A blog by Dr Lin Day

What are the benefits of signing?

When parents first hear about signing, they may wonder if this means forcing or rushing their baby to grow up before they are ready. This may be why many parents wait until their toddler begins to speak before focusing on two-way communication. They may also think that learning to sign is hard work-it isn’t. Parents do not need to be accomplished signers to communicate with their baby. Baby sign language is about using natural gestures alongside normal speech from the shake of the head for ‘No’ and the wave of the hand for ‘Goodbye’ to conventional signals that are easily understood. There is no need to put time aside for signing if it is naturally incorporated into normal day-to-day routines. 


Babies develop hand-eye coordination long before they can talk. This is because the motor areas of the brain develop faster than the speech centres. Signing strengthens the motor pathways, which ultimately increases brain power. Signing also enhances visual development and social skills. Best of all, it encourages communication and fun interactions between the parent and the baby, which increases the bond between them.


Who is signing for and why is it so important?

Parents who sign to their babies have a distinct advantage in responding fully to their baby’s needs. This strengthens the parent's confidence, pleasure, and responsiveness.  Signing empowers babies to communicate what they can’t say to get their basic needs met. This reduces stress and frustration and makes for a happier, calmer baby-and parent. Signing facilitates a foundation of trust and understanding between the parent and the baby and enhances the special and intimate relationship between them. All these things make signing a very worthwhile activity.


How can the app make life easier for people? 

The app provides quick and easy accessibility for users wanting to introduce baby signs to their little one. The app allows instant access when at home or when out and about, so the learning can continue where ever the location. The Baby Sensory sign system was developed after years of research in early years settings. It was found that babies did not have the manual dexterity to perform signs developed for deaf children. As a result, the Baby Sensory sign system was based on natural hand movements that could be performed by hearing babies alongside normal speech.


How do I sign? 

Signs must come across clearly if babies are to understand their message. They must be crisp and sharp and difficult to confuse with other signals. They must be performed with strength and amplitude each time they are brought into action. Signs must be accompanied by eye contact, facial expressions and clear speech and lip movements to reinforce the baby’s understanding of how language works. They must never be used in silence.


How does it tie into BS classes? 

The Baby Sensory Signbook app demonstrates over 150 signs and will help to reinforce the signs introduced during the Baby Sensory classes to aid essential repetitious learning. We know babies love expressive speech and movement and enjoy imitating actions exposed to them, so not only will they be able to enjoy this fun interaction within the class, but it can be enhanced by parent use (of the app) in between the weekly classes.


Each baby will sign differently depending on motor development and manual dexterity. Some babies will sign a few days after seeing the sign, while others start weeks or months later. If signs are used regularly from birth, babies can communicate their needs and wants long before the development of speech. This reduces stress and frustration and makes for a happier, calmer baby.


The drive to communicate is very powerful and babies develop many different ways of expressing themselves before they utter their first words. Body language is one way in which babies communicate before the development of speech. Some studies have shown that teaching babies to sign enhances communication and enables them to develop a better grasp of language in general.  Parents feel overwhelmed with joy when babies sign that they are wet, thirsty, hungry, tired or in pain.

The Baby Sensory Signbook App

In the past few months, Baby Sensory has been working with the company Kwebl, who are from the Netherlands, to create a new Baby Signing app for mobile. With the Baby Sensory Signbook App, you can learn to communicate with your baby before talking starts with these simple baby signs.

The app features:

•    Official Baby Sensory signs right in your pocket!
•    Our very own class leaders to teach you the signs
•    Easy to use app 
•    View videos at your own speed with the ability to slow down or speed up videos
•    Compatible with our ‘The ABC of Baby Signing’ book!

You, family and friends are now able to download the Baby Sensory Signbook App! Available on both Android and iOS in the links below. Happy signing!

Stay Cool Top Tips

Here are some tips to help you, and your baby or toddler, stay cool when temperatures soar:




·      Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a well-ventilated room.

·      Close the blinds to prevent your home becoming a mini greenhouse.

·      A fan won’t make the room cooler, but moving air over your skin can make you feel more comfortable (check it has a finger guard).  Better still; put a bowl of ice in front of it.

·      Place wet towels and bottles of frozen water around the room to help reduce air temperature.

·      Take a cool bath or shower with your toddler (not recommended for babies) or wet your hair.

·      Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.

·      Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet.

·      Turn on the oven and bathroom extractor fans to help remove warm or steamy air from the room.

·      Avoid using the oven - it will heat up the house.

·      Cool down with a cold water bottle on your tummy.

·      Wear as little clothing as possible and go barefoot.

·      Sit or play on the floor where the air is cooler.

·      Reduce bedtime clothing and bedding to a minimum and keep the bedroom well ventilated.

·      Light dust your skin with corn flour to absorb sweat and make you feel more comfortable.

·      Slightly dampen your bed sheets to help you cool you down.


You and your child will sleep more comfortably when the room is between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F).


Out and about


If you do need to venture out in hot weather, try scheduling activities earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.


It also helps if you:


·      Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton or silk. Cover your child’s arms and legs. Avoid synthetic fibres, which increase sweating.

·      Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.

·      Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.

·      Stay in the shade especially between 11 am and 3 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.

·      A sun tent can provide shade, but make sure that it doesn’t get too hot inside.

·      Mist yourself or your child with cold water or spray from a garden hose.

