Department of Health and Social Care
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Embargoed - When new mums need help most

Embargoed - When new mums need help most

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 30 October 2009

Press information: Embargoed until 00.01 hrs Monday 2 nd November 2009

New research released today has revealed that, after the understandable flurry in the first eight weeks of motherhood, the period when first-time mums have the most questions about their babies’ development can be pin-pointed to five months and one week [1] after they have given birth.

This crucial period is when visits from friends and family naturally decline, leaving mums to make decisions on their own, and at risk of feeling isolated and anxious.

Mums had the most new questions at this time around weaning (81%), sleeping (42%) and safety in the home (22%). The survey was undertaken to help with the development of NHS Baby LifeCheck by the Department of Health. NHS Baby LifeCheck (www.nhs.uk/babylifecheck) is a free online questionnaire to help new mums and dads keep their babies healthy, happy and safe.

The research found that during the five to eight month period:

· 81% say their baby’s needs are changing and developing quickly (teething, weaning, moving around) which leads to lots of questions and concerns as to whether they’re doing things right and meeting all of those needs.
· 60% experience a drop in regular visits from friends and family.
· 54% say their partner is less able by this point to get home or be at home to help out.
· 32% say they don’t have any time for themselves. · 20% felt the realisation that baby care tasks are ‘repetitive and mundane’.

However, advice and support is available at this time from child health clinics, general practice and Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Kayleigh Pillington, a new first time mum of Logan-Rhys, now six months, says: “Everyone is so excited about the baby at first, but five months in when you’ve got more questions than ever because they’re doing all these new things, interest in you and the baby really dies down. That’s when I started to feel anxious – it was all on my shoulders and I just wasn’t sure if I was doing it right.”

More than half (54%) of new mums hear from family once a week after their baby is born, but this drops to only a quarter (25%) five months in.

While grandparents, aunts and uncles may offer to help with babysitting and bedtime up to three or four times a week (65%) in the first month post birth, by five to eight months they only offer once a week or less (63%).

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said:

“This is about equipping first time parents to make the best choices for their babies. The Government recognises that being a new parent can be a worrying time, and you want reassurance that what you're doing is right. Parents are looking for a source of reliable information to get this reassurance and to know that they are doing the best they can for their child. That’s why the Government has set up the NHS Baby LifeCheck to empower parents to make confident decisions about their baby’s health, happiness and safety.”

Nicola Stenning, a Health Visitor from London said: “Parents are given essential support and advice in the first few months of their baby’s life. But the next stage is also a key time in their child’s development and can be a difficult time especially for first time parents. It is important that information and advice is easily accessible, which is why NHS Baby LifeCheck was developed.

“It particularly focuses on providing support for parents of five to eight month old babies between scheduled visits from health professionals and it is a key time in their development. By guiding parents through some simple questions, we can then offer advice and reassurance on making the best decisions for their child without being judgemental.”

Created in consultation with parents, www.nhs.uk/babylifecheck recognises that being the mum or dad of a young baby can sometimes be a challenge.

It is an easy to use, online service covering topics including: development, talking and playing, feeding, healthy teeth, safety, sleep routine, immunisations and being a parent. www.nhs.uk/babylifecheck offers top tips, helpful videos and details of organisations which can support people across a range of issues – from weaning worries to feeling down or lonely.

[1] Between 3 and 12 months of a baby’s life, mums are on average most likely to feel anxious and isolated at 5.2 months

Notes to Editors

Opinion Matters research carried out of 510 mothers with a child aged five to 12 months old between 24/09/2009 and 02/10/2009.

For more information about NHS Baby LifeCheck please contact:

Department of Health newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

About NHS LifeCheck

· A former version of NHS Baby LifeCheck, called NHS Early Years LifeCheck, was launched in 83 Communities for Health areas in October 2008.

· NHS Baby LifeCheck is not a medical assessment and has no symptom checker. It does not provide help for parents who are worried their baby is ill. Parents with medical concerns should call NHS Direct.

· NHS LifeCheck informs, empowers and supports people in leading healthier lives. It helps them to understand how their current lifestyle choices may affect their long-term well-being and offers guidance in making small but effective changes

· In the public consultation “Your Health, Your Care, Your Say” people clearly expressed an interest in taking more responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Three quarters of participants identified regular health checks as a top priority to help them do this.

· In response, the 2006 Government White Paper ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’ announced the development of three initial NHS LifeChecks:

- one for young people aged 12 - 15
- one for parents and carers with babies five - eight months old and
- one for the 45 - 60 years age group

About “Birth to Five” (www.nhs.uk/birthtofive)

· A key Department of Health publication, Birth to Five has been revised and will be given free to all parents in England

· The book is extremely popular and a trusted authority on all aspects of early years

· By providing in-depth support, useful contact information and advice on rights and benefits, the book is an excellent addition to the support provided by the health visiting team

· The book’s content has been updated to reflect new policies, changing social trends and advice and guidance. The design has been modernised to reflect a more contemporary style

· Birth to Five gives parents information on:

- becoming a parent
- taking care of yourself and your child
- finding practical help and support

· Birth to Five aims to:

- introduce parents to the Healthy Child Programme for the first years of life, explaining issues like immunisation as part of the universal service provided for all children

- provide a guide to the early years of life, ensuring mother, her partner and baby have support throughout this time

- explain, in an encouraging and engaging manner, the different aspects of the first five years of life, ensuring optimal health and wellbeing of all involved

- reinforce and act as an addition to the advice from midwives and health visitors, ensuring they have support in their profession.

Contacts:

Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221
NDS.DH@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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