Skip to content

Healthy Growth & Development

All children grow and develop at different rates. It is important for parents to learn about their child’s development. Parents can do activities to promote healthy growth and development for their child.


Skin-to-skin contact means that a baby wears only a diaper and is placed upright on mom or support person’s bare chest. You can use a light, dry blanket across baby’s back if you need to.

Hold your baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible after your baby is born. Skin-to-skin is best done for an hour or more!

If your baby is born early, skin-to-skin has many benefits to help your baby grow and develop.

All babies enjoy skin-to-skin. Continue to hold your baby skin-to-skin, often and for long periods of time, even as your baby gets older.

Benefits of skin-to-skin:

  • They can hear your heart beat and your breathing, this helps comfort them
  • Helps to stabilize your baby’s vital signs, including their heart rate, breathing, temperature and blood sugar
  • Helps you to bond with your baby
  • Lowers the level of stress hormones in mom and baby, which helps your baby to stay calm
  • Helps mom to relax, which helps to start milk production and milk let down
  • If skin-to-skin is done right after birth, your baby is able to learn to latch and feed well right away, which helps to prevent sore nipples
  • Babies who do skin-to-skin are more likely to solely breastfeed and breastfeed longer

Below are some resources to help you learn about skin-to-skin:


Swaddling is tightly wrapping and restricting a baby’s movement. It is often promoted as a way to calm fussy babies, or a way to get babies to sleep longer. Some hospitals still routinely swaddle newborns or teach parents how to swaddle, which can make them think swaddling is important. However, research outlines many risk factors to swaddling which can affect breastfeeding, growth and development and baby’s safety while sleeping. Swaddling risks include:

Babies who are placed skin to skin immediately after birth will use their hands and arms to help them find mom’s breast and successfully breastfeed for the first time – if they are swaddled, they are only about half as likely to breastfeed right away.

Babies that are swaddled show delayed feeding behaviors, and suckle less competently at their first feeding. This can lead to a reduction in milk supply.

Swaddled babies gain weight more slowly because they are less able to signal hunger cues (ie. bringing their hands to their mouth), and are less aware that they are hungry. This results in missed feeding cues, delayed or missed feedings, and can lead to a reduction in mothers milk supply.

Babies who are exposed to skin to skin and not swaddled are calmer and cry less than babies that are swaddled. Skin to skin contact also promotes interaction and bonding. Babies are also more likely to breastfeed exclusively and longer if skin to skin is done. Research also shows that swaddled newborns have poorer circulation and lower body temperature than babies who are held skin to skin.

Swaddling, especially tight swaddling, can increase the risk of respiratory infections and pneumonia in babies.

More frequent night wakings are actually protective against SIDS, and are normal behaviours for infants. When compared to babies who are not swaddled, swaddling resulted in less arousal, less alert activity, more drowsiness and more sleep. Once a baby is able to roll over, it is very dangerous to swaddle them for sleep. A swaddled baby on their stomach has a 12.99% increased risk of SIDS.

Blankets can also pose a danger as they can become loose, posing a risk for infant safety and possible increased risk of SIDS.

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a disorder that can improve or worsen as a baby develops, depending on how it is managed in the first months of life. Swaddling a baby with its legs extended can increase the risk of DDH, especially when the legs are not free to bend and flex. For this reason, any clothing or wrapping on the lower half of a baby’s body should be loose enough to allow baby free movement.

A swaddled baby can also be at risk for overheating, especially if their head is covered. Skin-to-skin contact has been shown to help babies regulate temperature better than swaddling.

Print-Friendly Swaddling Fact Sheet

Biliary Atresia Screening

Biliary Atresia is a rare but serious disease of the liver and bile ducts. Bile is a digestive fluid that is made in the liver and empties into the intestine to help digest food. It enters the stool (poop) giving it a darker colour. In biliary atresia, bile cannot get from the liver to the stool, causing acholic (pale in colour) stool. This blockage causes buildup of bile in the liver, which can damage it. Without treatment, this can lead to liver failure and eventually death. Treatment for biliary atresia is a surgery to allow bile to move from the liver to the intestines.

Newborn Screening Ontario now supports parents to screen their baby for this disease during the first month of life. Parents are given an Infant Stool Colour Card after birth and are asked to compare their baby’s stool (poop) every day against the normal and abnormal colours on the Colour Card. If parents detect any abnormal stool colours, they are asked to contact Newborn Screening Ontario as directed on the Card or complete the Biliary Atresia Screening Contact Form. Don’t be alarmed – please remember that this is a screening tool and not a diagnostic test. Newborn Screening Ontario will contact families directly to provide follow up.

Infant Sleep

Parents often have questions about their baby’s sleep. Below are some common questions parent have.

Every baby is different. Some babies fall asleep easily with just a little help, while others can be harder to settle. Try feeding, rocking, singing, shushing and patting your baby. Learn your baby’s tired cues. An over-tired baby can be hard to settle.

