It’s been a few months since you welcomed your baby into the world, and there’s been plenty of smiles, scrunched-up faces, and of course, lots of crying. As your baby grows and develops, it’s natural to focus on milestones, and if you’re a new parent, you might be surprised at just how many milestones there are.
From responding to sound, to recognizing your voice, and holding their head steady, there are a remarkable variety of developmental achievements to keep watch for in the first few months of life. Rolling over is one of the most crucial milestones in your baby’s developmental journey, but when can you expect them to do it?
When can I expect my baby to start rolling over?
This is a tricky question to answer, as every baby is unique. However, as with all developmental milestones, there are a rough set of guidelines that we can use as a benchmark for their progress.
Most babies start rolling over between 4-6 months of age. However, it's important to note that there is a range of what's considered normal, and a month at either end of this scale is still considered within the typical range of development.
Most babies learn to roll over from their tummies onto their backs first, and will need assistance getting back onto their fronts. Generally, by 8 months old, babies can roll both front-to-back and back-to-front with ease; however, the exact time can vary from one child to the next and all babies develop these skills differently.
What are the first signs of rolling over?
Excited to see your baby perform their first gymnastic feat? Look out for the following indicators:
Increased strength in the neck and arm muscles, which allows the baby to lift their head and chest up while lying on their stomach.
Rolling onto their side or shoulders
Kicking their legs and flailing their arms in excitement — adorable, right?
Lifting their hips up, and displaying increased strength in the legs
As your baby becomes more confident in their movements, they may begin to rock back and forth on their side before eventually rolling over completely.
Is rolling over at 3 months early?
If your baby rolls over within the first three months of their life, you might be wondering, “Is my baby rolling over too early?”, but rest assured; it’s definitely not a cause for concern. If anything, you might consider them an over-achiever (just don’t let it go to their head!)
Rolling over: a timeline
Every baby will learn to roll at their own pace, but to give you a general idea of what to expect (and when), here’s a rough timeline of ‘typical’ rolling behavior.
At this early stage, your baby doesn’t have much control over their head or neck muscles. Expecting to see a newborn rolling over might be asking too much!
To help them on their way to mastering the art of the roll-over, offer tummy time as early as possible; this will help them build up their muscles.
Your baby should be developing some neck and head control now, and may begin kicking their legs during tummy time. They might still struggle to lift their head, but encourage them to stick at it — even if it looks a little uncomfortable.
This is the age where you might notice your baby doing ‘mini push-ups’ during tummy time — impressive! This is a great sign, as all this extra work is increasing their muscle strength and preparing your baby to roll for the very first time.
At this stage, your baby is likely to have developed the important muscles required to roll over. They can lift their head, push up on their arms, and arch their back to lift their chest off the ground. They may also rock on their stomach, kick their legs, and "swim" with their arms.
Many babies begin rolling as their primary method of transportation for a few months before moving on to sitting, lunging, and crawling. As long as your child continues to gain new skills and shows interest in exploring their environment, there’s no need to be concerned.
Can I help my baby learn to roll over?
If your little one seems to be struggling to roll over, don’t be afraid to offer some encouragement! Try the following:
Give your baby tummy time. Tummy time helps your baby build strength in their neck, back, and core muscles, which is important for rolling over. Your first few sessions should only last a few minutes, but you can gradually increase the duration and frequency of tummy time as they grow.
Use toys. Place toys slightly out of your baby's reach while they are lying on their back or stomach. This can encourage them to reach and twist their body to try to get the toy, which can help them learn to roll over.
Give them a boost. Placing a rolled-up towel or blanket behind your baby's back can provide some extra support and help them feel more secure as they try to roll over.
Provide plenty of supervised practice. Make sure your baby has plenty of opportunities to practice rolling over in a safe and supervised environment. You can gently guide your baby's movements to help them get the hang of rolling over, but make sure they’re doing most of the work!
Remember — all babies develop skills differently, and pushing them to progress faster than they’re comfortable with isn’t advised. Be patient, and encourage them — rolling over might seem like a trivial movement to us, but it’s a skill we’ve all had to learn at one point or another!
Keeping your baby safe while they’re rolling over
So your baby’s a rolling success story — congratulations! While they’re busy rolling around, keep the following safety tips in mind:
Always use the safety strap and keep your hand near your baby when they're on the changing table or any elevated surface, and never leave your baby unattended.
Keep the floors clear of small items and potential choking hazards, as a rolling baby may be able to reach these more easily.
Stop swaddling your baby by 2 months old, before they can roll over.
Once your baby can roll over, the risk of SIDS drops significantly. Continue to put your baby down on their back to sleep, but if they roll over, don’t worry about flipping them back. It’s still crucial to follow safe sleep practices though, such as keeping the sleeping area free of soft toys, blankets, and pillows.
What if my baby won’t roll over?
First of all — don’t panic! Developmental milestones aren’t an exact science, and as long as your baby is younger than 8 months, there’s usually no cause for concern.
However, if your baby is older than this and has shown little to no progress despite plenty of encouragement, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician. If they believe your baby’s physical development is being hindered, you'll be able to work together to figure out the next steps.
What happens after my baby has learned to roll over?
From here onwards, things only get more exciting! After your baby starts rolling, they’ll gradually progress to pushing up onto their hands and knees, and eventually, begin crawling. They may also start to sit up unsupported, pull themselves up to stand, and (drumroll please…) take their first steps!
However, these milestones aren’t going to happen overnight, even if it may seem like they once they’re all grown up! It’s also important to remember that your baby needs constant encouragement to acquire these new skills, so it’s up to you to provide plenty of opportunities for playful exploration.
Learning to roll over is a huge step in your baby’s development — just one of many significant milestones during their early lives — but remember that not all babies develop at the same pace. While you’ll typically see your little one beginning to master the art of rolling over between 4 and 6 months, don’t be concerned if this takes a little longer.