·      Sit in a cold, shaded paddling pool or refresh your feet in a bowl of cold water. Make sure your child is closely supervised at all times.

·      Attach a sunshade to the pushchair to protect your child from the sun. Check that there are no metal parts on the pushchair that can get hot and cause burns.

·      A lamb’s wool fleece is an ideal way to keep your child cool in the pushchair when you’re out and about (although you may get a few strange glances). The fleece absorbs moisture and helps to disperse heat.

·      When travelling, place a portable blackout blind or sunscreen in the side window to reduce temperature and glare, and to help shield your child’s skin and eyes from the sun.

·      Consider travelling at night when the temperature is cooler.


Stay hydrated


·      Drink more water than usual so that you never become thirsty. A glass of water every 30 minutes or so will prevent dehydration.

·      Avoid salty foods, which retain water and increase blood pressure.

·      Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages (mums and dads!).

·      Eat ice cubes and keep trays stocked up in the freezer.

·      Avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks.

·      Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and generate more body heat.


Stay safe


Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experience one or more of the following symptoms during the heatwave:


·      Strong, rapid pulse.

·      Extreme weakness or fatigue

·      Throbbing headache.

·      Dizziness.

·      Nausea.

·      Confusion.

·      Muscle cramps.

·      Fast and shallow breathing.


Excessive heat may cause problems if you become dehydrated. Find a cool area where you can rehydrate and rest.


By Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com

Toddler Sense and Father’s Day

Yabba Dabba Do!

Our Toddler Sense Father’s Day celebration is packed with champion entertainment from sporty warm-ups to fun ball games, a parachute bonanza, marching with Tod (our mascot), balloons and bubbles. And if you can’t bring Dad, Mum will have lots of fun too!

Father’s Day is just around the corner and Toddler Sense is getting ready to celebrate the important role that dads contribute to their children's lives. We have plenty of fun activities that dads and toddlers will enjoy and remember forever! 

The adventure play area is a great place to start and the equipment offers endless opportunities for exploration, problem-solving and imaginative thinking. You can encourage your toddler to crawl through tunnels, bounce, balance, climb or clamber over obstacles and teach important life skills at the same time.

When dads join in, toddlers know they are fun to be with!

Then it’s time for an adventure with your toddler starting with our ‘How do you do?’ song and then a champion warm up activity before we introduce a wonderful bonanza of sporty games to get dads as involved as possible!

Every week is different so if you can’t make ‘Father’s Day’, you can look forward to zooming to the moon, meeting aliens, putting the hatches down on Captain Tod’s yellow submarine, going ape at the African Zoo, digging for dinosaurs, crossing the high seas to Treasure Island, discovering the magic of the jungle (there’ll be monkey mayhem so wind up your windows and hide the sandwiches), and being a firefighter rescuing Tod from danger with your toddler.

When you join in with the fun, you add to your child’s development in unique and important ways. For example, encouraging physical skills supports the development of independence, confidence and achievement; making music fosters brain development; singing expands language and communication skills; playing fishing games develops imagination; helping your toddler post, sort, organize and deliver the daily mail encourages thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills; going on a nature trail fosters an understanding of the world.  It’s impossible to name all the activities and benefits, but you are sure to enjoy them all!


What the research says….

A large-scale study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed that fathers who engaged in fun play with toddlers had a far-reaching impact on their social skills and behaviours.

Research by the Fatherhood Institute showed that paternal interactions equipped children socially and psychologically and made a real difference to their lives.

Maureen Black, researcher and professor of paediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found that children with an actively involved father had improved language skills and fewer behavioural problems, even if he lived apart from them.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, concluded that children who benefitted from paternal involvement from an early age were more likely to get good grades in school.

W. Bradford Wilcox, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, stated that girls and boys were much more likely to thrive when they had the benefit of the father’s interest, involvement and attention.

Numerus studies have shown that spending quality time with children makes fatherhood more rewarding and enjoyable. Dads also develop lifelong bonds with their children that cannot be formed in any other way.

Father’s Day celebrates the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives. Toddler Sense provides a wonderful opportunity for dads and children to spend quality time together.

By Dr Lin Day (http://www.babysensory.com/en/toddlersense)

Baby Sleep

Sleep problems are common in babies, but understanding and knowing how to deal with them enables parents to get a better night’s sleep for themselves, which in turn enables them to provide loving, patient and consistent care for their baby.


There are all sorts of reasons why babies experience sleep difficulties, but knowing something about the different stages of sleep, what to do if your baby wakes up in the night, how to establish a regular bedtime, and what to expect from your baby can be helpful.


Stages of sleep


Newborn sleep begins with REM sleep (dream sleep or active sleep), followed by non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (deep sleep or quiet sleep). By 3 months-old, babies enter NREM first, and then REM. The changed pattern reflects maturation of the central nervous system and its timing mechanisms, and increased production of melatonin, the ‘sleep’ hormone.


By 6 months-old, your baby may experience 5 cycles of sleep during the night. Each cycle consists of light (NREM), deep and active sleep (REM) and lasts about one hour.


During light sleep, your baby’s muscles relax, her eyelids flutter and she may twitch, grimace and suck intermittently. If you put your baby in her cot at this stage, she may wake up. Try waiting until her fists unfold and her breathing becomes shallow and regular. It is less likely that your baby will wake up once she has entered deep sleep.


