Baby Week Leeds 2016 – Capturing the essence of Brazil

It’s been a year since I wrote about Semana do Bebe (Baby Week Brazil) back in March 2014, and how it influenced my work as an Infant Massage Instructor. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality I received from everyone involved in Canela, and thankful for the amazing opportunity I had to be able to represent my country as international guest speaker.

I have spent this time processing the idea of bringing a version of the Brazilian baby week to Leeds and implementing something tangible from my fellowship. So, after my presentation back in June with my colleague Nick Frost, I put the idea to professionals working in public health, children centres and the third sector, to be the first English speaking country to host Baby Week. It was well received and favoured in time with recent policies in early childhood development and connects well with the Child Friendly Leeds strategy.

Now the wheels have been set in motion and we had our first formal meeting for Baby Week Leeds at the Rose Bowl in Leeds Becketts University on the 24 September 2015. We have set a date for (sometime) in September 2016 and UNICEF are behind us and are willing to help support with research and evaluation tools. Hilary Benn (elected labour MP for Leeds central) is also supportive and has told me I need to ‘pin him down’ to a date so he can be available to make the opening speech.

It was exciting to see how the meeting brought representatives from different services together in the same room; The NHS, children centre services, social workers, academics, third sector services, and a baby. We discussed how it would take shape. How we could replicate the model that celebrates the importance of the most crucial stages of child’s mental and physical development. The model in Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay currently uses the week as a tool for bringing together academic, professional and family engagement in the style of workshops lectures and artistic activities. As well as influencing national policy the Semana do Bebe has helped reduce infant mortality and raise awareness in breast feeding throughout the country including indigenous communities.

Semana do Bebe’s statement is; ‘A commitment to child survival: A renewed promise’(UNICEF)

It was clear from the meeting that the approach in the UK would be multi level driven. To really capture the excellent work public and third sector workers do with children’s and families universally and to be updated with policies and practices.

This is were it fits comfortably with the ‘Best Start Program’ (NHS Clinical Commission) Their statement is;

‘Leeds has made a strategic commitment to focus onto this earliest period in a child’s life, from pre-conception to age 2 years, in order to maximise the potential of every child’. 

Both statements show a commitment to the importance of a child’s development. Brazil uses the word ‘survival’ and the UK uses ‘potential’ . This could illustrate the backdrop of the socio-economic status of each country, but it could also be used together to really draw the essence of what the baby week is striving to achieve and adapt to babies all over the world.

Original founder Odon Cavalcanti wrote:‘O bebe, quando compreendido e amado, sera: O escolar alegre, o adolescente que ira entender as suas tensoes e o adulto que tera sabedoria para amar sofrer encerrar a vida feliz’  (English translation) ” The baby when understood and loved will be the happy student, the teenager that understands his tension and the grown up with knowledge to love, suffer and died happy. (Odon Cavalcanti).

And, in the words of William Wordsworth;“The child is the father of the man”

Baby week Leeds will be a fun and informative week for the city and outer-lying areas. A showcase of some of the best practice to share among professionals, families but, most importantly, an opportunity to re-engage with our most vulnerable and isolated families in Leeds.

Look out for further as updates as things progress for Baby Week Leeds 2016.


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