When Do Babies Roll Over?

Ready, Set, Roll: Understanding Your Baby’s Roll-Over Milestone

Thankfully, you probably won’t have to include “teach baby how to roll” on your ever-growing list of new mom responsibilities. Most babies handle the chore just fine on their own when the time is right. You can, however, help your little one perfect this new skill with a few playtime workouts. Count on these training sessions to produce plenty of giggles, increase the bond between you and your baby and provide you with some seriously stress-free happy time.

The Truth About Baby Milestones

baby boy lying on belly

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Pediatricians and other healthcare professionals use milestones to monitor your child’s development and to make sure their skills proceed as expected. Doctors separate milestones into four categories: movement, language, cognitive, and social/emotional development. They determine milestone expectations by measuring what most babies accomplish at a certain age.

Because every baby develops differently, milestones don’t identify a specific age for skills such as rolling over. Instead, doctors expect your baby to master the movement somewhere between 3 and 6 months. That’s a huge range for what’s normal, especially when you consider how much your baby grows from birth to her first birthday.

Failure to reach the rolling milestone at the expected age can indicate a serious neurological or muscular disorder that requires medical attention and treatment. It may also mean your baby just enjoys the view from her back and needs a little convincing to try life from a different perspective. So if you are worried, always check with your doctor before jumping to conclusions.

The Importance of Rolling Over

Rolling over is your baby’s first step toward independence. Until he learns the maneuver, he’s stuck wherever and in whatever position you choose to plop him. Rolling gives him the ability to explore his world from a whole new vantage point.

He’ll even use rolling to travel around a room or reach that toy at the end of his crib. This may require a new look at your baby proofing measures. Reaching this milestone also helps build the control he needs to sit without support and eventually shift into crawling mode.

Helping Your Baby Master the Roll

baby boy lying on belly

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Timing is everything when it comes to coaching your baby to roll. The action requires significant head control and relatively strong muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms and legs. Head and neck control usually improves greatly by 3-4 months.

You’ll know she’s nearly ready when she’s able to hold her head steady and perform baby-size pushups that lift her chest during her daily tummy time routine. If you’re not practicing routine tummy time with your baby, now is a good time to start. Spread a soft blanket on the floor, place a few bright toys nearby and place her tummy side down on the blanket.

Now for the best part—get down there with her. Turn off the phone and the tablet and spend a luxurious 20 minutes focusing on your baby. Tummy time gives her a physical and mental workout she needs to keep growing. For you, it erases workday stress as you observe the world from her level.

It’s hard to stay tense when you’re with someone who finds every shape, color, and texture worth exploring. Purple is delightful. Soft blocks are wonderfully squeezable. Patterns on the blanket become interesting trails she can trace with her finger.

Remember to have fun rather than focusing on reaching the goal. If she’s already spending a lot of time leaning to one side with her elbow supporting her shoulder and upper body, she may roll before you have a chance to help.

If she’s not getting the hang of it, you can entice her to try by helping her onto her side. Then dangle a toy just out of reach or tickle her tummy to get her to complete the roll. Support her back and head if necessary to keep the motion smooth. A solid head clunk may make her hesitant to try again.

Babies typically roll from their tummy to their back first. Going from her back to her tummy takes more muscle control, and it may be a month before she can do both with ease. That first independent roll can be startling, so be ready to comfort with lots of hugs and congratulatory smiles.

When to Seek Help

If your baby hasn’t mastered the roll or even tried the maneuver by about 6 months, share your concerns with your doctor. Keep in mind that your pediatrician checks milestones through observation and as part of the physical exam at every well baby visit. If you’re still worried after talking with the doctor, trust your mom instincts and ask for a second opinion.