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When Do Babies Roll Over? 6 Ways to Get Babies Rolling!

Updated: Mar 1



As a new parent, you watch with wonder as your baby develops the new skills that open up their world. The first time your baby rolls is one of these excting developments that highlights their emerging mobility and independence.


This article will explore everything you need to know about when babies typically start to roll over and provide tips to get your baby rolling!


In this article:


What is rolling?

In the context of baby development, "rolling" refers to a baby's ability to flip from belly to back and back to belly.


Why is rolling important?

Rolling is an important gross motor milestone for your baby. It’s typically their first major transitional movement, meaning that they can change their positioning all by themselves without a caregiver moving them. This is one of their first major steps toward independent mobility!

Gross motor skills involve the large muscles in the body, such as those in the arms, legs, and torso. They include skills such as rolling, sitting, and crawling.


Rolling strengthens your baby's neck, core, and back muscles, which are crucial for future gross motor achievements such as crawling, standing, and walking. 


Because it engages the part of the brain that encourages the right and left sides of the body to coordinate with each other, rolling is also critical for your baby's development of fine motor skills in the future.

Fine motor skills involve the small muscles in the hands and fingers as well as those in the mouth, tongue, and jaw. They include skills such as clapping, eating with utensils, and writing.


Rolling also allows your little one to explore their surroundings and reach for toys, which supports their growing curiosity and cognitive development. 


When do babies roll over?

General ages

Although every child develops at their own pace, on average most neuro-typical babies start rolling over between 4 and 6 months old.


Most babies roll from tummy to back before they start rolling in the other direction.

They have an incentive to first roll onto their backs because it's more comfortable—they can observe their surroundings without having to work so hard to lift their heads!


Tummy to back

On average, babies typically roll from their tummies to their backs between 4 and 6 months, although some may roll a bit earlier or later. Before they can roll this way, a baby's neck muscles must be strong enough to lift their head.


Back to tummy

Most babies roll from back to tummy between 5.5 to 7.5 months, about a month after learning to roll from their tummy to back. Rolling from back to front comes later because it requires more strength and coordination.


Factors that affect when a baby starts rolling

Amount of activity

Although your baby's own developmental pace dictates when they will roll, it's also essential to give them plenty of opportunities to be active.


Research has found that regular floor play and tummy time can increase a baby's chances of rolling over earlier.

It makes sense—the more opportunities a baby has to practice their motor skills, the quicker they may develop them!


Tummy time is particularly beneficial for strengthening your baby's muscles and helping them develop the good head control needed to roll.


Prematurity

Prematurely born babies often achieve developmental milestones around the same time or slightly after full-term babies, when you consider their corrected age (the age that they would be if they were born near their due date).


For example, a 6-month old who was born 2 months early should be considered to be a 4-month old for purposes of developmental milestones, so it would not be a cause for concern if they were not yet rolling.


However, micro-preemies (babies born before 26 weeks of gestation and weighing less than 1 pound and 12 ounces at birth) or premature babies with health issues may not achieve baby milestones on the same developmental timeline as full-term babies, even when you consider their adjusted age.


A note about weight

Although it's true that heavier babies may have a bit more difficulty maneuvering their bodies, weight is not a significant factor in when babies learn to roll over. While every baby develops at their own pace, most infants begin to roll over between 4 and 6 months old, regardless of weight.





Signs your baby may roll soon

Signs that your baby may begin rolling soon include:

  • They push up with their hands during tummy time so they can arch their back and lift their chest off of the ground.

  • They rock from side to side while lying on their tummy or back and may even roll onto their sides or shoulders.

  • They kick their legs while lying on their back and try to cross one leg over their body to the other side–eventually they will rotate and shift their weight to initiate a roll.

  • They kick or twist their legs while lying on their tummy.

  • While on their back, they can track an object with their eyes and reach across their body to try and grab it.


A baby lifts his arms and legs while on his tummy

Stages of rolling

Accidental roll

While some babies do develop early, it's not common for babies under 2 to 3 months to accomplish a typical roll using their muscles. If your baby is younger than 2 to 3 months, their early rolls are most likely accidental.


Your baby's head is quite heavy compared to their body. Sometimes, when a baby is able to lift their head at an early age, the weight of their head pulls their entire body over in an accidental roll.


This can also happen if they become frustrated during tummy time and arch their back, causing them to tip over.


A baby tips over from her tummy


Although this is technically "rolling," it doesn't meet the milestone because your baby is not intentionally using their muscles to roll.


Side roll

Many babies roll to their sides before they are able to roll all the way over. Around 3 to 5 months, you will likely see your baby roll halfway before flopping back down in their original position.


They might even complete the roll a couple of times but then go back to side rolling. Don't worry if this happens—it can take a while for a baby to solidify any new skill.


Help your baby practice using the tips below. They are getting close to mastering their roll!


Mastered roll

Around 6 to 7 months, your baby will likely be able to intentionally roll from tummy to back and back again. They might even be able to roll several times in a row to move around the room.


