A Start for Life: The first 1001 days

mum and baby

‘A vision for how to give every baby the best start in life.’ 

The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP 

At the core of the Family Hubs vision is the ‘Start for Life' offer, providing seamless services and support from pregnancy onwards through universal services and outreach. 

By working together, we can maximise and improve support for families in every community so that every baby, infant and child gets the best start for life and be the best they can be. 

As Andrea Leadsom clearly states in the foreword to , targeting children at the age of two can be too late. She notes that the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health are laid down in the period between conception and the age of two, and we don’t give this critical period the focus it deserves.

Prevention isn’t only kinder, but it’s also much cheaper than cure – support provided to an infant in the 1,001 critical days of life is all about prevention.  

The Alliance has a coherent joined up Start for Life offer available for families,  with a focused approach based on 1001 days to build attachment between parent/carer and child and deliver school readiness, working with partners to offer a seamless support to families.

During the pandemic this included a strong digital programme, now embedded as part of the Alliance flexible blended delivery offer.

We can support you in developing and shaping a blended offer in your area. 

“Lots of varied activities for the babies, which has supported my baby with his social skills and confidence, particularly during this challenging period. I've made some nice friends at a time when I felt very isolated as a new mum. Really necessary for our wellbeing after lockdown for us to socialise and babies too."

— New parent

Antenatal education 

We work with midwifery teams in providing Antenatal Top Tips in Lincolnshire. This successful programme is a result of excellent partnership working and co-production offering a seamless service to new parents. Our ‘Antenatal Top Tips’ can be provided face to face or on a virtual platform to meet the needs of the parent-to-be. 

The Alliance was a key partner for the launch of maternity hubs in Lincolnshire Children's Centres, working alongside health partners.

Feedback from professional colleagues was excellent: 

“Your staff were great, they came across so friendly and knowledgeable, and I just want to say an enormous thank you to you all for supporting us with such an incredible launch event. Getting 57 families through the doors was an amazing achievement and it was wonderful to see so many families having such a good time. Thank you all so much for all hard work.”

— Children Centre lead, Lincolnshire  

“I’m a new parent, [my child] is now 18 months old, but I’m learning every day and there are challenges, but I’ve been given the tools to cope. I’ve never found you confusing or condescending.”   

Covid-19 outreach 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, recognising its impact on families and the lack of support for new families, the Alliance developed ‘The Early Days Sessions’, working with health partners to support families identified as having a low mood. The sessions were delivered virtually via Zoom and co-delivered by a Health Visitor and an Alliance educator. The sessions were developed to support parents meeting other parents during the lockdowns. As restrictions lifted, the Alliance developed these sessions into ‘wellbeing walks’ in outreach locations to enable parents to connect safely with other families locally. 

Breastfeeding support 

Projects supporting mothers to breastfeed have been a particular success for A Better Start Southend (ABSS).

Since 2018, 910 mothers have received support from the ABSS 121 Breastfeeding Support service, while 495 have participated in a Group Breastfeeding project that has seen many women go on to volunteer as mentors supporting other mothers on their breastfeeding journey. Participants in both projects report increased confidence in their ability to breastfeed and an increased ability to keep breastfeeding for as long as they wanted to.  

Other support includes informal groups such as one held every week at ABSS’s Parent and Family Hub, and a scheme encouraging local businesses to support mothers to breastfeed when visiting their premises.  

The success of this approach can be seen in breastfeeding rates in ABSS wards: at 6-8 weeks, breastfeeding rates have risen from 40.6% in 2015-16 to 51.1% in 2020-21, overtaking the rate for the rest of Southend (50.3%).  

In Bradford, all Alliance educators are trained to raise awareness and increase knowledge about breastfeeding. 

Working with babies 

Baby massage 

We deliver International Association of Infant Massage evidence-based baby massage classes to parents, to support and improve bonding and attachment and help with issues such as sleep, colic and skin problems.  

These are delivered both face to face and online, with many parents preferring the online classes as they don’t have get ready and organised to go to a class and can be comfortable with their baby at home.  

100% of parents attending our classes say it improved their interaction with their baby and helped them with bonding and attachment. 

Owl Babies 

Our Owl Babies Programme helps families learn that outdoor activities support and enhance their baby’s brain development, how different ways of parenting can affect a baby’s growing brain and understand the health benefits of being outdoors including vitamin D. The programme is based around the EYFS and Five to Thrive.  

100% of parents attending this programme reported increased understanding of brain development, and increased confidence in parenting and bonding with their baby.  

Baby hubs 

In Lewisham, we have co-delivered Baby hubs with Health Visitors, where parents can bring their baby to be weighed.

The health visitor focuses on a key topic each week with a short talk and some resources available for families, followed by a play session, where our Family Support Workers are on hand to offer support for any family who needs it.  

This extremely successful model enabled new parents to both receive support and create a network of peer support. 

‘"The children centre is a great resource for me as a first-time mum. The support and activities have helped me so much. It keeps me from getting isolated. Children Centres are a safe welcoming hub for parents and children, and I wouldn’t have coped without this, I have made friends there."

Keeping Baby Safe 

In Luton, we provide monthly Keeping Baby Safe Workshops offered virtually to help support new parents to be purchase safe compliant equipment for their new born and encourage safer sleeping. 

"This session was really useful and an eye opener about many hazards and unsafe pieces of baby equipment that I wasn’t aware of."

"Amazing how many pieces of nursery equipment are not safe for a baby to sleep in unsupervised. I will be taking some of mine back to the shop!"

Tubes of Life 

This is a programme delivered by the Alliance on behalf of Public Health in Luton. Our aim is to support parents-to-be from conception, and new parents in the early months to have optimum oxygen intake to support good brain development. This supports a reduction of Sudden Infant Death syndrome. This is demonstrated using a visual tube replicating the umbilical cord and later the windpipe. 

Health professionals, including midwives, health visitors and children’s centre staff work with us to support the key messages from the programme and offer additional guidance to parents as needed. 

One parent told us:

"I would like to say a massive thank you to the educator and the baby sessions and all the other staff from the children’s centre/staff from sessions and the midwifes since I became pregnant with my child, the baby sessions has helped loads by learning new things to help with his development and it has help me build more confidence by coming to the centres speaking to other mums and the staff with any concerns.

"The sessions also helped me to help him develop more at home. For example, learning colours in the bath things and words and helping him with his physical development. The sessions are amazing I would recommend them to everyone also all the staff are polite and so kind and will help with anything. The educator has helped me loads she’s been very supportive and given me loads of home ideas to do, the centre is amazing they have so much to help children learn their developments. Thank you."

Case study

An Alliance educator has supported this family through the birth of their baby and their first year of caring for them. Providing support and advice in caring for the baby, understanding of ages and stages and development and been consistent in providing quality support for the family and being there for them to discuss any worries, as well as giving strategies and techniques to mum. 

The concerns about the possibility of the family not being able to care for baby properly have been addressed and there have been no concerns since the Alliance involvement. 

Here is some feedback they shared with us: 

"I was really struggling with loneliness being a young single mother and it’s been great to come somewhere that’s free because I don’t have a lot of money. There is so much to do there with your baby, they can learn new things and play, and you can interact with other mums. The people who run the group are so caring and they make sure to interact with the parents because they know we may be struggling inside. These groups are amazing thanks for offering them."

Delivery of services is through a blended model of virtual and face to face delivery, being responsive to any Covid-19 restrictions. 

Where next?

Family Learning, parenting and school readiness

Supporting vulnerable families

Volunteering, co-production and parental engagement

Our virtual offer


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