Baby Milestones: Rolling Over

Get ready for some fun new adventures as your little one discovers one of her first big baby milestones: how to flip herself over.

Most babies will figure out how to roll over between 3 and 6 months. You'll know your pumpkin is getting ready to roll when you see him pushing up on his hands during tummy time. Other clues to watch for: He may lift a hand in the air while pushing up off his belly, or move a leg across his body while lying on his back.

How It Happens

Most infants turn from tummy to back first. That maneuver takes less neck and back strength than flipping from back to tummy, which could take another month or two to master. Rolling over will likely be your baby's first chance to move without your help, but he may not like it initially, says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician in Seattle. "Many babies surprise themselves when they first roll over and may even cry," she notes.

Should You Worry?

Some babies flip over only a few times or not at all. That's okay if your child is developing good head and neck control, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., an Atlanta pediatrician. But if her limbs seem extra floppy or stiff at 3 to 4 months, or if she seems to favor one side of her body, tell your doctor.

Encourage Baby

  • Keep putting your munchkin on her tummy, even if she cries. "Frequent tummy time is probably the number-one thing a parent can do to give a baby the skills, the strength, and the confidence to attempt rolling over," Dr. Swanson says. Begin at birth! A few times each day, give your newborn one to two minutes of belly-down time on your chest or lap.
  • When she is 3 months old, start to prop her up on her forearms with her arms bent during tummy time, so she has more to push off of. "Or you can put a pillow or rolled-up towel on one side that she can push her body against," suggests Dr. Shu.
  • Tempt her to turn over by lying alongside her or putting a brightly colored toy at eye level on her left or right, so that it's just out of reach.

Be Sure He Stays Safe!

  • Keep a hand on Baby on elevated surfaces such as beds and changing tables at all times -- and always use the safety strap -- even when he's a newborn. "I've seen infants roll as early as 1 or 2 weeks," Dr. Shu notes.
  • Make sure your guy can't flip his way into trouble. Avoid floor time in rooms with stairs unless they are gated. Move potentially dangerous objects well out of your baby's reach.
  • Don't leave him alone with a dog or cat. "If your little one happens to roll over onto the animal, the pet could react by sitting on or swatting at the baby," Dr. Swanson warns.

Originally published in the June 2015 issue of American Baby magazine.

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