PNDNew mothers should be interviewed three to four months after they give birth to check they are bonding with their babies, according to a Government-commissioned report carried out by child abuse charity Wave Trust.

At the moment, midwives and health visitors usually check on new mothers for up to six weeks after their delivery.

But, according to the report, "after that they face several months without a formal appraisal of how they are coping with motherhood" with potential long-lasting impacts for babies whose mothers suffer from depression.

"Failing to check for post-natal depression, domestic violence or alcoholism [after six weeks] can have a long-lasting impact on the child," said Wave Trust chief executive George Hosking.

"Babies who form poor relationships with their mothers are more likely to become aggressive and break the law when they got older."

The report, entitled 'The Age of Opportunity', identified conception to age 2 as a crucial phase of human development and a time when "focused attention can reap great dividends for society".

It found that 15% of children who suffer neglect or violence at the hands of their parents are responsible for nearly three-quarters of disruptive behaviour among children.

By contrast randomised control trials suggested returns on investment on well-designed early years’ interventions significantly exceed both their costs, with average rates of return between £1.37 and £9.20 for every £1 invested.

Commenting on the findings, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "'We know the importance of strong loving relationships and also the power of early intervention for families in the earliest months and years of life. That is why we are investing in a substantial increase in health visitors and in the Family Nurse Partnership for the most vulnerable young parents.

"The Age of Opportunity makes a further contribution to the challenges to all of us to improve the physical and mental health of our youngest children and I will be asking the independent Children and Young People's Health Outcomes Forum to study its recommendations carefully."

Those recommendations, which Hosking believes could "transform quality of childhood in the UK if implemented fully", include:
- Building modules on child development in pregnancy and early infancy into introductory and in-service training courses
- Developing in-service training courses to help all practitioners develop awareness of the key factors that promote and those that can jeopardise the positive development of young children
- Encouraging early years’ settings providing quality care for children under age 2 to have at least one member of staff with additional competence in infant mental health.
- Building on the existing Foundation Years and 4children websites in ways that are more practicable and accessible for practitioners.
- Consider explicit use of social and emotional assessments when taking forward the commitment in Families in the Foundation Years to explore options for the integrated review at 2 to 2.5 years of age.
- Modifications around the timing of the assessment immediately postpartum and the 2-2.5 year integrated review in order to increase validity of the assessment processes.
- Universal assessment at 3-4 months to assess the quality of the parent/infant interaction and identify need for additional support to promote parental sensitive responsiveness.
- An additional assessment at 12-15 months to assess attachment behaviour, but offered only to Universal Plus or Universal Partnership Plus.
- Full implementation of the Healthy Child Programme

The Royal College of Midwives has also welcomed the study’s recommendations, with chief executive Cathy Warwick saying they make "good sense" as a lot of women are falling through the cracks due to lack of continuity of care.

Posted 26/03/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com