Support from your midwife and health visitor

If you give birth in a hospital, you will be cared for by hospital midwives who will provide care during the birth, and afterwards in a postnatal ward. The hospital may book you an appointment to return for a check-up around six weeks after the birth, or they may advise you instead to go to your GP for this check-up.

Your community midwife is there to support you throughout your pregnancy, and possibly during the birth, but also for up to 28 days after the birth. They can also visit you at home for up to 10 days following the birth.

A health visitor is a qualified nurse who has had extra training and is part of a team that offers screening and developmental checks as part of the government’s Healthy Child Programme. The job of health visitors is to help families, especially those with babies and young children, avoid illness and stay healthy. You can also talk to your them if you feel anxious, depressed or worried. They will support you with the challenges of the first few days and weeks, such as breastfeeding, coping with your baby’s sleeping patterns, and your family relationships.

Many GP health centres and children’s centres hold regular baby clinics where you can speak to a health visitor or a mid-wife.

Read more:


Your baby’s health care

You will be given a Personal Child Health Record (PCHR), often known as the ‘Red Book’, when your baby is born. This lists the types of services available, when immunisations and development and health checks are due, and is for recording information on your child’s health and development, all in one place. You can add information yourself about any illnesses, accidents or medicines your child takes, and there is a section to record their development before each review. Remember to take your child’s red book with you to all GP and health visitor appointments and nursery, or for any other, unscheduled medical consultation. A digital version is now available in some areas, which will store all the data securely and be accessible online.

Ask for help

Although there are various standard checks along the way, if you have any concerns or queries at any point contact your midwife, health visitor, GP to ask for help and advice when you need it. You are always welcome to pop into one of your local clinics, which may be held at your children’s centre, GP surgery or a community venue, to speak to somebody from the health visiting team.

Remember, for any urgent queries that involve the health of you or your baby contact your GP, NHS Direct, NHS Walk-in Centre or nearest A&E department as soon as possible.

Read more:


Registering the birth

You will need to register your child’s birth by the time they are six weeks old, in the district they were born. This can often be done at the hospital before you go home, in your local register office or sometimes your local children’s centre. If you are unable to get to the area where your baby was born, you can visit any register office.

If you are married, either one of you can register the birth. Both of you will then be named on the birth certificate and have legal responsibility for your child. If you are not married but both want legal parental responsibility, you will need to register the birth jointly. Mums who are not married are able to register the birth of a child on their own if they wish to do so.

Read more:


Additional support

Health visitors and children’s centres can support you in your parenting as you develop a bond with your new baby.

Children’s centres offer a range of services for families, including parenting classes, toddler groups and more specialist services that encompass early education and childcare, social services, health services, training and employment services, and information and advice relating to young children and parents.

Health visitors work with GPs and children’s centres so that every parent is helped to feel confident in their new role and gets any help they need in the early days of parenting, such as: breastfeeding; sleep patterns; how you are feeling as a new parent; and the strain that your family relationship can come under.

Advice and support is also available from charities like the NCT, One Plus One and Homestart, which have articles about life with your baby or toddler, including feeding, sleeping, health and development, communication and baby care basics, as well as local activities and courses.

It is worth checking out your local Family Information Service, part of your local authority. They can tell you about services for new parents in your area.

Read more:


Financial help

Everyone knows that the costs of raising children and balancing work and childcare arrangements can be a worry but financial support may be available.

Child benefit provides a contribution towards the costs of bringing up a child, and parents might also be able to claim Child Tax Credits, which offer additional financial help to those in greater need. You may be eligible for a one-off maternity grant of £500 from the Social Fund and with NHS Healthy Start, you could get free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk, as well as free vitamins.

If you are working but on a low income, you may be entitled to help through Working Tax Credit. If you are paying for childcare costs, you may also be entitled to the childcare element of Working Tax Credit which can pay up to 70% of registered childcare costs.

If you are seeking training or education, your children’s centre can tell you about the opportunities in your community, and put you in touch with people to advise you on finding work or developing your career. You may also be entitled to help with your childcare costs whilst you study.

The government is currently introducing major changes to the welfare system, by which Universal Credit will combine some benefits and tax credits into a single monthly payment. In some areas of the UK, you may already be receiving Universal Credit, otherwise you can still apply for tax credits and some benefits while you are waiting to move to Universal Credit. This may seem confusing but there is guidance below to explain what you may be entitled to.

Read more:


Support if your child is premature or has a disability

Should your child be born premature or with any kind of medical condition or problem it can be extremely distressing. However, you are not alone and there is a wealth of specialist services to help you get practical and emotional support.

Being told that your baby has to be taken to a neonatal unit can cause anxiety and confusion, particularly so soon after you have given birth. However, medical staff in the neonatal unit are experts in their field and will give your baby the best care possible. They should keep you informed of any medical procedures they are planning, changes to your baby’s condition, and be able to give you any information that you need.

It’s important to get as much support as you can. Speaking to someone calm and caring can help you cope with any worries you have, and the charity Bliss offers advice and support to families and friends of anyone with a baby who is in, or has been in, neonatal care.

Contact and Scope are charities that can help you understand a disability or medical condition and how it may affect your child and your life as a family, as well as explain what resources are available to you.

Early Support is a national programme to support families of children with disabilities and young people. It aims to put you at the heart of any decision making about your child, without you having to repeat the same things to different professionals.

You can speak to your health visitor or your local authority Family Information Service about Early Support in your area.

You should also speak to your health visitor about additional support that your child might need and they will advise you on the assessment process for children with special educational needs and disabilities in your area.

Read more: