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How to Safely Move and Position Your Child at Home

Why does my child need to move and change positions at home?

A child who has had a serious illness or has been in the hospital for a while can become weak. They may sit or lie down for long periods when they are at home.

Your child is more likely to get bedsores (also called pressure injuries) if they stay in the same position for too long.

They may need help from you or another caregiver. It is important to know how to move your child safely so you do not hurt them or yourself.

How often to move your child

It is a basic rule for a child to change positions every 2 hours while in bed. Some children may need to shift more often based on their comfort, skin health, activity level, and medical condition.

Your child should sit in a chair as much as possible. They need to change positions more often when sitting — about every 15 minutes.

If it is not possible to move your child this often, ask your care team about a pressure-relieving cushion. Your child can sit on the cushion to prevent pressure injuries.

Supplies needed

Use a gait belt (also called a transfer belt) when necessary. The belt is a safety tool placed around your child’s waist to help you move them.  

Following are general guidelines for moving your child safely. Always follow the instructions of your care team. 

How to position your child in bed

How to scoot your child up in bed

You will need 2 people if your child cannot help. 

Your child should have a sheet or pad under them. If they do not, have them roll side to side so you can place a sheet or pad that goes from the middle of their back to under their hips.

  1. Cross your child’s arms over their chest to keep their arms out of the way. 
  2. A helper should be on each side of the bed, near the head toward where you will be moving the child.
  3. With 1 hand, grab the top of the pad. With the other hand, grab the bottom of the pad.
  4. Put 1 foot forward and shift your weight onto that leg to get ready to move the child.
  5. Both helpers should pull the pad at the same time while moving their weight to their back leg.
  6. Repeat this process until your child is in a good position in bed.

How to roll your child in bed

  1. Make sure the bed is flat and move the bed to waist level. 
  2. Stand on the opposite side of the bed the direction your child is rolling.
  3. Get close to your child. This includes removing any barriers between you and your child.
  4. Before moving, double check any lines.
  5. Cross your child’s top arm over their chest so the shoulder is leaning toward the direction they are rolling.
  6. Bend your child’s top leg so that the knee is bent toward the direction they are rolling.
  7. Put 1 hand on their top shoulder and the other on their top hip.
  8. Gently push them to their side.
  9. Place a pillow behind their back to keep them from rolling onto their back.
  10. Place a pillow between their legs and another pillow under their top arm for comfort and positioning.

How to move your child from lying to sitting on side of bed

  1. Roll your child to their stronger side.
  2. Move to the side of the bed that your child is facing.
  3. Grab their knees to move their lower legs off the bed.
  4. Put 1 hand on their hip that is in the air and your other hand on their shoulder that is nearest to the bed.
  5. Lift them from lying to sitting straight up.

How to move your child from sitting on the bed to a chair

  1. Place the chair as close to the bed as possible so there is nowhere for your child to fall. 
  2. Make sure that the chair is in a secure position. If it is a wheelchair, make sure that both brakes are locked and footrests are out of the way.
  3. If you have one, use a gait belt to help.
  4. Lay your child’s head on your chest to move their weight off their bottom.
  5. Grab each side of your child’s hips and move their weight forward.
  6. If your child can assist with standing, allow them to push through both feet to help stand. Keep holding their hips, count to 3 while rocking them back and forth, then use the momentum to help them stand. Then either take small steps or pivot to move toward the chair.
  7. If your child cannot assist with standing, keep holding their hips, count to 3 while rocking them back and forth, then use the momentum to pick them up to move them to the chair. This may take 1 big movement or multiple little scoots. Use a gait belt if your child cannot help.
  8. Once your child is in the chair, keep their weight forward and your hands on their hips. Then scoot them back so their bottom is at the back of the chair.
  9. You can also use these steps to move your child from a chair to other surfaces such as a toilet or shower seat.
Woman sitting upright in a wheelchair.

How to position a child in a chair

  • Make sure their head is supported with a pillow or headrest, as needed.
  • Make sure their bottom is all the way back in the chair.
  • Make sure there is a 90-degree bend in the hips, knees, and ankles.

Moving a child in a sitting position

Woman, seated on bed, speaks to nurse who is standing.

Your child should wear shoes or socks with a good grip on them to prevent slipping. 

Be mindful of any lines your child has such as central venous catheter (CVC), feeding tube, tracheostomy, or urinary catheter lines.

  • Encourage your child to help with movements as much as possible, such as using bed rails or pushing up from arm rests.
  • Make sure your child’s feet are flat on the floor when moving them. 
  • You may have to scoot their hips forward for their feet to touch the floor. 
  • If your child’s feet still do not reach the floor, you may use a cushion or a stool to support their feet.
  • Support your child’s head if necessary.

Equipment for moving your child

There are many pieces of equipment to help move your child if they cannot help move themselves. You may need help from a mechanical lift, sit-to-stand lift, or sliding board. Ask your child’s care team if you need any of these. 

When to call your care team

Call your care team if:

  • You are not able to move your child.
  • Your child falls.
  • There are any signs of skin irritation, redness, or bedsores.
  • You have any questions.

Safety reminders for caregivers

Caregivers need to know how to move their bodies safely. You do not want to become too tired or hurt your back.

Tips for safe body movements include:

  • Stand straight in front of your child, not to the side or behind them.
  • Place your feet wide enough to be outside your child’s feet. Put your knees outside their knees to keep them from buckling if needed.
  • Keep your child close to your body.
  • Use your arms and squat with your legs to lift, not with your back.
  • Keep your back straight, not rounded.
  • Squeeze your stomach muscles.
  • Do not twist your body. Keep your back in line with your arms and legs throughout the movement.
  • Take it slow. Do not rush.
  • Ask for help. If your child is too heavy for you to lift on your own, ask for a second person to help you.

Key points about moving your child safely at home

  • Your child may need help to move and do activities that they did not need help with before.
  • Follow instructions to move and position your child safely. 
  • Follow instructions to move your body safely so you do not get tired or hurt your back. 
  • Ask your care team if you have questions. 
  • Always follow the instructions of your care team.

Reviewed: March 2023