Though you're probably looking forward to your baby crawling and then taking that first step, she has another big movement higher up on her milestones list: somersaults! Okay, so she won't be able to do a full cartwheel just yet (give her a few more years for that), but she will be able to roll over. Rolling is an important milestone for a baby because it's her first big movement. "For the first time, she can make a major change in the position of her body and her view of the world, all by herself," 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 princess to dig this new skill, rolling over will lead to sitting up independently, and eventually to crawling.
Rolling his little round body over is a huge physical feat for your baby. It requires good head control and enough strength of the neck and arm muscles, Dr. McAllister says. Tummy time can help prepare your baby with rolling. When a baby spends time on his tummy, he holds up his head and pushes himself up using his arms. These pint-size pushups help to 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, he'll kick his legs, flail his arms as though he's swimming, and start rolling side to side and then all the way over.
"Some babies learn to roll over as early as 3 or 4 months of age, but most have mastered rolling over by 6 or 7 months," Dr. McAllister says. Usually babies learn to roll from belly to back first, and pick up rolling from back to belly 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 she's on the changing table or another elevated surface.
Your baby will likely be alarmed the first few times he rolls over, and there will probably be some tears. Because he's never experienced the movement before, the quick change in position can be scary. But soon after, he'll realize this new trick is actually quite cool. He'll use his tumbling skills to move close enough to grab a toy, he'll roll toward you when he wants some snuggle time, and he may even attempt to roll his 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. As he's making his way around, don't be surprised if he gets 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, he'll try to make his way to it -- so it's best to go over your childproofing checklist once again.
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.
Otherwise, now that your baby can roll, you might be worried about two things: her rolling off an elevated area or her rolling on her tummy while she's asleep in the crib. The best way to keep your future Olympic tumbler protected during the day is to give her a safe space to roll (a thick blanket, playmat, or area rug is a good choice). She should be supervised anytime she's on a raised surface. As for sleeping, try not to worry: You don't have to check up on your baby every hour or stalk the baby monitor and rush in every time she moves, Dr. Pitner says. Just make sure you put her to sleep on her back and that her sleep environment is safe. This means no crib bumpers, wedges, pillows, stuffed animals, loose blankets, and loose clothing in or on the crib.