After deep sleep, your baby will enter the frenzied period of active sleep. She may grimace and fuss, jerk involuntarily and breathe irregularly and wake up. If your baby is comfortable and the room is dark and quiet, she may drift back into the next cycle of sleep.


However, if your baby should need a feed or nappy change (most babies will tolerate a wet nappy), keep this as low-key as possible and put her in her cot as soon as her needs have been met.


If your baby is not hungry or uncomfortable, do not pick her up, speak to her, make eye contact, put on music or lights or interact with her in any way or she will expect the same treatment every time she wakes up. Simply place your hand on your baby to comfort her until she settles back to sleep again. If your baby is rewarded with too much attention, waking and play at odd hours may be prolonged into late childhood. Your baby may also cry more due to tiredness.


Sleep routine


The one thing that the sleep experts all agree on is the need for a consistent, regular bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what the routine consists of providing the same things happen every night.


Although it may be difficult to ensure that bedtime events happen in a regular sequence in the first 6 weeks, as your baby grows older, she will associate certain situations with bedtime. By 6 months-old, the bedtime routine should be well established. An occasional break is unlikely to cause too much disruption to the routine, but regular changes may unsettle your baby.


Here are a few tips that may help:


  • Allow a quiet wind-down period of about 20 minutes before bedtime.
  • Turn off the television and dim the lights.
  • Make the bedtime routine as calm and as relaxed as possible to reduce stress levels.
  • Help your baby relax and unwind in a warm bath. When she gets out, the surrounding cooler air will lower her temperature, which will help trigger the sleep mechanism.
  • Put baby in special clothes that are only used at night.
  • Snuggle up quietly with your baby and massage her feet (stimulates melatonin production) or read a story, but avoid over-stimulating her or she will still be fizzing at bedtime.
  • Use key words such as ‘Bedtime’ or ‘Night-night’ which are associated with sleep.


A reduction in parent-infant interactions before bedtime can dramatically improve your baby’s sleep. If your baby is over-tired or over-stimulated, she may find it difficult to settle.


Signs of tiredness


Look out for signs of tiredness. For example, an intermittent ‘Owh’ sound means that baby is sleepy. Other signs include fussing, gaze aversion, unfocused glazed eyes and yawning.


Tips for promoting sleep


Research shows that going outside in the fresh air and sunshine for 15 minutes a day can improve sleep patterns. Exposure to sunlight also regulates the secretion of melatonin. Being held close or carried for 3 or more hours during the day can also help your baby settle more readily at night.


  • Let your baby have a daytime nap when she needs it or she may become over-tired and difficult to settle at bedtime.
  • Avoid putting your baby down on a very full tummy, as this will increase core body temperature and keep her awake.
  • Wind your baby fully before bedtime.
  • If breastfeeding, avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners and excess caffeine, which can have a negative effect on your baby’s ability to sleep.
  • Ensure that the room temperature is not too hot. The optimal room temperature for sleep is between 16 and 18 °C.
  • Avoid warming baby’s bed with cot bumpers or too many soft toys. They can raise core body temperature and keep your baby awake.
  • Make sure that the room is dark and quiet to help your baby learn the difference between night and day.
  • Provide a dummy or comforter to help your baby to fall asleep (if breastfeeding, ensure that milk supply is established first).
  • Put your baby on her back on a firm surface to keep her spine as flat as possible and to allow her lungs to expand fully.


Everyone has a period of latency before going to sleep, so don’t expect your baby to fall asleep the moment she is in her cot.  Some babies take twice as long as adults to fall asleep.


Your baby will also sleep better if the room is completely dark. Keeping the house bright during the day, dimming the lights in the evening, and putting your baby to bed in complete darkness at night will help regulate wakefulness and sleep over a 24-hour period. Although a night light with a dimmer can aid night time feeds and nappy changes, it can increase wakefulness.




Although some newborns sleep longer than others at night, most wake up every 2 to 3 hours at the end of a sleep cycle at night for a feed, regardless of whether they are breast or bottle fed. As your baby’s stomach increases its capacity to take in greater quantities of milk at each feed, she may sleep longer periods between feeds.


Research suggests waking up every 2 to 3 hours to be a survival mechanism. If the sleep state was so deep, that hunger needs, extremes of temperature, and breathing difficulties could not be communicated to the parent, the baby’s well-being could be threatened. This is why parents should not expect too much from a young baby in the early days or feel pressured to get their new baby to sleep too long, too deeply, too soon. 


3 – 6 months


Three to 6 month-old babies may sleep 5 or more hours once a sleep pattern has been established. However, if your baby is teething, unwell, going through a growth spurt or has been recently immunized, she may experience a temporary disturbance in her sleep pattern.


6 months


By 6 months-old, your baby will become more active during the day and may sleep 5 to 6 hours or longer without a feed at night. Sometimes, older babies who have learned to sleep through the night will begin waking up again for no obvious reason. If waking up continues for more than a few days, putting your baby to bed half an hour earlier than normal may solve the problem.


If sleep problems persist, then you may need help to keep going. Health visitors are a good source of advice and support.



By Dr Lin Day www.babysensory.com



For more information on sleep behaviours and patterns in young babies, visit http://www.babysensory.com/en/parentclasses for details of parent workshops.


Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be

Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be
When temperatures soar, mums-to-be will feel the heat more than average, but how do you stay cool?
Here are some tips from pregnant mums that will help you stay cool and remain hydrated. We’ve also included advice from the experts to keep you and your growing baby safe, healthy and well.
What the experts say
During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to the sun and more likely to burn, so you need to be extra careful. Mums-to-be should stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.
Excessive UV radiation in the early stages of pregnancy can interfere with the synthesis of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which is especially important to foetal cell division and growth. The best advice is to stay indoors during peak UV hours. However, sun avoidance can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends a daily vitamin D supplement during pregnancy.
Melt down
· Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a ventilated or air-conditioned area.
· Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home.
· Rest or move about more slowly than normal - don’t rush to appointments.
· Keep the bedroom temperature between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F) - you will sleep more comfortably.
· Wet towels and bottles of frozen water will help reduce room temperature.
· To prevent the sun heating up the house, keep the blinds/curtains drawn.
· Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and   generate more body heat.
Anna from Winchester says “Avoid using the oven - it heats up the house.”
Out and about
If you do need to venture out in hot weather, try scheduling activities earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
 It also helps if you:
· Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton.
· Avoid synthetic fibres such as polyester that can make you sweat.
· Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.
·  Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.
Sarah from Figheldean says “Dust your skin lightly with corn flour – it absorbs sweat and makes you feel more comfortable.”
Avoid sunscreen - it may contain harmful toxic ingredients, which can cause serious problems in the growth and sexual development of your growing baby. Check out the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) guide to sunscreens that are chemical-free.
Stay hydrated
Due to hormonal changes, an increase in blood supply to the skin, and a slightly higher temperature in pregnancy, you are likely to sweat more and lose vital fluids. It is important to stay hydrated.
· Drink more water than usual so that you never become thirsty. A glass of water every 30 minutes or so   will prevent dehydration.
·  Avoid salty foods, which retain water and increase blood pressure.
· Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
·  Eat ice cubes and keep trays stocked up in the freezer.
· Avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks.
Restrict caffeine intake to 200mg or less daily during pregnancy. High levels of caffeine can lead to low birth weight and may even cause miscarriage. Some ingredients in energy drinks are considered safe in moderation, while others are potentially harmful to your growing baby. Energy drinks can have as much as 200mg of caffeine per serving.
Stay cool
A fan can cool you down and circulate air around the room, but don’t rely on it as your primary cooling device during a heatwave. A cool shower, bath or sponge bath is a much better way to keep cool.
· Wash frequently to help you feel fresh.
· Sit in a cold paddling pool.
· Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.
· Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet at night.
· Mist yourself with cold water or spray from a garden hose.
Vicky from Salisbury says “I stick my feet in a bowl of cold water. It is so refreshing!”
Stay safe
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
·         Strong, rapid pulse.
·         Extreme weakness or fatigue
·         Throbbing headache.
·         Dizziness.
·         Nausea.
·         Confusion.
·         Muscle cramps.
·         Elevated body temperature.
·         Fast and shallow breathing.
Your growing baby
The sun itself will not hurt your growing baby, but it may cause problems if your body temperature rises or you become dehydrated. If you become uncomfortable in the sun, find a cool area or seek an air-conditioned environment, rehydrate, and rest.
Want to learn something new and share ideas?
Come along to our Baby Foundations summer talks at Bluewater (near the food court, M&S and Disney Shop). Informative talks run from 26th July to 23rd August.
By Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Celebrating Father’s Day

In the UK this year, Father’s Day falls on Sunday 18th June. It provides a wonderful opportunity to honour dads and express gratitude for their love, care and support.


Fathers Make a Difference

Dads can add so much to their child’s development. For example, they can:

  • Encourage exploratory skills, which support the development of independence.
  • Engage in activities such as tickling, teasing, bouncing, wrestling and rough and tumble play, which increases confidence and self-control.
  • Add variety and dimension to their child’s experience of the world.
  • Expand their child’s horizons by playing with toys in non-traditional ways.
  • Challenge children to find different ways of doing things.
  • Influence development through direct teaching and daily interaction.
  • Encourage competition and independence.
  • Expand vocabulary and language skills through brief and directive talking.
  • Bring different strengths and styles to their teaching role than mum.


Girls who grow up with a loving, involved father are more likely to have healthy, emotionally balanced relationships with males in later life. Boys who grow up with a loving, involved father are less likely to be aggressive and more likely to make friends at school because they have learned how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways. 

Studies have repeatedly highlighted the positive role that dads can have in their children’s learning and development. As a result, many schools are pioneering ways to involve them in projects such as cookery, computing, reading, craft, sports, games, maths and other classroom work. Fathers are also being encouraged to contribute to their children’s out-of-school learning. In a world where television and computers often dominate children’s lives, showing an interest in what they do, and helping with homework and reading are more important than ever before.


Absent fathers

 Even if the father is unable to spend regular time with his children, they will still benefit from his attention, warmth and affection. He can take them on outings, attend school activities and spend quality time with them.

Giving children love, attention and richness of care is something that all dads can do regardless of whether they are in a committed relationship, single or non-resident. Children grow up so quickly and missed opportunities are lost forever.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is celebrated all over the world. In the USA, Canada, Southern Ireland and Mexico, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In Italy and Spain, Father’s Day is celebrated in the third week of March. In Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.

