IJBPE Conference 2023

The 23rd January saw perinatal educators, midwives, early years practitioners and a host of people working in the critical 1000 days, coming together at the IJBPE conference held at Worcester University.

The day, looking at Challenges  for Today’s Parenting Educators, was the retirement  conference for Professor Mary Nolan, the founder of the Journal. So many of the delegates remarked on how much she had inspired and influenced their work.

With talks covering perinatal education, infant formula marketing, normal birth after Ockenden, provision for migrant women, working with black birthing women and the 1001 days the day was both thought provoking and challenging as well as uplifting and inspiring. The conference had such good feedback we are looking to run another next year!

All of the issues were of concern to perinatal educators and every speaker related their talk to use in classes and practice.

We opened with a talk by Ann Jordan, Provost of the University, who thanked Mary for her extraordinary role in the perinatal field and reflected the esteem in which she is held.

From Sydney, Australia, we heard from Jane Svensson, new Co-Editor of the Journal and met her Co-Editor Allie Sewell who introduced herself and her work. She really enjoyed spending time meeting delegates and finding out what they would like to see in the journal moving forward.


Lorna Philip
Lorna has over 30 years’ experience of working with young children and their families. Lorna brings this wealth of experience to her work which made her one of the most sought-after doulas in Birmingham and is the founder of the Black Mama’s Village in  Birmingham.

In her illuminating talk “Working with Black Parents to Be ” Lorna challenged the audience to “Think more thread than add on” and addressed accessibility of education and services. Both enjoyable and relatable, Lorna enriched the room with her ideas, insight and presence.

Sally Hogg
The next talk spoke directly to all those working in the critical 1000 days. Sally Hogg, Early Childhood Policy Expert. Policy Fellow in the PEDAL Centre, Founder of the First 1001 Days Movement, and friend of IJBPE since the start, and regular contributor in Sally’s Column, talked  about the effect of the pandemic on babies and infants.

Since the start of the pandemic she has been commissioning and gathering evidence on the effects of covid 19 on infants and their families  and the results are not good. In a powerful presentation Sally talked about the deterioration in in language, sociability and meeting milestones.

The increase in abuse and neglect and the fact that there is no longer a section of government with responsibility for babies and infants. As a resultthere is no longer anyone  in power with an eye on  baby’s and infants wellebing. Her talk reminds us of why the work we do in this field is so important  - to keep babies in mind.  We need to all keep the spotlight on these,  the most vulnerable members of our society.

Professor Soo Downe
The final pre-lunch talk was from Professor Soo Downe, exploring the concept of normal birth post Ockenden.  What should we be teaching? What does the evidence say women and birthing people want? How language use affects the message and the outcome.  How birth preparation might look. Moving from ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and'.

With evidence, experience, balance and wisdom Soo offered an incredibly useful insight into modern maternity and our role as educators within that.

Professor Gerhard Hastings 
Gerard Hasting’s powerful talk about infant formula companies addressed the history of marketing. How to sustain business you must create demand and how the infant formula companies ‘befriend’ parents to build brand. Using support and reassurance in the guise of  baby clubs, pregnancy information and  “we’re all just parents” to gain trust just to sell a product. One powerful quote he showed was from a former formula marketeer “first time mothers are the holy grail” with their brand loyalty being higher once engaged. The aim of these baby groups however is not to improve the pregnancy and parenting experience, but to sell product.

Jill Benjoya Miller
Jill Benjoya Miller, Perinatal Lead of Happy Baby Communities (HBC), started us off after lunch with her illuminating talk on ‘Perinatal Education & Support for Mothers in the UK Asylum System’ showcasing the incredible work of HBC. With trauma informed care at the centre of everything they do, the HBC is a model for compassionate care in pregnancy and new parenting. It gave lessons in considerations for all the women and birthing people we may work with and the extreme trials some face.

Professor Mary Nolan
The final talk was by Professor Mary Nolan reflecting on ‘A Career in Childbirth and Early Parenting Education: 1985-2023’. Taking us through the decades Mary examined the changing face of childbirth and the emergence antenatal education in the form we know now.

Her inspiring talk covered how antenatal education has moved into the realm of parenting and the critical periods of development in infants, both what we know and we don’t. In particular through all of this the parental experience and how our influence as educators has such importance.

We look forward to seeing you at our next conference in 2024!
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