When Do Babies Roll Over - A Guide to Do's and Don'ts

After the newborn stage, your baby rolling over is one of the initial steps towards mobility. A roll is their first significant change in body position and a foundational skill for eventually sitting independently, crawling, and walking. Your baby discovering how to roll for the first time can be a surprise for both of you. Every baby develops physically at their own pace. From what to look out for and how to best dress them, this comprehensive guide allows you to be prepared for their roll over stage. Topics we will cover include:
  • When do babies roll over
  • Ages for physical development
  • Can a baby roll over too early?
  • How long do you swaddle your baby?
  • Can newborns sleep on their side?
  • How to help your baby sleep safely
  • The best clothes to support a baby rolling over
  • What to expect next

How and When Do Babies Learn to Roll Over?

To accomplish rolling over, your baby must have developed proper physical attributes. They need good head control, neck strength, and arm muscles. When your baby gets strong enough to kick their legs or flail their arms, they can then start rolling from side to side. Eventually, you'll see your baby rolling over all the way. Your baby will most likely be able to roll from their stomach to their backs first. Rolling from their back to front requires more muscle strength and coordination. According to a board-certified physical therapist at Riley Children's Health, Sarah Johnson, your baby must have "enough strength in their flexors, which are the muscles on the front of their bodies," to roll from back to belly. Consequently, it is easier for your baby to initially use only their arms to help them with the belly-to-back roll.

How Do I Know My Baby Is About to Roll?

You really can't tell exactly! A baby can suddenly flip to a roll by surprise, especially for their first roll. Babies can unintentionally roll over when the weight of their heads turns them onto their backs. For this reason, it is important not to leave your baby unattended on an elevated surface such as a couch, changing table, or bed because they could end up on the floor. It is also normal for the skill to "come and go" when your baby first learns to roll. They are integrating it into their skillsets. So even if you see your infant rolling over early, be ready for them to stop rolling for a while and start up again suddenly.

How Old Are Babies When They Roll Over?

On average, babies will develop the necessary strengths for rolling over when they are 4 months old and master the art of rolling by 6 months old. However, this age range is just an average. Some babies can begin the mini push-up actions to develop muscle strength as early as one month old, while others don't start until 5 months old. So if you are wondering, can babies roll over at 2 months, the answer is yes. Babies can roll over as soon as they have the muscles to support the movements.

Ages For Physical Development in Babies

Every baby has their own timeline for developing the muscles to move and roll over. However, to answer your question, "when do babies learn to roll over," it is important to recognize the common path of physical developments and movements in babies. Typically, you will see the following in a baby between one month old to 6 months old. One Month Old A one month old baby will generally have hand, arm, and leg movements that are reflex motions. Their heads will flop if not supported. A baby rolling over will need first to develop these neck muscles. 2 Months Old Muscles will relax and twitch less in a 2 month old baby. They can usually unfold hands and reach or grasp objects. They can also lift their head about 45 degrees when lying on their tummy. This muscle development means you may see your baby rolling over one way to their side. But can babies roll over at 2 months from front to back? Yes, if they progressed through this stage of physical development earlier and quicker than average. 3 Months Old A 3 month old baby will hold objects longer, start bearing weight on legs briefly, and stretch their arms and legs. You may observe your baby rolling over from their back to the side more frequently. 4 Months Old If your baby is 4 months old you may be able to stand them up with support or let them sit up with arms propped. Usually, they can lift their head about 90 degrees. Because of this new ability, you may see your baby rolling over from front to side. 5 Months Old A 5 months old baby can generally roll over from front to back. They can also grab their toes and feet or wiggle forward on the floor. Babies at this age will be able to reach with better aim. 6 Months Old If your baby is 6 months old you can expect them to hold their head steady. It is also common to see your baby rolling over in both directions by this age. However, please remember every baby explores mobility at different rates. You could also just begin to see your baby rolling over to the side at this point. It is still normal!

Can a Baby Roll Over Too Early?

Babies can unexpectedly roll over even before they develop the skill properly. Sometimes the weight of their head causes them to roll onto their back from a tummy time position. Your baby rolling over after one or two months old is possible if your baby was active in developing the necessary muscles for rolling. If you see your baby rolling over at 1 month or your 2 month old or 3 month old starts to roll, this may be earlier than average but is still normal! Sometimes an infant rolling over early is a natural biological phenomenon. So when can baby roll onto side? As soon as days after being born. This type of roll is known as a "newborn curl." It is natural because your baby spent months in your womb curled up, so they sometimes move into this position of comfort. However, most babies will lose this ability before they turn one month old. Suppose this is the reason for their early mobility. In that case, you may not continue to observe your baby rolling over at 1 month.

