How to Encourage a Baby to Roll Over

Baby on tummy with mom

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight / Getty Images

Rolling over is one of the first big milestones that babies reach. This is their first foray into the world of mobility, and it's an exciting development for both them and their parents.

As you begin to think about your baby reaching this milestone, you may have questions. If your baby doesn’t seem to be interested in rolling over or seems far away from being able to, you may wonder when babies typically gain this skill and if and when you should be concerned.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new, adjusted developmental milestones, in which they list 'rolls from tummy to back as a 6-month milestone," says Laura Jana, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, about half of babies will start rolling over from tummy to back at around 4 months old, says Dr. Jana.

Learn more about when you can expect your baby to roll over, how to encourage them to roll, and how to keep your baby safe as they become more mobile.

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When Do Babies Roll Over?

Although there is a range when it comes to rolling over, most babies learn this skill by 4 to 6 months old. Your baby will start by rolling from their tummy to their back. Some babies even begin demonstrating this skill by 3 months.

Over a few months, your baby will perfect this skill, including accomplishing the more challenging directional roll of back to front. By 6 months, approximately 75% of babies will be able to roll over from front to back, says Dr. Jana. Additionally, many babies are able to roll both ways by the time they are 6 months old or soon after.

At about 4 months of age, most babies also have the ability to hold their head up without support, hold a small toy, and push up on their elbows while lying on their tummy (like a baby pushup). All of these skills aid in their mastery of the skill to roll over.

As long as your baby is beginning to practice these skills between 4 to 6 months—even if they have not mastered them—they are on track. However, if your baby has no rolling or simple mobility skills by 6 months, you should contact their pediatrician.

How to Encourage Your Baby to Roll Over

Babies will learn to roll over instinctually, so it's not something you need to teach them. However, while it's not necessary to do anything explicitly, there are things you can do to encourage this key developmental milestone, says Dr. Jana.

Give Your Baby Tummy Time

Placing your baby on their tummy, which is often called tummy time, is a great way to bolster the skills needed for rolling over. "First and foremost, it’s really important to provide babies the time and (safe) space to move," says Dr. Jana.

Most pediatricians recommend you give your baby tummy time every day starting from their earliest days.

What Is Tummy Time

Tummy time is placing your baby on their tummy in a safe, comfortable area, and then letting them play. You can place them on a play mat, in their crib, on the floor, or place them directly on your belly as you gently hold them in place.

Some babies do not enjoy tummy time at first, and you shouldn’t force them to do it, especially if they are fussy or cry. Also, remember that tummy time is only for babies who are awake and supervised. The safest position to leave a baby unsupervised is in their crib (or other safe, contained, baby-proofed space) on their backs.

Tips for Tummy Time

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 3 to 5 minutes of tummy time, 2 to 3 times a day. However, you don’t have to do it in a formal way or on a set schedule. You also don't need to count the minutes or number of days you do it, especially if your baby isn’t enjoying it yet.

Doing tummy time spontaneously and with playfulness is best. With that in mind, don’t attempt tummy time when your baby is fussy. Make sure your baby has a clean diaper and isn’t overtired before starting. Consider trying tummy time when your baby wakes up from a nap and is refreshed.

Try tummy time in very small chunks at first. End the session if your baby seems upset or uncomfortable in the position. Enticing them with a toy either in your hands or placed on the baby's side can encourage them to raise their head and look around while on their tummy and add motivation to roll over, says Dr. Jana.

Always supervise your baby during tummy time. Interact with your baby and make eye contact. "It can make the process more fun and interactive for babies if you actually get down on the floor and lay with, look at, and interact," suggests Dr. Jana.

How to Make Your Space Safe

Once your baby can roll over, a whole new world opens up for them because they can move. But it also means that you have to be more careful as well, says Dr. Jana. Once your baby becomes mobile—or shows signs of mobility—their abilities can take you by surprise,

"It’s really important that parents realize that even newborns, on occasion, can and do manage to roll over, making it necessary to plan accordingly. This is especially important when it comes to preventing falls and injuries," says Dr. Jana.

As such, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, never leave your baby unattended and be particularly mindful when they are on an elevated surface, such as a changing table, sofa, or bed, says Dr. Jana. They can roll over and fall to the floor.

Make sure to always supervise your baby when they play and remove any choking hazards or toys with loose, dangling strings or detachable parts. "Definitely get down at your baby’s level (wherever they will be laying or rolling) and make sure there are no nearby sharp edges or objects, such as sharp or hard corners of furniture or even carpet tacks," says Dr. Jana.

Check that the surface you put them on is firm, says Dr. Jana. "Make very sure there are no soft, fluffy blankets or objects that baby could get tangled in, roll onto, or otherwise obstruct baby's breathing."

When it comes to sleep, you should continue to place your baby (up to their first birthday) on their back to sleep as this is the safest sleep position and reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, if they roll over, you don't need to keep putting them back on their back.

When to Call a Doctor

Again, there is a range of normal when it comes to rolling over. Some babies begin to roll over as early as 3 months and most babies start between 4 and 6 months.

The AAP outlines three scenarios where it might be appropriate to call your pediatrician about your baby’s inability to roll over: These are, firstly, if your baby (at any age) stops being able to roll over after previously being able to do so. Secondly, if, at 6 months or older, your baby can’t roll from belly to back. Lastly, if, at 6 months or older, your baby’s muscles seem especially stiff or floppy

If a baby is not meeting or achieving the milestone by 6 months, they should be further evaluated and assessed more closely, says Dr. Jana.

In all of these cases, your baby could still be within the realm of normal. But it’s important to discuss things with a pediatrician so they can rule out any developmental delays that may require early intervention.

A Word From Verywell

It's natural to worry if your baby seems a bit behind schedule with developmental milestones. Keep in mind that with the milestone of rolling over, there is a range of what's considered normal. However, if your child hasn’t reached the milestone by 6 months—or if you have any concerns at all about their mobility at any point—don’t hesitate to reach out to a doctor.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: your baby by four months.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Back to sleep, tummy to play.

  4. Moon RY, Darnall RA, Feldman-Winter L, Goodstein MH, Hauck FR. Sids and other sleep-related infant deaths: updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Does my child have physical developmental delays?

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