West Hampstead charity helping parents who need it most

A WEST Hampstead neo-natal charity has been granted �170,000 to fund a new project which supports the parents of premature babies.

Best Beginnings, which has its head office on Mill Lane, was given the money by the Department of Health’s innovation, excellence and service development fund.

The charity was set up in 2006 by Alison Baum in an attempt to reduce child health inequalities in the UK and to support the families of premature babies.

Mrs Baum has two sons who were both born with significant health problems so she is determined to reach out to other parents in similar situations and to improve parent-child relationships.

She said: “It is incredibly exciting and important that we secured this funding and we are absolutely delighted. It is a clear indication of how important our project is. The funding is going to go towards driving change at one neo-natal unit in England and getting our DVD out to every parent of a premature or sick baby in the country.

“It is about really enabling families to be part of their baby’s care and empowering parents.”

In its first few weeks as a charity, Best Beginnings led a coalition of more than 35 organisations to lobby for the breastfeeding manifesto, which aimed to increase accessibility of breastfeeding, especially in low socio-economic groups.

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But the charity has now turned its attention to its Practitioners and Parents Champions project, which will be supported by the government cash.

The scheme aims to support parents who feel disempowered or withdrawn from their babies, and encourage them to play an active part in their child’s care. Best Beginnings is inviting hospitals across England to be considered for the scheme.

Dr Liz Kirk, who works part-time at the charity, said: “We are waiting for hospitals to apply to host the project. We will be choosing a hospital where the scheme will have maximum impact – so one in an area of deprivation which also has a low breastfeeding rate.”

The successful hospital will receive a full time nurse for two years to fulfil the role of practitioner champion. The purpose of this nurse will be to ensure fellow staff better understand the benefits of breastfeeding and are more confident in caring for newborns and their families.

The nurse will also train parent champions who will provide peer support to other parents on the neonatal unit.

At the heart of the project is the Small Wonders DVD, which follows real parents’ experiences of having a sick or premature baby. The DVD is free and hopes to show parents how to care for their child.

The charity is putting together a team for the London 10km run on July 10 and is urging people to sign up.

For more information email tom@bestbeginnings.org.uk.