In the UK, Sunday 19th June provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives.


Happy Father’s Day!


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

GUEST POST- A Dad's Perspective

I was recently asked to try and explain why; as a father, I regularly go to Baby Sensory with my son Reuben. I had never really considered the ‘why’ part of it before, but I have also never really given much thought as to why sometimes I’m the only dad there.

A lot of it has to do with luck I guess, I am fortunate enough to work a shift pattern for the Fire & Rescue Service that gives me more time off during the traditional working week than most. But I still have to make the time to go there, there are always other things to do and an hour of peace and quiet at home can seem pretty appealing at times! Like any parent I want to make the most of the very short period of time when Reuben is so small, is experiencing so many firsts and depends on me to help him discover new things. I would never trade a bit of quiet time for being there the first time he crawls, the first time his says ‘dad’ or even his first steps.

My wife and I have been taking Reuben to Baby Sensory with Sophie in Milton Keynes for the last nine months and I probably make it to about 70% of the classes. Why do I go? It’s pretty simple really; I enjoy the structure and purpose to the activities, focussing on entertaining, stimulating and developing our son with a variety of activities, rather than just letting them roll around on the floor for an hour while the parents have a chat….The games and songs give me ideas of how to help entertain Reuben when I am looking after him by myself. I’m generally a confident person but I had always worried about being solely responsible for his welfare and happiness, I think there’s a certain element of pressure for every dad to show that they can cope without mum being there as a safety net. Baby Sensory has helped my self-confidence in this area no end, I like to think I know my son well, the type of things that make him happy and how to calm him down if he gets upset.

Would I recommend for other fathers to go to Baby Sensory? Definitely! You can feel a bit of an outsider on your first visit when parents are singing and signing along to the ‘say hello to the sun’ song but you shouldn’t let that put you off. Even if you can only make it once in a while it’s worth it, we have got some great memories, made some lovely friends and all three of us will miss it when Reuben moves on to nursery.


Chris Montague – Milton Keynes


Safe Swaddling

Baby swaddling is a controversial subject. Read on to find out how to keep your baby safe. Peer reviewed article published in the Journal of Health Visiting (April 2015). 