Tips to encourage rolling


There are many ways that you can encourage your baby to roll, including:


1. Encourage tummy time

Tummy time provides crucial exercise for your baby's neck and core muscles, which are necessary for rolling over, crawling, and eventually walking. It also provides plenty of opportunity for rolling.


A baby pushes up on straight arms during tummy time


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 30 minutes of supervised tummy time per day. You can break this time into short periods spread throughout the day to keep your baby from getting overly tired and frustrated.





Even after they have mastered rolling, tummy time is still important because it gives your baby the opportunity to practice sitting and crawling.


Just remember that tummy time is only for when your baby is awake—always lay them on their back for sleep.



2. Get them used to rolling.

When you pick your little one up, help them roll their weight to their side first. Or gently roll them from side to side in a towel or blanket. Both of these will help your baby learn the motion and feeling of rolling.


An adult's hands help to roll a baby over


You can also help your baby sit and then carefully roll them over to their side. Your baby will automatically try to keep their head from falling out of line with their body, which helps them strengthen their neck muscles.


3. Tempt them with a favorite toy.

Place your baby on their tummy with their favorite toy on one side, above eye level but out of reach (so they have to move to get to it). Encourage your baby to move toward the toy by shaking it or putting your face near it.


A mother holds a toy in front of her baby during tummy time


You can help by placing the palm of your hand on their bottom and gently rocking their hips toward one side. This will help your baby shift their weight and begin to roll to the side you turned them toward.


4. Change your baby's position frequently.

Encourage your baby to spend time on all four sides of the body—tummy, back, and both sides. This allows your baby to experience all of the positions involved in rolling and strengthen their neck, trunk, and arm muscles.


A baby lies on their side


5. Minimize time spent contained in baby equipment.

Babies need plenty of exercise and movement to develop their muscles properly. When babies sit for excessive amounts of time in baby swings, play saucers/jumpers, bouncy seats, and even car seats, it can hinder their physical development and delay their ability to roll over and sit up.


These types of devices don't encourage a full range of motion. They limit a baby's body and head movements, leading to a lack of strength and flexibility.


Babies learn new motor skills through experience, so give them as much time as possible to move freely on the floor.

6. Celebrate your baby!

Parents, this tip is meant for you! Every baby is different. Just because your friend's little one rolled over at 3 months doesn't mean that is the standard for this skill.


Instead, celebrate your own baby's success! Offer positive reinforcement when they are doing tummy time and cheer them on when they roll—they will associate their new accomplishment with positive feelings.


Safety precautions

1. Never leave your baby unattended

Once you have a rolling baby, they will be able to access items that are not in their immediate vicinity, including small toys, electrical cords, and other hazardous objects.


To prevent accidents and injuries, never leave your baby unattended and uncontained. If you need a few minutes for a bathroom break, place your baby in a play yard, baby seat, or similar safe, contained device.


You should especially never leave your baby unattended on an elevated surface—such as a changing table, bed, or sofa—even for a moment. It only takes a moment for them to roll over and fall off of a high surface onto the floor.


Remember that babies usually roll without any notice. It's important to take these precautions before your baby starts rolling.


2. Child-proof your home

Relatedly, you should begin the child-proofing process when your child shows signs of rolling. This process should include the following:


  • Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs and consider using baby gates to create a safe enclosed play space.

  • Secure electrical cords and cover electrical outlets.

  • Check floors frequently for small objects that could be choking hazards, such as small toys/parts, button batteries, and balloons.

  • Keep medications and vitamins out of reach.

  • Secure window blind cords out of reach and remove any other strings or other potential strangulation risks.


A baby looks through a baby gate


Try looking at the space where your baby spends time from your baby's level! Get down on the floor and look around. What potential dangers can you see from this angle?


3. Keep the crib free of objects

The only things in your baby's crib should be a firm mattress with a well-fitted sheet. Resist the urge to include loose blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or padded bumpers until after your baby turns one.


Soft objects can pose a suffocation hazard for babies, especially if they accidentally roll onto them during the night.


A baby lies in an empty crib


4. Stop swaddling your baby

Swaddling can be a comforting way for your new baby to sleep. However, swaddling is no longer safe when babies reach the age when they might roll onto their tummies—it might prevent them from rolling back and lead to suffocation.


You should stop swaddling immediately once your baby shows signs of rolling over from their back to their tummy and no later than 3 months.



When to consult with your doctor

Don’t panic if you notice any of the following–your little one could still be within the norm in these cases. But it's important to discuss concerns with your pediatrician so they can rule out any developmental delays and recommend any necessary early intervention.


1. Your baby doesn't roll by 6 months

Children develop skills at their own pace, with some progressing faster than others. A baby may take longer to develop certain skills due to various factors, such as temperament, genetics, or opportunities for practice. If your baby hasn't yet mastered rolling, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a developmental delay.


However, if your little one hasn't rolled by the time they are 6 months old, it's a good idea to consult with your doctor to rule out any underlying causes that might be preventing your baby from rolling. They may also have advice to help your baby master the skill.


If your baby was born prematurely, remember to consider their adjusted age when determining when to speak with your doctor.



