Rolling is essential for establishing postural control because it involves a brain region that allows the left and right sides of the body to “speak” to and cooperate. Working with your baby and helping them to improve their gross motor skills and strength throughout these critical developmental stages is vital.
Babies being able to roll over on their own comes with some great benefits:
- It’s the first time newborns can move on their own. In addition, it helps them prepare for future milestones in their development.
- When a baby rolls over, they strengthen the muscles needed to make additional motions, such as standing up.
- Their vestibular (balance) and proprioceptive (body awareness) senses are developed when babies roll over.
Having seen the benefits of babies being able to roll on their own, let’s now look at some tips to help you teach your baby how to roll over.
Tips on How to Help Baby Roll Over
To help your baby roll over, follow these steps once they become comfortable on the floor and show eagerness to move independently for the first time:
Allow Lots of Tummy Time Throughout The Day for Your Baby
A baby’s most essential motor skills are learned when they are in their tummies. Therefore they must practice this posture often. The neck and back muscles required for arching against gravity and rolling are strengthened by time spent on the belly.
Babies often raise their heads and chests off the floor between the ages of 2 months and 4 months during tummy time, and they begin to bear weight on their hands between the ages of 4 months and 6 months.
As soon as your baby can lift his chest off the floor and is comfortable on his belly, you may notice that he begins to rock his body. If this is the case, he’s well on his way to learning to roll! Even while he may not collapse over for hours or even weeks, the fact that he is practicing transferring his weight side to side is a huge accomplishment.
Allow Gravity to Assist You
Is it tough for your baby to get on a roll? If your baby’s muscles aren’t strong enough, it may be difficult for them to begin rolling over (whether on their back or their belly). The latter half of the movement may be completed successfully if they begin on their side instead of their back. Gravity will work in their favor rather than against them if they remain in this posture.
You may gradually increase the amount of movement your baby makes throughout the changeover. The second option is to position them on a wedge or prop that declines and then practice rolling down on the wedge or prop. Allow your baby to experience the whole transition while decreasing gravity.
While Picking Up, Roll
Rather than merely lifting your baby straight up, assist them with balancing their weight on their side before you do so. It is possible to turn your baby over to the side when seated on their bottom; this is an automatic response that babies are born with.
All of this is strengthening the muscles on the sides of his neck. As an extra benefit, they will practice pushing against the floor with their arm as they descend. Do this on both sides of their body at the same time.
Help Your Baby Distinguish Upper And Lower Body Motions
If you attempt to turn a newborn baby over, they will perform a “log roll” since they are hardwired to maintain their bodies in a straight line. After about four months, the “segmental roll” is often developed because the child can distinguish upper and lower body motions while rolling with their hips.
Your favorite children’s song may help guide you through these twisting postures after the baby is comfortable playing in the rounded position at the midline. Then assist the baby hold one foot with the other hand by moving both legs together. Once you’ve given the baby’s body a chance to detect each twist, you’re ready to go for the next one.
Encourage Baby To Roll Using Visual And Audio Aids
The body will follow the mind wherever it goes. Using toys and music, you may motivate your child to gaze and follow with their eyes (or orient to sound). This will lead to their head rotating and, eventually, their trunk rotating.
It is helpful to begin by placing an object in your baby’s line of vision and gradually shifting it to one side into the direction you like them to roll by using this strategy.
Assist Infant in “Rounded” Poses While Playing on Back
Playing on the back is just as crucial for a baby’s growth as playing on their stomach, especially if they can switch positions. Baby’s extension should be balanced as they develop and learn new motor abilities; we don’t want one posture to take precedence over the other as they learn new motor skills.
Because most babies prefer to sleep on their backs, caregivers can easily engage and amuse them in this circular posture. In your lap or on a level surface, you may let the baby munch on her toes while offering flexion in her knees, hips, and trunk while you sing, read, or chat to her.
Allow Infant to Spend Nearly Equal Time on Either Side of her Body
As she strengthens her neck, trunk, and arms, the baby’s body is exposed to all the postures needed in rolling. As an added benefit, it helps prevent her scalp from developing flat patches. That should be enough to motivate you to change things up during your day. The baby’s position should be rotated every 15 to 20 minutes.
