When Do Babies Roll Over?

Your baby's first step toward mobility is actually a roll. Here's what to expect when your child reaches the rolling milestone and what it means for physical development.

baby laying on floor wearing giraffe hat
Photo: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock

Though you're probably looking forward to your baby crawling, they must accomplish another milestone first: rolling over. Most babies roll over at around 6 months old, but some babies may start rolling over as soon as 3 or 4 months. For the first time, they'll make a major change in the position of their body and their view of the world, all by themselves, says Rallie McAllister, M.D., co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year. As if that's not enough reason for your little one to dig this new skill, rolling over will lead to sitting up independently, and eventually to crawling and walking. Keep reading to learn more about when babies first to roll over, and how to keep your little gymnast safe.

How Your Baby Prepares to Roll Over

Rolling their little body over is a huge physical feat for your baby. It requires good head control and strength in the neck and arm muscles, says Dr. McAllister.

To prepare your baby for rolling over, give them plenty of tummy time, where they'll practice holding up their head and pushing up using their arms. These pint-size push-ups help develop the muscles in the neck, shoulder, trunk, and arms, says Sheryl Pitner, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

As your baby gets stronger, they'll kick their legs, flail their arms as though they're swimming, and start rolling side to side and then all the way over.

When Do Babies Start Rolling Over?

"Some babies learn to roll over as early as three or four months of age, but most have mastered rolling over by six or seven months," says Dr. McAllister. Usually babies learn to roll from belly to back first, and pick up rolling from back to front about a month later, since it requires more coordination and muscular strength. The timing of that first roll may be a surprise, so make sure you keep a hand on your baby anytime they're on the changing table or another elevated surface.

Your baby will likely be alarmed the first few times they roll over, and there will probably be some tears. Because they've never experienced the movement before, the quick change in position can be scary. But soon after, they'll realize this new trick is actually quite cool. They'll use their tumbling skills to move close enough to grab a toy, they'll roll toward you when they want some snuggle time, and they may even attempt to roll their way out of a diaper change.

Once your little gymnast knows how to do a full roll (from back to front and back again, or vice versa), rolling around over and over can be amusing in itself. Some babies even use rolling as a form of transportation, rolling themselves from here to there.

If your baby hasn't rolled over by about 7 months and isn't sitting or trying to scoot (some babies skip rolling altogether), talk to the pediatrician about it.

How to Keep a Rolling Baby Safe

As your baby is making their way around, don't be surprised if they get into all kinds of things: a crumb under the couch, the dog's bowl, or that plugged-in laptop charger. If it's within rolling distance, they'll try to make their way to it—so it's best to go over your childproofing checklist once again. Also, it's smart to give your Olympic tumbler a safe space to roll (a thick blanket, play mat, area rug, etc.) throughout the day. They should be supervised anytime they're on a raised surface.

Some parents worry that their baby will roll onto their tummy while they're asleep in the crib (stomach sleeping can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS). However, you don't have to check up on your baby every hour or stalk the baby monitor, says Dr. Pitner. Just make sure you put them to sleep on their back and that their sleep environment is safe. This means no crib bumpers, wedges, pillows, stuffed animals, loose blankets, and loose clothing in or on the crib.

Also, it's officially time to stop swaddling them to sleep once they're able to roll. When a swaddled baby rolls onto their stomach, their hands aren't able to protect their face and they may struggle to breathe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies stop being swaddled to sleep by 4 months, or whenever they are able to roll—whichever comes first.

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