Early intervention is effective and also makes later interventions more cost-effective and more likely to succeed (World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund, World Bank Group, 2018).
Antenatal education offers a unique window of opportunity to help parents-to-be lay the foundations for their baby’s development and future. This opportunity can often get missed due to the focus on preparing women for labour and birth and the failure to engage all families.
What is Baby Steps?
Baby Steps is an evidence-based perinatal education programme that helps parents transition to parenthood. It is aimed at families who might not engage in traditional antenatal classes or who may need extra help during the perinatal period.
The programme promotes integration across services, especially children’s centres, maternity services and health visiting and is an excellent vehicle for partnership working.
It is designed to sit alongside mainstream provision and to be co-delivered by health and social care practitioners who will be able to successfully engage with families and ensure they are receiving the advice, care and support they need during the perinatal period.
How it was developed
Baby Steps was developed in collaboration with Warwick University in response to evidence about the gaps in antenatal education and support for parents during the perinatal period (Schrader-McMillan et al, 2009).
The programme builds on the Department of Health’s Preparation for Birth and beyond framework (2011) and a range of evidence about protective factors during the perinatal period.
What the programme is designed to do
The programme is designed to improve health and wellbeing and promotes protective factors during the perinatal period by:
- supporting parents with the emotional and physical transition to parenthood
- nurturing healthy relationships by encouraging listening and conflict resolution skills
- encouraging the development of sensitive and reflective parent-infant relationships
- promoting healthy child development within a network of supportive relationships.
How effective is Baby Steps?
We evaluated the service and found that parents who attended Baby Steps:
- showed an improvement in the quality of their relationship with their babies
- showed a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression
- showed increased levels of self-esteem
- had a lower caesarean rate, higher birth weight and fewer premature babies when compared to the general population
- did not experience a decrease in relationship satisfaction with their partners that is seen in the general population.
These findings suggest that parents who took part in Baby Steps will be better protected against relationship breakdown and perinatal mental health problems and will be better equipped to provide sensitive, responsive care to their babies, leading to improved outcomes for children in the long term.
> Read our implementation evaluation of Baby Steps
You can also find a full list of evaluation reports for this service in the References and resources tab.
Helping you deliver the service
We want to help you successfully implement and sustain Baby Steps and achieve positive outcomes for families. That is why we provide pre-implementation support and an ongoing quality assurance process. This ensures that the programme is delivered in your area in a cost-effective manner.
Our dedicated implementation team will provide a package of support which includes:
- a detailed readiness assessment
- guidance on how to ensure quality delivery in your area and a range of materials to help you do this
- site visits to help you create your implementation plan
- a licence for the area to deliver Baby Steps in accordance with the model and an annual service review
- 6 days of comprehensive training for up to 12 Baby Steps group facilitators, covering the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to deliver the groups
- access to community of practice forums to facilitate sharing of learning and resources across Baby Steps sites.
Our emphasis is on ensuring fidelity to the model while offering some flexibility to tailor the approach to your local groups. This ‘flexibility within a fidelity framework’ promotes outcomes and local relevance.
How to deliver Baby Steps
Are you a commissioner or service provider seeking to improve perinatal mental health, parenting and family support or child wellbeing and development? We can provide training and implementation support to help you set up your Baby Steps service for parents in your local area.
For more information about delivering this service, please contact us at email@example.com.