Baby Week Leeds 2016 – Capturing the essence

It’s been a year since I wrote about Semana do Bebe (Brazil Baby Week) back in March 2014, and how it influenced my work as an Infant Massage Instructor I was overwhelmed by the hospitality I recieved 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 Brazilan baby week to Leeds and implementing something tanglible from my fellowship. So, after an initial presentation back in June (with the help from my friend and colleague Nick Frost, lecturer at Beckett University).

I put the idea of Leeds to be the first English speaking country to host Baby Week to professionals working in public health, children centres and the third sector. It was well received and favoured in time with recent policies in early childhood development and connects 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 to have the first Baby Week Leeds. 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 the mental and physical developmental stages of a child’s life.  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 artisict activities. As well as influencing policy the Semana do Bebe helps reduce infant mortality and raise awareness in breast feeding.

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

It was clear, whatever approach in the UK would take would be multi level driven; to really capture the excellent work public and third sector workers do with childrens and families. However, it also fits in nicely with the ‘Best Start Program’ (NHS Clinical Comission)

Their statement is;

‘Leeds has made a strategic commitement 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 each of each 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’

Baby week Leeds will be a fun week; a showcase of some of the best practice to share amongst professionals, families. But, most importantly, an opportuntiy to re-engage with our most vulnerable and isolated families in Leeds.


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