Motor development timing varies considerably among babies, but the order of the developmental tasks remains the same. Head and neck muscles are the first to come under a baby's control. Muscle control moves downward, toward the feet. Babies typically roll from tummy to back first beginning at around 4 months of age and then back to tummy around 6 months of age, according to the A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. Many factors can affect when a baby rolls from tummy to back for the first time, making a fairly wide range of time for the milestone to happen. If your baby hasn't turned over at all by the sixth month, contact your pediatrician, advises the Centers for Disease Control.
Activity Promotes Motor Development
To roll from tummy to back, a baby needs to strengthen his torso and arm muscles, according to KidsHealth. Plenty of tummy time and floor play each day is the ideal way to develop these muscles. Many babies don't get the daily activity their developing muscles need, spending most of their awake time in baby seats. Multipurpose car seats that go from car to stroller to home have made this especially common, according to a University of Indianapolis Health Sciences article. Insufficient daily activity can slow the muscle development that timely motor skill acquisition requires, asserts the American Physical Therapy Association. Daily physical activity promotes healthy motor development. Start tummy time on the first day home from the hospital, beginning with three to five minutes two or three times a day, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Weight Can Impact Development
Overweight infants face a higher risk of motor development delays, according to a study performed by researchers from the School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The longitudinal study followed infants from 3 to 18 months of age and was published in the “Journal of Pediatrics.” Study results revealed that an overweight infant is 1.80 times more likely to have delayed motor development than an infant who is not overweight. Daily physical activity can help prevent the excess weight that can impede your baby's motor development. Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With formula, demand feeding can help keep weight within healthy guidelines. Just feed your baby when he's hungry, not by the clock. Trust him to know when he's full instead of pushing him to take the last ounce or two of a bottle.
Timing Isn't Everything
Between 4 and 7 months of age, your baby will probably roll over both ways, according to KidsHealth. The tummy-to-back roll typically happens around the beginning of the period and the back-to-tummy roll toward the end. It's important to mention late arrivals at milestones to your pediatrician. That way, he has an accurate overview of your baby's development and a better opportunity to catch a problem early if one should develop. With a developmental delay diagnosis, it's better to identify it earlier than later, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Earlier intervention often yields a better outcome. If there is a delay, remember that timing isn't everything. That the tummy-to-back roll was achieved is worth far more in the end than when or at what age it happened.
Rolling Babies Will Travel
Your baby's tummy-to-back roll makes him mobile. Don't make the mistake of underestimating his abilities. Rolling babies will travel, sometimes moving surprisingly fast. When a baby acquires mobility, everything changes. A couple of minutes unsupervised on the floor, long enough to answer the door or grab a cup of coffee, can result in a traveling baby jamming himself under a sofa edge or rolling into a coffee table leg, tipping the table over -- and everything on it. Once your baby can move on his own, don't trust him to stay still. Keep your eyes on him at all times.
- A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children: Normal and Abnormal Development in the Infant and Pre-School Child
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Important Milestones: Your Baby at Six Months
- KidsHealth: Movement, Coordination, and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
- University of Indianapolis: Baby Containers: Are We Living in a Culture of Overuse?
- American Physical Therapy Association: Lack of 'Tummy Time' Leads to Motor Delays in Infants, PTs Say
- HealthyChildren.org: Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play
- The Journal of Pediatrics: Infant Overweight Is Associated with Delayed Motor Development
- Pediatrics: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
- HealthyChildren.org: Amount and Schedule of Formula Feedings
- Pediatrics: Motor Delays: Early Identification and Evaluation