How Tummy Time Helps Your Baby Roll Over

To help your baby rolling over eventually, prepare them by providing plenty of tummy time. In this position, your baby can practice holding their head up and pushing themselves up with their arms. Like mini push-ups, the actions will develop the muscles in their arms, shoulder, neck, and trunk. It is good to give your baby three to five minutes of tummy time two or three times a day. Every minute of tummy time adds up and allows your baby to get used to the position. You can always increase the frequency and duration as they get used to it. Tummy time can be uncomfortable for some babies because the weight of their heads weighs them down. You can help improve comfort in the position by applying gentle pressure down on their bottom and towards their feet. This movement can help "unweight" their head. Tummy time is also important for you to decide when can babies sleep on their stomach. Suppose your baby can comfortably spend time on their tummies during the day and roll into different positions. In that case, it can be safe for them to stay on their stomach during sleep because they can shift out of it themselves. If they are not comfortable during tummy time, it is best not to let them sleep this way.

Other Ways to Help Your Baby Roll Over

The best times for tummy time are after a nap or in the morning. This way, your baby feels refreshed when letting them practice the push-ups. It can create positive associations with tummy time that leads to your baby rolling over more. Try to avoid doing it when your baby is tired, hungry, or about to need a diaper change. Sometimes knowing when can baby roll onto side or back positions doesn't mean they will have the confidence to keep trying. When your baby does successfully roll, you can also applaud, cheer, and provide positive encouragement for your baby rolling over. It can reinforce your baby to attempt the daring move again. Another common way to encourage your baby rolling over is with play. Firstly, you can try holding a toy far enough away, so they have to move to touch it. You can also lay down with them and demonstrate a roll.

Should You Be Swaddling a Baby?

Swaddling a baby is beneficial when they are newborns because this helps them feel like they're back in the womb. Swaddling is a technique where you wrap your baby up snuggly, arms restricted, so they feel safe and soothed. If their arms are free, it is not swaddling.

How to Swaddle a Baby

Swaddling blankets are a common way to wrap your baby up, but make sure you don't swaddle your baby too tightly. According to the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, you should aim for hip-healthy swaddling where your baby's legs can bend up and out. Here are the steps on how to swaddle correctly using swaddle blankets:
  • Spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
  • Lay your baby face-up and head above the folded blanket corner.
  • Straighten your baby's left arm, wrap the left corner over their body and tuck it between their right arm and the right side of their body.
  • Tuck the right arm down, fold the right corner of the blanket over their body and under their left side.
  • Fold the bottom of the swaddle blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of your baby.

Free Birdies has the highest-grade, breathable, swaddling blankets to offer your baby great comfort. If you aren't confident using swaddle blankets, you can also try a swaddle suit or sleep sack.

See Also: Softest Swaddle Blankets 

See Also: How to Swaddle a Baby

When to Stop Swaddling a Baby

When you observe your baby rolling over, you will want to lose the swaddling blankets and sacks. It is no longer safe for you to swaddle your baby if they are moving around. They can accidentally compromise their airway when they roll over and can't get out of the position using their arms. Graduate your baby to other baby clothes such as baby rompers, sleep sacks, wearable blankets, or closed-toe baby pajamas.

What Are Safe Baby Sleeping Positions?

It is safest to place your baby on their back to sleep to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, a baby rolling over may change positions in the night. It is best to dress them for mobility and have a clear crib to ensure safety. Read on for answers to common questions such as:
  • Can babies sleep on their side?
  • Is baby sleeping on belly safe?

When Do Babies Start to Roll Over on Their Side?

You may be wondering can newborns sleep on their side? As previously explained, sometimes the "newborn curl" can cause your baby sleeping on side for comfort. Your baby may stop this before their first month and start again later. However, never place your baby in the crib on their side. This position is unstable and can cause SIDS. Only when your baby can roll over on their own is it safe. When they can roll, there is no evidence that you need to re-position them to reduce the risk of SIDS. Similar to your baby rolling over from tummy to back, the short answer to when do babies start to roll over on their side is "it depends." You may see your 4 month old rolling in sleep to their side before they can shift to other positions. A 3 month old sleeping on side of their body is also common if your baby has developed the muscles for mobility. Usually, rolling to the side is easier than rolling completely from back to tummy or tummy to back.

Is Baby Sleeping on Belly Safe?

Some babies prefer sleeping on their bellies to fall asleep. But when can babies sleep on their stomach safely? If your baby can roll from their bellies to their back during tummy time it can be safe. In this case you can allow your baby to stay in this position if they roll to it in the middle of the night. However, it is still best to put them to bed on their backs for the first year of life. If your baby only falls asleep on their belly, try cradling them in your arms face-down. Then when they are sleepy, place them in the crib on their back.

What To Do When Baby Rolls Over in Crib

Once you see your baby rolling over, it is still safest to put them to sleep on their back as the initial position. It is also best to follow other safe sleep guidelines, such as removing all pillows, blankets, and toys from the crib. Additionally, let your baby sleep on a firm surface with sheets tucked tightly. A 4 month old rolling in sleep can seem scary since babies sleeping on their stomach can increase the risk of SIDS. However, with no obstructions in the crib and no swaddling, babies can generally roll back to a safe and comfortable position.

