Baby Rolling Over

Rolling over being one of the biggest developmental milestones, marks the beginning of the first of his motor movements, which is followed by sitting, crawling and finally walking.

What age do babies start rolling over

The average age for babies to roll over from their tummy to back is four months, as by then they have sufficient strength in their arms to change their position, though some may show this development a bit earlier or even later. Infants may at times skip rolling over, directly proceeding to sitting and crawling  [1].

How do babies roll over

Babies are born with fencing reflex also known as tonic neck reflex, in which when lying on their back the head is turned to a side, with their hand and leg on that side being stretched, whereas on the other side they are flexed [9].

Tonic Neck Reflex in Newborns

Tonic Neck Reflex in Newborns

This reflex acts as a shield preventing the baby from rolling over to his tummy until his brain and body is prepared for this action. Some experts even say that this is perhaps nature’s way of preventing SIDS ( Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It gradually disappears when the baby attains six months of age [7].

Their motor movements start improving by the third month, and by the time the babies are four months old they can flip back when placed on their stomach by using their arms to raise their head and shoulder [2]. However, between the fifth and seven month their flexibility improves, making them master the skill of rolling over in all directions (front-to-back and back-to-front, side-to-side) with great ease and agility. By this time, they even display other motor movements like lifting their chest by taking support from their shoulder, kicking legs as well as raising their head [3, 6].

How to help babies roll over

Though each child varies from the other in showing this particular skill, parents too need to take several initiatives for teaching their little ones how to roll over.

  • When your baby is not sleeping allow him to be on his tummy more to help strengthen its back and arm muscles [5]. Start the tummy exercise for a shorter span and increase it as your baby grows in months. However, make sure they are not sleeping on their tummy as it may interrupt normal breathing.
  • Keep colorful, attractive playthings out of the baby’s reach so that it may flex its muscles while trying to reach out for it [5, 8].
  • Lie down a bit away from your little ones encouraging them to come close to you [8].
  • Hanging toys over their crib is also a good initiative as it makes them raise their head and arch their back to look at it [8].
  • Appreciate your baby’s newfound skill with cheer and applause [4].
  • Sleep coaching babies once they have started rolling teaches them to maintain a position while sleeping.

Precautions to be taken for safety

Though it is a wonderful experience to see your kids in motion for the first time, several safety measures are to be adopted as improper rolling over techniques may increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)[4].

  • Make sure that the baby’s crib has a firm mattress with blankets tucked properly. Remove all toys, bed clothes, pillow and any other belonging that may cause suffocation to the infant [4].
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics along with other experts has warned about the usage of crib bumpers as it may result in suffocation and other hazards [10].
  • Swaddling the baby in a sleeping bag reduces their chances of getting stuck in the crib while rolling over in sleep.
  • Experts feel that a changing table is unsafe for babies who have started rolling over, rather make them lie on a mat placed on the floor while dressing them [8].
  • Keep the floor clear of any object that may cause choking hazard.
  • Keep a close watch on the baby once he has adapted the skill of rolling and do not leave him unattended in his crib for long hours at night.
  • Never try to roll your baby if his muscles have not strengthened as it may cause adverse effects. If they have not started rolling in the fourth month there is nothing to be worried about as it will happen eventually.

If your baby is not making any attempt to roll over to any side or showing any other movement by six months of age, then it is important to bring it to the notice of your pediatrician [1,6].


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