Star Babies is an enhanced universal home visiting service for all first-time parents, offering monthly visits from the antenatal period until the baby is 12 months of age. The focus is on promoting infant mental health and supporting the transition to parenthood.
What prompted the work?
Star Babies was developed in response to evidence on the impact of early childhood experience and parenting relationships on later outcomes. Local parents indicated the need for more contact with their health visiting team and a greater focus on nurturing and emotional support, especially with a first baby.
How did you initiate the work?
Star Babies began as a pilot service in 2013. By increasing the number of home visits available to first time mothers and fathers, the health visiting service has more opportunity to provide quality support and information about activities that promote sensitive, responsive parenting and the quality of secure attachment relationships. Key information and knowledge about aspects of child development, health and wellbeing and parenting support, paced within an enhanced framework of visits up to twelve months.
Measures of success
- universal access and uptake for first time mothers and fathers
- effective delivery of skill mix service
- service user experience.
- increased support during transition to parenthood
- increased parental understanding of baby brain development and early experience on social and emotional development.
- increased awareness of healthy child development in context of public health issues.
- increased inclusion of fathers.
- increased parenting confidence and skills.
Teams consist of health visitors, public health staff nurses and child health assistants. They receive Star Babies training, with follow-up practice based learning and mentoring. Star Babies is aligned to public health priorities, such as infant mental health, childhood obesity, physical activity, childhood injury prevention and school readiness. Public health issues include lifestyle behaviours, managing childhood illness, childhood injury prevention, breastfeeding and infant feeding, physical activity in non-walkers, safer sleep, and healthy emotional and social development.
What difference has the project or initiative made?
Nearly 4000 first time families received Star Babies between 2013- 2017. All parents are asked to complete an evaluation and results remain strongly positive. For example, 94% of respondents either strongly agreed or, agreed that Star Babies had increased their knowledge, confidence and skills as a new parent. One respondent commented: “I feel that there is a lot of pressure on new parents to follow ‘text book’ routines. Star Babies is so important for new parents to reassure them of their baby’s individual needs.”
What are the long-term objectives?
Professional research commissioned to evaluate Star Babies and contribute to the evidence base. Star Babies contributes to the NHSCT Infant Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan (NHSCT, 2017).