2. Your baby stops being able to roll

If your baby (at any age) suddenly stops rolling over when they previously were able to do so, you should consult with your healthcare provider.


There are numerous potential reasons for a change in behavior, ranging from something minor like temporary fatigue or discomfort, to something more significant like a developmental concern.


Some possible reasons why your baby may suddenly be hesitant or unable to roll include:

  1. Temporary discomfort: Your baby might be experiencing discomfort or pain in a specific area, such as a sore muscle or joint.

  2. Illness: If your baby is sick, they may be less active and eager to engage in physical activities like rolling.

  3. Working on new developmental milestones: Babies sometimes shift their focus when they are developing other skills or behaviors, leading to a temporary pause in already-mastered skills like rolling.

  4. Developmental regression: Loss of a previously acquired skill can be associated with various conditions, including neurological disorders.

Your doctor can perform an evaluation of your baby and recommend what next steps you should take, if any.


3. Muscular concerns after 6 months

A certain degree of muscle stiffness or floppiness is normal during early infancy. However, if your baby is over 6 months and their muscles seem particularly stiff or floppy, you should consult with a healthcare professional.


If you notice stiffness in your baby's muscles, it could be a sign of hypertonia, a condition characterized by increased muscle tone or resistance to movement. It is sometimes associated with conditions like cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, or neurological issues.


Floppiness, or hypotonia, result from low muscle tone, which can result from a range of factors such as genetic conditions, metabolic disorders, or neurological issues.


In both instances, issues with muscle tone can cause delays in reaching developmental milestones. A pediatrician, physical therapist, or developmental specialist can evaluate your baby's muscle tone, detect any possible concerns, and refer them for early intervention to optimize their development.


Frequently asked questions

1. How to help my baby roll over?

The best way to help your baby roll is to give them plenty of playtime on the floor, especially tummy time. Exercise helps them to strengthen their arm, neck, and core muscles for rolling and gives them lots of opportunities to experiment with shifting their weight and moving their body.


2. Are babies supposed to roll over during tummy time?

Tummy time helps babies practice rolling, but that isn’t its only purpose. Keep encouraging tummy time even after your baby learns to roll to promote their motor and sensory development. If they won’t stop rolling to their back, try distracting them with toys and songs to keep them on their tummy!


3. Can a baby roll over too early?

Babies develop at their own pace. Most babies begin rolling after 4 months, but plenty reach this milestone earlier. In the absence of other concerns, early rolling does not indicate any developmental issue.  


4. Is rolling over at 3 months early?

Most babies begin rolling from tummy to back after 4 months, so rolling at 3 months is on the early side of the normal range. 


5. Can babies accidentally roll over?

A baby’s first roll is often an accident, especially if they are younger than 3 months. Because a baby’s head is heavy compared to their body, it may cause them to tip over if they lift it during tummy time. Sometimes the weight of their head will pull their entire body into a roll!


6. Can babies roll over at 1 month?

Rolling over at 1 month is uncommon. If a baby has excellent neck strength, it’s possible that they can lift their head enough during tummy time to accidentally roll. However, most 1-month old babies are not developmentally ready to roll. 


7. Can babies roll over at 2 weeks?

Rolling over at 2 weeks is extremely uncommon. Most 2-week old babies lack the neck and core strength to roll. If your baby rolls extremely early and shows other uncontrolled movements or atypical reflexes, you should mention it to their doctor. 


8. When do babies with cerebral palsy roll over?

Most often, babies with cerebral palsy (CP) are slower to achieve motor milestones such as rolling and crawling, although the age will vary by child. However, some babies with CP will actually roll earlier due to stiffness on one side or atypical reflexes. 


9. What if a baby rolls over while sleeping?

Because most babies roll from tummy to back first, they should have the ability to roll back over or lift and turn their head and sleep safely. However, you should continue to put your baby down on their back to sleep until they turn one. If your baby is upset on their tummy, you can reposition or comfort them.


10. What do you do when babies roll over in their sleep?

It’s usually fine to leave healthy babies on their tummy if they roll there on their own, but always begin by placing them on their back for sleep. Make sure that your baby’s crib has a firm mattress and well-fitted sheet and is free from any objects (blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, crib bumpers) to keep them safe if they do roll.


11. Are sleep sacks safe for babies who can roll over?

Sleep sacks are safe for rolling babies as long as their arms and hands are free, allowing them to roll back over. If your baby’s sleep sack has swaddling straps, start fastening them under your baby’s arms by 3 months. 


12. Can babies roll over in a Magic Sleepsuit?

Babies are capable of rolling over in Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. However, the manufacturer specifically states that it is designed for back sleeping only. For their safety, transition your baby from the Magic Sleepsuit once they show signs of rolling.  


The Takeaway

As your baby enters the 4 to 6 month phase, rolling will likely become an exciting part of their physical development. This milestone is not only a sign of your baby's growth and strength, but also a step towards future exploration and learning!


Remember to give your little one plenty of tummy time to encourage rolling and promote other motor skills. Also be sure to provide a secure environment for them to practice these movements and continue to develop safely. 


Bio of Emily Tower


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