Has rolling over started to interrupt your baby’s sleep? Here’s what to do when your baby rolls over in their sleep and cries!

Baby rolls over in sleep and cries

If your baby has started rolling over in their sleep, you might be low-key panicking about their safety.

As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, parents often ask me if it’s okay if their baby rolls over in their sleep and what they can do about it.

If your baby rolls over in their sleep and cries, don’t fret! I’m here to give you some pointers on the best and safest ways to handle your baby rolling over in the crib.

Baby rolls over in sleep on a safe crib surface

What Age Do Babies Roll Over in Sleep?

Most babies start to roll over between 3 to 6 months old.

Infants are able to roll over as soon as their neck and core are strong enough.

Typically babies will roll from their belly to their back first and then later be able to roll from their back to their tummy. Every baby reaches the rolling milestones at different rates based on development.

Whether your baby rolls over early, late, or “right on time,” rolling is not something to be scared of! It’s a natural part of your baby’s development.

You might see your baby roll over for the first time while they are playing or doing tummy time. However, some babies may roll over for the first time in their crib or even during sleep.

Just knowing that they’ve done it before will help you make changes to ensure their safety if they roll over in their sleep.

Is It Safe for Babies to Roll Over in their Sleep?

If your baby rolled over in the crib on their own, it’s typically okay to keep them that way, per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Continue to put your baby down for sleep on their back each time up until 12 months old and double check with your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns.

baby rolling over in sleep graphic

I also want to help foster your baby’s independence and development! That means embracing the roll, even when your baby rolls over in their sleep and ends up face down, in a very different position than you’re used to.

It might feel scary the first time your baby rolls onto their stomach while they’re sleeping, especially after all of the “back is best” talk.

Let’s talk about some important things you can do to reduce any harm to your baby when they roll over in their sleep.

baby rolling in sleep graphic

Tips for Safe Sleep—What to Do If Baby Rolls Over While Sleeping?

Follow these tips to keep your baby safe once they start rolling.

Use A Safe Sleep Surface

Your baby’s sleep surface should be firm, flat, and safely enclosed.

It is especially important once your baby starts rolling that you don’t let them fall asleep in an inclined position (like an unbuckled car seat or a recalled Rock N Play).

And if your baby is sleeping in a bassinet and starts rolling, it means they’re too big for the bassinet and it’s time to transition them to a crib.

Say Goodbye to the Swaddle

As soon as you see your baby roll for the first time, it’s time to transition out of a swaddle. Even if your baby starts to show signs of rolling, you should transition them out of the swaddle.

It’s important that your baby’s arms and hands are free if they roll onto their stomach while sleeping. They’ll need their arms free to roll back, or to lift their head and move it to the side to breathe.

I love using sleep sacks as part of the bedtime routine and to help cue to your baby that sleep is coming. You can transition from a swaddle into a sleep sack that frees up your baby’s arms.

Transition to A Crib

If your baby is still in a bassinet and starts rolling over, it’s time to transition them to a crib or Pack and Play. It’s important to mitigate the risk of your baby falling out of their bassinet.

Keep the Sleep Area Free of Bumpers and Bedding

Now that your baby can move around in their crib more easily, any soft items in their crib pose an even greater suffocation risk.

Make sure there are no bumpers or loose blankets in the crib with your sleeping baby. There shouldn’t be any loose bedding in your baby’s crib. You can use wearable blankets instead of loose ones to keep your baby warm at night.

Continue to Put Baby to Sleep on Their Back

Keep putting your baby down for sleep on their back, even once they can roll over.

If your baby is determined to roll over, they will, and that’s okay. But you should always set them down on their back up until they’re 12 months of age.

Once my daughter learned that she loved being a tummy sleeper, she would flop over as soon as we laid her in the crib. Still, we continued to lay her down on her back every single time to help reduce the risk of SIDS.

Watch the video below where I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions around your baby rolling over in their sleep. Sometimes it helps to hear someone explain them versus reading a blog post.

What to Do When Baby Rolls Over in Sleep and Cries

Now that you’ve created a safe sleep space and are getting more comfortable with the idea of your baby rolling over in their sleep, what do you do if your baby rolls over in their sleep and gets stuck? Or worse, cries and wants to be flipped over to their back.

When your sleeping baby rolls over onto their stomach, it can startle them awake. It’s not surprising that the first handful of times they roll in their sleep, they’ll probably be upset about it.

You might be wondering: what can I do if my baby rolls over in the middle of the night while they’re sleeping and cries?

As tempting as it may be to try to stop your baby from rolling at all, it’s important for their development and safety that you don’t try to stop them.

Do not attempt to stop your rolling baby by:

  • Swaddling them
  • Strapping them down
  • Using other anti-roll measures

These anti-roll or sleep positioner products are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Attempting to stop their free movement while they sleep can be dangerous and is not worth the risk.

If they have enough strength to roll over, they have enough strength to turn their head to breathe, even when laying face down.

Here are some things you can do to help soothe your baby if they’re rolling over and getting stuck.

Flip Them Once

I usually recommend flipping your baby one time and then soothing baby crib-side while baby is on their stomach.

If you go in and flip your baby back over each time they roll, you’ll quickly get into a “flip the baby” game that will disrupt everyone’s sleep.

Soothe Them Crib-Side

You can stay by their crib and soothe your baby to help them get used to their new movement. The Shush Pat or Soothing Ladder are two ways to help baby fall asleep.

