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Motor Milestones

Your Most Common Rolling Questions Answered

Dr. Allison Mell, DPT
January 4, 2023
Your Most Common Rolling Questions Answered

Congratulations on your new addition! At this stage, it seems like your baby is doing something new every day and it really is incredible to watch. Rolling may be one of the milestones you are looking forward to as it’s the start of newly gained independence with a big increase in baby’s mobility. It also adds a significant piece of their foundation by strengthening their muscles, providing lots of vestibular (sensory) input, and learning to coordinate movement between different parts of their bodies.

Parents have lots of questions about this milestone and this blog is here to help!

What are some things my baby should be doing to get the rolling process started?

  1. Tummy Time. Baby needs to be comfortable on his/her belly to strengthen the arm muscles needed to push up and over onto their backs.

  1. Supine Play. When babies are playing on their backs, they reach up to grad and play with their feet- this is a great ab workout! 

  1. Sidelying Play. Positioning baby to play on their sides helps baby understand what that halfway point between belly and back positioning feels like.This is a great way for baby to get used to the movement of rolling and not be scared when they make it to their side.

  1. Visually tracking toys and objects in all directions. Motivation is a big part of rolling and if baby is able to visually track a toy off to the side, it will help lead the head and trunk to roll over.

Is it normal for my baby to roll over at 1, 2 or 3 months old? When should my baby be rolling consistently? 

While you might see your newborn roll over from tummy to back very early on, this usually happens accidentally! Because babies’ heads are so heavy compared to the rest of their bodies, they may find themselves on their back after rocking themselves side to side reflexively during tummy time. Typically, babies begin and master rolling between 4-6 months old.  Babies may begin rolling from belly to back first or back to belly first and either one is considered typical! If your baby isn’t rolling within this time frame, there is a full rolling course inside the Tots On Target Membership! Plus members benefit from weekly group zoom calls to get extra support with applying the tips shared in the course.

My baby started rolling then stopped! What’s going on?

There are a few reasons why a baby may have started rolling and then stopped. 

  1. Baby did it accidentally a few times and hasn’t yet really mastered the skill purposefully.
  2. Baby may be experiencing some pain that’s impacting interest in rolling like teething or digestive issues. 
  3. Baby may be distracted by other skills at the moment and isn’t as interested in rolling right now.

If your baby was rolling consistently and purposefully, but then stopped, it’s likely not concerning. Offer lots of open floor time and try placing toys just out of reach on either side of baby's head to motivate some movement.

Is it ok if my baby only rolls towards one side (right or left)?

While this can happen initially when baby is learning to roll, pretty soon baby should be rolling both to the right and left sides consistently. This should happen naturally and can be encouraged by placing toys on both baby's right and left sides. 

A history of a tongue/lip tie, torticollis, or muscle tightness can lead to movement restrictions, making rolling to one side more difficult than to the other. If you notice baby isn’t moving symmetrically, this is a sign that they might need some extra support. 

My baby rolls from back to belly and then gets stuck. This is affecting our sleep, help!

Babies usually learn how to roll in one direction before the other, making that in-between phase tricky! Often babies learn to roll back to belly first (because they spend more time on their backs), and they roll in their sleep and find themselves on their tummies, unable to get back into their comfy sleep position. And boy, will they make sure the whole house knows about their struggle!

Firstly, this is a phase and your baby (and you!) will get through it. Until then, help baby roll back over from tummy to back during playtime to help her learn the motions. If you need guidance on how to do that, my membership has great video demonstrations! 

My baby looks like she’s flying in tummy time and won’t push up through her arms long enough to roll over. What should I do?

This “superman pose” is actually called the Landau Reflex and is a very normal part of baby development. It usually appears between 3-5 months old and integrates around 12 months old. This flying position helps baby strengthen the back and neck muscles needed for sitting, crawling, and walking. It’s fine to let your baby “fly”, but if baby is getting frustrated or you want to help baby practice rolling from belly to back, try tucking the arms under the shoulders. Baby will have a hard time rolling over if those arms are out to the sides.

My baby never rolled, but is already sitting. Is that ok?

Rolling is actually a pretty important milestone where baby is expanding visual tracking skills, crossing midline, building strength in the arms, neck, and core, and learning how to move each part of the body segmentally. If baby skips this milestone, they can miss some of these very important foundational skills and need to catch up later on, whether on their own or with some assistance. Sitting doesn’t require coordination of all the same muscle groups. If you see baby isn’t rolling or is not making any progress in this skill at 6 months, there’s usually a reason and it’s better to seek advice  earlier if you can!

Bottom Line: Rolling is actually a pretty complex skill and takes a lot of strength, coordination, and practice for baby to achieve. Whether baby goes from back to belly or belly to back, you should start to see this skill emerging and achieved between 4-6 months of age. There are many different things you can do to help aid in your child being ready to roll. Give them assistance when needed and be ready to celebrate when they accomplish this new trick! 

If you think you need a little more help in guiding your baby to reach this milestone, I encourage you to check out the Tots on Target Membership. Not only will you find a full course on rolling, you can also hop on a weekly zoom call with me (and other parents!) to discuss all things baby development! 

 

Dr. Allison Mell is the founder of Tots on Target and a physical therapist based out of New Jersey.

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