The following information and links on safer sleep advice is based on strong scientific evidence and should be followed for all sleep periods, not just at night.
Follow these simple steps for how you can sleep your baby to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is commonly known as cot death.
The Lullaby Trust have a range of booklets, posters and product guides to help make safer choices for your baby.
Caring for Your Baby at Night - UNICEF can also be challenging, especially when you are tired and your baby is wakeful and wanting to feed often during the night. It might be helpful to know that it is both normal and essential for your baby to feed during the night. Babies grow quickly in the early weeks and months of their lives and have very small stomachs. Therefore they need to feed around the clock to meet their needs.
As your child grows into an active toddler you may be met with other challenges at night time, like not wanting to go to bed or waking up a lot; you can find further information in our section below on Behaviour.
The ABC's of Safer Sleep
Always sleep your baby on their back in a clear cot or sleep space. Safer sleep for baby, sounder sleep for you. Following the ABC's for every sleep day and night will help to protect your baby from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) giving you the peace of mind to enjoy this special time. For support and advice on sleeping your baby safely speak to your Health Visitor, or The Lullaby Trust can help. Visit The Lullaby Trust or contact them by telephoning 0808 802 6869 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
'BABIES CRY! Infant crying is normal and it will stop. A baby’s cry can be upsetting and frustrating. It is designed to get your attention and you may be worried that something is wrong with your baby. Your baby may start to cry more frequently at about 2 weeks of age. The crying may get more frequent and last longer during the next few weeks, hitting a peak at about 6 to 8 weeks. Every baby is different, but after about 8 weeks, babies start to cry less and less each week’ (ICON 2021).
All babies cry for many different reasons, these short films from Best Beginnings helps us recognise some of the common causes of crying.
Infant crying is normal
Comforting methods help
It's Okay to walk away
Never shake a baby
ICON have produced Infant crying and how to cope (pdf) to share information around crying and how to cope with a crying baby. If you are a parent with a young baby that won’t stop crying please watch this video. It is from the perspective of the Dad and shows how to use the ICON resources.
You can talk to your Health Visitor about all aspects of crying and safer sleep. Please contact your local hub.
The Cry-sis National Helpline (support for parents of crying and sleepless babies) can be contacted by telephone on 0845 122 8669 (open 7 days a week 9am-10pm)
If you think there is something wrong with your baby or the crying won’t stop speak to your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor. If you are worried that your baby is unwell call NHS 111.
Introducing your baby to solid foods, often called weaning, should start when your baby is around 6 months old. It’s a really important step in your baby’s development and it can be great fun to explore new flavours and textures together. Take a look at our video below for hints and tips on getting started.
There is also a lot of information about introducing solid foods to your baby on our Infant Feeding Support pages.
When your baby is a little older and has moved on to three family meals a day, take a look at the information below on healthy eating and keeping your family active.
Did you know that every 10 minutes a child in England is admitted to hospital to have a rotten tooth removed?
Tooth decay can start very early and cause pain, sleepless nights and days off work and school. Starting babies’ healthy dental routines early is key to preventing decay, and it can begin with a little trip to the dentist.
You can take your baby on a little trip to the dentist, even before first teeth begin to come through, to get them comfortable with the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice environment. Making regular visits to the dentist is important when developing positive oral health routines to better prevent tooth decay later in life. The advice a dentist can offer on toothbrushing and teething will contribute to a healthy start in life for your little one.
Once your little one starts teething, it's important to get them into a good teeth-cleaning routine. Supervising them when toothbrushing and brushing twice daily for at least two minutes should help look after their growing smile.
Here are our top tips:
- Make sure you help your little one when they start brushing their teeth.
- It's important to use only a smear of fluoride toothpaste, as this helps prevent and control tooth decay.
- Did you know it’s okay to use adult strength toothpaste, as long as it's not toothpaste for whitening or sensitive teeth?
- Don't allow children to eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.
- It’s important to ‘spit don’t rinse’ after brushing, as rinsing will wash away the fluoride toothpaste and reduce its benefit.
A healthy diet
From 6 months, babies should be encouraged to drink from a free-flow cup to help protect their teeth. You can continue to breastfeed for as often as you both want to, perhaps offering a cup of water to practice with. Drinking from a cup might be messy at first, but with patience your baby will soon learn and the risk of tooth decay will be reduced. Squash, fizzy drinks, milkshakes and fruit juice are damaging to teeth, have very few nutrients, and can fill babies up, meaning they can miss out on other important nutrients from food. See our sections on 'moving on to solid foods' and Healthy diet and keeping active' for more information.
By the age of 1 year your toddler should be offered 3 meals and 2-3 healthy snacks, each day.
First Steps Nutrition Trust has published handy guides: Eating well in the early years - First Steps Nutrition. They also have lots of useful information if you and your family are vegetarian or vegan.
