Rolling is an exciting milestone as it’s your baby’s first step towards independent free movement. It’s also one of the first big physical milestones and lays the building blocks for crawling and walking. As with all milestones, babies roll at different ages, but it can be worrying for parents when their baby becomes “late” to reaching this milestone.
What age do babies roll?
Usually, babies learn to roll from belly to back first, as this is slightly easier – expect rolling from belly to back around 5 to 6 months. Then you can expect rolling from back to belly at around 6 to 7 months.
Rolling is a possibility for all babies, as young as newborns, because of their top-heavy nature they can sometimes flip themselves over. This is why it’s so important to never leave your baby alone on a changing table or bed. Even a baby who shows no signs of rolling can suddenly master the skill when you least expect it.
How do babies learn to roll?
Preparing to roll starts from the newborn days. Giving your baby plenty of tummy time will allow them to strengthen the muscles they will need to roll, hold their head up, sit and crawl. Young babies can be upset if they’re placed on the floor to do tummy time, so you can place them on your chest to keep them calm while they exercise those muscles.
Tummy time is ideally done on a flat surface as resistance against a firm surface is most beneficial for muscle development. However, tummy time on you is much better than no tummy time at all.
Tummy time is also vital for preventing flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly).
As your baby gets older, continue to give them tummy time for increasingly longer periods of time. As they get stronger they’ll develop all their new skills during free movement time. Tummy time is usually when all their exciting new skills will emerge, like pushing themselves up on hands and knees in preparation to crawl.
A container is anything that holds your baby in a fixed position. This includes walkers, jumpers, activity centres, car seats, baby carriers, bouncers and high chairs. The more time your baby spends in a container – the less time they have for developing new skills through free movement.
You can help your baby to roll by enticing them with their favourite toy. During tummy time, place a fun toy in front of your baby and wait for them to show interest. Then slowly move it to one side, slightly above their head. They may be encouraged to roll as they want to follow the toy as it moves out of sight. You can also use a blanket under them to gently roll them over, this introduces the idea of rolling and may make them want to recreate the movement themselves.
The first time your baby rolls can be a shock for them, so offer lots of reassurance and praise. You want them to see rolling as a fun activity rather than a scary accident.
Once your baby starts to roll they can theoretically go wherever they want. So it’s a good time to install the basics like stair gates and cupboard locks. Some babies may just roll over playfully on their playmat, but there are plenty of determined babies who use rolling as a mode of transport. Don’t get caught out by a suddenly-mobile baby! Get some ideas from our recent blog post on Baby Proofing Tips.
When to ask for help
If your baby cannot roll in either direction at the age of 6 months then it’s best to ask your Public Health Nurse or GP for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with milestones, most issues like this are solved with some simple exercises.