Perhaps your baby is cute, cuddly, and a hater of tummy time. They’re 3 months old and not showing any signs of independent movement when laid down (or even a desire to move).
Your friends or family keep asking if your child has started rolling over yet and, as a result, you’ve started to wonder if your baby is normal or if something’s wrong.
On the other hand, perhaps after months of late nights and early mornings, endless laundry loads, and countless diaper changes it’s finally happened. Your child has become mobile — and now they won’t stop rolling! You’re interested to learn more about this milestone and want to make sure to keep your little one safe.
Well, look no further, because whether you’re preparing for that first roll or just looking to learn more after it’s happened, we’ve got answers to your questions below!
Around 3 to 4 months of age, you may notice that your child is able to roll slightly, from their back to their side. Shortly after this — around 4 to 5 months into your child’s life — the ability to roll over, often from their stomach to their back, may appear.
It’s very common for babies to start by rolling from their front to their back, but it may take a few weeks longer for your baby to be able to roll from their back to their stomach.
Before they actually complete a roll it’s likely you’ll see them using their arms to push up their chest and raise their head and neck. A small shift in balance can send them rolling from tummy to back.
Your baby may be an early roller, doing it before 4 months, or they may prefer to roll from their back to their stomach and master this before going front to back!
Like all developmental milestones, there is a range of ages when rolling can first appear and which direction it might happen first. However, if by the time your child is 6 to 7 months they aren’t rolling over at all or showing interest in sitting up, check in with your pediatrician.
When your baby first starts rolling over it may be a surprise to you both! It’s not uncommon for early rolls to be exciting for parents and scary for babies. Be prepared to comfort your little one if they cry in surprise or shock after accomplishing a new skill. (Try to have a camera close by to capture evidence for the extended family and friends, too!)
In order to roll over, babies need to develop their muscles (including head and neck strength), gain muscle control, and have the space and freedom to move around. All of this can be accomplished by offering your child daily tummy time.
Tummy time is appropriate for babies from their very first days and involves placing an infant on their stomach for brief periods of time. Begin with 1 to 2 minutes and advance to 10 to 15 minutes as your baby’s strength increases.
Typically tummy time takes place on a blanket or play mat spread out on the floor, and most clean, non-elevated flat surfaces will work. For safety reasons, it’s important to avoid doing tummy time on elevated surfaces in case a child rolls, falls, or slips off.
Tummy time should be offered multiple times throughout the day and can offer a great opportunity to engage with your child.
While some babies are happy to tolerate tummy time, others find it a stressful affair.
To make tummy time more pleasant, offer your child black and white pictures to gaze at, distract them with toys and songs, or get down on their level to engage with them. For longer tummy time sessions, it may help your child to stay focused if toys are switched out throughout the session.
For little ones who don’t like tummy time, performing it more often but for shorter periods can help prevent meltdowns and build up strength and tolerance for longer sessions in the future.
Another alternative is to allow your baby to enjoy tummy time together, with you reclined on the floor and your baby placed on your chest.
Once your baby starts rolling, a whole new world opens up to them, and it’s a whole new world that does include dangers!
It’s always a best safety practice to keep one hand on your child while changing them on an elevated changing table. However once your child begins rolling it’s an absolute necessity that they’re never without an adult standing right next to them if they are on any elevated surface.
You’ll also want to keep a closer eye on them even when placed on the floor, as young babies are capable of rolling themselves into places and positions that aren’t safe once they’re mobile.
If you haven’t already begun childproofing, your child rolling around may signal it’s a good time to begin.
One place to pay particular attention to childproofing is the area where your child falls asleep. It’s essential that any crib where your child sleeps doesn’t have crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, or any toys that could be suffocation hazards. (Ideally, cribs should have only a fitted crib sheet that lies smooth and flat over the mattress.)
In addition to checking surroundings for safety, it is important to think about how your child is being put to sleep.
Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs and you should stop swaddling your infant once they start trying to roll. Not only does swaddling restrict a baby’s ability to use their hands to get off their stomachs, but the wriggling and effort involved in rolling can loosen swaddles or blankets creating suffocation hazards.
It’s not uncommon for your child to experience a bit of a sleep regression around the time they begin rolling. You may find that your child keeps themselves up rolling all around the crib, excited about their new skill, or your child may wake themselves up in the middle of the night having rolled themselves into an uncomfortable position and unable to roll back.
Luckily, for most babies, this is only a brief phase lasting at most a couple of weeks. Due to its temporary nature, the simplest solution for most parents is just to place the baby onto their back and provide a little shushing noise to help them fall back asleep.
According to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, once a child is able to roll over, it’s not necessary to roll them back onto their back if they’re able to sleep comfortably in whatever position they choose to roll into.
It’s still recommended to initially place a child on their back when placing them in their crib to fall asleep to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Whether your baby has started to move independently or still needs your help, there are many exciting moments ahead. Lots of milestones will be coming your way between months 4 and 8.
The ability to sit up on their own, the emergence of teeth, and even some army crawling will be here before you know it. You may want to start preparing for what is to come, but also take the time to enjoy all the special moments of your child’s developmental journey!