A week of events brought a South American idea to Leeds in a bid to help give all babies in the city the best start in life.
Baby Week Leeds ran last week from 11-17 September 2017 with a six day schedule of conferences, workshops and fun activities for parents-to-be, new parents, and professionals.
It’s the second time the city has hosted the event, thought to be the first in the country and modelled on Semana do Bebe, an initiative in Brazil supported by UNICEF.
Parents and their experiences were at the heart of the events, with the fantastic opening ceremony at the Crowne Plaza which welcomed many expectant parents, new-borns and professionals from across the city. During the ceremony, Lord Mayor Councillor Jane Dowson launched of the Baby Box Initiative coordinated by The Baby Box Co with The Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust. Leeds is the first place in Yorkshire to introduce the initiative which is credited with helping Finland significantly cut its rates of sudden infant death syndrome. Expectant parents across Leeds can receive a free “baby box” aimed at allowing their infants to sleep safely with a hope that the scheme will encourage expecting parents to use maternity services at an early point. To receive a free Baby Box, people need to complete the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust syllabus on www.babyboxuniversity.com.
Following the opening, a two-day conference at the University of Leeds aimed at professionals took place focusing on topics ranging from mental health and bereavement to breastfeeding, early years and supporting young fathers. Mums and young parents were among the conference speakers, sharing moving stories of coping with the very toughest challenges pregnancy can sometimes bring such as mental health difficulties and bereavement.
Later in the week, the NHS invited new parents and parent-to-be at Yorkshire Playhouse café. The focus of the event was to help shape maternity care in the city, by sharing their experiences of the support they received and giving their views on NHS plans.
There were also a host of fun, free, family activities that took place across the city including children’s centres, libraries and community hubs and a Teddy Bear’s Picnic at the White Rose Centre including interactive story telling coordinated by Build-A-Bear. Rainbow Factory worked with John Lewis and Victoria Gate to host messy play and interactive story telling which saw many families in the centre on the weekend.
Dr Jane Mischenko, Commissioning Lead for Children & Maternity Services at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups Partnership says: “There’s lots of important work going on in our city to support new parents and parents-to-be, from making sure maternity care is personal to their needs, to campaigns to help people quit smoking, avoid alcohol or get help if they are struggling emotionally. There’s also lots of practical support including fantastic community groups and a free app called Baby Buddy."
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families, says: “Baby Week Leeds provided us with a great opportunity to bring together families and the professionals involved in their care to celebrate the youngest people in our city. To look at what’s working well for them in Leeds, share ideas and research, and most importantly to talk to about how we can best work with families to support them and have some fun”.
Baby Week Leeds founder Lucy Potter says: “I was so inspired by the Semana do Bebe initiative in Brazil, I wanted to set something similar up in our own city and by working with Child Friendly Leeds we have now had two successful years. We aim to actively engage children and families in their own communities, reflect the diverse needs in our city and raise awareness of a baby’s important growth and development stages; both in the brain and physical.”
Baby Week Leeds was funded by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups Partnership, Leeds City Council, Child Friendly Leeds and Leeds Beckett University. Baby Week supports two programmes to ensure children get the start in life – Leeds Best Start Plan and Leeds Maternity Strategy 2015-2020.
Find out more at babyweekleeds.weebly.com