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Published on May 25, 2018

Baby Health: Safe Sleep, Tummy Time and Water Safety

Baby Health

In this series:

Safe Sleep

In 2012, 16 Guilford County infants died in their sleep due to unsafe sleep practices and/or environments. While sleep environment-related deaths, such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), are not always predictable or preventable, there are several steps you can take to minimize the risk.

Safe SleepRecently, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development released additional recommendations on safe sleep environments for infants to help reduce the incidence of sleep environment-related death, adapted as the ABC’S for Safe Sleep:

  • A – Alone: babies should not share a bed with anyone.
  • B – Back: babies should be put to rest on their backs.
  • C – Crib: the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet; flat surface; no toys or heavy blankets.
  • S – Smoking: smoke exposure increases a baby’s risk of SIDS.

If it’s cold, dress your baby in warm sleep clothing like a wearable blanket instead of covering them with one. The ABC’S of sleep should be used whenever a baby sleeps – whether it’s a nap, at night, at daycare or while a loved one is watching them.

A safe sleep space can be as simple as a cardboard box. Baby boxes, safe sleep boxes made out of cardboard, are now available in Greensboro through a local partnership with the Baby Box Company. To learn more, visit, sign up and start learning. If you’d like more information, call the Cone Health Women’s Hospital at 336-832-6500.

Dr. Kaye Gable is the program director for Cone Health’s Pediatric Teaching Service and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.

The Importance of Tummy Time

Tummy time is when you place your baby on his or her stomach while awake and is an important part of every baby’s growth. Tummy time provides a foundation for early motor skills like lifting their head, pushing up with their arms to crawl, and strengthening the muscles that help them sit up. This time can also be tied to fine motor skills, like handwriting, that develops later by strengthening the small muscles in the shoulder. Letting your baby experience a variety of positions throughout the day can also help prevent flat spots on the back of the head. All tummy time should be practiced when your baby is awake and supervised.

Tummy TimeThere is no set amount of tummy time that each child needs, but specialists recommend you try to squeeze in at least a few minutes a couple of times a day. As your baby gets used to being on their belly, you can increase the time of each session or practice it more often. Some other tips to practice tummy time include:

  • Create space – put a blanket down on the ground or set apart an area just for tummy time that’s clean.
  • Make it interesting – put age-appropriate toys within reach for them to play or interact with or talk to them.
  • Time it – wait until after a diaper change or when they wake up from a nap to ensure they’ll be awake and active.

Even with these tips, sometimes babies just don’t like lying on their stomach. If that’s the case, there are a few alternative ways to practice tummy time:

  • Use a pillow – prop up their head and chest with a pillow so it’s higher than their legs. This can help them see more or interact better.
  • Over your legs – lay them across your legs while positioning their head higher than their legs.
  • Prone position carry – lay the baby down your arm, supporting their body but letting them lift their head.
  • Don’t have floor space or have a curious pet that might get in the way? Use a pack ‘n play! If you don’t have a separate space where baby can play on their belly uninterrupted, a pack ‘n play is a good alternative space.

Carrie Sawulski, PT is a pediatric physical therapist who works in outpatient pediatric rehabilitation and with the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Water Safety

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children in the United States. Whether you are spending time at a pool, lake or beach this summer, it is important for parents to always designate a ‘water watcher’. Water watchers must stay in close proximity to their children and keep an eye on them at all times as they play in the water. It is recommended to select swimming areas with lifeguards on duty that are trained to administer CPR.

Having the proper water safety equipment is also important. Children who cannot swim or who are just beginning to learn may need to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) properly fitted to their weight and age. When selecting floatation devices, it is important to find one that is U.S. Coast Guard certified and is designed to the appropriate level for your child. Pool toys such as noodles or inflatable “floaties” are not appropriate, life-saving floatation devices. With small children and infants using inflatable pool floats, a parent or guardian should always be within arm’s reach.

While swim lessons are definitely encouraged for all children to help ensure water safety, just because a child can swim, does not mean they should ever be left unmonitored near a body of water. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, which is why it’s important to supervise them even in shallow, portable pools and to drain the water when it’s not in use.

In any incidence of a drowning or severe heat-related incidence, parents should call 911 immediately and let local EMS get their children to the correct emergency facility.

Dr. Ross Kuhner is the medical director and board-certified pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Cone Health’s Children’s Emergency Department located at Moses Cone Hospital.

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