Archaeological records show that babies have been swaddled since 4000 BC. Swaddling involved wrapping pieces of cloth and a band tightly around the baby’s body from the shoulders to the feet to in the belief that it helped them to develop a strong, straight back before they were able to walk. The swaddled baby was then placed horizontally in a cradle or cot, or strapped firmly vertically to a cradleboard to support the spine.
Due to the effect of tight swaddling on limb restriction, the practice fell out of favour in the mid-1960s, as new theories in baby development took hold. However, following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign in the 1990s, and popularisation in parenting guides, swaddling has made a comeback.
Some healthcare professionals recommend swaddling while others speak out against it. Advocates believe that swaddling replicates the confined conditions of the womb, and helps the newborn adjust to life in the outside world. Some studies (Gerard et al. 2002; Thach 2009) have shown that swaddled babies startle less, have a lower heart rate, sleep more deeply, and wake less spontaneously than when not swaddled. Swaddling also prevents babies from rolling over on to their tummies, which is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Gerard et al. 2002).
Work by Blair et al. (2009) has linked swaddling to respiratory complications, prolonged deep sleep, and overheating, which are risk factors for SIDS. Other concerns include tight swaddling of the legs, which can lead to developmental dysplasia of the hip. There is also disagreement among healthcare professionals about the benefits of restricting the protective startle reflex in newborns. When the limbs are confined, babies are unable to startle themselves awake.
The effects of swaddling on SIDS are controversial. Until there is conclusive evidence that swaddling is unsafe, the practice is unlikely to become less common.
History of swaddling
Egyptian tomb reliefs from 2500 BC show babies swaddled with cloths and tied to the mother's back or hip. Sacred statuettes of infants in swaddling clothes have also been found in Ancient Greek and Roman tombs. History shows that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were all swaddled as babies. The practice of swaddling has been known for centuries over most of Europe, Asia, Canada, South and North America.
The most famous record of swaddling is found in the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7).
After the birth, the newborn was washed, rubbed with salt and oil to thicken and firm the skin. To prevent cold air from touching the skin and to ensure that the limbs grew straight, the baby was wrapped in linen or cotton and over-wrapped with six metre long bandage-like strips or bands. Swaddling and salting became the model of infant care practice for some 1,500 years or more.
During the Tudor period (1485 to 1603), newborns were ‘salted’ and wrapped in linen bands from head to foot for up to nine months to ensure that they grew up without physical deformity. The legs were placed closely together, the arms were placed at the sides, and the swaddling cloth was then folded over the baby’s body, feet and arms. A swaddle band was wrapped under the baby's chin and over the forehead to secure the head, and then around the body all the way down to the ankles. The weight and heat of the swaddle wrap and band restricted movement, cramped the bowels, and increased body temperature.
In Medieval times, it was traditional practice to immobilise babies for up to nine months without washing or regular human contact. They were unable to reach out for objects or suck their fingers or toes for comfort. Infants were also left in their own excrement for days on end. Crawling, an important developmental milestone was often delayed or absent (Frenken 2011).
In parts of Canada, North America, and South America, babies were traditionally swaddled and attached to portable cradleboards constructed of dogwood or willow sticks, which supported the spine and constricted movement. However, studies (Chisholm & Cary 2009) demonstrated a very high prevalence of hip dysplasia. The frequency of hip dislocation decreased dramatically when cloth nappies, which slightly flexed and abducted the hips, were introduced in the 1950s (American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011a).
In the 1800s, the medical profession recommended a less containing form of swaddling, which kept the arms and legs free. Nevertheless, most mothers continued to use traditional swaddling bands until the early 1930s. Swaddling eventually fell out of favour following concerns that it could overheat the baby, restrict growth, and displace the hips.
In recent years, swaddling has become increasingly popular as a settling technique in the Netherlands, some parts of the United States, and the United Kingdom (Frenken 2011). In the UK, about 19 percent of babies are swaddled in the first four weeks of life (Clarke 2013). However, modern swaddling allows ample room for hip and knee flexion.
Benefits of swaddling
Many parents say that swaddling provides comfort and security, limits the startle reflex, and helps their babies get to sleep and stay asleep. Gerard et al. (2002) found that babies were just as likely to startle when swaddled as when unswaddled, but returned to sleep more quickly. Longer sleep duration in swaddled infants is believed to be important for brain development.
Additional benefits include:
·         Helps babies to stay on their backs, which reduces the risk of SIDS.
·         Prevents the baby moving into dangerous situations.
·         Helps to settle an overstimulated or distressed baby.
·         Makes the baby feel secure.
·         Prevents uncontrollable flailing of the baby’s arms and legs.
·         Reduces crying, fussiness, and distress.
·         Helps babies sleep more deeply.
·         Promotes brain development by reducing stress.
When the baby sleeps better in the supine position, parents are less likely to use the prone position for sleep. Improved sleep means that mother is less likely to suffer from exhaustion, postpartum depression or stress.
Safe swaddling
Swaddling is standard practice in many neonatal intensive care units for premature and/or low birth weight infants. However, swaddling takes place very loosely. The arms and legs are held weakly against the baby’s body so that movement is possible. This form of swaddling is very different to traditional tight swaddling in the stretched position.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP 2011b) recommends swaddling, when done correctly, to be an effective technique to help calm infants, promote sleep, and reduce SIDS. Mothers who swaddle are twice as likely to put their babies in the supine position, which reduces the likelihood of SIDS. Safe swaddling also prevents the baby rolling into the prone position or moving into a dangerous situation (Gerard et al. 2002). Additionally, swaddling reduces the chances of bedding covering the baby’s face and head, which can cause overheating or asphyxia. The baby’s hands can also be left free to self-comfort by sucking on the fingers or hand.
Most modern swaddle wraps are produced in a triangular, ‘T’ or ‘Y’ shape, which may include ‘wings’ that fold around the baby's body and arms, and a pouch that allows the baby’s hips to move and the legs to spread apart naturally. Swaddle wraps are made from cotton, muslin, silk or a lightweight breathable fabric to prevent overheating. Some swaddle wraps are made from cotton spandex to reduce the risk of chest wall compression.
Swaddling should be stopped at three months-old (the peak age of SIDS risk) or when the baby shows signs of rolling over. Older babies may use a baby sleeping bag, which is less restrictive than a swaddle wrap. The sleeping bag keeps the baby warm, and it offers plenty of room for the legs and feet to move freely during the night. It is also sleeveless and without a hood to prevent overheating or asphyxiation.
Potential risks of swaddling:
·         Placing the swaddled baby in the prone position.
·         Reduced ability to arouse from deep sleep.
·         Overheating, if a heavy blanket is used.
·         Suffocation if the swaddle wrap covers the baby’s face.
·         Inhibited breathing if the wrap is too tight across the chest.
·         Developmental dysplasia of the hip if movement of the hips or knees is restricted.
·         Increased risk of SIDS if continued over the age of 3 months-old.
Blair et al. (2009) found that one in 4 SIDS babies had been swaddled. However, the sample used for the study was small and the risk was branded 'unreliable' by the National Health Service. Other studies (e.g. Thach 2009) have shown that swaddling increased the risk of SIDS when babies slept in the prone position, but not when they slept on their backs. 
Some studies (Thach 2009; Clarke 2013) found that swaddling babies slept more soundly. However this may not be a desirable outcome, as the pathogenesis of SIDS is thought to involve an impaired ability to arouse from sleep in response to a life threatening respiratory or cardiovascular challenge. Although newborns have an inborn survival mechanism, which enables them to wake up if the airway is obstructed; in deep sleep their well-being could be threatened.
The Royal College of Midwives (Clark 2013) advised against tight swaddling and heavy blankets in fear of overheating the newborn. Other concerns included restriction of the chest wall resulting in breathing difficulties or secondary complications such as pneumonia.
Hip dysplasia
If the baby is swaddled too tightly, developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) may occur (Mahan & Kasser 2008; Chisholm & Cary 2009; AAP 2011a). The risk is elevated in babies with:
·         A family history of DDH.
·         Breech positioning.
·         Congenital foot deformity.
·         Torticollis (asymmetrical head or neck position).
DDH occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies. About 80 percent of cases are female. This is due to oestrogen produced by the female foetus, which increases elasticity of ligaments and causes the femoral head to move out of position. Treatment, which involves fitting a harness to keep the legs in a flexed, widespread position day and night for six weeks, is successful in about 85 percent of cases.
About 17 percent of newborns have some degree of hip dysplasia. Although the condition resolves untreated by 2 to 3 months-old, traditional tight swaddling may lead to late onset hip dysplasia and early arthritis (Clark 2013).
There is a significant difference between traditional tight wrapping and safe swaddling. If babies are placed on their backs to sleep, and they are loosely wrapped without hip or limb constriction, swaddling may be safe. However, swaddling could become a safety issue if blankets are used or when the baby becomes mobile. Care should be taken to ensure that the swaddle wrap does not restrict blood flow or breathing, or cover the baby’s face or head.
The association between swaddling and SIDS has been mainly limited to babies lying in the prone position. The risk of SIDS in supine swaddled babies needs more in-depth research.
Further information
Information covering all aspects of baby care, health and safety can be found in our Baby Sensory new baby course ‘Baby Foundations’. Please visit www.babyfoundations.com
By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