Tired cues can look like:

  • Yawning
  • Jerky movements
  • Becoming quiet, not wanting to play
  • Fussing
  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Crying
  • Facial grimaces (i.e. pulling faces)
  • Tight fists

Babies sleep habits change often. This is normal and can be due to:

  • Teething
  • Illness
  • Growth spurts
  • Learning new skills

Sleep training is a common term for a method of letting baby fall asleep on their own. Some training methods involve leaving baby to cry without being comforted. This could have some unintended effects on mother and baby, such as:

  • Increased crying
  • Early weaning from breastfeeding
  • Increased anxiety for mom
  • Increased risk of SIDS

Here are some tips to help sleep happen more easily:

  • Get outside
  • Ask for help from a friend or family member
  • Exercise and eat well
  • Start a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Breastfeed and cuddle your baby before bed
  • Try meditation or deep breathing to relax
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed

Babies will sleep through the night when they are developmentally ready to do so. Many children will wake up even as toddlers.

What to expect:

  • 1–3 months:
    • Irregular sleep patterns
    • Many naps during the day and night
    • Usually wake every 2–3 hours to feed
    • Babies may move, grunt, and twitch during sleep
  • 3–6 months:
    • May start a more regular sleep pattern
    • May start sleeping for longer stretches
    • Frequent waking to feed is still common
  • 6–12 months:
    • May change to a fairly regular sleep routine
    • Many short naps may change to fewer, longer naps
    • Waking at night to feed is STILL common

Over time babies may “learn” that the bedtime routine and their crib mean it is time for sleep. Keep bedtime routine consistent. Things such as reading a story, bath time, baby massage, singing or rocking can be part of your baby’s routine.

All parents want to keep their babies safe while they sleep. Here are some safety tips:

  • Put baby’s bed in the same room as their parents for the first 6 months of life
  • Breastfeed your baby
  • Smoke-free environment day and night
  • Use a crib, cradle or bassinette that meets Health Canada’s safety standards
  • Place baby on their back to sleep for every sleep
  • Sleep surface is firm and flat
  • Only baby in the crib – no blankets, pillows, stuffed toys or bump pads, etc.
  • Room should not be too warm
  • Dress baby in light clothes such as a one piece sleeper

While a crib is the safest place for babies to sleep, some families may choose to have their baby sleep with them (called bed-sharing). There are risks to bed-sharing and it is not safe in certain situations.

* Following the “Safe Sleep Seven” can make bed-sharing safer.

You need to be:

  1. A non-smoker
  2. Sober and unimpaired
  3. Breastfeeding

Your baby needs to be:

  1. Healthy and full-term
  2. On his/her back for every sleep
  3. Lightly dressed, not swaddled

You both need to be:

  1. On a safe surface (firm, flat mattress and no spaces for baby to get stuck)

Napping helps a baby to sleep better at night. Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help your baby sleep longer at night. Some babies nap as little as 20 minutes, while others may nap for 3 or more hours. Both are normal.

Download our Infant Sleep: What Parents Want to Know Resource. If you have questions you can call 1-800-660-5853, extension 2467, and ask to speak with a Public Health Nurse.

Infant Feeding

We support all families in feeding their babies in a safe and nurturing way. Check out our Infant feeding page for more information.

If you would like support with feeding your baby or would like to know if feeding is going well, visit our Infant feeding clinics.

If you wish to discuss any questions or concerns call 1-800-660-5853, extension 2467, and ask to speak with a Public Health Nurse or Nutritionist.

Enhanced 18-Month Well Baby Visit

18-months is a milestone in your child’s development. A visit to your health care provider is important at this time. For this reason, Ontario funds a longer, more in depth visit with your health care provider.

How can you prepare:

Tummy Time

Tummy time is important for your baby’s growth and development. Supervised tummy time should be done several times a day.

Benefits of tummy time include:

  • Help prevent flat spots on your baby’s head (plagiocephaly)
  • Make the neck, back and arm muscles stronger
  • Help your baby learn to roll and crawl
  • Support overall development

You may have to help your baby learn to enjoy tummy time. Check out some tips on how to help your baby enjoy tummy time.

For information on plagiocephaly, visit the Children’s Pediatric Society website.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for your child’s growth and development. Visit our Physical Activity section of the website for more information.


It is important to choose the right stage of car seat for your child.

For information on car seats visit:

Protect babies from the sun. Babies burn more easily than adults. For sun safety tips for babies and children visit The Canadian Cancer Society.

Winter can be a great time for the whole family to play outside. Parachute Canada has information on how to keep your child safe and warm during winter.

There are many things that we can do to protect our children. Learn more about children’s environmental health and what you can do.

Second-hand smoke is harmful to our health, especially to children. Health Canada has information on the benefits of making your home and car smoke-free.

Visit the Smoking/Vaping section of the website for information and resources on quitting smoking. For more information call 1-800-660-5853 and ask to speak with a Public Health Nurse.

Visit our Injury Prevention section for more information on safety.