My job

Making a difference to a baby’s development – that’s the most satisfying thing

Nurse Julia Haynes has achieved measurable improvements in infants’ crawling

Julia Haynes is an independent early years consultant for Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and has achieved measurable improvements in infants’ crawling

Julia Haynes. Picture: David Gee

Tell us about your job

I was the lead health visitor in Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust for Born to Move: an initiative to improve parents’ understanding of the importance of movement and interaction from birth. I initiated it and introduced it across Kent over the past nine years. Since July, I have been working independently, offering workshops to front-line health, early years, and nursery staff on the importance of movement and interaction to improve school-readiness.

Where did you train?

I trained as a nurse at University College Hospital, London in 1978. I became a midwife in 1984 and delivered 187 babies. I then trained to become a health visitor.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping parents and carers to understand more about their role in helping babies get off to an active start in life. My project, Born to Move, was initiated in response to concern about increasing numbers of children not being developmentally ready for school. Lack of movement and stimulation in the first year was identified as causing a delay in children reaching developmental milestones. The project focused on me training front-line health visitors and early years staff to promote three messages:

  • Daily active play Making sure the baby is playing on their tummy, when supervised, to support healthy reflex maturation. Some parents think the babies will not like it, but they can start off with one minute at a time building up to 15 minutes a day.
  • Chatter matters Telling parents they need to be talking to children from birth. Almost half of children at school entry have speech and language delay.
  • Eyes need to move too Promoting minimal screen time in the first two years to support eye muscle development for reading later.

I also designed:

  • Leaflets for parents.
  • An app called Born to Move – now with 17,000 downloads – that provides simple tips about the three key messages for parents and carers from baby, crawler, toddler and pre-school stages.
  • Posters for all children’s centres and GPs in Kent and a page for the red book (the personal child health record). This cost-effective initiative has encouraged a behaviour change leading to more babies achieving developmental milestones, crucial for later development.

What was your greatest challenge?

Gaining management support from the health and local authority to achieve the training of more than 3,000 front-line staff over the past five years was a challenge. Another challenge was getting support to develop the Born to Move app.

What has given you most satisfaction?

Making a difference. Measurable outcomes have been achieved through a countywide audit of the universal reviews, measuring the number of babies achieving expected levels of development in the first year from the Born to Move project. Since 2015, the audit has been carried out annually, showing a vast improvement in the number of babies crawling in the first year from 30% to 94% at the end of the pilot. In Kent, the Born to Move message has been delivered to 92,000 new parents since the beginning of the project and is ongoing.

What inspires you and why?

My inspiration has come from seeing the positive outcomes that movement has on all aspects of a child’s life and development. This can be achieved so easily through existing staff and contacts.

What advice would you give a newly qualified nurse?

Be proud, make a difference and look after yourself too.

How does your job make use of your skills?

I am able to use my knowledge, experience, leadership and teaching skills to inspire front-line early years staff.

Why do you think the RCNi awards are so important?

I think the RCNi awards are an amazing opportunity for valuable recognition of innovative, cost-effective practice and a chance to share positive initiatives.

Julia Haynes is an independent early years consultant for Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust

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