Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program

The Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC) Program is a free, confidential and voluntary program for pregnant women and families with children up to age six.

The Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program provides you with advice and support at various stages to help you give your children the best start in life.

When your baby arrives

A Public Health Nurse will phone within a few days after your hospital discharge to see how you are doing. Home visits are provided if you need support to make a healthy adjustment in the first few weeks after having your baby.

You can receive information and support about:

  • Feeding your baby
  • Staying physically and emotionally healthy
  • Dealing with occasional feelings of sadness
  • Being a parent
  • Encouraging your baby’s growth and development
  • Keeping your baby safe
  • Finding community resources you may need

A Public Health Nurse and a Family Home Visitor will provide home visiting to those families that would benefit from learning more about growth and development, positive parenting and community resources.

To learn more about the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577

Additional Resources:

Healthy Babies Healthy Children – Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

Speech and Language

Speech and Language

Communication Counts!

By the time most children are four years of age, they can speak and communicate well with others. However, some children have difficulty developing their speech and language skills. This puts them at risk for failure in school, which could lead to further problems later in life. As parents, we all want the best for our children.

Make sure your baby, toddler or preschooler’s speech skills are on track by calling the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577 and having your child’s speech skills checked over the phone. For more information, call your local health unit, a partner in the District Preschool Speech and Language Program.

Soothers and Pacifiers

It’s important to know all the facts so you can make an informed decision about giving your infant a soother. Know the facts about soothers.

Still have questions? Call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5003 to speak with a Family Health Nurse.

Risks of Using a Soother:

  • Soothers can interfere with successful breastfeeding. It can decrease the time a baby spends sucking at the breast, which can affect mom’s milk supply.
  • A soother is not nutritious and can impact a baby’s growth if it is used to replace breastfeeding.
  • A baby could develop a preference to the soother and refuse to breastfeed, making exclusive breastfeeding more difficult.
  • Using a soother can interfere with exclusive breastfeeding, it can make the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) an ineffective choice of contraception.
  • If not cleaned properly, soothers can carry germs.
  • If not used properly, soothers can be a choking hazard.
  • Ear infections and dental problems are more common with soother use and can be related to abnormal oral muscle function.
  • Overusing a soother can affect your child’s ability to learn to talk and can Lead to teeth problems.

If you have made an informed decision to use a soother, here are some tips to consider:

  • Wait until your baby is breastfeeding well and your milk supply is established (around four to six weeks) before offering a soother. If you feel you need to introduce a soother at an earlier stage, talk to your health care provider.
  • Always make sure your baby is not hungry, tired, or cold before giving a soother.
  • Avoid using a soother to delay you baby’s feedings. Always follow your baby’s feeding cues.
  • Sterilize the soother by boiling it in water for two minutes before the first use. Allow it to completely cool down before giving it to your baby. After each use, wash it with hot, soapy water. Don’t “clean” the soother by sucking on it yourself as it can spread germs from you to your child, including bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.
  • Always make sure the soother is not damaged and is free of cracks. Throw it out if it is damaged. Soothers should be replaced every two months.
  • Never let your baby or child chew on a soother. It could become damaged and cause choking and death.
  • Do not tie anything around your baby’s neck, this can cause strangulation and death. Clips with short ribbons attached to them are safe to use and are available where you buy soothers.
  • Don’t make your own soother out of bottle nipples, caps, or other materials. This can cause choking and death.
  • Children should not crawl or walk with a soother in their mouth.
  • Soothers should never be dipped in anything sweet. This can lead to tooth decay. Also, using honey can lead to botulism, which is a type of food poisoning.
  • Sometimes premature or sick babies like to suck for comfort. Talk with your health care provider or lactation consultant for help.

Babies and Sleep

Sleep is important for your baby’s growth and development, especially for their rapidly developing brain. Each baby’s sleep pattern will be different, depending on their personality and temperament.

In general, you can expect to see some of the following changes during the first year of life:

Babies less than three months of age:

  • normally sleep between 14 to 17 hours during a 24-hour period,
  • usually wake every two to three hours to feed,
  • have irregular sleep patterns and may sleep at any time of the day or night, and
  • spend a lot of time in active sleep and may move, grunt and twitch during sleep. This may cause a baby to wake up not long after they fall asleep, just before moving into quiet sleep.

Babies three to six months:

  • normally sleep 12 to 16 hours during a 24-hour period, including naps,
  • continue to wake frequently to feed,
  • may have a more regular sleep pattern, with more time spent in quiet sleep, and
  • may begin to stay awake longer during the day and sleep for longer stretches at night.

Babies six to 12 months:

  • normally sleep 12 to 16 hours during a 24-hour period, including naps,
  • may still wake during the night to feed,
  • may develop a more regular sleep routine, and
  • may transition from many short naps to fewer, longer naps.

Infants have shorter sleep cycles than adults (about 60 minutes), and they may wake up as they move from one sleep cycle to the next.

Still have questions about your baby’s sleep? Call one of our Healthy Families nurses at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5003.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the death of an otherwise healthy baby under one year of age, with no identified cause after autopsy. An infant’s sleep environment can impact their risk for death or injury. When the sleep environment is a contributing factor (e.g. such as with suffocation), it is called sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). Babies can be injured if left unsupervised in an unsafe place, or if infant products are not used as intended.

Help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):

  • Place your baby on their back for every sleep.
  • Place your baby to sleep alone in a crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets Health Canada’s safety regulations.
  • Ensure a smoke-free environment for your baby, before and after birth. This means preventing first, second and third-hand smoke exposure.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Ensure the mattress is firm with a tight fitted sheet and no loose bedding, bumper pads, or toys.
  • Keep your baby in the same room with you during the first six months of life.
  • Ensure your baby is not covered in any way.
  • Dress your baby in a fitted one-piece sleeper.
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
  • Do not swaddle your baby.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a condition that occurs when a baby is shaken violently. Shaking is a potentially fatal form of child abuse.
If a baby is shaken with force, it can lead to a lifetime of problems:

  • Shaking can damage a child’s brain
  • Shaking can cause permanent disabilities like blindness or paralysis
  • Shaking can even cause death

Never, never shake a baby! No child, at any age, should ever be shaken.

Sleeping

Helping your baby sleep

It takes time for infants to develop a circadian rhythm cycle (having more awake time during the day and sleeping more at night). However, parents and caregivers can help their baby develop healthy sleep habits right from birth. Try these tips when putting your baby to sleep:

  • Allow natural sunlight into the home during the day and keep the lights low at night. This will help your baby learn the difference between day and night.
  • Start a calming bedtime routine with your baby, including things such as reading a story, bath time, baby massage, singing or rocking. Stay consistent and over time babies may learn that the routine and their crib mean it is time for sleep.
  • Some babies may need more help than others to fall asleep. Try feeding, rocking, singing, shushing or patting to help soothe your baby.

Helping your baby nap

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. Try these tips to help your baby nap:

  • It may be helpful to use a shorter version of your baby’s bedtime routine before a nap, for example, a short story and cuddle.
  • Whenever possible, place your baby to sleep in the same place for daytime napping and night-time sleeping.

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