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Newborn Basics

When Will Baby Roll Over?

I’m really excited for baby to hit the “rolling over” milestone. When will it happen? 

Every baby’s different, but around four months most start rolling from front to back, 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 to happen until around five months. And then, watch out! Rolling can get baby from point A to point B pretty effectively, so if you haven’t already, now’s the time to go on a baby-proofing 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, her arm and leg on that side extend while the arm and leg on the opposite side flex. “It’s nature’s 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 six months) and baby has the strength and tone to hold herself upright in your arms or raise her chest off the floor, she’s strong enough to roll. Typically, she’ll roll from front to back first.

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 if 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, she’ll probably decide to try it on 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 her on her belly,” Wu says. This way, she’ll be in the correct position to start practicing pushing herself up.

Plus, more from The Bump:

What Baby Will Do When

Milestone Paranoia: Why We Get It and How to Deal

How to Raise a Happy Baby

By Anisa Arsenault