As a parent in those early days, you look forward to each new milestone with eager anticipation. Will they laugh today? Will they sit up on their own soon? And when will they finally figure out that tricky rolling business?
You’ve been dutifully doing tummy time day after day. And one glorious morning, you see those little arms push up and hips twist…success! Baby rolls over for the very first time! You excitedly call your partner over to witness the feat once more, only to find that for weeks on end, your Baby only rolls one way.
It’s More Common Than You’d Think for Baby only rolls one way
While it may come as a surprise, it’s actually very common for babies in the early stages of learning to roll over to consistently favor one side or the other. I distinctly remember my own son Logan only ever opting to roll from back to tummy towards the right during his first few weeks of mastering the skill.
As the parent of a lopsided roller, you may wonder what gives. Will they be stuck only rolling this one way forever? Is something amiss developmentally if they resist rolling in the opposite direction? Should you give their pediatrician a call just to be safe?
The good news is that in most cases, a baby’s early tendency to only roll one way is perfectly normal and nothing to sound the alarm over. There are a few common explanations for this phenomenon.
Reason 1: Differences in Muscle Strength Side-to-Side
Think of your baby’s journey to rolling over as making it across a river by hopping precariously along stones. Progress will be wobbly, with lots of pausing to regain balance and assess footing.
In the case of rolling, the “stones” are the muscle groups involved in this intricate ballet of physical coordination. And in these early days, baby is still getting acquainted with how to contract their torso, stabilize their neck, shift their weight just so, and synchronize the Complex sequence of tiny movements required for turning over.
Along the way, babies often discover that they have more control over certain muscle groups on one side. Perhaps the left side core muscles or shoulder stabilize more easily at first. This allows them to more successfully roll directions that capitalize on the initial strength asymmetry.
But much like carefully building muscle memory when learning a dance routine or mastering a tennis swing, their neurological development and motor skills will eventually even out.
Reason 2: Handedness and Hand Preference Influencing Roll Direction
Another reason your wee one may be stubbornly only rolling in a single direction could come down to hand preference. Studies show that babies as young as a few months old can already demonstrate early signs of an innate handedness.
And while true left or right-hand dominance will become more apparent down the road, infants often subconsciously favor exploring toys, reaching, or propping with one hand more so than the other in these early months.
This mild initial bias can consequently translate over into directing what feels like a more natural rolling direction. If your baby seems particularly enamored with their right hand, chances are your budding roller will twist its body rightward when working those floor gymnastics.
The Path to Two-Way Rolling
While one-direction rolling persists for many babies at first, mastering the art of all angles takes time for a reason. Learning to roll both ways involves an intricate orchestration of physical skills.
So when can you expect your lil’ peanut to finally figure it out and show off their ambidextrous rolling abilities?
For most infants, the ability to fluidly roll both left and right emerges sometime between 6 and 9 months of age. Of course, each child progresses through their physical milestones at their own pace. But in general, something seems to click neurologically around this age range.
Before this window, babies are often still developing the coordination required to gain momentum, adjust their center of gravity, and get comfortably oriented sideways. But with plenty of practice, their little bodies adapt.
So rest assured – if by your baby’s 9 or 10-month checkup, they have still not managed the art of two-way rolling, it would be reasonable for their pediatrician to take a closer look and evaluate what’s going on developmentally.
A few proactive things you can try at home to encourage baby rolling the opposite way:
- Gently place toys, and mirrors, or even position yourself on your little one’s less-frequented rolling side. Having an eye-catching stimulation to turn towards can provide motivation.
- Allow plenty of freedom to discover during tummy time. Avoid containers that restrict rolling. Cover sharp table corners for safety!
- Switch up what end of the crib you initially lay the baby down and in which direction they sleep weekly. Even this subtle change encourages looking and rolling in different ways.
Determining If There’s Cause for Concern
As stated above, you generally don’t need to fret over a baby that hasn’t progressed to two-way rolling by 6 months. Remember that each child charts their own course when it comes to physical milestones.
But there are a couple of red flags that do warrant bringing your baby in for further assessment:
- If by around 10 months of age, your infant still shows no sign of expanding their rolling horizons beyond one side alone, discuss this plateau with their doctor. While they may just be a slow bloomer motor-wise, a consultation can determine if something more is afoot developmentally.
- Drastically uneven muscle development or strength in their limbs, torso, or neck – particularly after attempting the stimulation and motivational techniques mentioned to encourage two-way rolling. In these cases, a referral for pediatric physical therapy could help balance out the baby’s weak side.
- Any overt signs causing you concern about potential issues with areas like muscle tone, growth, or neurological development should absolutely be evaluated promptly by your baby’s healthcare provider. Don’t hesitate to ask for help ruling out problems.
In addition to the advice above about allowing baby time and space to master rolling both ways naturally, pediatric osteopathy is another holistic avenue some parents pursue.
