A project to give special support to mums at Banbury children’s centres has helped more than 100 women and their new babies.
The Saplings scheme on Bretch Hill has helped encourage expectant and new mums to adopt healthier lifestyles, eat wisely, choose healthy feeding options for their babies and make friends.
The project is run at the Sunshine Centre in Prescott Close by community midwives Janine Beck and Rachel Smith with family centre health promotion worker Sharon Ellis.
It is funded by Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) with premises and staff support from the county council-funded children’s centre.
“We hold sessions on Thursday mornings and afternoons to provide antenatal education,” said Ms Beck.
“It’s a really good example of collaboration between agencies before and after birth.
“We deal with all sorts of issues from depression to nutrition and domestic abuse and the work is extended into the community by children’s centre outreach workers.”
The sessions invite pregnant women to join them from 12 weeks onwards. Once their baby is born they are encouraged to attend the mother and baby group which offers social integration and includes encouragement to breast feed with information to help mums choose between breast and bottle feeding.
“Breastfeeding support workers from GP surgeries come in to contribute to the sessions,” said Ms Beck.
“The Saplings group offers these young women the chance to form relationships with each other and develop friendships they may not have had the chance to make otherwise.
“We have even had a reunion for one group of mums so they could all bring their babies back to Saplings to socialise.”
Ms Beck has been put forward for an OUHT staff recognition award for her input into forming a collaboration that is seen as a good investment by all the agencies involved.
She is currently training to become a psychotherapist to fill a gap she sees in the needs of this group of women.
“There is no mental health support for these mothers at all,” she said.
Ms Beck said all project workers are very concerned about the risks to Saplings from the proposed closure of many of the county council’s children’s and family centres.
A mother of three herself, Ms Beck is a community midwife at West Bar Surgery where she runs a clinic, conducts home visits and also oversees home births.
New mum Katie Geddis said: “Saplings has been a lifeline. I first started coming early on in my pregnancy. Without the supportive care I received during a tough pregnancy I don’t think I would be the person I am today.
“Not only did my confidence grow but my knowledge became wider and my network of friends grew. The staff are truly amazing. Coming to Saplings has helped me so much as a person. I can’t believe how they can think of closing children’s centres when they are vital to the community.”