Engage Antenatal CIC

In 2011, the Department of Health brought together an expert group of parenting organisations: antenatal educators, researchers, practitioners and service leaders, to reviewreparation for parenthood and to develop an approach that reflects today’s context. One outcome of this review was the provision of a list of key ingredients which must be in all antenatal education programmes. The fidelity with which a parenting programme is implemented is crucial. Most
evidence-based parenting programmes have a set of ‘key ingredients’ that are essential for ensuring they remain effective. Research repeatedly suggests that parenting programmes are only effective when practitioners work in a way which ensures that these key ingredients are maintained.

Before Baby was developed with the key ingredients in mind and they are all contained within the course content, which ensures fidelity in the courses development and implementation, which in turn ensures that it remains an evidence-based program targeted towards vulnerable parents. Over the years we have added to the course and woven in elements from other models, such as the Solihull parenting approach, but essentially the course has the original key ingredients. Our primary aim is to support expectant parents to become capable, independent and confident parents.

In ‘The 1001 critical days’ it states that “pregnancy and the birth of a baby is a critical ‘window of opportunity’ when parents are especially receptive to offers of advice and support” (p5). We have an opportunity to change parents’ perspectives: to inform them and to support them to develop secure parent infant attachments.

We provide a full antenatal education programme covering the period of pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of infancy. Before Baby is specifically designed in its content and delivery method to build knowledge, practical skills, and maternal bonding in vulnerable parents. It is designed to sit alongside and complement the standard midwifery antenatal offer and have a positive impact on a parents’ wellbeing, the relationship formed with the unborn baby, the birth experience, the parents’ ability to care for baby after the birth and the transition into a functioning family unit. The Before Baby programme involves expectant parents attending a eight week group which runs one session per week. The sessions are suitable for couples or individuals and the sessions are delivered by trained antenatal educators. The content of the sessions deliver factual, researched and approved content based on antenatal education best practice, in a practical and engaging way. Every session has content which is fun, ensuring ongoing attendance and participation from
attendees. The programme begins antenatally and continues postnatally, with a two-week reunion which transitions the attendees into ongoing pathways and early support/help programmes. Attendee groups, on evaluation, are shown to remain in contact creating ongoing friendships and peer support networks for their parenting journey.

The relationship between early experiences (starting prenatally) and the impact on future health and wellbeing is well documented. It follows that interventions aiming to optimise these early experiences may have long term as well as short term benefits, particularly for those who are more vulnerable. Ensuring that children receive the best start in life is also thought vital for helping to reduce health inequalities within society. Pregnancy, birth and the weeks and months beyond are a key time of change and development for parents, as well as for their baby. As mothers and fathers adjust to the changes in family life and relationships, and make changes to their lifestyle and behaviours, they gain in confidence and self-belief. This is an extraordinary and life-defining time. It is also a demanding time, and while most parents do well, some may struggle to cope with
the changes, to adjust to their new roles and to provide their child with the care he/she needs.

Each course will cover all aspects of birth, general care of the newborn, bathing and nappy changing, changes in lifestyle, routines and organisation, parenting, feeding and nutrition for
mother and child, smoking cessation and safe sleeping. The course is also accredited by the National Open College Network (NOCN).