Home visits for Star Babies

What: Star Babies – enhancing infant mental health and parent- infant relationships

Who: Pamela McBride, Lead Nurse, Public Health Nursing Service and Clare McKeown – Children’s Health Coordinator

Background : Pamela McBride has a professional background as a registered Nurse, Midwife and Specialist Community Public Health Nurse, Health Visitor. She has wide and varied career experience in public health nursing in Northern Ireland including Practice Teaching, Practice Development & Management of services for families and children.

Pamela is committed to developing and improving services by increasing the unique contribution health visitors and school nurses make to improving outcomes for children and families. She has influenced service redesign and developed innovative practice leading on several policy, practice and service improvement initiatives including establishing a school nurse led children’s weight management pathway, childhood injury prevention, neonatal jaundice, Unicef Baby Friendly accreditation and Star Babies. She currently works as Lead Nurse for Health Visiting and School Nursing Services in Northern Trust.

Clare McKeown has worked in children’s nursing across a range of specialities, settings and roles in Northern Ireland and the UK. Her interest in public health began as a research nurse and clinical nurse specialist working in infectious diseases in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, in London. She coordinated retrospective screening for hepatitis C as an extension of the Department of Health’s ‘look-back’ exercise and developed a paediatric nurse-led service.

Her experience includes policy, practice and service development work including transition planning to adulthood, adolescent mental health, sexual health and substance misuse with vulnerable children and young people. Clare has a research and publications record and is now Children’s Health Coordinator in the Public Health Nursing Service in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland.

Speciality: Child Health

What initiative or project are you involved in?

Star Babies is an enhanced universal home visiting service for all first-time parents, offering monthly support from the antenatal period until the baby is 12 months of age. The focus is on prevention and early intervention to promote infant mental health.

What prompted the work?

The scheme has been running since September 2013. It was introduced as a practice and service development initiative, to enhance the core health visiting programme.

How did you initiate the work?

It began as a pilot programme of monthly home visits for all first-time parents; from antenatal visit, until their baby is 12 months old. The aim was to:

  • develop a framework of themes for guided discussion, based on age and stage, to supplement the Healthy Child, Healthy Future core programme
  • increase parental understanding of baby brain development and the importance of early experience on health outcomes
  • promote the development of secure attachment relationships, maternal responsiveness and parental sensitivity
  • increase parenting confidence, knowledge and skills.

Sixty staff received Star Babies training, with follow-up practice based learning sessions at three monthly intervals. Teams consisted of health visitors, public health staff nurses and child health assistants.

What difference has the project or initiative made?

Between September 2013 and March 2015, 1,018 first-time parents joined the scheme, whilst a further 119 chose to opt out. There was a 90% uptake of Star Babies in the first year.

An evaluation questionnaire was used to gather the views of 64 parents who had completed the scheme:

  • 94% of respondents either strongly agreed or, agreed that Star Babies had increased their knowledge, confidence and skills as a new parent.
  • Every respondent stated that they had shared the information and learning with a partner, family or friends.
  • 73% of respondents stated that the information and learning that they shared helped their partner feel more involved and confident.
    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.”

From a staff perspective, they felt that Star Babies was successful in providing first time parents with increased home visiting to promote infant mental health.

What are the long-term objectives?

There is potential to further develop the innovative cross-disciplinary work that has started within the Trust and across sectors, in the areas of physical activity, hidden harm and book sharing.