New skills bring new adventures and new challenges! Around 4 months, your baby will begin ROLLING! They typical begin rolling tummy to back first. It usually takes another 1-2 months to develop the strength in their neck and muscles in their arms to roll back to tummy.
Congratulations! Your baby is not only gaining a new skill, but this is a whole new world for him. It’s literally the beginning of your little one being on the go and independently moving.
As exciting as it is to have your baby reaching these developmental milestones, it comes with new challenges and safety concerns. If your baby is hesitant to be on his belly, you will experience some fussiness as he adjusts and realizes he can enjoy this new view.
When it comes to bedtime, the real challenge begins. The good news is that most babies actually really enjoy sleeping on their bellies after the initial adjustment period. Below you will find some helpful tips and reminders as you navigate this developmental leap.
What can you to do support this milestone?
Early on, you should be giving your little one daily “tummy time.” There are a few reasons why tummy time is so important: it helps strengthen muscles that will allow your baby to push up onto their arms around 3-4 months, doing a “mini push-up,” which gives your baby the ability to roll. It also allows your baby to experience a different position than lying on their back all of the time, and helps reduce the risk of a flat spot on the back of their head.
When your child is a newborn, gently placing him on his tummy while he’s awake and alert, two to three times a day, just a few minutes per time, will set him up for success.
Around 3 to 4 months old, getting at least 20 minutes of tummy time daily is important. It’s critical to never leave your baby unattended during tummy time, and if baby gets sleepy during tummy time, change the activity or place him to sleep on his back.
As your child gets older and can tolerate doing longer stretches of tummy time, you can encourage him to begin rolling over by keeping a favorite toy—or you!—just out of reach to see if he’ll roll to reach what he wants. Give lots of smiles, encouragement and applause when your baby is working on mastering this skill. If baby starts to get frustrated, console him and change the activity.
Once your baby starts rolling, remember it can be startling the first few times, so if he gets scared, respond positively and help him realize it’s fun and perfectly okay to be moving around!
A couple of things to remember once your baby reaches this mobility milestone:
- Always keep your hand on baby during diaper changes. Even if your baby isn’t rolling over yet, keep a hand on her to avoid any serious injury, whether you’re changing a diaper or placing her on a bed or any other elevated surface. You don’t want the first experience rolling over to result in injury!
- Be on the lookout for continuous rolling. Your baby might just decide to keep on rolling as her mode of transportation once she figures it out! This means making sure furniture such as dressers, bookcases, entertainment centers are securely mounted to the wall, and that things like outlets are properly covered and cords are kept out of reach. Also, make sure lower cabinets are securely latched closed and staircases and other potential hazards are blocked off. Nothing is impossible once your little one figures out how to become mobile, even as young as 5 or 6 months.
- SIDS Prevention – it is very important to continue placing your baby on her back when it’s time for sleep during the first year of life, even when she is capable of rolling over onto her tummy. However, if baby rolls onto her tummy while sleeping and has begun rolling while awake, no need to fret. Just make sure to continue to keep the crib free of loose bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, and bumpers that could obstruct breathing. Additionally, don’t overheat the room, overdress your baby or allow smoking. If you keep up with all of these things, the SIDS risk diminishes. In fact, 90% of SIDS cases occur in babies ages 6 months and under. It peaks between ages 1-4 months, then begins to decline.
Once your baby is rolling back-to-tummy at night, you will need to decide how to respond to him.
- First Option: Stick to the same bedtime routine as you have always had. Lay your baby down in the same position as you normally do. Tuck him in, say goodnight and walk out. Often times, babies like to practice their new tricks. So, the rolling begins. And moments later, they begin to cry because they feel stuck. Wait a few minutes (3-5 is plenty). Giving them the opportunity to figure it out can help tremendously. If they do, it’s a win! If they don’t, go ahead and step in and flip them back into the position they started bedtime out with. Walk out of the room, and start the process over again. Continue this process until they have fallen asleep. It may be a few trips of flipping baby back into his initial position, but eventually he will learn to stay in this position and fall asleep.
- Second Option: If you know your baby well enough to know they will only continue to roll over and the first plan won’t do any good, give yourself a set number (between 1 and 3) of how many times you will help flip your child back in place. Once your child exceeds that number, you start your sleep training method and begin teaching him how to self soothe in this new position.
- Third Option: If you aren’t seeing a light at the end of the tunnel after flipping baby back a few HUNDRED times or even after one or two, it’s time to teach her to fall asleep in the position she rolled to. Begin with laying baby down at bedtime. Once he has rolled and begins to cry, give him a few minutes (3-5 is plenty) to fuss in that position. Go in and make a brief check to comfort and reassure, but do NOT reposition. Step away, even if there is still some crying. Continue letting baby fuss in these 3-5 minute rounds (whatever you feel comfortable allowing) and continue to make brief checks UNTIL your child has fallen asleep. After a few nights, rolling into this new position will be completely fine for him to fall asleep to. But remember, stick to it – throughout the night and during their naps!
Other things to remember
1. Remove the swaddle: It’s so important to remove your child’s swaddle at this point. Hands should be free so once she rolls, she won’t be completely helpless in this position.
2. Remove all items in the crib: Have the crib free of items that she can easily roll onto. Bumper-free, blanket-free, and stuffed-animals-free!
3. Keeping your child’s room dark and with a sound machine on the entire night will only help create an easier path for your sleep training experience.
4. Practice, practice, practice! During the day, spend time working on rolling.
5. Don’t forget – consistency is key!