As your baby grows, there are countless little milestones worth celebrating as they constantly develop new skills and abilities. Many of these are extremely exciting occasions, such as your baby’s first laugh or when they’re finally able to sit upright without support. However, other milestones bring with them a certain amount of concern!
One of these moments is when your little one first flips themselves over onto their front. While you’re likely to be impressed by their new-found strength and agility, you may rethink your initial excitement when you consider the impact on their safety.
Babies usually learn how to kick themselves over from their tummy to their back when they’re about 4 or 5 months old. Rolling the other way around, from back to tummy, requires more neck and arm strength and is usually achieved about a month or two later.
While this is a completely natural process and an important milestone that all babies go through, it’s also natural for parents to worry about their babies rolling over at night when they’re not able to help them. This is partly because many experts claim that sleeping on their backs is the safest position for babies at night, minimizing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
To help parents during this milestone, we’ve prepared a list of 6 tips to help you appreciate your little one’s new skill without unnecessary stress.
1. Is Your Baby Rolling Over? Time to Stop Swaddling!
When your baby starts to roll around during sleep, frequently fidgeting to free their arms from the swaddle position, it’s a high time to stop swaddling. When done correctly, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep, however, loose kicked-off swaddle in the crib can be a huge risk factor. As well as increasing the chance of overheating, your baby rolling on their tummy during sleep can get them tangled, covering their faces and increasing the risk of suffocation and SIDS.
This is why our first and most important tip is to stop swaddling as soon as you see the first signs of your little one trying to roll. However, most babies at this stage are not yet ready for a sleepsuit as they still enjoy the warmth of the swaddle and the safe, cozy sleeping environment it provides. Luckily, there are many swaddle transition products on the market that help you gradually accustom your baby to a new sleeping phase.
Are you interested in swaddle alternatives that produce a cozy, womb-like environment for your baby to keep them safe when they start rolling over at night? Check out sleeping sacks for babies, arm-out swaddles, or the Zipadee-Zip .
2. Ensure Safety in the Crib
Once you’ve transitioned your baby out of the swaddle, the next tip is to take care of safety in the crib. As mentioned before, eliminate all loose materials that could cover the baby’s face or tangle them up, like sheets, blankets and soft items like pillows and stuffed toys.
Also, make sure the mattress fits the crib snugly with no gaps down the side of the bed. There should be less than two fingers between the side of the crib and mattress at all times. A good sign of a safe baby mattress is if you actually have to squeeze it inside the crib. This will ensure there are absolutely no gaps for your baby to get stuck in or trapped.
3. Encourage Your Baby to Roll
As rolling over is an essential milestone for your little one’s healthy development, you should encourage your baby to roll and develop this skill further. And what better way to do this than through play!
Whether you’re wiggling their favourite stuffed toy as an incentive or showing them how it’s done by rolling over yourself, it’s really up to you. The important thing is that you encourage and positively reinforce their new-found ability to roll over.
Your baby will naturally start to learn to roll on one side when they develop greater mobility. This is a good starting point for helping them improve this skill. Simply identify their preferred side from looking at which direction they automatically lean towards and encourage them to complete the move without giving up.
4. Encourage Plenty of Tummy Time
Making sure your little one gets plenty of time on their stomach helps them build strength in their back, neck and arms. This will prove important when she later needs it for that big push onto their other side, preventing them from becoming stuck in an uncomfortable position while sleeping or lying in their crib alone. Start by slowly introducing your baby to tummy time by placing them face-down on your lap for a couple of minutes each morning.
You can later extend tummy time to periods of up to 15-20 minutes at a time. However, always remember to watch your baby carefully during these sessions. You can also show your baby how it’s done by gently moving them from side to side and then onto their backs, so they’re used to the movement.
5. Let Your Baby Roll Over at Night
Some babies roll into an uncomfortable position when they’re sleeping, causing them to wake up crying. This phase shouldn’t last longer than a few weeks while your little one develops the strength and mobility needed to roll back over into a more comfortable position.
In the meantime, we recommend placing your crying baby on it’s back and soothing it to sleep. Many baby sleep products can help to prevent babies from rolling over and getting stuck at night, helping them to achieve a better, deeper sleep — uninterrupted by an uncomfortable sleeping position on their tummy.
Onesies are a natural next step after transitioning your baby out of the swaddle. They can increase their amount of freedom at night, reducing the frequency of your baby waking up and crying.
6. Just Roll With It!
Our last and arguably most important tip in this article is to just roll with it! While this particular milestone brings with it certain concerns for your baby’s safety, don’t forget that it’s all part of the process and all parents have to deal with it at some point during their child’s development.
As long as you understand the correct precautions to take, don't forget to celebrate this moment as a sign of your baby getting increasingly stronger and more agile. Take the time to teach them the skills they need and reward them with plenty of smiles and encouragement when they’ eventually conquer the roll over
Finally, remember that all babies hit developmental milestones at their own pace, and in their own time. It may take weeks of tummy time before your baby learns to push themselves up on their arms and roll onto their back, and many more weeks before she figures out how to tuck their arms under their body to roll back over onto its stomach.
Even rolling in the crib at night shouldn’t be a cause for concern — just continue to put your baby to sleep on their back and allow them to roll. Many babies actually enjoy sleeping on their tummies and shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so as long as they’re safe and happy.