The popular Granada TV soap Coronation Street has recently featured a storyline about how a teenage mother is struggling to cope with the reality of having a baby to care for.
Fans will know that the character Katy Armstrong has sometimes become so distraught with her baby son's screaming that she has walked away from the situation by going out and leaving the baby alone. Thankfully, she was not driven to shaking him as sometimes happens in real life, causing brain problems and disability.
As we know from our own experience, babies don't arrive with a user manual and the reality of parenthood, however much desired, can come as a shock. New parents often tell us that one of the biggest shocks is the amount of time babies spend crying for no apparent reason when all their physical needs seem to have been met.
With the largest maternity unit in Europe, delivering around 8,500 babies a year, we do our best to give those babies and their mothers the best possible care so we want to know those babies will be safe when they go home.
That's why I am delighted that Liverpool Women’s has been chosen for a pioneering service from the NSPCC which focuses on educating parents about the risk of shaking babies and giving them practical coping strategies for the pressures of parenthood.
Our Preventing Non Accidental Head Injury (NAHI) partnership with the NSPCC involves midwives like our Deputy Matron Gillian Walker sitting down with new parents and showing them a short film before they are discharged from hospital.
The film helps mums and dads understand the dangers of shaking a baby, how to respond to their baby crying and how to cope with feeling stressed and tired which is usually how new parents feel in the first few months. It contains interviews with other parents talking about their coping mechanisms and, sadly, some parents describing the tragic consequences of their baby being shaken.
Midwives like Gillian talk to the parents about the film and answer questions. They help parents think about how they might deal with feelings of frustration, tiredness and stress without taking it out on their baby. Parents are also asked to sign a promise to care safely for their baby.
As Cathy Atherton, our Head of Midwifery says, becoming a parent is one of the most profoundly important life events many of us experience. The transition to parenthood can be a source of great joy: but it may also be a source of great anxiety and the total dependence of a newborn can be a daunting responsibility. Many parents are unaware of the dangers of shaking a baby so by working in partnership with the NSPCC and informing parents before they take their newborn baby home we aim to help them keep their babies safe.