What is Pediatric Osteopathy?
Osteopathy involves manually and gently manipulating a baby’s muscles and joints to detect areas of tension or imbalance that could hamper development. An osteopath then uses massage, stretching, and other specialized techniques aimed at enhancing overall mobility and strength.
Some parents feel osteopathy assists infants in releasing tightness in their weaker side. This allows muscles like the core and shoulders to operate in harmony – leading to bilateral rolling success!
Now if after trying the above suggestions for several weeks you still detect no hint of interest in flipping the opposite direction, don’t lose hope. Again – every baby forges their own path. Try the tips below for minimizing pressure on one side of their precious little head in the meantime.
Preventing Flattened Spots on a Favored Rolling Side
Since babies have such soft, malleable skulls in infancy, they run the risk of developing a flattened area on any portion consistently pressed against a firm surface. Pediatricians even have a name for this phenomenon: plagiocephaly (plee-jee-o-SEF-uh-lee).
Parents of babies who show a stubborn propensity to only ever look or roll towards one side often notice the subtle beginnings of a flat spot developing on that perpetually downward side.
While plagiocephaly usually self-corrects as the baby begins sitting up more, gets mobile, and alternates sleeping positions, there are a few precautions you can take to minimize it:
- When a baby is awake and supervised, opt for more upright babywearing in a soft structured carrier rather than leaving them to sleep too long in car seats, strollers, swings, and other containers limiting movement and pressure point shifting.
- Have frequent supervised tummy time play sessions throughout the day. Get down on the floor and interact, placing toys on the baby’s opposite side to turn their head.
- Alternate which direction baby lies with their feet towards in the crib each week. Most parents notice their little ones naturally favor gazing towards the foot end. So reversing positioning gently encourages looking the opposite way.
- Consult your pediatrician about the option of a cranial remolding orthotic helmet designed to round out head shape in more severe cases of plagiocephaly. These are generally only prescribed after 6 months if flat spots persist.
Fortunately, the combination of frequent position changes, reducing container use when awake, and the natural growth process typically helps correct any flattening that emerges as baby discovers their rolling stride. But don’t hesitate to involve your child’s doctor if plagiocephaly remains concerning.
When It Clicks: Celebrating Baby’s Rolling Achievements
In the grand scheme of parenting milestones, try not to sweat something as small as a baby only rolling in one direction longer than peers. They’ll get there! Remind yourself not to measure your child’s development by what Dr. Blog’s little Jaxon or your bestie’s baby Samantha mastered by month five.
Each tiny human’s journey is unique with its own timeline of physical feats, cognitive leaps, and emotional bounds. Your kiddo may hit some milestones, like sitting or walking, shockingly early but spend more time on others. It all balances out in the end!
One of the biggest gifts we can offer as mothers and fathers is simply to meet our son or daughter where they currently are developmentally. Shower them with encouragement when progress seems stalled. Then shower them with praise when something finally clicks!
So in the case of rolling, continue providing plenty of floor freedom and tummy time play. Temper expectations and let the process unfold organically by not over-analyzing every milestone. Celebrate the one-way rolling rather than focusing on what hasn’t yet happened.
And never hesitate to lean on your baby’s doctor if ever in doubt about progression. Their seasoned eyes can quickly assess skill level and put your worries at ease if all seems on track!
Before you know it, your little learner will have this whole rolling thing mastered top to bottom, left to right, and everything in between. So take in all the topsy-turvy joy of their journey – wherever it may twist and turn along the way!
FAQs – Baby only rolls one way
Why does my baby only roll from back to tummy but not tummy to back?
Rolling from back to tummy often emerges first around 6 months. Mastering the tummy to back direction tends to develop later, between 7-9 months, as it requires more core and arm strength. Focus on providing plenty of supervised tummy time practice.
My baby is 8 months old and only rolls to the left. Should I be worried?
While frustrating, favoring one direction is common this age. First address any flat spots on her head from excessive time on the left side. Then gently encourage rolling right with toys/mirrors as incentives. Revisit with the pediatrician at next well check if still no progress.
Are there physical signs my baby favors one side over the other when rolling?
Subtle right/left neck muscle tightness, head tilting, or arm/leg strength differences could indicate an imbalance. Point this out to their doctor who may suggest exercises, physical therapy, or osteopathy to promote bilateral coordination.
My baby screams hysterically during tummy time. How can I encourage rolling if she hates being on her belly?
Make tummy time more inviting and productive by lying down in front of her at eye level. Prop up her arms or place toys nearby to grab. Go slowly with short, positive sessions, letting her determine pace. Consistency is key.
When should I definitely call my pediatrician about the baby only rolling one way?
Discuss with your pediatrician if you notice no hint of interest in two-way rolling by 10 months or if there seems to be a neurological issue hindering development. Don’t hesitate to have baby evaluated sooner for drastic muscle imbalance or tone abnormalities on one side.