Every baby’s different, but most start rolling from front to back around 4 months, and pretty soon after they can hold their heads up. It’ll take time and coordination to flip from back to front, though, so don’t expect that direction to happen until around 5 months. And then, watch out! Rolling can get baby from point A to point B pretty effectively and surprisingly fast, so if you haven’t already, now’s the time to go on a babyproofing rampage
How it happens
Newborns have what’s called the “fencing reflex,” which prevents them from rolling over in those first few weeks. When a newborn’s face is turned to one side, his or her arm and leg on that side extend while the opposite arm and leg flex. “It’s nature’s built-in mechanism for preventing SIDS,” says Cheryl Wu, MD, a pediatrician in New York City. Once that reflex starts to disappear (it should be completely gone by 6 months) and baby has the strength and tone to hold him or herself upright in your arms or raise his or her chest off the floor, it's a sign that baby's strong enough to roll. Typically, baby will roll from front to back first as we mentioned above.
How to encourage baby
“You usually have to teach babies how to roll,” says Wu, who often gives them that initial push in her office. “I put babies on their left side and extend the left arm so they don’t get stuck. I pull gently on the right arm to teach them what it feels like to move. They have this ‘what just happened?’ look on their faces. You can also move their legs to help them pivot.” After baby experiences this new sensation a few times, he or she will likely decide to try it on his or her own.
What if it’s not happening?
“If rolling is the only thing a baby isn’t doing, I usually don’t worry about it,” Wu says. “If baby is already sitting up and pushing herself up. It’s fine.” But if baby isn’t hitting other milestones, you’ll want to check in with your pediatrician. Help things along at home by starting tummy time for an hour a day as early as possible. “Whenever baby is awake and quiet, put him on his belly,” Wu says. This way, baby will be in the correct position to start practicing pushing him or herself up.
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