Keep in mind that newborns, like adults, are unique. Learning and growing is a process that everyone goes through at their speed. Your baby will eventually learn to turn over on its own. Be patient with your baby and allow them to learn on their own time. Patience is a virtue when it comes to helping your baby grow through the development stages.
When Will My Baby Roll Over?
Babies start rolling over as early as 4 months old, often beginning with rocking from side to side (most babies will roll over at the age of 6 months). This side-to-side rocking lays the groundwork for a complete belly-to-back and back-to-belly rollover, which is usually achieved when the baby’s “archer reflex” goes away.
An archer reflex, also known as asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR), is a primitive reflex that can prevent babies from rolling over because their left arm goes out straight whenever they turn their head leftward, with the right arm flexing next to their head, giving an archer’s posture. Correspondingly, the same thing applies when they turn their head toward the right. This reflex lasts until the baby is around 5 to 7 months old (it could be more or less), after which they will naturally start rolling over and having tummy time independently.
While you can start doing quick tummy time with your baby as soon as they are born, at 5 to 6 months, they learn to lie on their belly independently and use their arms to lift their head and shoulders. This activity means they have built sufficient head, neck, and upper body strength, enabling them to overturn from lying on their belly to lying on their back and vice versa.
NOTE: It is easier for babies to start rolling over from belly to back before the back-to-belly because the latter requires more muscular strength and coordination. Some initial signs preceding rolling over include babies using their arms to lift their chest and arch their back, rocking their stomachs, kicking or twisting their legs, and swimming with their arms.
How will a baby learn to roll over? Your baby’s physical development stages explained
An infant’s physical development typically starts at the head, then moves to other parts of the body. Now, let’s explore the stages of a baby’s motor development to better understand the processes they undergo before and after rolling over.
From birth to 2 months:
- Can lift and turn their head when lying on their back.
- The neck cannot yet support the head when the infant is pulled to a sitting position.
- Hands are fisted, and the arms are flexed.
3 to 4 months:
- Improved eye-muscle control enables the infant to track objects.
- Hand and feet actions become more controlled, though not fine-tuned yet. The baby uses both hands for specific tasks, but the grasp is not fully coordinated, leading to swiping motions.
- Enhanced vision allows the baby to distinguish objects from backgrounds with minimal contrast (for example, a button on a blouse of the same color).
- The baby can lift their upper torso, shoulders, and head when lying on their tummy, using their arms for support.
- Neck muscles develop enough for the baby to sit with support and hold their head up.
- Primitive reflexes begin to disappear.
5 to 6 months:
- The baby can sit alone without support for brief moments and gradually up to 30 seconds or more.
- The baby starts grasping blocks using the ulnar-palmar grasp technique, pressing the block into the palm of their hand while bending the wrist, but not yet using the thumb.
- The baby starts rolling from the back to the stomach and can push up with their arms while on their tummy, looking around or reaching for objects.
6 to 9 months:
- Crawling may begin.
- The baby can walk while holding an adult’s hand.
- The baby can sit steadily without support for extended periods.
- The baby learns to sit down from a standing position.
- They may pull into an upright position while holding onto furniture.
9 to 12 months:
- The baby starts to balance while standing alone.
- Walking while holding an adult’s hand becomes more common, and they may even attempt a few steps alone.
Why rolling over is essential for your baby?
Rolling over, as trivial as it may sound, is one of the initial developmental milestones you should be proud of for your little one. Here are some reasons you want your baby to roll over when due:
It is a stepping stone to further development
The rollover movement strengthens the neck, back, and upper body muscles. This increased muscle strength is crucial for pretty much everything about a baby’s initial development, from cognitive and sensory to physical and motor skills development.
Increases Spatial awareness and boosts cognitive development
Rolling over also improves your baby’s spatial awareness, which is all about knowing the position of their body and its relation to the world around them. This is crucial for learning, developing, and gaining vital skills. The spatial orientation young babies get through rolling over and exploring the world around them enables them to master navigating from one position to another.
As babies roll over and interact with their environment, their cognitive and sensory-perceptual skills improve. Resultantly, they learn to make connections between actions and their consequences, fostering learning and problem-solving skills.
Makes them more self-confident
The very first time a baby successfully rolls over, they are intrinsically motivated to do it repeatedly. This gives them a sense of achievement, boosts their self-confidence, and encourages them to try new movements and explore further, leading to more developmental milestones.
