How To Handle The Rolling Phase

How To Handle The Rolling Phase
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

You put your sweet baby down on their back, leave the room and check the monitor…

Your baby keeps rolling to their tummy and crying. They appear stuck and they are mad about it. Cue panic!

“Safe sleep says all sleep happens on the back! I’ve got to rush in there and flip her back over!”

Then you leave the room and your baby keeps rolling, again and again and again.

This situation leaves parents saying “how do I handle the rolling phase and keep her safe!?”

AAP’s Guidance On Rolling

Place your baby on their back for every sleep. If your baby is comfortable rolling both ways (back to tummy, tummy to back), then you do not have to return your baby to their back if they roll over on their own.

AAP’s Guidance On Rolling

Let’s explore how to handle the rolling phase together.

Step 1: Keep It In Perspective

I want you to take a deep breath and remember that this is a short period while your little one is mastering a new skill! So while you are in it, it will feel challenging, but this will pass quickly. Staying calm, while your baby learns, will help the process.  

Also, your mind may say “How can I prevent the rolling?” We want to embrace the rolling. Once babies can freely roll, they can find their comfy sleep position and tend to sleep better.

Step 2: Lots and lots and lots of rolling practice

During awake times, I want you to give your little one lots of time to practice rolling. This will help your baby master this new skill.  Once your baby can roll both ways, even if it isn’t always gracefully, they can choose their sleep position.

I love this article from about teaching your baby to roll!

For the first year, you still want to put your little one down for all sleep on their back. If your baby rolls to their tummy and can roll both ways consistently, you can have confidence that your little one has the strength needed to reposition themselves if needed. 

Step 3: Have a plan on how you will respond when your baby rolls

If your baby is rolling both ways, yet they’re upset when they roll to their tummy, your instinct is likely to run right in and fix it for them.  This may work temporarily, but if your baby keeps rolling onto their tummy and crying immediately, they will quickly become overtired and you will too!  Here are some options on how to handle the rolling phase.

Option 1: For New Rollers

If your baby has just started rolling both ways and the rolling is occasionally disrupting sleep, you can try Pause, Then Roll.

This means that you want to pause for 10-15 minutes before going into the room. When you go in, boringly roll your baby over and then leave the room.  

You will have given your little love time to practice independently rolling back over. You’ll also have given time for your baby to adjust to being on their tummy.

If they immediately roll right back over, give an extra 10-15 minutes before rolling again. Continue this until your little one falls asleep or consider switching to another response strategy like the one below.

Option 2: Confident Rollers Who Forget

You’ll want to take a more hands-off approach if your baby stopped rolling over after being able to roll for a while and can confidently roll both ways during tummy time. Sometimes our little ones…

  • Seems to forget once they hit the crib or
  • They are rolling for fun / attention

If your child keeps rolling and becomes upset, don’t flip your little one over. Instead respond consistently with your preferred sleep coaching method.

This will give your child time to adjust to sleeping on their tummy and if they are rolling for fun or attention, they will learn that rolling won’t get Mom or Dad to come running in for a quick cuddle.

This is normally effective within 2-3 days as your little one will now be used to sleeping in both positions.

picture of a sleeping baby with his hand over his head and the text says teach your baby to start sleeping better tonight. learn more. transform your baby's sleep online course

Additional Tips

  • When using the strategies above, start at night when the drive to sleep is stronger.  It will make it easier for your baby. You can move into naps the following day, once your little one has had time to practice.
  • If your baby won’t sleep without the swaddle but rolls over and is newly unswaddled or newly rolling, you may consider using a sleep sack that has a built-in, sleep safe lovey to give your baby something to do with their hands. This can cut down on rolling.  My favorite is the Snuggy Buddy. (coupon code BELLALUNA10 for 10% off!)
  • Did I mention practice? Ok, good – lots of rolling practice during awake times. You can also add a short rolling session as part of your bedtime routine so your little one has practiced right before going into their crib.
  • We always recommend a pitch black nursery, but this can be especially important during the rolling phase so your little one isn’t getting distracted.

If you need help through this process or your baby hasn’t yet mastered independent sleep yet, we’d love to help you figure it all out!  Reach out today to learn more and set up a free intro call to talk about working together.

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