Here are our top tips for healthy, happier mealtimes:
- Children learn from you! - let your children see you eat the food (including snacks) & drinks that you would like them to eat & drink
- Eat family meals together, offering smaller amounts of the same food that you’re having, as long as this is not highly processed. Do not add salt or sugar
- Don’t make your child eat everything on the plate. Let them decide how much food they want to eat
- Don’t reward, treat or comfort your child with food. Use alternatives, such as story time or a visit to the park
- Give a healthy range of colourful foods
Looking for ideas?
Discover sugar swaps, healthy recipes, nutritional advice and top tips and activities to help the whole family stay healthy at the NHS change4life.
NHS Healthy Start
Families on certain benefits can get free milk, fruit and vegetables with Health Start vouchers, for more information why not take a look at the NHS Healthy Start?
Most of us look forward to our next meal but when your child does not eat well this can cause worry. It is important to remember that food fads or refusal to eat is common in toddlers - it is a normal part of growing up! Eating a small range of foods for a short time will not usually cause your child any harm. Why not visit Top Tips for Fussy Eating - henry or Fussy eaters - NHS for further information?
Keeping active and play
Your baby’s favourite playmate is you – so try to spend time playing with your baby every day.
Did you know that playing actually requires a lot of your baby’s brain and muscle power? It helps develop their social, intellectual, language and problem-solving skills – and is one of the main ways they learn about the world
Born to move is an NHS app to help parents or carers with their newborn babies right up to pre-school. It’s packed with advice, tips and games that you can play with your child to support their development.
Do you know how active your child should be? Take a look at the chart below for suggestions on getting your little one moving.
For information please have a look at our leaflet below:
New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved. When babies feel secure they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happy babies and more confident children and adults. Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also releases oxytocin in you, which helps you to feel calm and happy. Take a look at the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative's guide Building a Happy Baby: A Guide for Parents (pdf) - UNICEF for more information.
The brain is a very complex organ and with advances in medical science and equipment we now know much more about how the brain develops. In the first three years of life the brain creates connections between different cells to enable a child to manage in the emotional environment they are living in.
The brain receives information all the time from how the baby is cared for and what they hear, see, smell and taste.
Parents and carers can do lots of things to help a baby’s brain grow. They love it when you chat, play and read with them, even when they’re too young to understand everything. Whatever the time and wherever you are, you can turn almost anything into a game.
A book, a magazine, even a shopping list - it all goes in. For tips and activities they'll love, search Hungry Little Minds.
Speech, language and communication are central life skills. They help children to be understood, to learn, to develop and to build relationships. These skills will help every area of a child’s life and support them throughout their adulthood.
You are the best person to help your child develop. There are lots of things you can do to help your child talk, listen and understand. The most important thing is to spend time talking and playing together. For fun, free, simple activities and ideas for kids aged 0-5 visit Hungry Little Minds - GOV.UK or Tiny Happy People - BBC.
Born to Move is an NHS app to help parents or carers with their newborn babies right up to pre-school. It's packed with advice, tips and games that you can play with your child to support their development.
The Tree of Language below shows how your children’s communication skills develop, and the rich environment that is needed to nurture its growth.
The tree roots show the foundations needed to learn to speak. Without attention and listening skills language can not grow. Soil provides the nutrients for growth through playing, chatting and reading to your child. The tree trunk grows from the rich soil. This is the child’s understanding and is essential for words and sentences to form. With practice, the leaves sprout and words become clearer and sentences more accurate. The rich fruit can then grow supporting the development of reading and writing.
The sun, clouds and rain represent all who talk, sing, listen, play, read to and praise the child, encouraging their speech and language skills to develop.
The Stoke Speaks Out - Youtube features lots of videos and helpful information on helping your child to develop,
As well as rapid brain development, your baby’s physical development increases rapidly too.
From 0-6 months you can start encouraging your baby to spend 30 minutes a day enjoying tummy time:
- Start with short periods of tummy time and build up the amount of time slowly.
- You need to get down on the floor with your baby or hold them on your arm for support, so they can practice lifting their head.
- Playing, talking, cuddling, reading, and singing together can help distract baby while they are on their tummy.
As children grow they should spend less and less time sitting in buggies or pushchairs, high chairs and bouncers. This gives them the chance to develop their balance, movement and muscles. It helps them become confident in what their bodies can do. Letting your baby play on their tummy and roll about on the floor will help them to keep on track with their physical development.
Getting out of the house and being active is also good for your wellbeing too. The four walls can ‘close in’ from too much time at home and being outside can help your mood and your patience. Take a look at the HENRY or Tiny Happy People - BBC for some fun, free activities you and your child can enjoy together.
Babies are born ready to interact with the world. They are already equipped with a range of emotions and a need to engage with those around them. From kicking inside the womb at the touch of Dad’s hand , to crying at birth for a feed or a cuddle, to copying Grandad’s wide, bright smile.
Healthy social and emotional development helps your child form a strong foundation for every other skill they will learn. A child’s earliest experiences shape their brain development and therefore nurture, encouragement and guidance from parents and carers are crucial in supporting the best possible start in your child’s life.
