When Will My Baby Roll Over?
During the early months with your baby, however much they might kick and wave their arms about it often seems inconceivable that they might be able to roll themselves over. Yet at some point - and remember that point varies a lot between babies - they will suddenly learn to do it. It's often a 'blink and you miss it' moment, you put them down on their tummies, turn around a moment later and they're on their back admiring the ceiling!
The Journey to Rolling Over
Rolling over is no mean feat for your baby. In order to roll from one side to the other, a huge amount of muscle development must already have taken place. Muscle control and co-ordination are also required. Try rolling over for yourself. It seems like a simple thing, but if you concentrate while doing it you might notice just how many muscles are involved. Neck muscles are particularly important in this movement. Babies' neck muscles are not fully developed at birth, which is the reason we need to take so much care in supporting their heads in the first few weeks. By around three months or so, though, they are likely to be supporting their own head more and more. It's this change that really shows your baby is well on the way to rolling over.
Other signs that your baby is becoming ready to roll over include perhaps raising their head and arching their back when they are lying on their front or showing a great interest in something that is just out of their reach and stretching out towards it. If you're seeing these signs, there are some things you can do to encourage your baby to make that next move.
As with all other developmental milestones, there is no schedule set for learning to roll. Many babies will have made their first roll between three and four months, but some may not do so until six months. Give them time and encouragement and don't worry if they don't do it at the same time as their peers.
Their first attempts at rolling will probably be from their tummies to their backs. Rolling from back to front is a much harder movement and so your baby may not master this for another few weeks or months.
How You Can Give Your Baby Encouragement
'Tummy time' is a phrase you'll no doubt hear and read about a lot. This just means giving your baby some time laying on their front. This is usually best as part of play time. Regularly giving your baby the opportunity to enjoy time on their tummy will continue to help develop the muscles necessary to roll over. Try to spend a little time every day this way.
A well-designed play mat is a great item to think about here. Many of them feature pictures, textures and tethered objects for baby to grab at and explore. Overhead toy bars can also encourage baby to lift up and arch their back to see the toys. You could try placing a favourite toy just out of reach but within eyesight. The plaything your baby loves best of all though is you, so why not try lying a short distance out of reach of baby. Your baby will love to reach out to you and, in time they will learn to roll towards you.
What To Watch Out For
Babies love to surprise us, so it's worth mentioning at this point that your baby could roll over at any minute, particularly if you've spent some time encouraging them to and perhaps wondering if it will ever happen. With no warning at all, your little one may roll. It's important to remember to never leave your baby on a raised surface unattended. Many experts recommend changing baby on the floor from four months of age to avoid any incidents with changing tables.
Imagine that you have spent what is basically your entire life on your back or your front and unable to move independently. It's going to come as a big shock on the day when you suddenly flip over and see the whole world from another point of view all by yourself. So, when your baby does roll, it's crucial to offer huge encouragement and smiles to ensure they don't become scared or put off from trying to do it again.
When your baby has mastered the art of rolling over, you might find that they love it so much that they actually use it as a great way to get around the room for a while. This is the time to remind yourself to repeatedly inspect the floor for any small objects that might come within reach of your baby.
What Comes Next?
There's always another milestone right around the corner and often confident rolling over can be a precursor to crawling. Some babies, though, go straight to bottom shuffling or walking and miss out crawling altogether, so don't worry if your baby isn't a crawler.
All babies develop at very different rates and if your baby hasn't reached the same milestones as other people's babies the chances are there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are concerned that your child is very late in reaching one or a number of milestones then it is sensible to seek further professional advice from either your health visitor or GP. We have more information on the variable rates of development in babies here.