The Early Years Matter - The Health Visitors perspective.

There is much scientific evidence that suggests the first 3 years of a child’s life and their experiences in those years are crucial to how the brain develops. The chemicals and connections that form a baby’s brain can determine how they are able to form relationships with other people, how empathic they are, how they deal with social situations, and how resilient they are later in life. For these reasons it is really important that parents of young children are supported to ensure their baby’s brain develops in a healthy and positive way.

Babies need to feel loved, nurtured, safe and secure in order to have healthy brain development. Babies need to know that when they have a need, for example if they are distressed, hungry or in pain, that someone will come and smooth them and meet their need. Children who don’t have their needs met can be more at risk of developing social and emotional difficulties in childhood and adult life. Simple things like talking gently to your baby, smiling at them, giving them lots of eye contact, singing, playing, and gentle touch like cuddles and massage are powerful ways of forming good connections in a baby’s brain and helping them feel loved and cared for.

It is also important that parents themselves feel well, both physically and emotionally. It is usual for new parents to experience some anxiety about caring for a new baby, it is after all a big change and responsibility when a new member of the family arrives...not to mention the sleep deprivation! However some parents experience more significant low mood and anxiety which may require professional support.

For both parents and babies Health Visitors are at hand to help! Health Visitors are qualified nurses or midwives with a further qualification in Community and Public Health. Every family with a child aged between 0-4 has a Health Visitor.

Usually the first time a family meet their Health Visitor is either during pregnancy or when the baby is around 10 days old. The role of the Health Visitor is to provide support, information and advice to families about all aspects of parenting, child and parental health, breast feeding, growth and development, including how to support positive brain development. Health Visitors are also responsible, along with other professionals, for ensuring that children are safe and protected from harm.

Health Visitors work with others, for example GP’s, midwives, School Nurses,  Children’s Centres, Libraries, Pre-Schools, Social Workers, Police, and community and voluntary groups to ensure families receive the help and support they need when they need it.

For more information about the Health Visiting service in Northamptonshire and useful information for parents please visit www.nht.nhs.uk and follow the link to Community Services, then Universal Children’s Services.

Louisa Corkan,
Professional Lead for Children’s Public Health Nursing,
Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust

V|iew our pages on key milestones in your baby's development at http://www.asknormen.co.uk/key-milestones/


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