With every new baby comes the irrepressible need to protect them. New parents are often overwhelmed by scare stories, conflicting information, advice and endless lists of dos and don’ts!

Fortunately, very young babies can’t get up to too many dangerous exploits, so the risk of accident is relatively low. Most young babies admitted to hospital either have respiratory infections or have been accidentally dropped.

Newborn baby characteristics:

  • A large head in relation to body size, which makes them head-heavy and means you need to support their head to prevent undue pressure on their developing neck muscles.
  • A soft-spot or fontanel on top of their head. This will fuse together in the first 10-18 months.
  • Very thin, sensitive skin – 15 times thinner than an adult’s.
  • Bendy bones and a flexible rib cage.
  • Very little control over their own movement.
  • A strong grasp reflex.
  • Can kick, wriggle and wave their arms.

3 months:

  • May be able to roll over independently from front to back or back to front
  • Start to grab things
  • Put things in their mouths

6 months:

  • Many babies can sit up unsupported
  • Can push and pull things
  • Can roll to get to things
  • Many babies begin to crawl or move in some other way independently

One of the major parental fears is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), previously referred to as Cot Death.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby where no cause is found after a detailed post mortem.

Every year in the UK, 300 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Although it is an extremely frightening prospect, it is important to remember SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying is extremely low.

While there is no advice which can guarantee the prevention of SIDS, there are recommendations for parents and carers to reduce the risk to their baby:

  • Smoking during the antenatal and postnatal stage of pregnancy remains the biggest risk for SIDS.
  • The safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot, Moses basket or crib in their parents’ room.
  • Avoid your baby spending too long in a car seat or sleeping in a semi-upright position. Transfer them to their cot or Moses basket as soon as possible.

(Current advice is to try not to leave babies in car seats for more than 30 minutes.)

  • Put your baby to sleep on their back on a firm mattress that is in good condition, with their feet at the foot of the cot to avoid them wriggling under the covers.
  • Do not cover your baby’s head.
  • Don’t let your baby get too hot, ideally the temperature in the room should be between 16°C-20°C.
  • Falling asleep with a baby significantly increases the risk of SIDS, particularly if the parent is a smoker, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or just extremely tired.
  • Parents can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born.
  • Breastfeed your baby if possible.

Most deaths happen during the first six months of a baby’s life, but these recommendations are relevant for the first 12 months. Infants born prematurely or with a low birthweight are at greater risk. Babies with a parent or parents who smoke are in a far higher risk category.

To reduce the risk of dropping your baby:

  • Always hold the stair rail when going up and down stairs
  • Do not leave objects on the stairs and ensure you wear well-fitting shoes with decent grip.
  • Never leave a bouncy chair or car seat on a table
  • Never leave your baby alone on a changing table or raised surface
  • Do not try and carry multiple items in addition to the baby
  • Always strap your baby into their car seat and buggy

If you do drop your baby it is always wise to get them seen by a health professional.

If they have only fallen from a low height and landed on carpet, it is highly unlikely that they will have incurred any major injury. Look out for any unusual crying, strange behaviour, or a rise in their fontanel – if you are concerned seek medical advice immediately.

First Aid for LifeAbout First Aid for Life

First Aid for Life and onlinefirstaid.com provide this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.

Please contact emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk , visit our website www.firstaidforlife.org.uk or call us on 02086754036.