Promoting early infant development []


Key learning points:

– The Antenatal-Postnatal Promotional Guides promote early infant development and early parenting

– Practitioners use these materials to structure and facilitate personalised ‘guided conversations’ with parents that explore key topics and priorities during pregnancy and early infancy

– The guides help parents and practitioners make accurate, well-informed decisions about families’ needs at a crucial time of life

Pregnancy and early infancy are the beginning of life in which the very essence of each human being grows and develops. Scientific knowledge of early life and parenthood has grown rapidly, resulting in a better (though imperfect) understanding of the ways in which biological and environmental factors interact to shape early development, and its effects on childhood and adult life.1,2 These advances are reflected in the expansion of the health visitor workforce and recent innovations in practice. These aim to help families – particularly those with the most complex needs – give their babies the best possible start in life.3,4,5

Every baby is exposed to a range of risk and protective factors that combine to influence early development.6 Four inter-related constellations of factors are particularly influential in shaping early development (see Box 1). Early development is directly affected by the health and wellbeing of the baby, mother and father. For example, alongside maternal smoking, diet and alcohol consumption exposure to ‘toxic’ stress from pregnancy onwards adversely affects fetal, infant and later outcomes. The baby’s developing sense of security, attachment, and bodily and emotional regulation is inextricably bound up with their parents’ capacity to offer affectionate emotional bonds, sensitivity and responsiveness, consistency and protection, receptive play, communication and interaction.7 Parental couple relationships protect against maternal postnatal depression.8 Similarly, emotional and practical support from familyand friends can lower maternal stress and increase her self-efficacy.9 Broadly, factors within the baby and the immediate parenting environment have the most direct influence while wider environmental factors tend to be influential through their impact on parents and parenting.

[For more of this story go to http://www.nursinginpractice.c...y-infant-development]

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