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Rolling Over – Top Tips

Article by Dr Lin Day

“How can I help my baby to roll over and when will this happen?”

Rolling over is an extremely important milestone in your baby’s development and the starting point for all other balance skills, including sitting up and crawling.

Going from front to back usually occurs at about 3 to 4 months-old. However rolling over from back to front and vice-versa is usually achieved at about 6 months-old and sometimes sooner. However, parents should not worry if rolling over is achieved later. All babies are different.

The ability to roll over depends on upper body strength (neck, shoulders, arms, and chest) and plenty of opportunities for unrestricted movement and tummy time. Babies who are given plenty of tummy time tend to roll over sooner than babies who lie predominantly on their backs during daytime waking hours.

Although babies must always sleep on their backs, rolling over from back to front may be achieved before front to back. The most important factor is to ensure that the baby does not get tangled in layers of bedding.

Bigger babies can take longer to roll over than smaller babies. Premature babies may reach the milestone later than babies born at full-term. Babies with physical impairments may not follow the normal developmental sequence. They may already be already working with a physical or occupational therapist to help them achieve
developmental milestones. Any precautions or specific instructions that have been suggested should be followed.

How to encourage this essential milestone
The following can help your baby to roll over:

  • Plenty of tummy time during supervised waking hours will strengthen your baby’s upper body muscles in preparation for rolling over.
  • Rolling over can be encouraged through play. If a toy or rattle is wriggled or shaken to one side, your baby may roll over to get it.
  • Put your baby’s arms and legs into the correct position (one arm and shoulder tucked under the body, the other knee bent) and gently roll him over. He will soon get the idea and attempt to roll over on his own.
  • Sing ‘Rock-a-bye-Baby’ and gently rock your baby before rolling him over.
  • Play ’Peek-a-boo’ on one side of your baby to encourage him to roll towards you.
  • Make rolling over an enjoyable activity. If your baby seems uncomfortable, try again when he is rested and ready to play.
  • Some babies find it easier to roll over when their nappies are removed.Rolling over enables babies to get to interesting toys and objects. However, parents will need to be on the lookout for hazards.

If your baby isn’t rolling over by 12 months of age, see your healthcare professional.

Further reading:
Day, L. (2008). The enigma of walking. Early Years Educator 9 (10): 20-22.
Day, L. (2008). In praise of tummy time. Early Years Educator 10 (1): 36- 38.

Baby Sensory © 2011 (updated January 2018)

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