One of the most important things you can do to keep your baby safer from the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is to always place them on their back when sleeping. When your baby is awake, spending time on their tummies with you every day, in a safe place can help build their strength and aid their healthy growth and development.
Why is back to sleep important?
Placing your baby on their back when sleeping will help to keep your baby safer and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found.
Things you can do to keep your baby safer when sleeping
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep
- Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth
- Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- Breastfeed your baby
- Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition
Things to avoid
- Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs or are extremely tired, if your baby was born prematurely or was of low birth-weight
- Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding
Why is tummy to play important?
When strapped into car seats, pushchairs or bouncers it can be difficult for your baby to practice using all their muscles. Helping your baby to enjoy active play every day can help them to enjoy activity as they grow older. Physically active children are more likely to have better well-being, improved learning, motor development and bone strength and less risk of poor health such as obesity and heart conditions.
It is recommended that infants under 1 year should:
- be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways. For infants not yet mobile this includes at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day when awake
When to start tummy time
- From birth, little and often is best at first!
- Build up to 30 minutes spread across each day
How to start tummy time
- Choose a time when your baby seems alert and is not hungry or tired
- Try just a few minutes at the beginning, don’t worry if you baby doesn’t like it, this is common, just try again later!
- Reassure your baby with eye contact, your words and importantly by holding him/her securely with both hands
- Use your body at first and hold your baby so their tummy is close to your tummy or chest
- Be at their eye level during floor-based play, placing them in a tummy position on a soft and flat floor surface
When your baby is a bit older (3-6 months)
- As your baby grows older and more playful you can use their favourite toys to attract and distract them
- Sing songs and rhymes whilst you are playing
- Once your baby can crawl, let them crawl around the floor, ensuring it is safe
First point of contact
Your health visitor can help with safer sleep practices for your infant. You can also talk to your GP or health visitor if you are worried about your baby’s movement.
Safer sleep help:
- Lullaby Trust safer sleep information line
0808 802 6869
Local services and information
The Children’s Physiotherapy Service based at Hackney Ark assesses and treats children who have difficulties with mobility and gross motor tasks like sitting, standing and walking due to disability or developmental delay. 020 7014 7025
Your local children’s centre can help with ideas for creating a safe floor space at home. Stay and Play sessions which run regularly provide you and your baby with an opportunity to explore tummy time in a safe and supportive space. The staff can provide information about other places nearby to visit with your baby, including ideas for outdoor tummy time.
If you are looking for childcare, ensure that you choose somewhere which has a safe, and uncluttered space for your baby or toddler to play on the floor as well as access to a garden area.
You can also request to see their ‘Physical Activity Policy’ and ask if staff have had training in supporting baby movement.
- Caring for your baby at night-leaflet (UNICEF)
- Lullaby Trust Safer Sleep video
- Crying and sleeping leaflet
- Top tips for settling your baby to sleep (Book Trust)
- Tips for a calmer bedtime (Tiny Happy People)
- The secrets of baby's sleep (Tiny Happy People)
- Henry – bedtime tips
- Coping with sleep deprivation video (Lullaby Trust)
- How much sleep do children need? (NHS)
Tummy time and physical activity
- Physical activity for woman after childbirth poster
- Physical Activity Guidelines for 0-5 years poster
- Keeping Baby Active (NHS)
- Start 4 Life - baby movement information
- What is tummy time? (Tiny Happy People)
- Touching and talking to baby (Tiny Happy People)
- How babies build up to their first steps film clips
- Why babies explore the world with their mouths film
- Baby movement leaflet
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