We often receive enquiries from concerned parents about their baby not rolling over at 6 months, and while we know that babies learn at slightly different speeds, there are key time points for when we’d expect to see them achieving certain developmental movement milestones. 

When do baby’s roll over? 

We expect most babies to be able to roll consistently from their tummy to their back at around 4 ½  months. By 6 months babies should have mastered tummy to back rolling and also the reverse movement of the back to tummy roll.  

Rolling is an important skill for your child to learn as it allows them to experience moving on their own in a rotational plane. It requires your baby to develop the skill of turning ‘on and off’ their tummy and back muscles as well as coordinating their head, eye movements and weight shifts. It is important only to give your baby as much help as they need, however there are safe exercises that parents can do to encourage their baby to achieve these rolling movements.

Steps to teach your baby to roll over from their back to their tummy

Step 1: 

With your baby lying on its back, start by introducing a toy to engage and draw your baby’s attention. 

Step 2: 

Move the toy across their body, so that they reach their arm across and arch their back following the toy. Maintaining your baby’s engagement with the toy, place it above their head and to the side, just out of their reach. 

Step 3: 

With your baby reaching for the toy, bring up their top leg up and slowly roll them over. 

Top Tip: If their arm gets stuck underneath them while they’re rolling over, instead of pulling their arm out, teach them to lift their bottom to release their arm. You can encourage them to lift their bottom by gently pulling on their legs – which will help shift their weight off their tucked under arm. 

If you have any questions or concerns about how your baby is rolling or moving, or you feel stuck on how to get them to the next step – let us help. We can help find the missing piece to the puzzle and teach your exercises to help boost them along.


When we look at how babies develop we know that they learn at slightly different speeds but there are key time points where we expect to see them achieving certain movements e.g. rolling by 5 months. Learning to move is a complex process, it relies on many systems working together.  Some children may learn slower as they have been exposed to risk factors during pregnancy or in the first few months of life.  Infants who are born premature (>36 weeks), having a low birth weight, their mother had an infection whilst pregnant (listeria or toxoplasmosis), there was reduced placenta health, can increase the risk of them having a neurological concern or cerebral palsy.  However, we are lucky with current research and international collaboration of specialists within the area of child development as we now know what we should be looking out for. What are the red flags or movements that we see in the baby that means we should be taking a closer look?

So what are these “early warning” signs?

  • Is your baby showing a hand preference before 1 year?
  • Are they older than 6 months and they cannot get their feet to their mouth or their legs feel stiff and are hard to bend?
  • Are they older than 4 months and keep their hands closed tightly (fisted/ clenched) most of the time?
  • Are they not able to hold their head in line with their body when pulled up to sitting (older than 4 months of age)?
  • Are they Can they sit by themselves



Babies have been swaddled or wrapped for thousands of years and it is enmeshed in many cultures around the world. It is designed to provide containment and mimic being in the womb. More recently in New Zealand swaddling was promoted with the introduction of the back-to-sleep campaign. Back sleeping is not an instinctive position for babies, but this combined approach helped them go to sleep and made an incredible difference to sudden infant death syndrome rates. However recently in some regions in New Zealand, there has been a move away from teaching new mothers how to swaddle. This intrigued me, so I went on a search to find the scientific evidence for the change in practice.

What does the research say?

Key findings: Tight, full-body, heavy fabric swaddling can cause significant issues

  • Swaddling that is tight with arms bound to their side (elbows straight) has been found to increase chest (respiratory) infections compared to non-swaddled babies
  • Tight swaddling around the hips and legs has been linked to hip development problems (hip dysplasia)
  • Heavy synthetic fabrics have been found to raise an infant’s body temperatures beyond the normally accepted temperature.

However there is nothing about how it might be beneficial for infants or parents if done correctly (hands up near their faces, loose around their hips, or not include their hips with a breathable light cotton fabric).

  1. If you recall your antenatal ultrasound scans, you may have seen your baby’s hands up by their face or busily sucking on their thumb or fingers. Developmental swaddling which encourages their hands up by their face can help maintain this familiar and comforting position.
  2. In neonatal units, supportive positioning is common practice as they are born with low muscle tone. Containment swaddling or nesting helps prevent over-stretching of chest muscles from the effects of gravity, provides good alignment of shoulder blades, and improves the baby’s energy expenditure. As a developmental therapist, there are noticeable differences in arm and body posture in non-swaddled term babies too. They tend to have tighter shoulder blade muscles and longer chest muscles making bringing their hands together and reaching up harder. It is visible when they are learning to roll and in sitting
  3. Containment can help babies learn self-regulation, their ability to self-settle in the first few months after birth. If you are a new parent, you would be familiar with this period called the fourth trimester. During this time, parents are encouraged to support their babies to learn this skill which helps them go to sleep and return to sleep if woken after a sleep cycle.
  4. I have heard the rumor babies who have not been swaddled lose their startle reflexes faster. In my experience, this is not the result of swaddling but the baby’s ability to control their arms. This voluntary control of their arms and legs is learned at around the age of two to three months.  If we are comparing babies who are swaddled all the time during their awake periods then yes but I am recommending developmental swaddling for sleep only.
  5. Good sleep is important to both parents and babies. For infants, good quality REM sleep is when they lay down their new learning for the day (motor learning) and this will help them learn the voluntary control discussed earlier as well as promote weight gain, growth, and stabilization of hormones compared to overtired upset babies.


When should I stop swaddling?

When your child starts showing signs of rolling from their back to their tummy is a good time to stop. For most babies, they learn to roll consistently at 4 to 5 months of age. Some babies roll earlier than this. If they have accidentally rolled over they might have demonstrated this skill once or twice then stop for a few weeks this is normal at 2 to 3 months of age.

I would recommend weaning the swaddling off. Start with no swaddling for day sleeps then progress to no swaddling for night sleeps after a few days of practice. The Love to dream range has a progression suit that allows you to zip off the arm covers to help them slowly get used to the change in sleep support.

Steps to Developmentally Swaddle

  • Hands up by their shoulders
  • keep it loose around hips and legs
  • use lightweight fabrics and do not overdress your baby
  1. lay wrap with a point at one end – like a diamond
  2. fold the top corner down around 1/3 of the wrap
  3. lay baby on the wrap with fold line at the level of their ear lobes
  4. tuck one hand into the “pocket” created from folding down the corner, pull the end across to the opposite side of their body, and tuck under
  5. repeat with their other hand as in step 5
  6. fold up the bottom of the wrap loosely fitting around their waist.

Watch the video to learn how to developmentally swaddle your baby. Check out the link here

I don’t want to developmentally swaddle my baby.

I would recommend providing opportunities to counter the muscle imbalance changes through play if you do decide to not use developmental swaddling. Encouraging more side-lying play, using body slings, and supporting their arms together during cuddles and feeds will help.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about developmental swaddling.

Hopefully, this has answered a few of your questions and also allowed you to work out what is best for you and your baby when it comes to swaddling. If you stick to the developmental method of swaddling with breathable light fabrics it can be a great way to ensure a successful night’s sleep. But if you find it stressful or challenging then swaddling may not be for you.



  1. Patricia FrancoNicole SeretJean-Noël Van HeesSonia ScailletJosé GroswasserAndré Kahn. Influence of Swaddling on Sleep and Arousal Characteristics of Healthy Infants, Pediatrics 
  2.  Bregje E. van SleuwenAdèle C. EngelbertsMagda M. Boere-BoonekampWietse KuisTom W.J. Schulpen and Monique P. L’Hoir. Swaddling: A Systematic Review,
  3. Nelson, Antonia M. RNC-MNN, PhD, CNE, IBCLC Risks and Benefits of Swaddling Healthy Infants, MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July/August 2017 – Volume 42 – Issue 4 – p 216-225 doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000344


Tummy-time doesn’t have to be a battle although it can feel like it when your babe is protesting. Starting tummy-time when they are newborns is a great place to start but it can be hard to find when to fit it in. In the first few weeks, it feels like they are sleeping, feeding, pooping, and crying on repeat. The ‘awake and ready to play’ window for tummy time just doesn’t seem to happen. Keep trying but often parents find it easier the older they get. Generally from eight weeks on they have longer ‘awake’ periods. It is also good to try and work out what might be making tummy-time less enjoyable for your baby. This might require an external pair of eyes but things like reflux, neck and shoulder strength or family history of very flexible joints can be factors.

How can we overcome the tummy-time battle?

  1. Set the right expectations. They might only manage 20 or 30 seconds their first few Tummy-time supporttimes before they start getting grizzly.
  2. Alignment helps. Help position their elbows inline or slightly in front of their shoulders and tucked into their side. When they are first learning to push up on their tummy, they often struggle to keep their arms against their side.
  3. Get creative and try different positions. Tummy-time can be over your lap, supermans in the air when you bring them through from their bedroom, lying tummy to tummy on your chest, lying across a big ball (starting semi-upright (way easier for them), after a change on their change mat.
  4. Use distractions and keep it fun. Get down to their eye level, try lying face to face on the mat. Use a mirror to see themselves or crinkly noisy fabric that they can explore.
  5. Practice practice practice. They need to build up their muscle strength and endurance. Roll them off their tummy, keep it playful, after a short rest, try again. Practice a few times in a row.  It is also important to practice tummy-time on the floor or a firm surface (carpet or mat) as this is where they will learn how it feels to have weight through their shoulders, forearms, and tummy it is very different from lying tummy to tummy with you. They will feel little weight shifts that are vital for reaching and crawling development.


Baby development

Hands to feet play is an important developmental milestone that we should encourage. Babies learn to move by layering each new skill on top of each other. They also use skills learnt in one position to help develop their abilities in another position. Hands to feet play will develop skills that will be useful when they learn to crawl, sit and in early walking. Most babies will learn to reach their knees by four months and by six months be busy exploring of their toes and feet.  This might even include putting their toes in their mouth!


Our practice philosophy is to promote strength and development through play and exercise. We provide a holistic and comprehensive approach that is backed by clinical experience. We can create a tailored individual program to be implemented at home, childcare or school to help meet your child and family’s goals.

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