This article appeared in the Journal of Health Visiting April 2015 Volume 3 Issue 4 and has been subject to peer review.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011a) Improper swaddling a risk factor for developmental dysplasia of hip. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.1 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011b) Practice safe swaddling to protect baby’s hips. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.2 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
Blair PS, Sidebotham P, Evason-Coombe C, Edmonds M, Heckstall-Smith EM and Fleming P (2009) Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. BMJ 339: b3666
Chisholm JS and Cary MC (2009) Navajo Infancy: An Ethological Study of Child Development. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p.187
Clarke NMP (2013) Swaddling and hip dysplasia: an orthopaedic perspective. Archives of Disease in Childhood 99 (1): 5-6
Frenken R (2011) Psychology and history of swaddling: Part two - The abolishment of swaddling from the 16th century until today. The Journal of Psychohistory 39 (3): 219-245
Gerard CM, Harris KA and Thach BT (2002) During rapid eye movement and quiet sleep spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled. Pediatrics 110: e70
Mahan ST and Kasser JR (2008) Does swaddling influence developmental dysplasia of the hip? Pediatrics 121: 177-178
Thach BT (2009) Does swaddling decrease or increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome?  The Journal of Pediatrics 155: 461-462

GUEST POST- Trying to Stop Wishing Time Away

Being a first-time mum is all about learning lessons – within just a few hours of my baby being born, I had built up my knowledge of parenthood far more than reading all those books throughout my pregnancy. But one of the biggest lessons I had to learn early on, and one that I still have to remind myself of, is to stop wishing time away. 

And let me tell you, despite comments of “don’t they grow so quickly” and “she’ll be five before you know it”, I found it very difficult to do. 

Yearning for a routine

There’s no sugarcoating it, those first few weeks of motherhood are really hard. I didn’t know what I was doing, whether I should be feeding by the clock or on demand, whether I should be waking her up at night to feed or waiting for her to wake up naturally, to swaddle or not to swaddle, to rock or use the dummy. 

There are so many things you have to decide from the get go that you feel will shape the parent you will become and the habits your children will form, I found it very overwhelming at times. 

As *Moo always had to be walked, driven or bounced to sleep (and stay asleep!), it’s hardly surprising I yearned for the days when I could put her down in her cot for a nap and leave her chatting until she dozed off. 

And while I had no routine of feeding, sleeping, showering or even leaving the house during those first few weeks, I envied those mums who had their toddlers in a professionally set schedule. 

At the start, we lived in chaos, and despite everyone cooing over my beautiful baby daughter and delighting at how tiny she was, I really looked forward to the day her hands weren’t so small and her button nose not so teeny, but at least our lives were in order again.  

Waiting for the elusive ’12 weeks’

I guess I started wishing time would speed up when other mothers began to tell me it’ll all get better at 12 weeks. It felt like there would be a magical turnaround at three months when looking after Moo – who wouldn’t settle at night, even after endless feeding, who had reflux so bad she screamed when you laid her down, and who cluster feed for hours before bedtime – would suddenly be a walk in the park. 

When Moo was five weeks old, I remember clearly being told to hang in there, as I was halfway through. I never found what was meant to happen at ten weeks and I was too sleep-deprived to ask, but every day it felt like we were just counting down to a better, easier, calmer experience.

And every time someone told me to “not wish time away”, I was torn with the guilt that I wasn’t enjoying this time as much as I should’ve been and that I’d miss it when she was a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. (FYI, I do). 

A miracle turning point?

The sad thing is ten weeks came and went, then so did 12 and while, admittedly, things did get a bit easier, they weren’t exactly a doddle. 

And they might have just got calmer because of my sheer determination to set up the routine I coveted so much and help Moo learn how to self settle so naps and evenings were a bit easier (for me). 

It is definitely true that she couldn’t have learnt those things when she was a dot and she eventually developed a fantastic schedule and great habits that make my life easier now, but I think it’s only afterwards you realise how precious that time at the beginning really is. 

Take each day as it comes

Babies have the rest of their lives to grow up, learn how to nap and get too big to sleep cradled in your arm, and they will soon be crawling away or answering back to you before you know it. 

So, maybe I should’ve accepted the advice of other mums who came before me and enjoyed the special time when she was a newborn more, instead of feeling my eyes sting with tears of anger and guilt at their mere suggestion that I was silly to want to skip the difficult first few weeks. 

