Babies grow at different speeds. There are developmental milestones that let you compare your baby's growth to the average expected growth of other babies their age.
However, you shouldn't be concerned if your baby develops a little faster or slower.
One of the first major milestones in babies is rolling over, which will include during sleep.
Teaching Babies to Roll Over
Babies will typically start rolling over at 4 months. This will begin with them rocking themselves back and forth. Your baby will likely begin by rolling from tummy to back.
Tummy time is an important first step for getting your baby to roll over. Tummy time can begin as early as 0 months. This is when you put your baby on their belly during playtime while you are watching them and they are fully awake.
Tummy time will help your baby stretch and strengthen their neck, head, and shoulder and back muscles. This helps your baby develop sensory-perceptual, balance, visual, and problem-solving skills. Doing tummy time each day will help your baby to grow stronger to prepare them to roll over and eventually sit up.
Benefits of Babies Rolling Over
Between 3 and 4 months, your baby is learning a lot about movement. They might start showing more emotion and laughing and smiling.
Letting your baby move and stretch will help them strengthen their bodies and prepare for advanced movement. When they're on their belly, they'll reach out for toys and start to use their hands and fingers more. During this time, you can help your baby sit up and learn to control their head movements. Eventually, they'll need less support. Learning these different movements and emotions can also help their cognitive skills.
How to Encourage Rolling Over
At around 6 months, your baby should be able to roll over in both directions, but keep in mind that all babies develop differently.
There are many ways to help your baby with rolling over.
The chest position. If your baby doesn't like tummy time, you can try laying them on your chest or over your lap. These positions can help alleviate reflux and discomfort. The chest position also lets your baby see your face. Not being able to see your face might be one of the reasons they become upset.
Get on the floor. Move down to your baby's level and play with them. Talking to them, singing, reading books, or playing with toys are all fun ways to engage your baby during tummy time and throughout the day. Smile at your baby to make them feel safe and happy during this time. Smiling, in general, helps your baby's brain development and improves your bond with your baby.
Some ways to encourage them to roll over while on the floor include:
- Placing a toy close so they can see it and rotate their head toward it. Then bring the toy toward them in the direction you want them to roll.
- Put your baby on their side so they only have to roll over half of the way.
- Give them many chances to roll over throughout the day. By 2 months of age, doctors recommend babies get 15-30 minutes of tummy time every day.
Use rhythm. Using rhythm and movement when your baby is trying to roll over can help develop their roll-over skills. Music in short periods can help introduce rhythm to your baby's tummy time.
What to Do If Your Baby Is Rolling Over in Sleep
During the day, it's great to see your baby begin to roll over; however, rolling over at night can cause worry about safety.
Do I need to keep my baby from rolling over in their crib?
You may go in to check on your baby and realize they have rolled onto their side or stomach in their crib. You do not need to move your sleeping baby from another position to their back in this case. It is important to always lay your baby down to sleep on their back, but if they move on their own, that is okay. Once your baby can roll independently, they have the strength and development to move if their airway is obstructed.
Why is back sleeping safer?
According to safe sleep guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should sleep on their back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The primary cause of death in infants is SIDS and is linked to stomach sleeping.
What if my baby gets stuck on their tummy?
If your baby rolls onto their stomach and has a hard time rolling back over and seems to feel stuck, you can place your baby on their back again.
Also, they may need some help lifting their head during tummy time. Try placing a tummy time pillow or rolled up blanket under their chest.
Never leave your baby without watching them during tummy time because falling asleep on their tummy puts them at a risk of SIDS.
What if my baby is rolling over and waking up?
Once babies are able to roll over in both directions on their own, which is usually around the age of 6 months, their brain has developed to warn them of trouble breathing. Rolling over may wake them up during the night.
If your baby rolls over and becomes fussy, you can try to:
Check on them without letting them see you. If they do see you, they will expect you to come every time they cry.
Let them fuss a little longer each night while you are checking in and before you try to soothe them.
There's no set time for how long they will cry. Some babies need more comforting and checking in and others need .
Repeat the same routine, keeping in mind you are trying to get them to fall back to sleep on their own.
Additional concerns for safety
Having your baby sleep in their own sleep area is the safest option and can prevent unnecessary falls from your bed. This is especially true once your baby is able to roll over.
If your baby needs to be fed or comforted and you want to do so in the comfort of your own bed, you should return your baby to their crib afterward. Other than the dangers of falls associated with allowing your baby to sleep in your bed, there are also SIDS risks.
Here are some other steps you can follow to prevent falls and other harm and minimize the harm to your child if it does happen:
- Ensure that the bassinet or crib that you purchase for your baby meets all safety protocols.
- Check for recalls on your baby's crib or bassinet.
- Ensure that the mattress and crib that you purchase are designed to work with one another.
- Be sure that you follow guidance on how to change the crib height.
- Make sure that the mattress is firm-fitting and that there are no gaps where your baby could fall through.
- Avoid using cribs that have missing pieces, are broken, or do not come with proper instructions.
Safety Precautions for Babies Rolling Over
You'll also want to make sure your baby is moving safely in their crib.
Stop swaddling. When your baby starts regularly rolling over, you'll need to switch up their sleeping routine. You should stop swaddling them once they start to roll over. After about 3 months, it's best to leave your baby's arms free. If your baby is in a bassinet, by 4 months, you'll want to transfer them over to a crib for safety. The highest crib setting is the correct placement for babies who can't sit up yet.
Remove hazards. As your baby starts to roll around in their crib, make sure there are no blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals that they could get wrapped up in. This can cause SIDs. It's best to let your baby find their natural sleeping position. Using devices that keep them in a specific sleep position can be dangerous.
Watch for problems. Another precaution to take when your child is in the age range to roll over is to watch their development. If you notice that your baby is losing skills that they had previously, you may want to talk to their doctor.
Be concerned if your child isn't lifting their head, keeping control over their head when sitting, or reaching for toys. If your baby doesn't notice their hands or keeps them in fists, this may indicate a developmental disorder.