How to Prevent Baby Rolling in Sleep

It's common to wonder what to do when your baby rolls over in crib. The best thing you can do is to place your baby in the crib on their back initially. Avoid swaddling a baby rolling over. It is also best not to place pillows or toys in the crib beside them as a buffer. These additional obstructions can end up suffocating your baby when they are moving around. If your baby keeps rolling over when trying to sleep, don't panic! This occurrence is generally a good sign that their muscles can facilitate the movement. Unless they cry or express discomfort, try to let them roll back to a comfortable position themselves. This way, they can realize they can move on their own. Even though their backs are the best, there are other safe baby sleeping positions your baby can remain in when they gain mobility.

How Do You Help Your Baby Sleep

Besides considering safe baby sleeping positions, there are numerous ways to help your rolling baby sleep soundly. Comfortable baby clothes that allow mobility are crucial for a baby rolling over. Also, make sure the temperature isn't too cold or hot. Read more suggestions on our 10 Tips for Bedtime Success post. Your baby rolling over and not sleeping can also be because they are practicing the skill. If this is the case and they don't want to fall asleep, make sure to give them plenty of playtime during the day to tire them out.

Baby Learning to Roll Over and Not Sleeping

Sometimes a baby learning to roll over and not sleeping occurs because babies are sensitive to position shifts. Unlike older children or adults who can move to comfortable positions at night, babies are still learning. They can be surprised by their shift in position. Suppose your baby keeps rolling onto tummy at night and crying due to discomfort. In that case, you can help them depending on the situation. If your baby is starting to roll and can't roll back themselves, you should help. Go into the room and flip them with minimal interaction. This method shows them that everything is okay and allows them to recognize a shift in position can help. Of course, if they are very upset, you can comfort them through touching or patting. If during the day your baby can easily roll from tummy to back themselves, try waiting. Let your baby rolling over to a comfortable position be an independent act so they know they can help themselves moving forward. A week or two of this can eventually prevent your baby from crying due to position shifts.

Best Baby Clothes For Mobility

Now that you know all about when do babies roll over, how do you dress them to prepare for this additional movement? When choosing baby clothes, you want to consider the design and fabric type. Comfort over fashion is best when selecting baby clothes. Baby rompers and bodysuits are a good choice because they are comfortable and don't cover the legs. You can get a size that fits your baby snuggly. They are also easy for diaper changes too! When you notice your baby rolling over, you will also see they need more space to move their arms and legs to accomplish the roll. Choosing clothes with a material such as bamboo fabrics provides the elasticity your baby needs to feel free without being baggy or loose. Free Birdees is well known for the softest baby clothes, including bamboo baby rompers, footsies, and coveralls that stretch with your baby. It's a versatile material for any season. Another option for soft clothes is 100 percent organic or Pima cotton. It doesn't rub harshly on your baby's skin and can keep them cool. Cotton also easily absorbs and removes body moisture.

Best Baby Clothes For Sleeping

When choosing the best baby pajamas, try to find options that allow layering. Babies lose heat quickly, so generally, you want to add one more piece of clothing than you would wear yourself. You can also let your baby wear hats, hand-mitts, or cardigans with hoodies. Since babies have sensitive skin and respiratory systems, it is also important to choose baby clothes with safe materials. While cotton is a great option, Bamboo Baby Pajamas are also just as great. They are made from materials without harsh pesticides or herbicides. Bamboo Baby Pajamas are also hypoallergenic and offer breathability. A one month old or 2 month old can find it hard to regulate their temperature, so breathable materials help prevent overheating. Free Birdees is a brand that provides some of the softest baby clothes and best baby pajamas with one-of-a-kind prints and made from high-quality bamboo.

What Pajamas Can Babies Sleep on Their Side With?

Any of the previously mentioned comfortable baby clothes that are suitable for mobility are good choices. Make sure your baby switched positions themselves because this means they are comfortable there. Avoid placing your baby sleeping on side of the crib. The important thing for a baby rolling over to their side is a clear crib. For instance, a 3 month old sleeping on side of their body can easily flip onto their stomachs. Any additional blankets can restrict their breathing. Instead of blankets, select baby pajamas with layers if you want to keep your baby warm.

What to Expect Next After Baby Rolls Over

Besides wondering when do babies turn over, you may be curious what comes next. When do they sit up independently and crawl? A 3 month old or 4 month old baby can usually sit up straight with some assistance. The next stage is to balance themselves and sit up without assistance. Sitting up independently usually comes before crawling because it is the stage they can develop the muscles for crawling. Babies with strong abdominal and back muscles can discover crawling from a sitting position. They may lean forward and prop their body on their hands or start to scoot from a sitting position. Generally, babies will start crawling on all four between 6 and 10 months. It can be sooner if their arm and leg muscles have developed. Crawling is important for brain development, so you don't want them to skip this stage of physical mobility. Your baby's crawl can be a scoot, army crawl, backward crawl, crab crawl, or traditional crawl.

Conclusion

Your baby rolling over may come as a surprise when they start learning this skill, but you can be prepared to support them through the process. Knowing when babies roll over and encouraging them in a safe environment provides them with the foundation for future physical mobility. Lastly, making sure your baby is dressed in the softest baby clothes and best baby pajamas allows them to roll safely and with ease.