Helps them to explore their environment independently
As your baby’s confidence grows from repeatedly rolling over successfully, they feel mentally energized to explore their surroundings independently. This results in a significant boost for your baby to learn how to move from lying on their back to their tummy, giving them a different perspective and allowing them to reach for toys or objects of interest.
Boosts your baby’s development of motor skills
Rolling over and having tummy time help babies develop gross motor skills. Your baby’s ability to roll over requires coordination between various muscle groups, including the neck, shoulders, arms, and core, which are essential for more complex movements like crawling, sitting, and eventually walking.
Some safety tips to consider when helping babies roll over
While it’s crucial to encourage your little one to roll over as early as possible, it’s even more essential to do so with strict adherence to the following safety tips:
Don’t swaddle your baby before bedtime
Swaddling protects babies against their natural startle reflexes and improves sleep; however, medical professionals do not recommend it as soon as the baby starts rolling. You don’t want to restrict their natural arm movement, which may hamper their ability to master their rolling skill.
Swaddling can also reduce babies’ arousal, making it harder for them to wake up. While this might seem beneficial for parents who need some sleep, research suggests that lower arousal is linked to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Moreover, improperly swaddled babies may wriggle out of the swaddle, leaving loose bedding in the crib, which may block their airway and increase the risk of SIDS.
Baby sleep positioners can hold your little one in place, especially if they usually roll over and wake up midsleep, but they can also be dangerous when used without supervision. The United States Food and Drug Administration cautions strongly against sleep positioners and other “anti-roll” products as they can contribute to sleep-related infant deaths by posing a suffocation risk.
Ensure the space is safe and clutter-free
A cluttered space amounts to a higher risk of SIDS. Hence, remove all extras from the crib to ensure an open, unobstructed sleep space. Use fitted, clean, and breathable materials to avoid suffocation risks when your baby flips over during sleep.
Before you allow your baby to practice rolling or tummy time, remove any potential hazards and ensure the area is free from small objects, sticks, cords, or polyethylene bags that your baby could reach.
Other safety tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid using elevated surfaces for rolling practice, as they can increase the risk of falls. Encourage your baby to practice on a flat surface mat.
- Do not engage your baby in tummy time for extended periods (especially for younger infants).
- When they are done with their rolling practice and about to nap, lay them on their back (not tummy).
- Don’t force your baby to roll if they seem uninterested. This may be a clear sign they are not ready yet.
As you guide your little one to roll over, remember that babies develop at their own pace. Always be supportive and celebrate their gradual progress. Ensure the environment is safe for them to explore, whether with your guidance or independently. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a thing! In fact, over 3500 infant deaths can be traced to sleep-rated hazards. So it’s critical to monitor the rolling process to ensure your baby doesn’t sleep off in an awkward position or an unsafe environment while practicing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should You Do if Your Baby Rolls Over During Sleep?
Once your baby reaches about six months and can turn over independently, their brain is developed enough to detect breathing difficulties. Rolling over is a crucial aspect of their development, and they should be allowed to do so.
While you should still place your baby on their back when putting them to sleep, guidelines from the National Institutes of Health state that once they can turn over on their own, you don’t need to disrupt their sleep to return them to their back. At this point, letting your baby choose their preferred sleep position is safe.
However, if your baby rolls into a position that makes them wake up crying, the best solution will be to flip them back onto their back and use a pacifier to help them fall back asleep.
When Should I Worry About My Baby Not Rolling Over?
Although different babies develop at different paces, most infants can roll over at 6 months. If your baby has not rolled over or shown any sign of doing so by the end of the sixth month, it may indicate a developmental delay or underlying health issue. So you may want to see a pediatrician.
Do bigger babies take longer to roll?
Chubby babies may find it harder to roll because they must develop their leg, neck, back, and arm muscles to twist their torso around – a more demanding task for their size. Tummy time is an excellent way to help develop these muscles and support their progress.
What causes a delay in the baby rolling over?
Factors that may influence when a baby rolls over include:
Premature birth: Premature babies might achieve rolling milestones later but usually catch up with time.
Motor development: Rolling over requires good motor skills, so if a baby’s motor development is slower for any reason, they might roll over later.
Practice and support: Rolling over is a skill that needs practice. Babies who get plenty of floor playtime, encouragement to move, and help practicing are more likely to roll over earlier.