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How to Teach a Baby to Roll Over (The Ultimate Guide)

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

As your baby grows, countless little milestones are worth celebrating as they constantly develop new skills and abilities. Though you are probably looking forward to your baby crawling, they must accomplish another milestone first: rolling over. One day very soon, you'll set your baby down on their playmat and look away for a second only to find that they have rolled off of it.

Rolling over is one of the first physical developmental milestones (gross motor) that your baby will reach. Learning to roll is essential for your baby's muscle development and a precursor to sitting up and crawling. The first moment your baby makes without your help is quite a moment to remember. Suddenly, they aren't so helpless anymore; they can move!

Learning to roll can also help the later fine motor skills development, such as writing. This is because it engages the part of the brain that encourages the right and left sides of the body to coordinate with each other.

Interestingly babies once learned this behavior on their own. Before safe sleep recommendations to combat SIDS, babies would often wake on their bellies and practice pushing up and rolling in their crib. Since the recommendations that babies be placed to sleep on their back in 1993, it was found that they were rolling over and crawling later. But it's a minor inconvenience compared to the fact that safe sleep recommendations cut SIDS death rates by 50 percent over the 10 years they became commonly adopted. To combat the delay, pediatricians began recommending tummy time starting from infancy.

NOTE: Are you worried your baby might roll over in their sleep and become trapped in a position where their breathing is compromised? Once infants can roll onto their stomachs, they have enough head control to lift their heads and breath. Rolling from the tummy to the back is easier, too, so if a baby can roll onto their stomach, they can usually roll back.

This article explains when to expect your baby to roll over, encourage them to roll and keep them safe as they become more mobile.

In the article:

  • Why rolling is important

  • Signs Your Baby Is Ready to Start Rolling Over

  • Stages of Rolling Over

  • When Do Babies Roll Over?

  • Rolling over by age

  • Newborns

  • 1 to 2 months

  • 2 to 3 months

  • 3 to 5 months

  • My Baby Is 7 Months Old And Still Cannot Roll. Is It A Concern?

  • Can a baby roll over too early?

  • Do some babies never roll over?

  • When to Call a Doctor

  • How to Make Your Space Safe

  • What should you do if a baby rolls over in their sleep?

  • How to Teach Your Baby to Roll Over

  • How long and how often?

  • What To Expect Next After Your Baby Rolls Over?

Why rolling is important

Rolling is a complicated movement requiring the body's two sides to do opposite movements. This is important for the brain-body connection (i.e., how the body learns to respond when the brain says "reach"), to build neuronal maps (i.e., how a baby will learn to move in 3D space), to strengthen bilateral coordination skills (i.e., to use both sides of the body), and is preparing baby to develop more complex movements.

Rolling is the first transitional movement skill and allows a baby to:

  • Begin to explore their world, and this is the first time babies can determine where they will go...they are off!

  • Learn to use both sides of their body together.

  • Learn how to use both arms and legs together (a prelude to creeping and crawling).

  • Develop strength in their head, back, and hips in preparation for sitting and crawling.

  • Develop motor planning and coordination, i.e., plan how to move for a purpose.

  • Learn about risk-taking (those first few rolls completely change how a baby sees the world).

  • Be aware of their environment and thus assist their cognitive development as they become aware of their environment and begin to control it.

  • Develop their sensory systems (use of their vestibular and optical systems).

Most babies learn to roll over by 6-7 months of age. Regardless of whether babies take the fast or slow road to rolling, their bodies begin preparing to roll wayyyyyy before they ever flip themselves over that very first time.

Signs Your Baby Is Ready to Start Rolling Over

When it comes to significant milestones, you're probably keeping an eye out for signals that the baby is ready to conquer new skills. You might want to have your phone or camera ready for this special moment!

What are some signs your little one is very close to rolling over?

You'll likely start noticing progress around the 3-month-old mark—that's when your little one's growing body starts to catch up to their head (which is comparatively large at birth). Your baby's overall muscle strength improves. This combination will help the baby take that adorable mini push-up and roll with it into a bigger movement.

Other signs your baby is ready to roll over:

  • Arching their backs

  • Rocking on their bellies or backs

  • Kicking their legs and trying to cross one leg over their body

  • Pushing up on their hands and lifting their chest off the ground

Stages of Rolling Over

Reflexive/Accidental Rolling

Although it's possible, most babies under 2-3 months are not doing a typical roll using their muscles. If your little one is rolling tummy to back and is younger than 2-3 months, they may be just doing what is called a reflexive or accidental roll.

Reflexive rolling is when a baby rolls from their belly onto their back to clear their airway. Who knew they had such a cool life-saving technique? Sometimes placing newborns directly on their stomachs can start to restrict their airways. This is why it's recommended to use a boppy pillow or another support pillow for tummy time when they are very young.