Don’t get me wrong, motherhood became far more enjoyable when the long colic nights, reflux and endless screaming came to an end. But when I see my little girl, once someone you could rest in the crook of your arm and stare lovingly in her eyes, now growing faster than you can imagine and jumping on the bed with a vocabulary that gets bigger every day, I realise how fleeting that newborn time was and we’ll never have it back. 

So, do I regret wishing that time away? You bet. 

But, do I bite my tongue to stop telling other new mums to make the most of this precious time? I certainly try.  

Instead, I’d tell them to take each day as it comes. Tomorrow will be a little bit easier, but today is just as special. 

Natasha Al-Atassi

* Our affectionate nickname for our beautiful baby girl. 

Top Easter Tips for You and Your Baby

Your baby may be too young to decorate a hard-boiled egg or go on an egg hunt, but there are still plenty of ways to make Easter an educational and enjoyable event. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Hide and seek

One of the best games to play with your baby is ‘peek-a-boo’ or ‘hide-and-seek’. It’s traditional, simple to organise, educational and lots of fun. 

To develop your baby’s thinking, memory and hand-eye coordination skills, hide a plastic egg under a cloth or cup. Say “Where’s the egg?” If your baby is at the reaching and grasping stage, she will look for it, even though it is out of sight.  When your baby is a little older, she may deliberately prolong the fun by hiding the object for you to discover.

If you have a spare tissue box, fill it with Easter ribbons or brightly coloured fabrics. Your baby will delight in pulling out the materials one by one. She will also discover that when you put the materials back in the box, they continue to exist even though they are hidden from view. 

To encourage logical thinking, problem-solving and exploratory skills, hide behind the sofa and call out your baby’s name. When your baby discovers your hiding place, she will learn that you haven’t just vanished because you are out of sight. This teaches your baby about object permanence and stability. Psychologist Jean Piaget suggested that this awareness was typically achieved at about 6-months-old. However, recent studies show that if peek-a-boo games are played regularly, babies understand these concepts from about 2 months-old.

Easter puppets

A rabbit puppet and a pop-up frog are wonderful hide and seek toys. They provide a wealth of learning opportunities from visual stimulation to speech and language development. They also encourage rich parent-baby interactions and the element of surprise that babies love so much. 

Easter Books

Three-dimensional books with large, brightly coloured illustrations, textured materials and hide-and-seek pictures that encourage interaction make great Easter presents for babies. Your baby may investigate the properties of a texture with her finger tips or turn the pages to discover something new. Your voice and facial expressions will capture your baby’s interest and attention and liven up her experience of the world. Best of all, your baby will enjoy cuddling up to you, which has a huge impact on her future learning and development. Research shows that babies who are regularly cuddled have bigger brains than babies who are deprived of close loving physical contact. 

Easter Treasure Basket 

Line a shallow basket and fill it up with Easter-themed objects such as a textured book, a soft toy rabbit or lamb, a plastic bath duck, a shaker (a must-have for every baby), and a toy your baby can safely chew on (see www.thebabysensoryshop.co.uk for ideas). 

 When your baby can sit up with or without support, a treasure basket filled with interesting and engaging objects will develop her sense of curiosity. When your baby explores the objects, she will find out about weight, size, shape, taste, smell, sound and temperature. Every time a new object is explored, highly sensitive nerve endings in the skin will send messages to her brain. In this way, information is collected that will lead to the later recognition of objects. 

Easter Songs

Focus on Easter songs such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘5 little Ducks’. Even if your baby cannot understand the words, she will enjoy the sound of your voice and your facial gestures and body movements. These time-honoured songs have a repetitive theme, which help to establish a sense of order (mathematical reasoning) and a sense of security. They also provide a powerful stimulus in terms of language and social development. 

Easter Games

A simple activity such as rolling a plastic egg across the floor will encourage a whole range of mobility skills as well as hand-eye coordination and sensory exploration. When your baby is a little older, you can sit on the floor and roll the egg back and forth or roll it down a slope for your baby to catch. Best of all, your quality interactions will make a huge difference to your baby’s emotional development and learning.

Nesting Set

Towards the end of the first year, your baby will enjoy activities that encourage use of the pincer grip. A multi-coloured nesting set for example, provides a wonderful, educational opportunity. When your baby tries to nest the cups, she will learn about size and space, which forms the foundation for mathematical and spatial awareness. These skills will stand her in good stead for the future.

Easter Outing

The spring air provides the perfect opportunity to tantalise your baby’s sense of smell. The fragrance of flowers, cut grass, new leaves growing and the smell of rain will help your baby learn about the world. Fresh air contains high levels of negative ions that can have a positive impact on your baby’s health and brain function. Sunlight provides Vitamin D that your baby needs to grow strong, healthy bones and offers protection from a number of common ailments and disorders. 

Activities that the whole family can enjoy together might include a visit to the river or pond to see the ducklings, a trip to a farm to see the baby animals or the excitement of an Easter party, which involves relatives and close friends. Avoid dressing up as the ‘Easter Bunny’ since the costume might unsettle or even frighten your baby. 

Capture the Occasion

To mark the occasion, dress your baby in an Easter-themed outfit. Your baby will look adorable in a bunny costume. Capture the moment on camera. A photograph will provide a fond memory of your baby’s first Easter for many years to come.

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)