Choose A Sleep Training Method

If your sleeping baby is rolling over and waking up crying more than once during the night, causing everyone sleepless nights, it might be time for a more structured response.

Any time your baby slips out of of independent sleep habits into disrupted sleep—due to natural developments or common sleep regressions—it’s helpful to incorporate sleep training to get them back on track.

This can be a formal sleep training method, or using gentle methods to soothe them while they are lying in their new position.

Your goal with sleep training is to help your baby find a comfortable sleep position on their own, where they can self-soothe to sleep. Your periodic presence in their room can help reassure your baby that even though they’ve rolled over, they can still get back to sleep.

If you are using a method that doesn’t involve picking your baby up, it’s totally fine to leave your baby on their tummy and comfort them in that position.

Baby D.R.E.A.M Mockup image

Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System

If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.

Using the Merlin Sleep Suit

Some parents transition to the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit when their baby starts to roll and can’t settle on their belly.

The problem with this is it can be really difficult to transition out of the Merlin.

Once your baby can roll in the Merlin sleep suit, you definitely need to drop it. It’s not safe to have baby rolling in that suit.

Do Tummy Time

If your baby is getting stuck on their tummy, make sure to practice tummy time during the day to help build those muscles so they can flip back.

Even a few minutes of tummy time here and there can help. Pretty soon they’ll be able to flip themselves back over the other way as well!

baby rolling in sleep graphic

Is It Okay for Babies to Sleep on Their Stomach?

The good news is if your baby is rolling over in their sleep and ends up face down, it is perfectly okay to let them sleep on their stomach.

I know it might feel strange, especially after so many months of carefully keeping your baby on their back to sleep!

The reality is, once your baby is strong enough to roll over onto their stomach, they are also strong enough to lift their head and move it to the side to breathe.

You should always put your baby down to sleep on their back through their first year of life. However, with the strength of rolling comes an opportunity for your baby to choose the most comfortable sleep position for themselves.

Are Sleep Sacks Safe When Babies Can Roll Over?

Yes, it is completely safe to put your baby in a sleep sack once they start rolling onto their stomach. A sleep sack keeps their arms free so they can use their arms to flip back over, or reposition themselves so they can breathe.

A sleep sack is also a wearable blanket, so you don’t have to worry about any loose objects covering baby’s face while they sleep.

See some of the best baby sleep sacks in this list.

Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Rolling Over

Is It Safe to Swaddle A Baby Who Can Roll Over?

No, once your baby starts rolling or even showing the signs of rolling, it’s time to drop the swaddle.

Signs that your baby is close to rolling over:

  • Pushing up on their arms or hands during tummy time
  • Rocking back and forth while lying on their back
  • Starting to roll onto their side
  • Lifting their head and shoulders up when lying on their stomach
  • Crossing one leg over their body

Is It Safe to Use a Sleep Sack for A Baby Who Can Roll Over?

Yes, sleep sacks are a great alternative once your baby can roll over. Baby’s arms are free in a sleep sack, so they have plenty of opportunity to move about and get in a comfortable sleeping position.

Is it Safe for My Baby to Sleep on their Stomach?

If your baby can roll over onto their stomach, it’s generally okay to keep them that way. You should still put your baby down for sleep on their back up until their first birthday. If they flip on their own, it’s okay.

How Do I Stop My Baby from Rolling Over in their Sleep and Waking Up?

Unfortunately, you can’t stop or prevent your baby from rolling over in their sleep and waking up. The best thing to do is practice rolling a ton during the day so they get used to their new skills.

How to Help Baby Sleep if Rolling Over and Waking Up?

I recommend flipping them one time and then soothing them crib-side. You can pat their back, hum, or other soothing methods to help them get settled in their new position.

In the end, your baby rolling over in their sleep is one of the first ways they can assert their independence.

If your baby rolls over in their sleep and cries, I promise it’s just a temporary setback.

Amy Motroni
Latest posts by Amy Motroni (see all)

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the article. I am going through this same thing. My daughter is 6 months old and just recently transitioned to her crib. However, as soon as we did that now she is wanting to roll over during nap time or bedtime. She is able to roll front to back all alone, but when she does that during sleep she wakes herself up screaming. I am so lost at what to do. We have been trying sleep training but nothing seems to help. We can’t figure out if this is a sleep regression, teething or something we are doing wrong. Any advice?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Dakota,

      A lot is going on for them at 6 months old!

      It could be due to all the new milestones she is meeting. Make sure to give her TONS of practice during the day and try not to flip her when she does roll. She’ll learn how to sleep comfortably eventually.

      Double check that her sleep schedule is in line with a 6-month old’s as well: https://thepostpartumparty.com/wake-time-6-month-old/

      It sounds like a regression due to all the new skills, but make sure you are consistent in your approach if you are sleep training through it!

      Hope that helps,
      Amy

  2. Thanks for this article. This is exactly our situation. We were planning to sleep train but thought we had better wait until the regression passed. Are you saying it’s actually a good idea to sleep train while in the midst of the regression? Our baby can only roll from back to tummy and not yet from tummy to back. He was sleeping through the night before this rolling caused all the sleep disruptions. He is 4 months.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Yes, if it’s the 4-month sleep regression I would sleep train through it but know that it may take extra time! Since babies’ sleep cycles change around 4 months (which is what causes the regression) you may as well teach them the new sleep habits!

      Do tons of tummy time during the day so he can practice rolling both ways!

      Hope that helps!
      Amy

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