Babies can also do an accidental roll. This can happen when they lift their head early on, and it's so heavy compared to their body that the weight of it pulls them over. Or, they may get so frustrated during tummy time that they arch their back, and it might also cause them to roll over.

Although these situations are technically "rolling," it's not considered meeting the milestone because they are not using their muscles for it.

Emerging Roll

Before your little one rolls all the way over, they will usually roll to their side. It's an excellent time to use all the tips listed above. While in the emerging roll stage, anywhere from 3 to 5 months, they may roll over all the way 1 or 2 times but then stop for a while.

In any stage of development, your baby may learn to do new things but then stop for a while. That usually happens when they start working on a different skill in another area of development, such as learning to babble.

It takes a while for a skill to be solidified, so you should continue using these tips frequently throughout the emerging roll stage.

Mastered Roll

When they are in the mastered roll stage, you may not need to use any of the tips above.

They should be able to purposefully roll over from belly to back and back to stomach on both sides. They may even roll over a few times to get where they need to go!

You may see the mastered roll around 6-7 months. Your baby might also be sitting up by this point and getting ready to crawl, but it is still essential to provide lots of tummy time and back play opportunities for them to roll even after they seem to master it.

When Do Babies Roll Over?

If you ask your friends when their babies started to roll over, you'll get a wide range of answers for 2 reasons:

  • A baby's weight can affect when they roll over.

  • Their muscles develop at different times depending on how much tummy time and floor time they get and how active they are.

Depending on their developmental pace, most neuro-typical babies start rolling over somewhere between 3 and 6 months of age. They will generally begin by rolling from front to back before rolling back to forth.

Belly to Back: 2-5 months.

On average, babies tend to first roll from tummy to back between 2-5 months. Once your little one has the strength to lift the head, they will begin to roll over.

Back to Side: 4-5.5 months.

On average, babies roll from back to side between 4-5.5 months.

Back to Belly: 5.5-7.5 months.

On average, babies roll from back to tummy a month after being able to roll over from tummy to back, between 5.5-7.5 months. It's because the movements require more muscular strength and coordination.

While the developmental pace is important, so is opportunity. Babies who are given tummy time will practice pushing up and eventually learn to roll over onto their back. They develop this skill mainly because it's more comfortable for a baby to lay face up — there's less necessity to fight gravity to observe the fascinating world.

What about preemies?

Babies born prematurely will often reach developmental milestones at a similar time or a little later than full-term babies if you use their corrected age. So if your 6-month-old baby was born 2 months early, their corrected age is 4 months (how old they would be if they were born near her due date).

Micro-preemies or those with health issues may not fall on the same developmental timeline. Download the Pathfinder Health app to track their development. The app is adjusting the milestones for prematurity.

REMEMBER: If your little one was premature, they should catch up developmentally by age 2.

Rolling over by age


Your newborn may not have much head and neck control or strength for the first few weeks, which is normal. Plenty of tummy time, even as a newborn, is essential to help build these muscles. Start with 1-2 minute sessions a couple of times a day for a few minutes at a time.

1 to 2 months

Your baby might struggle to lift their head when placed on their tummy. They will eventually briefly lift their head and turn it from side to side. Try to stick with it even if they look uncomfortable and don't really like it.

Milestones at 1 Month:

  • Can raise head for a moment.

  • Turns head towards the side while on the back.

2 to 3 months

Your little one begins to turn from their back to their side. From this position, they can reach for their toys but is still unstable and have to focus on staying balanced. When this position becomes easier, your baby might relax and accidentally roll onto his tummy or back. If it's their tummy they land on, they may not be too happy!

Milestones at 2 Months:

  • The head can bob forward while sitting.

  • Can hold the head up and begin to push up when lying on tummy.

  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs.

3 to 5 months

Babies begin to roll from as early as 3-4 months. Initially, it is accidental! The baby does mini push-ups, using his arms for support, with his head high, then they move their weight to one arm, and suddenly they tip, and now they are on their back. The first few rolls surprise them and amaze you!! Though able to roll, it is without control, so your baby may not practice it on their own. Most babies roll tummy to back at this age, but either way is acceptable.

At 3 Months:

Can control their head up while sitting; however, they bob forward.

  • Can bear some weight while standing on both legs.

  • Can raise their head and shoulders 45 to 90 degrees while lying on the belly.

  • Can carry weight on forearms.

At 4 Months:

  • Hold their head up without support

  • Hold a small toy

  • Push down from their legs to their feet when placed on a firm surface

  • Push up on their elbows while lying on their tummy (like a baby push-up)

  • Can raise their head and chest up to 90 degrees.

  • Rolls over from back to the side.

As long as your baby begins to practice these skills at about 4 months—even if they have not mastered them—they are on track.

