Rolling, Sitting and Crawling: Helping Your Baby Reach Movement Milestones

Contributions by: Ashton Thornton, RN, BScN
Ireti Ilori RN, BScN

Just like older children, babies go through different stages of physical growth. The main difference is that the development that you’ll see in the first few years of your child’s life will happen much faster than at any other time. There are a number of developmental milestones that your baby will reach in a very short period of time, but here, we’ll focus on three major movement milestones – sitting up, rolling over and learning to crawl. We’ll talk about when to expect these developments and how you, as a parent, can encourage and support your baby during these periods of growth.

Learning to Roll Over

In their first couple of months of life, your baby will be spending a ton of time playing while lying on their tummies, otherwise known as tummy time. It’s important for babies to spend time on their tummies, as it allows them to strengthen the muscles in their neck and back. This will help your baby slowly learn how to lift their heads up without support, indicating growth in upper body strength. When learning to roll over, your baby will start trying to move from their back to their stomach, and vice versa, by using arm and leg movements. It may be difficult at first, but learning to roll over allows babies to further develop good upper body strength and muscle. You’ll see their little muscles at work as your baby begins to drive their arms into the ground in order to raise themselves up from their tummy-down-on-the-floor position.

Some babies are able to begin rolling over as early as 3 months old – most typically develop this skill in between the 3rd and 4th month of life. You’ll see your baby roll from their stomach to their back at this age by using their arms, as well as back-and-forth rocking motions. There’s no need to be concerned if your baby hasn’t begun to roll over by the 3rd or 4th month – as with every child, your baby will grow at a unique pace. You can help your child along by making sure that they have plenty of tummy time, which allows them to build strength and muscle in their back, arms and neck. By the time your baby is 6 months old, they should be able to roll over from both the tummy to the back and from the back to the tummy. Once again, don’t be worried about the pace at which your baby learns to roll over. Practicing with your baby by gently rolling them side to side can also help your baby get familiarized with the movement.

Learning How to Sit Up

Seeing your child learn how to roll over is exciting and all, but eventually, your baby will be ready to take another, even more exciting step – learning to sit up. Learning to sit up is crucial to development, as it signals growth in gross and fine motor skills, and builds up strength in a number of muscles.

In general, most babies are able to sit up with support by the time they are around 4 to 5 months old. The type of help your baby may need will vary – some babies are able to keep themselves sat up by propping themselves up with their hands, while others will need a little more help from a chair, a pillow or a parent. As the fourth month rolls around (or as soon as your baby is able to hold their head up well), you can help your baby begin to sit upright with your physical support. From lying on your tummy to seeing the world while sitting upright – talk about a change of scenery. As the sixth month rounds the corner, parents can expect to see their little ones stay seated upright with just a little bit of help. At 9 months, your baby may need your help getting in and out of a seated position, but will be able to support themselves well. By the time your baby turns a year old, they should be able to get in and out of a seated position and support themselves.

Learning to Crawl

So far, your baby’s only way of moving around has been you – carrying them while bumbling around the kitchen, using a stroller while browsing the aisles at a grocery store, or taking a walk in the park with them in your baby carrier. Sure, your baby won’t be crawling around at your local convenience store, but learning to crawl will help your baby get around your house more easily. Crawling is the beginning to a whole other variety of movements, including learning to stand, and eventually walking. Babies will also learn how to get from Point A to Point B, helping develop basic directional senses. Crawling is a developmental milestone that most babies reach between the ages of 6 and 12 months – the majority of babies begin crawling at 9 months old, but some babies will develop at a faster or slower pace. At the 6 month mark, some babies will begin to rock back-and-forth on their hands and knees, a sign that they are slowly building up to crawling. When your baby does begin to crawl, there are a number of ways that they may try to move around. No matter how odd your baby’s crawling technique may look, there is normally no issue as long they are able to engage their body and move around. These crawling techniques can include:

  • Classic crawl – pushing off with the opposite arm and leg together
  • Scooting – pulling their bottom across the ground
  • Backward crawl – using the classic crawl to move backwards
  • Commando – staying on their tummy and pushing themselves forward with their arms
  • Bear – lifting their bottom high in the air, straightening the legs and waddling on hands and feet

In some cases, your baby may completely skip the entire crawling phase, and begin to pull themselves up using furniture, and try to stand. Regardless, as your little one begins to move around the house, you can help them out by checking over your baby-proofing job; regularly check to make sure there isn’t anything that could hurt your baby as they begin to explore. Learning to roll, sit up and crawl are huge stages in a baby’s development, as they promote a bunch of motor skills and help develop muscles all throughout your little one’s body. KixCare is here to make sure that your baby gets familiar with a range of movements and develops at a healthy pace. Along with these tips, KixCare’s team of kid-focused pediatricians and pediatric specialists are available to help your baby out 7 days a week. We’re ready to answer the biggest (and smallest!) questions you may have about your baby’s range of motion, muscle strength, and more! Visit the main page to see how KixCare can get you and your child moving about and back to play.