The importance of early years development has been brought to the forefront today, as MPs from eight different political parties united to back the re-launch of a perinatal health manifesto.
The manifesto, 1001 Critical Days, states that around one-in-four babies in the UK are living within a “complex family situation”, where there are problems such as substance misuse, mental illness or domestic violence, while more than one third of serious case reviews involve a baby under the age of one.
“The goal is for every baby to receive sensitive, appropriate and responsive care from their main caregivers in the first years of life with more proactive help from the NHS, health visitors, children’s centres and other public bodies engaged in a joined-up preventative strategy to affect great change, as pregnancy and the birth of a baby is a critical window of opportunity,” the report reads.
A record number of MPs have put their names in support of the manifesto, which takes its title from the period from conception to age 2 when a baby’s brain is developing fastest and a relationship with carers can have a lasting impact.
Similarly, Dr Cheryl Adams, director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “As far as health visitors are concerned, the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto may yet prove to be one of the most important developments of the new millennium.”
From birth to age 18 months, it has been calculated that connections in the brain are created at a rate of a million per second, and the earliest experiences have a lifelong impact on that baby’s mental and emotional health, the manifesto explained.
Tessa Baradon, from the Anna Freud research centre, added: “The baby’s earliest relationship with his parents/caregivers are the most significant he is likely to have and are likely to be formative of his personality, health, friendships, work patters over the course of his life. The 1001 manifesto is trying to get the message across to all those who directly work with infants and their families as well as those who create policies that affect families with babies.”