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The aims of this study were to (1) assess the initial experiences of parenthood amongst mainly disadvantaged mothers; (2) explore their views on the extent to which they felt they had benefitted (or not) from participating in a newly developed, intensive mother and baby support programme in the community; and (3) explore the perspectives of those who delivered the programme (i.e., facilitators), most of whom were Public Health Nurses (PHNs).
Positive parent–child interactions and appropriate levels of infant stimulation are essential to promoting a child’s well-being and laying a foundation in the early years for positive developmental outcomes. It is important, therefore, to examine participants’ experiences of community-based, family-focused, early prevention and intervention programmes.
This study was undertaken as part of a larger evaluation of a newly developed parent and infant (PIN) programme which was delivered in two disadvantaged areas in Ireland. One-to-one interviews were conducted with both mothers (n = 22) and facilitators (n = 8) (including three PHNs) plus six focus groups with an additional sub-group of facilitators (n = 17).
The collective findings suggest that mothers found the programme helpful in promoting a greater understanding of their infants’ behaviour and needs, and in alleviating stress and concerns associated with motherhood. Mothers described feeling more knowledgeable about the importance of regular and appropriate infant interaction to encourage learning and development. Facilitators, specifically PHNs, also reported a greater awareness of the value of infant socioemotional development for their clinical practice and observed greater positive communication between mothers and infants.
These findings suggest that a community-based, intensive mother and baby programme can help to promote parental competence and enhance infant learning and development. Additional benefits in terms of early intervention and positive changes to public health nursing practice are also discussed.
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