Social and emotional development includes learning how to communicate with the world and how to make and develop relationships. A child has to learn to understanding their own feelings and emotions and how to express these feelings in positive behaviours. This takes time and practice, watching how others interact and seeing how parents, Carers and close family members deal with their own emotions.
Over time a child will begin to understand how others may feel too. This can be challenging for everyone, but it is all a normal part of social and emotional growth. It is as important to your developing child as eating and drinking.
In the early weeks and months we can support a baby’s social and emotional development by cuddling, talking and singing to them. Copying their facial expressions, smiling and chatting will help the connections in their brain to form strong bonds at the same time as making them feel safe and secure. As your baby grows they will be able to show a wider range of emotions, and respond to those of their parent/carer.
Every parent or carer wants to know what to do when a child is ill. The guide to Common Childhood Illnesses and Wellbeing (pdf) offers information on how to care for your child at home, when to call your GP and when to contact the emergency services. Most issues your child will have are part of growing up and are often helped by talking to your Midwife, Health Visitor or local Pharmacist. Almost all babies, toddlers and children will get common childhood illnesses like chickenpox, colds, sore throats and earache. Some of these are easily treated at home with advice from your Pharmacist, your GP or your Health Visitor rather than going to your surgery or A&E.
The baby check app also helps you decide if your baby needs to see a doctor.
Unintentional injuries in and around the home are a leading preventable cause of death and emergency hospital admissions for children, particularly those under 5 years.
Sepsis is a deadly reaction to infection. If your child is unwell with a bug or infection - keep an eye on them. Take a look at the video for information on spotting the signs of sepsis.
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. It’s important to be aware that anti-vaccine stories are spread online through social media. They may not be based on scientific evidence and could put your child at risk of a serious illness.
Why vaccination is safe and important - NHS gives a full overview of your child’s immunisation programme and provides lots of information, including hints and tips to help your child’s vaccination appointment to go smoothly.
As children grow and learn, they depend on you to keep them safe and teach them what is and is not good behaviour.
As your child becomes more independent, they may start to push your boundaries. This can be really challenging as a parent!
It helps to know that this is how children begin to understand the world around them and how their actions affect others. Young children’s brains are still developing and they don’t yet have the ability to control their emotions. Young children need support from an understanding adult to help them make sense of these feelings.
Sleep for older toddlers
Good sleep is important for your child's physical and mental wellbeing. As well as being physically active during the day, a relaxing bedtime routine is one important way to help your child get a good night's sleep.
Relaxation tips to help sleep
Doing the same relaxing things in the same order and at the same time each night helps promote good sleep:
- A warm (not hot) bath will help your child relax and get ready for sleep.
- Keeping lights dim encourages your child's body to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin.
- Once they're in bed, encourage your child to read quietly or listen to some relaxing music, or read a story together.
Your child's bedroom
Your child's bedroom should ideally be dark, quiet and tidy. It should be well ventilated and kept at a temperature of about 16 to 20C. Fit some thick curtains to block out any daylight and limit outside noise. Avoid screens in the bedroom and encourage your child to stop using screens an hour before bedtime.
Get help with sleep problems
If you've tried these tips but your child keeps having problems getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, you may feel you want more support. Contact your local hub to speak with one of our team.
Children are normally ready to potty train between 18 months and 3 years but every child is different.
Being able to stay dry and hold wee for an hour or two is an indication that they are ready to try, as is going for a poo at the same time every day. If your child is starting to notice that they’ve done a wee or a poo, this is also a sign that they are recognising the signals, which could mean they are ready to leave nappies behind.
Some children experience difficulties with wetting and soiling during the day. Children wetting themselves during the day is very common: 1 in 7 children aged four and 1 in 20 children aged nine are affected.
Further information on all aspects of toileting can be found on the ERIC. Your Health Visitor or School Nurse will also provide information and support. Contact your local hub.
Starting school is an exciting time for young children and their parents. It can be a daunting time, too. But with a little prepartion and encouragement, most children will settle in easily at school. All children are different and will have different levels of skills. Take a look at Preparing your child for starting school (pdf) - PACEY.
As a guide most children, by the time they are ready to start to school, will:
Reading and writing (Literacy):
- Know a little about what words and writing look and sound like.
- Be able to speak in sentences and know the meaning of some words.
- Ask a question and can listen to a story.
Looking after themselves (Self help):
- Know when to go to the toilet, how to get dressed and what belongs to him / her
- Be happy about most things and to be away from you at school or nursery.
- Remember things,
- Know his / her name.
- Enjoy books, numbers, colours and is interested in new things.
Moving about (Gross and fine motor skills):
- Play with a ball, kicking and throwing it, and can run, jump, skip and climb.
- Write with the hand that feels best, can use scissors and can draw, thread and catch a ball.
- Be able to make friends.
- Be happy to be alone with other grow-ups that they know.
- Join in with music, crafts and can think of new things to do
You can download our leaflets for more information: