Every week I meet dozens of parents wanting baby help in Canberra. They fill the baby clinics and community centres desperately seeking information and solutions.
Is my baby getting enough sleep? How can I get her to sleep more? When should I feed him? What’s the best way to stop my baby from crying?
However, when we take time to really listen to what parents are asking, these concerns and worries often come back to one, single question:
Where do you look for baby help?
Many of us take up the search for baby help in books, ‘experts’ and on the internet. This makes as much sense as trying to find out your best friend’s favourite colour by Googling it. You might get lucky and find the “right” answer. But chances are, it’s going to involve a lot of guess work.
Your baby has never before been known by anyone else. They are a brand-new, unique little person.
Seeking baby help from someone who has never known your baby is – at best – a trial-and-error approach. Many parents end up feeling confused and overwhelmed at the time they (and their baby) need support the most.
The First Touch Program is a world-class program that goes straight to the source: your baby.
The nationally recognised program is now used by midwives, nurses, early childhood teachers, psychologists, community workers and many others across Australia.
The First Touch Program is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Your baby has their own way of using body language, vocalisations and facial expressions to communicate their needs, feelings and thoughts. We use play, baby massage and other gentle forms of touch and communication to explore your baby’s unique language, and to build the relationship between you.
What happens in the First Touch Program?
We meet for five sessions (about 1.5 hours a week) in my venue at Kaleen (Canberra, ACT).
Each week we learn a new baby massage routine, and explore different types of activities and play to see what your baby responds to and likes best. It’s true that not all babies like the same things. For this reason, you get individual support to discover how your baby likes to communicate and be calmed and comforted.
An advice-free zone
Bonding might be “natural”, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Building your confidence in engaging sensitively and authentically with your baby can take time. This group gives you a break from all the “opinions” about what you “should” be doing. Rather, my role is to help you feel more confident about what your baby is “saying” about their needs. Then, we’ll adapt and modify the interactions you are using to suit your own baby…and you. Because each parent is a unique person too.
As well as enjoying lots of lovely activities, there’s also time to chat with other parents if you want. You and your baby can participate in whatever way feels most comfortable for you.
Who can attend the program?
To attend this program, you need:
- to feel you want to gain confidence in understanding what your baby is thinking, feeling and needing; and
- a baby (up to walking age).
There are no other requirements. Nevertheless, some parents I speak with, feel that they (or their baby) are not “suitable” for The First Touch Program.
Babies can be wriggly, sleepy, unsettled, colicky, distracted or unwell. Parents of these babies sometimes worry they can’t benefit from baby massage or play. However, we adapt all activities in this program to suit you and your baby as individuals. I’ve delivered this program with parents, grandparents and foster-carers for over 10 years, with all types of babies. This includes babies affected by disabilities, reflux and tummy pain, early birth, trauma and abuse, and drug exposure.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from these little human beings, it’s that all babies are capable of responding positively when they feel safe, connected and heard. This is our focus in the First Touch Program.
Sometimes parents also worry that this program is not for them. Feeling overwhelmed, disconnected or “just hanging in there” is one of the most common reasons for this: many parents worry they (or their baby) wont be able to “perform” in the group or that they will be judged. Because of this, we keep our group sizes small, and its why I use a program that is grounded in evidence!. The structure and activities ensure everything feels OK for you as a parent. We match the program to what you and your baby feel comfortable with. In this program we focus on you and your baby – even if this means you just want to sit and watch for the first few sessions.
A bit more about my work with the First Touch Program:
I’ve delivered this program as a certified educator for over 10 years, to thousands of parents.
In Canberra, I have delivered the First Touch Program to public groups as well as with organisations. These groups include PANDSI and several regional community services. During this time I have also supported staff from QEII, Canberra and Calvary hospitals to use the program in their organisations. I have also provided mentorship and training in the program across Australia. This includes to Relationships Australia, Barnardos, Wesley Mission, and dozens of hospitals.
I now mostly work with health and early childhood education staff, rather than with individual families. However, I continue to deliver the First Touch Program directly to parents looking for baby help in Canberra. Why? Because, over the years in my work as a nurse and educator I have trained in dozens of “programs” and approaches. In my experience, the First Touch Program is by far the simplest and most effective approach for supporting parent-baby relationships. I truly believe every parent deserves to be supported in connecting, communicating and bonding with their baby. Additionally, this program is considered the “gold standard” program of its kind by researchers (Underdown & Barlow, 2011). It is the only parent-baby relationship support program in Australia requiring facilitators to hold nationally accredited qualifications.
Why is the program so helpful?
The First Touch Program holds your relationship with your baby at the centre of everything. I run the sessions at your pace, with individualised support to make sure you and your baby feel comfortable with everything. As a result, you get to know more about your baby in a way that feels right for you.
A good quality program should never interfere in your relationship with your baby. Even though people like me need to know a lot about babies generally, this does not mean I know all about your baby. The First Touch Program supports you to gain confidence in your own expertise understanding your baby’s unique and individual needs.
The job of your village is not (as the common saying goes) to raise your child! The best sort of help supports you – the parent, as you come to know and understand your own little baby.