The first sign of your baby's growing mobility will be learning how to roll over. Find out when you should expect your baby to learn this skill, tips on how to encourage your baby, and safety advice to protect your baby during this developmental time.
The first year of your baby's life is expected to be full of exciting milestones in their growth and development. Your baby's first step towards mobility is actually rolling over which will ultimately lead to your baby crawling, sitting up, and walking. Below you will learn more about when to expect your baby to start rolling over, tips to encourage your baby, and some safety tips to keep in mind as your baby becomes more mobile and independent.
When Does a Baby Start to Roll Over?
The first time your baby rolls over might come as a complete surprise for both you and your little one. The new movement and position might startle your baby so you might experience a few tears to follow. However, your baby will soon realize how fun rolling over is and it will quickly become one of their favorite things to do. Rolling over is the first sign that your baby's arm, back, and neck strength is growing and that they are now starting to learn how to move their body.
Although it is uncommon, some newborns are able to roll onto one side while sleeping. However, it is likely that they will lose this ability within the first month.You should start to see signs of your baby trying to roll over by around 3 to 4 months old. This is right around the time your baby would have developed sufficient upper body strength and start using their arms to move themselves up-and-over from their belly to their back. At 6 months, most babies will be able to not only roll from their belly-to-back but also from their back-to-belly. The reverse movement of back-to-back requires more muscle strength and coordination which is why this trick usually follows the initial rolling over movement.
Since the timing of your baby's first big roll-over might come as a surprise, you should make sure to keep a hand on your baby anytime you are using a changing table or have your baby on any other elevated surfaces. After the first roll-over, your baby will start to use the skill to begin pushing themselves up, grabbing for toys, moving towards you, and so many other exciting milestone developments.
Keep in mind that the timing of all babies development is completely unique and that your baby's age might differ from the ages noted above. If your baby has not rolled over by 7 months, and is not showing signs of trying to sit on their own or scoot, you should reach out to your doctor for more advice.
Tips to Encourage Your Baby to Roll Over
The best way to encourage your baby to learn how to roll-over is through "tummy time," which focuses on building your baby's muscle strength. In order for your baby to be able to roll-over on their own, they must first strengthen their back, arm, and neck muscles which is accomplished through time spent on their tummy.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to start tummy time as soon as you come home from the hospital with your newborn. To start, you can lay your infant face-down on your lap for just a few minutes at-a-time while your baby is awake. In your baby's first month, you should try to fit in about 15 to 20 minutes of tummy time each day. This activity can be split up into 3-5 minute periods around 2-3 throughout the day.
For tummy time, you should start by placing a playmat or clean towel on the floor. Clear the nearby area to give your baby a safe space to move around. Activity playmats are a great option for tummy time as it will keep your baby engaged and having fun. You should surround your baby with a few of their favorite toys to also keep them entertained. To help motivate your baby, place some toys nearby as "belly bait," to encourage them to try and reach for the toy and build up their arm and back strength.
At first, your baby might dislike tummy time since it is a new and unusual position for them to be in. This is completely normal and you can help to introduce the activity to them by gradually building up the time spent on their tummy. Start at 1-5 minutes at-a-time and work your way up to a full 15-20 minutes, when your baby is ready. Other tips on how to get your baby to enjoy tummy time more include:
- Unbreakable Mirrors: your baby will be fascinated by their own reflection and enjoy watching themselves in the mirror
- Prop Them Up: use a nursing pillow under their chest and arms to help prop them up and make them more comfortable when first getting used to the new activity
- Get Involved: try placing them on your belly for their tummy time and occasionally raising them overhead to make the activity more fun
The best time to do tummy time is either shortly after your baby wakes up from a nap, or right after a diaper change. However, try to work this time into whatever fits you and your baby's schedule the best. Ultimately, it is more about the time spent doing the activity, rather than when you choose to do it.
To help encourage rolling over, you can start to gently roll them from side-to-side and then onto their back, as an example of how it's done. Additionally, you can show them an example of rolling over by doing the movement yourself.
Tummy time is an incredibly important activity to help aid your baby's growth and development. The benefits of tummy time include:
- Helping to prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head
- Working new muscles by practicing their pushups and building strength in their arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck for milestones, such as rolling over
- Teaching motor skills such as reaching, rolling over, and crawling
Safety Tips for your Baby Sleeping
Your baby rolling over in their sleep is a common concern of many parents. However, do not worry as it is safe for your baby to roll around in their sleep, as long as you take some additional safety steps along the way.
To start, you should no longer continue to swaddle your baby once they are able to roll-over. Swaddling will restrict your baby's ability to use their arms to move into a different position and could cause them to get trapped in an unsafe position. You should remove pillows, blankets, or any additional items in your baby's crib to keep their area as free from hazards as possible. Make sure that the crib sheet is tight and flat.
If your baby gets stuck after rolling over and they are awake, you can help them learn how to roll back over by flipping them onto their back again. Getting stuck on their stomach is only an issue that lasts a few weeks after learning how to initially roll-over so this problem should pass quickly.
Once your baby is fully able to flip themselves over, it is completely safe to let them sleep on their back or side. Your baby has developed the ability to sense when they are in trouble while sleeping. They are less likely to end up stuck in a position that compromises their breathing, now that they can move more independently.
Even if your baby has started to enjoy sleeping on their stomach or side, you should always put your baby to bed on their back. Another tip we recommend trying is to lay them down with one arm extended. If your baby does roll over, they will likely roll onto this side and their extended arm will prevent them from being able to fully flip over onto their stomach.
You should always encourage your baby to work on their new skill as much as possible. However, your baby might take any opportunity to show off their new skill, including while you try to change their diaper. You should watch out for an unexpected roll over anytime your baby is on their back on an elevated surface. To prevent any unexpected flips during a diaper change, try a few of these tips out:
- Provide entertainment: use your baby’s favorite colorful stuffed animal or toy to entertain your baby while you change their diaper
- Use distractions: by singing to your baby, playing a song, or blowing raspberries, you can help to distract your baby from trying to roll-over while you change their diaper
- Move quickly: now is the time to master the art of the 30-second change; as your baby grows and develops, changing their diaper might become trickier as they want to always be moving. The faster you can change their diaper, the less likely they are to become fussy and want to move around
- Change locations: try changing your baby’s diaper on a clean towel on the floor or in the middle of the bed to prevent any risk of your baby from rolling over while on an elevated surface
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