Why Do Babies Roll At Night?
They gotta move! It’s as simple as that. As babies learn new
skills, their bodies instinctively want to practice the moves. And when babies
have a firm, flat surface and no distractions (think mattress in the night),
they can’t help but move their bodies in the way they were meant to.
Crib Safety and Transition Swaddling
The first thing I recommend is to stop the swaddle or Magic
Merlin if you’re still using one. Instead, I highly recommend the Zippadee Zip
as a transition swaddle. It actually isn’t a swaddle at all, because it allows
for freedom of movement. Your baby can go from rolling over to sitting up to
crawling to standing and continue to wear a Zippadee Zip. Best of all, the
Zippadee Zip is designed to calm a baby’s startle or Moro reflex. What better
way to transition out of a swaddle than with a product designed with this in
The AAP warns against use of positioners. These products (like
the Dock a Tot and wedges with velcro attachments) are marketed to keep babies
in one place in the crib, but they are especially dangerous to a baby who is
learning to flip over.
When Rolling Causes a Night Waking
Your baby may be able to roll over from tummy to back as early
as 4 months. But it might not be until 5 or 6 months until he can roll from
back to tummy. This milestone might take you by surprise at bedtime or the
middle of the night. Even though many 5-6-month-olds can flip from tummy to
back (they’ve done it during the day, right?), they might wake up on their
tummy and cry to be flipped back over.
If your baby is flipping over in the middle of the night and
mid-nap too, you’re probably both more exhausted than ever. Almost as soon as
they are flipped over, they cry out because they’ve rolled again. Before giving
up on sleep for good, there are some things you can do to get your child’s
sleep back on track in no time.
If your child has rolled over and seems stuck, unable to get
comfortable, I suggest going in and flipping back over. If you’ve done sleep
training and your baby was sleeping through the night before starting to roll,
I recommend waiting a few minutes before going in. When you do go in, limit
interaction, flip your baby over and leave the room again. You’ll have to do it
somewhat methodically and leave the room as soon as you flip him over. Do this
at night for a week. If your baby is extremely upset when he wakes on his
tummy, you can of course comfort by touching, patting or shushing if that calms
If you’ve done this for a week with no improvement, then
continue to the next week. At the end of the second week, I recommend not going
in to flip him over anymore unless he is unable to roll both directions during
Throughout all of this, pay attention to how your baby moves
during the day. When she can easily roll both directions during the day, with
little frustration, you’ll no longer need to go in at night.
Freedom of Movement and Rolling During Day
During the day, be sure to give him plenty of time to move
around and practice on the floor. The more he can practice on his own during
the day, the faster he will get there. While I don’t like rushing babies
through milestone, I understand how hard it is when sleep is fragmented. Babies
are naturally inclined to practice moving as much as they can, and I feel it is
best to give them opportunities. When given plenty of space and surface to
move, babies get used to their bodies and move as nature intended. This is a
big reason why I am not a fan of bouncy seats, jumpers, swings and strollers
for daytime sitting. These items are confining, and in the end, may inhibit a child’s
ability to get comfortable in his body.
When Will It Stop?
Once you notice that he can roll both directions during the day,
let him flip back over on his own at night. If he has already learned
independent sleep skills and can put himself to sleep at bedtime, he should
easily go back to sleeping a solid 11-12-hour night after a week or two of
needing assistance at night.
If anytime during those two weeks, he masters rolling both
directions, and ends up sleeping peacefully on his tummy, don’t move him.
Silently congratulate him and let him be. That’s one milestone accomplished.
According to the AAP, babies are safe to sleep on their tummies if they have
good head and neck control and can roll both directions.
What Helped Your Baby?
How did you get through this milestone? I’m always interested in
hearing what works for families. If I can help in
any way, I’d love to. I’m here for questions, or if you’re struggling with a
baby who’s not sleeping through the night, email me or reach out for a call to
talk about it.