During the first few months of your baby's life, it's basically business as usual: eat, sleep, poop, repeat. Still, as a new parent you're probably enraptured by every smile, coo and movement from your growing child. When your newborn hits the four to six month mark, you'll start to notice some exciting changes in the way your baby interacts with the world around her. Instead of hanging out contentedly on a blanket or in her crib, she'll start testing her boundaries and preparing her tiny body for more movement.
The natural instinct to roll comes at different times for each baby, and rarely is there a child who simply cannot roll—every kid simply develops at a different rate. If you're baby's not starting to roll by six months and you're concerned about a developmental delay, talk to your pediatrician.
Rolling over is a vital step for physical development and scooting, crawling and getting around. Here are a few things that you can do to usher in a new age of babyhood in your home, and help your baby build the muscles necessary to rock and roll!
- Watch for signs of readiness. You can't force a too-young baby to roll over on her own—it's not going to happen. Watch for signs that your little one is ready to start trying, like lifting her head up while she's lying on a blanket, or reaching for toys when she's on her belly. These signal that her neck muscles are strong enough to sustain the movement of rolling over, making it safe for you to encourage the unfamiliar motion. Babies are usually ready to roll from the belly to the back around four to six months, and should be rolling from the back to the front by six months.
- Offer plenty of tummy time. Tummy time should be a regular activity in your household, since it helps your baby strengthen her neck muscles and become more agile during key developmental periods. By spending time on the floor with your little one, you encourage the muscles that will be required when your babe is ready to flip-flop. If she's not a fan of tummy time, make it more stimulating by adding in toys, putting her on your stomach, or getting down on the floor with her. Pick her up when she shows signs of discontent—you want her to think of belly activities in a positive light.
- Use toys. Think your baby is really ready to make the leap to a rock n' roller? One of the best ways to encourage the movement is to use a colorful, enticing toy. "Place a rattle or another interesting toy in front of her, and when she sees it, move it over to one side, slightly above her head," suggests Pediatric occupational therapist Anne Zachry. "As she watches you moving the toy, she will be motivated to roll toward the side you are placing the toy."
- Lend a hand. There's no shame in giving your baby a boost if it looks like she's trying to roll but can't quite flip over. "If she can't make it all the way over, gently grasp her upper thigh on the side that is opposite the toy, helping her to roll to her side, then over to her tummy," suggests Zachry.
- Use a blanket. If your newly mobile baby can't quite grasp the art of rolling over, you can try helping her using a blanket. Lie your high roller on her blankie and wait until it looks as though she's trying to roll herself over. When she gets to the highest point of her pseudo-roll, lift the side of the blanket gently to help foster the rolling movement. She'll probably grin when she realizes that she's made the move from front to back, and be anxious to give it a go herself.
- Give praise. Your baby's not too young to understand positive reinforcement. When she makes the switch from back to front, offer lots of clapping, squeals and smiles to help her associate her new accomplishment with positive feelings. Then, allow her to show off her new talents by giving her plenty of time on the floor to practice and master rolling.
- Don't worry. Every baby is different. Just because your friend had a little one who rolled over at 3 months of age doesn't mean that's the norm or the standard for the skill. Every baby develops at a different pace and as long as your baby can hold her head up when laying on her belly, she'll get to the rolling over stage eventually.
If your baby has reached the six month mark and seems uninterested in turning over, speak up at your next baby check-up. Your babe might just be a slow starter, but it could be a developmental delay. With a little extra care and attention, most uncomplicated issues can be dealt with through physical therapy and home exercises. Before too long, your baby will be shake, rattling and rolling with the best of them!