Dr Christine Puckering is on a Winston Churchill Fellowship Tour, looking at how babies at social risk are identified early, even in pregnancy, and what services are put in place to promote a secure attachment between mother and child and father and child.
Christine is going to provide regular blogs on her tour of Netherlands, Iceland, Norway & Finland.
Thinking back to the Netherlands and lessons to be learnt, three things stand out; the frequency of contact in pregnancy and the first postnatal year, the availability of the maternity nurse and the integration of maternity and postnatal care. There are many opportunities for parents to talk about issues and for professionals to spot emerging problems and very low referral thresholds between parts of the service.
Moving on to Finland, I have come to Tampere, another cradle of infant mental health in Europe. The integration of services for young families is also primary here. Midwives, health nurses and specialist services work together, and right from the start of pregnancy the same health nurse works with the family until the child starts school. One delightful discovery is the “Family Happiness Hotel”. If the mother and baby are well, they can move into a hotel attached to the hospital. Fathers, siblings and others can book in too. The rooms are exactly like any other hotel and the families can use all the hotel facilities. The only difference is the midwives and health nurses have an office on the same floor and are on call at any time. Health service managers please note: this is cheaper than keeping mothers and babies in hospital! It is certainly more private and a chance to start making new family relationships.
The children start kindergarten at 6 and more formal education at 7! What a difference from force feeding literacy to four and five year olds. Maybe that is one reason Finnish children are happier!
Learning about sequencing in Finnish kindergarten