NCT aims for all parents to have a positive start to family life. We want all women and men to feel prepared and supported to become confident and caring parents.
The transition to parenthood and early years are the founding phase of family life; a time of major transition and personal growth, with many challenges as well as enormous potential for joy, achievement and fulfilment. What happens in the early days can have a major impact at the time and also have long-term consequences for the child, the parents and for society.
Our beliefs and values draw on NCT’s extensive experience of listening to parents, providing antenatal, postnatal and breastfeeding support services, providing information for parents and professionals, and campaigning for a better deal for parents.
NCT believes that:
1. Training for professionals and volunteers who work with parents-to-be and families with young children should cover the psychological and social impact of becoming a mother or a father for the first time and when a subsequent baby is born.
2. Services provided by professionals and voluntary bodies to expectant, new and more experienced parents, whether in hospital or in the community, should be parent-centred, aiming to build confidence through self empowerment. Specifically:
• Facilitated antenatal and postnatal groups should be available to all parents to help them build confidence in their roles; with priority for development of services being given to areas with more disadvantaged families, rural and remote communities and neighbourhoods with fewer existing services and support networks.
• Professionals and others who work with families should be open to parents adopting a range of parenting styles and should support mothers and fathers to develop confidence in their own approaches.
• Policies and interventions directed towards changing parents’ attitudes and behaviours should start from the perspective that an overwhelming majority of parents are committed to do the best they can for their children, often in difficult circumstances.
3. Postnatal care should be woman-focused and family friendly, aiming to meet parents’ needs for emotional and practical support as well as physical care. New parents should be treated with kindness, and feel able to express and discuss their feelings and concerns.
4. After giving birth, women and their families should have a peaceful, clean, comfortable and secure environment where they can get to know their baby, with support readily available to help them establish feeding and caring for their baby.
5. All parents should have access to accurate information and support for baby feeding throughout the first year. Breastfeeding mothers particularly need individualised support from a skilled midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor at the time of the first feed and during the early days.
6. Support from the midwifery and health visitor teams should be well-integrated and extended so that women have ready access to individualised help and support, including home visits when needed, for at least the first month after birth; making appropriate use of maternity care assistants, family support workers, breastfeeding counsellors, postnatal leaders and peer supporters.
7. All women should have a lead professional to coordinate their maternity and postnatal care to ensure that any health or social needs are identified and responded to, with ready access to translation services, link workers and advocates, social and psychiatric services and family support workers for those who have more complex health or social needs.
8. Recognising the risk of depression and other mental health problems and their impact on parents and young children, preventing isolation and alleviating stress should be a priority for voluntary and professional services. One-to-one counselling and specialist psychiatric services should be available for those who need them.
9. The human significance of birth and death should be respected. Mothers and fathers of babies who become sick or die during pregnancy or after the birth should be fully involved in discussions and decisions about their baby, and should receive sensitive support from carers.
10. All parents should have access to welcoming services in their local community that put them in touch with other families. These should take account of the specific and diverse needs of parents; including those with premature, sick or disabled babies, those with multiple births, and adoptive parents. Voluntary organisations and statutory services should be fully integrated - working together through groups, classes, cafes, or drop-ins in local health centres, family centres, children’s centres and maternity units - to ensure that all mothers and fathers have an opportunity to meet other local families with babies and toddlers of similar ages, and obtain care or advice when needed, in an informal welcoming environment.
11. Parents should have access to information in a range of formats, languages and levels of literacy, including written and mainly visual leaflets, interactive text messaging and websites, audio, television and DVD materials. Information and advice should be evidence-based and encourage discussion with health professionals, in order to empower parents to make decisions that are right for them and their baby.
12. Policy makers, employers, local authorities, health and social care professionals, finance, leisure, transport and service industries should talk with families with babies and young children to identify their needs as well as ways that facilities and services could be improved. Services should be family friendly and have positive baby feeding policies. Facilities, including baby changing areas, should be accessible to mothers, fathers and to families with more than one child.
13. Parents and children should be free from the threat of poverty and social exclusion. There should be:
• extended maternity and paternity pay, set at a rate equivalent to a living wage;
• improved social security support for young parents and larger families;
• more community support for families caring for their children at home – including play-groups, swimming clubs, community cafes, music and play sessions, free-at the point of delivery;
• educational and skills-based programmes to help parents with parenting, community involvement and accessing future work opportunities.
14. All parents should have a range of choices for balancing paid work and family life.
This should include:
• the choice for one parent not to be in paid work while children are young, regardless of family type or income level;
• a culture in which fathers as well as mothers combine paid work with day-to-day care of their children;
• extended rights to maternity and paternity leave, flexible working and parental leave;
• extended leave arrangements for parents of premature or sick babies;
• improved rights and facilities to support breastfeeding women who are in paid work.
15. Education in schools and in the community should ensure that young people grow up with a realistic understanding of how becoming a parent affects your life, including the responsibilities involved as well as the impact on work, income, leisure time, and relationships.
Mothers and fathers should be valued for the important role they play in bringing up the next generation. NCT works with women and their partners during pregnancy and with parents who have a baby or toddler. We are committed to working in partnership with parents, professionals, other voluntary organisations, as well as local and national government to achieve our objectives.
NCT provides a range of services for new parents and parents-to-be-parents, during the transition to parenthood and the first few years with a baby or toddler. Our network of trained workers (antenatal teachers, breastfeeding counsellors and postnatal leaders) and volunteers provide services to meet local parents' needs throughout the UK.
During pregnancy we offer:
• Informal Bumps & Babies groups, which provide an opportunity for local parents and parents-to-be to get together.
• Antenatal courses led by trained NCT antenatal teachers. Classes focus on preparing for labour, birth, baby feeding and life with a new baby.
• Branch activities that offer the chance to meet other people expecting a baby and parents.
For parents we offer:
• Breastfeeding support from our trained NCT breastfeeding counsellors, either face-to-face, at local drop-ins or via our Breastfeeding Line, as well as peer support from other mothers.
• Early Days groups, facilitated by trained postnatal leaders. Sessions cover common issues faced by new parents and offer the opportunity to discuss concerns as well as share experiences and ideas.
• Informal support through tea and coffee groups, fundraising and social events and other local branch activities.
Other services include:
• An experience register, offering support from NCT members who have been through a similar experience.
• Branch newsletters full of relevant local information, activities and events.
• A house swap register offering the opportunity for low cost, family-friendly holidays.