5 to 6 months

Babies are pushing up on strong long arms by 5 months and can lift their chests off the floor on their tummies. They may also raise their legs and rock or assume the superman flying position by lifting both arms and legs off together and balancing on their belly. On their back, they lift their legs off the floor and play with their feet.

At 5 Months:

  • Can hold the head up while sitting.

  • Rolls over from belly to back.

By 6 months, babies can now lie on their side as they roll from their back to their tummy.

This position and the resulting completion of the movement involves several systems working together. These include vision (visual feed allows the orientation of the baby's head), the vestibular system (the sensory system that assists with balance and awareness of spatial orientation), and postural reactions that allow the head righting on the baby's body as they move.

Then the baby turns their head and extends their trunk as they move their top arm across their body (the beginning of crossing the midline) and then extends their legs to complete the movement. They are off! Initially, a baby will use rolling as their first form of locomotion as they roll from back to front to get a toy or a cuddle from you. This exploration of the environment and mobility skill is the building block of all other movements; creeping, moving in and out of sitting into all fours, crawling, and then moving up onto their feet will quickly develop from here.

At 6 Months:

  • Can raise the chest and a part of the belly while lying on the stomach.

  • Can lift their head while in a sitting position.

  • Rolls over from back to belly.

Use milestone checklists in our app to track your child's skills and progress, and always speak with your physician if you are concerned about your child's motor development.

My Baby Is 7 Months Old And Still Cannot Roll. Is It A Concern?

Children develop skills differently, some more quickly than others, and some babies are simply slow to develop some skills, either due to temperament, genetics, or opportunity to practice. A baby that hasn't figured out how to roll is not necessarily developmentally delayed.

Remember that some babies start developing their sitting skills quickly and may skip the rolling and go straight to sitting, bottom-shuffling, or crawling. If this is your child, there's no cause for alarm; they are still progressing developmentally. However, if your little one is not doing any of these things by 7 months, check with your physician.

If your baby was born early (before 37 weeks), remember that he might reach this and other milestones later than most babies.

It's common to worry if your baby seems a bit behind schedule with developmental milestones. Use milestone checklists in the Pathfinder Health app to track your child's skills and progress, and always speak with your physician if you are concerned about your child's motor development.

Can a baby roll over too early?

Many babies start intentionally rolling over around 3 or 4 months, but some may accidentally flip over before that. However, suppose your baby is consistently rolling over at a very young age (before 3 months), and their muscles look very stiff. In that case, you should give your pediatrician a call to rule out a potential birth trauma or nervous system disorder.

Rolling over at a very young age could also indicate abnormal reflexes.

Most newborns have a fencing reflex, which prevents them from rolling over in the first few weeks. When the newborn's face is turned to one side, the baby's arm and a leg on that side extend, and the opposite arm and leg flex. It's a built-in mechanism for preventing SIDS.

As the reflex starts to disappear (it should be entirely gone by 6 months old) and you notice your baby has the strength and muscle tone to hold their head up more, you can take it as a sign that you'll soon see the baby rolling over.

Do some babies never roll over?

Yes, it is possible your baby may skip rolling and go right to crawling. Rolling is a good skill for little ones to have, so try to encourage it as much as you can.

When to Call a Doctor

The AAP outlines 3 scenarios where it might be appropriate to call your pediatrician about your baby's inability to roll over:

- If your baby (at any age) stops being able to roll over after previously being able to do so

- If, at 6 months or older, your baby's muscles seem especially stiff or floppy

- not able to roll over by 6 months

Your little one could still be within the norm in these cases. But it's important to discuss things with your pediatrician so they can rule out any developmental delays that may require early intervention. Take a developmental screening test recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics before your visit to provide data-driven inputs to your primary care provider.

How to Make Your Space Safe

Once your baby knows how to do a full roll (from back to front and back again, or vice versa), rolling around can be amusing. Some babies use rolling as a form of transportation, rolling themselves from here to there.

It's exciting to see your baby become mobile. The first time they flip over is the moment you (and your camera phone!) won't want to miss. Of course, while rolling over is fun for him, it could be nerve-racking for you.


Babies usually roll over without any notice. Always be aware to never leave your baby unattended on a high surface, even before they roll. All these exciting new moves that come with this big milestone could result in a fall or other hazards. Be sure to keep them safe on the changing table and in other places where. It might take a fraction of a second for them to roll over and fall. Therefore, make them lie on the floor when they show signs of rolling over.

Childproofing checklist.

As your baby makes their way around, you'd be surprised by the things a rolling baby can get their hands on: a crumb under the couch, the cat's bowl, or a plugged-in laptop charger. If it's within the rolling distance, they'll try to make their way to it—so it's best to review your childproofing checklist again. Once the baby is intentionally rolling, it's essential to keep their space clear of anything that could get in the baby's way and potentially obstruct their breathing or pose a choking hazard.