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Keeping baby close

Nurturing your Child’s Development Starts in Pregnancy

Did you know that much of your child’s learning and development will depend on your relationship with them? Saying “hello” to your baby can start today.

  • Connecting with your baby is good for their development, take time to focus on your baby. When your baby kicks you can respond by stroking your stomach and talking to your baby.
  • A healthy lifestyle makes a difference to baby’s development and mother’s health – think about your diet and exercise.
  • It is important that mothers do not experience very high levels of chronic stress during pregnancy, for their own health and the future health of their baby. If you are, talk to your midwife or health visitor.

Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Talking and singing to your baby helps them to recognise the voices of the important people in their lives and can be soothing to them. Unborn babies yawn, exercise, sleep, suck their thumb and swallow.

Enjoying and feeling close to your baby helps their development

  • Babies who are handled more in the earlier months are generally happier less fussy toddlers as they feel more confident that you are there for them.
  • It is not possible to spoil a new baby

Much of babies brain development happens in the first few weeks after birth

  • At seven weeks old your baby’s brain is developing 2 million new connections per second, they are learning so much from you.
  • Breast milk supports brain development as does holding your baby close and responding to their needs.

Babies love to look at faces and enjoy mimicking interactions, even at a few days old

  • Babies love to look at faces and enjoy mimicking interactions even at a few days old
  • Take time to tune into your baby and enjoy having babbling conversations, copying your baby’s sounds and making eye contact, it really develops their ability to communicate.
  • Babies learn to understand their needs and how to meet them through the care they receive from you
  • Sometimes it’s hard to work out what your baby needs and often they just need comfort and to feel close to you.

Babies learn to understand their needs and how to meet them through the care they receive

  • Everyday interactions are teaching your baby about themselves, relationships and the world around them. it is this way that they learn to do things for themselves.
  • It can be overwhelming at times to hear your baby’s distress, make sure you have support from others. You do not need to be a perfect parent to be a good enough parent. If you are feeling overwhelmed ask for support.

If you would like to find out more about your baby’s amazing development, talk to your midwife or health visitor. You can also read ‘Building a Happy Baby’ – A Guide for Parents.

Safe sleep for your baby

Having your baby sleep near you reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, during day-time naps as well as at night . Secondly, many parents find that caring for their baby is easier when they share a room.

  •  Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a crib or cot, in a room with you.
  • Place your baby in the ‘feet to foot’ position in a cot with a well fitting mattress.
  • Do not smoke in the same room as your baby.
  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker.
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
  • Do not let your baby get too hot – keep your baby’s head uncovered and room temperature about 18 degrees C (65 degrees F).
  • If you are away from home with your baby ensure that there is a cot available and that all Safe sleep recommendations are still followed.

 Don’t let your baby get too hot (or too cold)

Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot.

  • Babies do not need hot rooms – all-night heating is rarely necessary.
  • Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you at night.
  • About 18 degrees C (65 degrees F) is comfortable.

Click here for more detailed  information about Safe Sleep for your baby.

Bed-sharing with parents

Babies sometimes sleep with their parent or parents. This has pros and cons that you should be aware of.

  • Many parents bring their baby into their bed to sleep but for most babies this is not where they usually sleep.
  • Bed sharing is strongly associated with breastfeeding. Many studies have found that mothers and babies who bed-share, breastfeed for much longer than those who sleep apart.
  • Other people bed-share for bonding or to monitor a baby that is ill.
  • Official advice discourages bed-sharing when it can be dangerous, i.e. when an adult sleeping with a baby has been smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs that make them sleep deeply.

Falling asleep on a sofa and some bed-sharing can be very hazardous. It is important that parents give some thought to their individual circumstances as dangerous bed-sharing often happens when parents fall asleep with their babies accidentally.

Click here to find information about bed-sharing and safety from ISIS, the Infant Sleep Information Source


Adults can sometimes fall asleep with babies on sofas, this can be very hazardous.

Sleeping with a baby on a couch, sofa or an armchair can be very dangerous. Babies can become wedged between a parent’s body and the back of a sofa or the arm of a chair and the weight of the adult’s body can prevent the baby from breathing.

The sofa is the only sleep environment in which SIDS deaths have increased in recent years. This increase has happened at a time when SIDS deaths in all other environments have been falling.

Using a sling for daytime sleep

Research looking at newborn babies has shown that close contact helps them to sleep more quietly and for longer. They can hear your heartbeat, feel your movements and be reassured that you are close. When your baby starts to stir, you will be immediately aware of it if you are wearing them. You can pick up on their feeding cues and breast milk production is improved when you keep your baby close to you. This is because of increased production of the hormone oxytocin, which helps bonding.

For dads and partners, baby wearing may allow you to take your baby for a walk and help you to bond, giving your partner some time to themselves.

Following some simple guidelines will help you to keep your baby safe in a sling.

  • Tight
  • In view at all times
  • Close enough to kiss
  • Keep chin off the chest
  • Supported back

See our page on Using a baby sling or carrier for more information

Think carefully about your baby’s safety for every sleep.


Normal healthy babies do not need a breathing monitor. Some parents find that using a breathing monitor reassures them, however, there is no evidence that baby alarms or movement monitors prevent sudden infant death. If you have any worries about your baby, ask your doctor about the best steps to take.

Click here for detailed information about recognising serious illness in your baby.


Immunisation reduces the risk of sudden infant death.

Remember that sudden infant death is very rare so please don’t let worrying about it stop you enjoying your baby’s first few months.

Research is continuing to help us understand more about sudden infant death.

Smoking and breastfeeding

Quitting smoking when you are pregnant is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and gives your baby the best start in life.

  • Smoking near your baby is harmful
  •  Nicotine passes into your breastmilk and may give your baby colic or reduce your milk supply.
  • It is still worth breastfeeding even if you continue to smoke but try to restrict smoking to after a feed so you reduce the amount of nicotine that reaches your breastmilk.
  • If you want to give up smoking whilst breastfeeding you can use nicotine products such as gum and patches as your baby will get less nicotine that way.

Getting support to stop smoking

It is never too late to stop smoking. To get the support you need to become a smokefree mum, you can:

  • Ask your community midwife to refer you to the Stop Smoking in Pregnancy team. If you declined this service in early pregnancy it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.
  • Get in touch with the team directly to book an appointment with a Stop Smoking midwife on 0114 2265627.
  • Visit the website here for more information.