Baby Week Leeds2019 saw over 100 city-wide events and activities with over 1000 attendees in Leeds. The theme for the fourth annual Baby Week Leeds was ‘Making connections: Bonding, healthy brains and wellbeing for all’. This theme reflects the diversity of the different needs of the city, and events that took place during the week especially focused on mental health and wellbeing, including: infant and perinatal mental health, engaging with fathers, breastfeeding, language development and more, encouraging best practice and partnership across a number of sectors. Multi-disciplinary professionals on all levels were invited to attend presentations to help improve their knowledge base and network sharing good practice.

The week hosted a number of key events, including an opening ceremony, mid-week conference and an engagement event held at the end of the week in the Kirkgate Market. Engagement with the public and awareness of supportive services was increased by promoting activities at children’s centres across the city and by a timetable of over 50 centre-based activities. Parents and carers were encouraged to attend sessions covering successful weaning, book reading, creative play, breastfeeding peer support and much more. Fun and play activities also took place with facilitators engaging with members of the public with sessions such as creative play with Duplo, swimming, craft sessions, yoga, as well as a baby-signing taster workshop – aimed at encouraging parents and babies to develop communication skills and bonding.

This year’s Baby Week also took place during the Leeds Year of Reading (YOR) which aims to raise the profile of reading across the city and engage children and their families in positive reading activity to generate a long term love of reading. Correspondingly, the mid-week Baby Week conference took place at Leeds Central Library, with the libraries service hosting a range of events across the week. Celebrating the success of good practice in order to support the best start in life was highlighted in a special lecture held at the University of Leeds for midwife students and through linking in with the tree planting scheme, where to commemorate baby week where a tree was planted for every baby born in Baby Week in partnership with the White Rose Shopping Centre.

We also had many taster sessions around the city by third & private sector partners, to few the full calendar of events visit:

Opening Ceremony, Monday 4 November

The launch of Baby Week 2019 was marked with an opening ceremony at the Crowne Plaza hotel and was well attended by a broad range of individuals, with services, local strategies and good practice to improve outcomes shared with professionals, practitioners and families through speakers and workshops. The event was opened by Cllr. Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults and was followed by an introduction by the Baby Week Leeds, Lucy and Sadiya to the theme for a week, and an update on previous Baby Week launch – ’50 things to do before you’re 5’ by Dr Andrea Richardson. There were then a number of key note speakers from across various sectors with the aim of raising awareness of fantastic work that goes on across the city year-round and how these link in to the work of Baby Week. These were:

0 -19 Public Health Integrated Nursing Service; Giving all Children in Leeds the Best Start Inequalities & Adverse Childhood Experiences; Flourishing Babies: What babies need to thrive and how to support babies and young children who have experienced early trauma; Top Tips for Talking and a Family health acupuncturist.

The ceremony also marked the launch of Facemums by Lord Mayor Eileen Taylor, alongside, Dr Lesley Choucri and Jude Jones RM. Facemums is Leeds first midwife-led community for new mums and aims to provide local support and information sharing through a Facebook site which will allow new and expectant mothers to gain invaluable insights from registered midwifes, as well as forming a network of peer support. It will develop a community of mothers who act as health champions of the future, not only in their own families but also in the wider community. This was then followed in the afternoon by a number of workshops, of which attendees could take part in two: Pregnancy relaxation taster session with Community Midwife Val Watson; Yoga with Diddly Oms; NEST: Introducing a new peer-led approach for promoting perinatal mental health in Leeds with Liz Neill, Lisa Hammond and Anna Simpson from the NEST Leeds team and No/low-cost ideas for creating calm and connection with Child and Adult Counsellor Shelly James.

Professionals Conference at Leeds Library, 6 November 2019

A free one day conference was hosted mid-week at the Leeds Central Library with inspiring speakers, thought-provoking topics, discussions and workshops, with an impressive and broad range of speakers allowing for parents, professionals and those from the public and third sector to hear from services in Leeds, including recent research and developments in the early years sector. The event was opened with an introduction to the week by Lucy and Sadiya, followed by the following speakers:

· 0 -19 Public Health Integrated Nursing Service with Amanda Jackson, Rebekah Besford and Zena Whitehouse

· Connecting through language: Supporting infants’ language development with Dr Catherine Davies, University of Leeds

· Long road to IVF Baby and Beyond - The emotional impact with Angela Pericleous-Smith, Specialist Fertility Counsellor - Leeds Fertility

· Music at The Mount with Lindsay Lockwood (Occupational Therapist, The Mount), Hannah Dilworth and Kathryn Sturman (Made with Music)

· Developing Family support with Family Care Sister Dawn Clements and Parent Volunteer Kerry Bickerdike

· Bonding and Baby Buddy with Carly Bond

· Premature birth: under what circumstances does it most affect children’s readiness to start school with Dr Liam Hill and Dr Katherine Pettinger

· Influenza and Protecting your Baby with Kevin McGready

· Multiples Matter: An MDT approach to personalised care

· Using library rhyme times to improve maternal mental health – action research in Essex with Ben Lee, Shared Intelligence

The speakers were then followed by a number of workshops, of which participants could choose two. These expanded further on the broad range of topics covered by the speakers in keeping with the theme for the week, and included some participation for babies:

FGM and the effect on survivors with Blossom Clinic; Perinatal Mental Health; Singing and Wellbeing with Made with Music (open to public, parents and babies); Incredible Babies and Infant Mental Health.

Kirkgate Market Engagement Event, 8 November 2019

A free event drop-in event titled ‘All Things Maternity, Baby and Family’ was held at Leeds Kirkgate Market at the end of the week for parents, expectant parents and their family. This gave members of the public a chance to find out key information relating to the theme of the week and ask questions from maternity services including midwives, perinatal and neonatal health teams, 0-19 Public Health integrated nursing service, Leeds Bereavement forum and breastfeeding, promoting success and good practice in early years. Family friendly fun activities also took place with facilitators engaging members of the public with storytelling, baby signings, and a ‘bumps and babes’ antenatal and postnatal exercise class, with the aim of encouraging parents and babies to develop communication skills and bonding.

Tree Planting Ceremony, 14 November 2019

In the week following Baby Week, Baby Week partner and support White Rose Shopping Centre marked the week with a special tree-planting ceremony on the 14 November 2019, in which the centre team and Nurture Landscapes, in partnership with Baby Week, the NHS and Child Friendly Leeds, planted a tree for every baby born in Leeds during Baby Week, a total of 187 trees. This marked a way of celebrating the birth of the newest residents of Leeds, as the trees grow alongside them over the coming years. Tree planting is key in relation to the health of young residents, and planting new trees to increase air quality plays a key role. Maternal exposure to air pollution can result in low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth or organ damage and children are at a greater risk than adults from the many adverse health effects of air pollution, particularly whilst their organs are still developing. In line with the growing global climate threat, the council declared a climate emergency in March 2019 and is committed to ensuring Leeds is carbon neutral by 2030, including planting around 10,000 trees by the end of 2020, approximately 1 for every child born in 2019. The links between air quality and early years health made it a tree-planting ceremony a fitting way to mark the success of Baby Week 2019, and all those born into our city. 

Bradford decided to continue the initiative and have now embedded Baby Week within the Better Start Bradford annual calendar celebrating their 2nd year. We aim to share this with more cities & regions next year.