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Once your baby has head control, and about the same time that he learns to sit on his own with support, he'll learn to roll over. He'll eventually learn to flip over from his back to his tummy and vice versa, and he'll use his newfound skill to get around a bit. The incentive for those early rolls is often an elusive toy – or you.
When do babies roll over?
Your baby may be able to kick himself over, from his tummy to his back, as early as age 4 months. It may take him until he's about 5 or 6 months to flip from back to front, though, because he needs stronger neck and arm muscles for that maneuver.
How babies learn to roll over
At about 3 months, when placed on his stomach, your baby will lift his head and shoulders high, using his arms for support. This mini-pushup helps him strengthen the muscles he'll use to roll over. He'll amaze you (and himself!) the first time he flips over. (While babies often flip from front to back first, doing it the other way is perfectly normal, too.)
At 5 months your baby will probably be able to lift his head, push up on his arms, and arch his back to lift his chest off the ground. He may even rock on his stomach, kick his legs, and swim with his arms.
All these exercises help him develop the muscles he needs to roll over in both directions – likely by the time he's about 6 months old.
While some babies adopt rolling as their primary mode of ground transportation for a while, others skip it altogether and move on to sitting, lunging, and crawling. As long as your child continues to gain new skills and shows interest in getting around and exploring his environment, don't worry.
How to help your baby roll over
You can encourage your baby's new skill through play. If you notice him rolling over spontaneously, see if he'll try again by wiggling a toy next to the side he customarily rolls to. Or lie down next to him on one side – just out of reach – and see if he'll roll to get closer to you. Applaud his efforts and smile. Rolling over is fun, but it can also be alarming the first few times.
Although your baby may not be able to roll over until about 5 months, it's best to keep your hand on him during diaper changes from the very beginning. Never leave your baby, even when he's a newborn, unattended on a bed or any other elevated surface. You'd hate for his first rolling-over experience to result in a serious injury.
What to do if your baby doesn't roll over
If your baby hasn't figured out how to flip one way or the other by the time he's about 6 months old, and hasn't moved on to sit and try to scoot and crawl instead, bring it up the next time you talk to his doctor.
Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others – and some babies never really take to rolling over. Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than their peers.
After your baby sits up – what's next?
Your baby developed his leg, neck, back, and arm muscles while learning to roll over. Now he'll put those same muscles to work as he learns to sit independently and crawl. Most babies have mastered sitting up sometime between 6 and 8 months; crawling comes a little later.
Where to go next
- Don’t overlook these 7 unsung milestones
- Learn what steps your baby will take on the way to walking
- Take a poll: When did your baby reach each milestone?