The first time you see your baby roll is an exciting moment. It’s their first step on the way to being fully mobile. But rolling can bring some problems too.
For one thing, you can no longer put your baby down and know they will stay where you left them! From the first roll, you should expect plenty of movement, and you’ll need an extra pair of eyes to keep them safe.
Rolling can also cause problems at sleep time.
When babies or young children develop a new skill, they like to practice it a lot, even when you would rather they be napping. And the cot is the perfect place to practice rolling, potentially leading to disrupted sleep and increased risks.
So, what can you do about it?
Read on to find out about how you can keep your baby safe while sleeping when they start rolling.
How To Ensure Safe Sleep When Your Baby Starts Rolling
When Do Babies Start Rolling?
Babies tend to start rolling anywhere from 3 to 6-months old. But to begin with, they will only be able to move from their back to their front. Once your baby can roll both ways, you can relax a bit.
Give your baby lots of time to practice rolling on the floor during awake time. You also need to give them plenty of tummy time. This helps to strengthen their neck and arm muscles which helps them turn their head if they end up sleeping on their front, or to push themselves back onto their back.
Why is it important for babies to sleep on their backs for the first few months?
Young babies are at risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) - when an infant passes away with no obvious cause. Although it does not always happen when the baby is asleep, many deaths do occur in cots or beds.
SIDS is relatively rare in New Zealand, but it is still important to take precautions to reduce the risk.
For babies, sleeping on their side or their tummy can increase the risk of SIDS. This is because sleeping on their front has been linked to babies going into a deeper sleep, decreasing their arousal level. Babies may also bury their faces against the mattress or in bedding, raising the risk of suffocation.
Rolling At Sleep Time
What should you do at sleep time if your baby has started rolling?
Continue to put your baby to sleep on their back at both nap times and overnight. While they are falling asleep or during their sleep, you may find they roll over. If your baby can already roll from back to front and back again, this is fine, and you may leave them to sleep.
However, if your baby can only roll one way, it is important to gently place them back onto their back.
Give baby a couple of minutes to see if they will naturally roll back. If not, then you can gently roll them. Try to do this quickly and with as little disruption and interaction as possible, and then leave straightaway. The last thing you want is your baby waking up from nap time too early!
However it isn't necessary to stay awake rolling your baby back or watching them throughout the night. The more practice your baby has to roll during the day the quicker this stage will pass.
Creating A Safe Sleeping Space
There are a few things you can do to make a baby’s sleeping area safe. Make sure that you use a firm flat mattress and a tightly tucked in sheet. Don’t add pillows or a large number of stuffed toys to the cot. If you use a blanket, place your little one at the bottom half of the cot and tuck the blanket in firmly, making sure it comes no further up than their chest.
A better idea is to use a sleep sack. These keep your baby warm and cosy while reducing the risk of blankets or other bedding bunching up around them. Sleep sacks also leave their arms free.
Top tip, place your baby near the bottom of the cot and tuck the bottom of the sleep sack down the end of the mattress to hinder rolling.
Remember that once your baby starts rolling, you must stop swaddling them if you have been. Swaddling involves putting your baby’s arms inside a blanket or wrap, and once they start rolling this becomes dangerous. Also avoid using wedges, sleep positioners or rolled up blankets to hold your baby on their back, these also pose a safety risk.
If you are worried that your baby may roll to the edge of the cot and get their arms or legs stuck in the bars, then a safety approved cot bumper can be helpful. Make sure you choose a breathable bumper like the Breathable Baby mesh cot bumper. This ensures air can still flow around the cot and reduces the risk of your baby rolling up against the bumper and restricting their breathing.
Help Is Always Available
As with any change in your baby’s routine, it can be challenging to navigate the transition when they start rolling. If you’d like some support with this or any sleep issue, please get in touch. I work with all types of families to develop caring sleep solutions that really work.