer work her way up to 15 to 20 minutes on her tummy every day (always under your watchful eye).
If your baby’s really indignant about being on her belly, start with shorter sessions of tummy time — one to five minutes will do the trick — and build gradually to longer tummy-play sessions.
An activity mat with tantalizing toys is great motivation for helping your baby learn to roll over. Try placing some “belly bait” nearby so she can reach for it, which will help her build arm strength and muscle, and may also result in a side roll. (Halfway there!)
Practicing a gentle roll from side to side and then onto her back lets you show your sweetie how it’s done — or get down on the floor with her to show off a few rolling maneuvers yourself.
What should you do if baby rolls over in her sleep?
Once your baby starts rolling from belly to back and from back to belly, you may find that she starts rolling over in her crib at night, too. This is not a cause for concern, although you should continue to put your baby to sleep on her back, even if she doesn’t stay in that position all night.
Because your little one has developed the strength and mobility to roll onto her tummy, she’s also developed the ability to sense trouble when she’s sleeping — which means she’s far less likely to become trapped in a position where her breathing is compromised.
After 6 months of age, she’s also past the high-risk stage for SIDS, which peaks when baby is between 2 and 4 months before tapering off.
If you’re really worried about your baby rolling over to sleep on her stomach, you might try laying your little one down in her crib on her back or side with one of her arms extended. That way, if she rolls it’s more likely to be onto the side with her arm out in front of her chest — and then she’ll be slightly less likely to flip fully onto her tummy because it tucks that arm underneath her.
Remember, too, that all babies hit developmental milestones like rolling over at their own pace, and in their own time. It may take weeks of tummy time before your baby gets the hang of pushing up on her forearms and rolling onto her back, and many weeks more before she figures out how to tuck her arm under her body or over her head to roll back onto her stomach.
Just give her plenty of opportunities to practice, preferably on a blanket or a mat that will cushion the occasional (and, sadly, inevitable) noggin-bonk on the floor. And be sure to offer lots of praise, cheering and encouragement when your little one finally makes her first flip.
What milestones are next after baby rolls over?
Once baby gets the hang of rolling over and her neck muscles are strong enough to lift her head, both important motor development skills, she’ll soon be sitting up — first with a hand from you, then unassisted.
From there she may start crawling, and later master standing up. After she knows how to crawl and stand with the best of them, she’ll be ready to take her first steps and start walking on her own two feet.
As always, check in with your pediatrician if you’re at all concerned about the timing and nature of any baby milestones. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride! This first year of baby rolls, smiles, coos and steps is one of the most fun.