Helping Your Baby Learn to Roll Over
For your little bundle of joy, every smile, sound, and new move feels like a major milestone in a baby’s life. And it is! One of the first and biggest physical milestones for babies is when they start rolling over onto their back and stomachs on their own.
While it may take parents by surprise the first time you see your baby roll over on their own, it won’t be long till they graduate from rolling to crawling to pulling themselves up on their own.
Soon they’ll be running all over the house and getting into EVERYTHING, so no rush on the rolling. Everything comes in time, and you don’t want to miss a single moment.
When Do Babies Start Rolling Over?
Most infants learn to roll over between 4 to 6 months of age. First, they learn to roll from their tummy to their backs. After mastering the tummy-to-back roll, it will take a few weeks or more to learn how to roll from back to tummy. There are babies that start doing this before 4 months old so make sure to keep an eye on them while they’re on a changing table.
There is a range for all developmental skills that it’s normal to complete certain milestones within, and just because a baby performs a particular skill early, it does not mean that they are any smarter, better, or more coordinated.
Most infants are able to roll from their tummies to their back by 6 months of age. Usually, a baby starts practicing this by using their arms to push their chests up, resting on their elbows with their head up like the sphinx yoga pose or a baby push-up. Maintaining this position and practicing this movement helps your baby’s physical development and motor skills.
If you notice they’re doing this often, it won’t be long before they will start rolling. Sometimes, they lose their balance and roll over, surprising you and themselves. Be sure to watch for their first roll and have your phone ready for some adorable videos. By 6 months or shortly after, many babies are able to roll in both directions.
How to Help Your Baby Roll Over
Your baby has now reached an age where they could be learning to roll. But every time you put your little one on their stomach, frustrated tears stream down their faces after about five minutes. So you give in, place them on their back and now they’re as happy as a clam.
But you wonder whether you’re hindering your baby’s development by granting their request and keeping them in their comfort zone. Maybe if you let them cry and “figure it out”, they might learn to roll over.
First, don’t be too hard on yourself or your baby. The most important thing to remember is that learning a new skill takes time, practice, patience, and consistency. Give yourself and your baby a pat on the back for trying.
It’s okay to switch your baby to their back when they let you know they’re unhappy. What you’ll probably find is that over time they will figure out that there are some benefits to being on their stomach, and they will start to stay there longer and longer by their own choosing.
Tummy Time to Help with Physical Development
By far the best way to help encourage your baby to learn to roll over is to practice tummy time several times throughout the day. This means placing your baby on their bellies for short periods as they strengthen and condition their back, shoulders, and neck muscles. Be sure to supervise them during this time.
Always put your baby to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is recommended that your infant do 3 to 5 minutes of tummy time, 2 to 3 times a day. But this is merely a guideline and don’t feel obligated to follow a strict schedule, use a timer or keep a record of their progress. Embed tummy time into your routine like after a bath or diaper change so you’re less likely to forget.
Some babies don’t mind being on their tummies and it is a relatively smooth experience for them and their parents. However, some babies cannot tolerate tummy time at all and will cry immediately when placed on their bellies. Here are some tips to make tummy time less stressful:
Tummy Time Tips for Baby and Parent Bonding
- 1 Do tummy time when they are active, calm, and playful: If they’re hungry, tired, or fussy, tummy time will only aggravate their stress levels. Remember to change their dirty diaper before and don’t put them on their bellies right after a feed to prevent spitting up.
- Start with short sessions to assess how your baby feels: Start with 1 to 2 minutes and as your baby gets stronger, they’ll work their way up to 10–15 minutes per session. Let them be your guide.
- Try doing tummy time with your baby on top of your chest while you’re laying down on your back. This can be a fun activity to do together as you can interact with your baby face-to-face.
- Use bright-colored toys, noise-making objects, black and white pictures, songs, or anything your baby likes to distract them during tummy time. Switch the objects out so they don’t get bored and lose focus.
- Get down on the floor so they can see you and comfort them by talking, singing, making funny faces, and doing hand gestures to engage with them.
When Should You Be Concerned About Your Baby's Physical Development?
According to the AAP, you should contact your pediatrician if your baby is showing any of the following:
- Your baby was able to roll over consistently but now can no longer do it.
- Your baby is 6 to 7 months old and cannot roll from front to back
- Your baby is at least 6 months old and their muscles seem abnormally tight or loose and floppy.
At any time you’re concerned about your baby’s development, do not hesitate to call your doctor or healthcare professional, and be sure to bring it up again if you’re still worried. You know your baby best.
It can be easy to view our child’s development as a race or contest in which he must do well in. But try not to compare milestones against other children the same age.
It doesn’t matter if Johnny or Susie across the street is performing some skill before our own child can. Children don’t need to be pushed up along their developmental ladder.
What children really need at this age is lots of love, personal contact, attention to their needs, and a safe environment that allows them to explore and learn (but doesn’t force them to explore if they don’t want to).
Track all your baby’s big (and little) developmental milestones with our free downloadable Month-by-Month Developmental Milestone Chart.