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All Babies Count: The Dad project

Pregnancy and the first months of life are a critical period in a child’s development, a time when they are developing rapidly and when the foundations for their future are laid. During this period, parents are incredibly important. Their actions, the home environment they create, and the way in which they interact with their child, influence how the baby’s body, brain and mind develop. As experts from Harvard have written, “children develop in the context of relationships."

Through the Dad Project we looked at how we could strengthen the relationships between dads, their child and his or her mother, and the services that work with them during pregnancy and the year after a baby is born. The project was run by the NSPCC, with support from the Design Council and funding from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. Our goal was to explore how we could improve information, advice and support for dads in order to promote their emotional wellbeing and help them to achieve better outcomes for their families.

The NSPCC are by no means the first people to look at how best to support dads during this important phase in their - and their families’ - lives. It is 25 years since Professor Michael Lamb described dads as the “forgotten contributors to child development”ii and in this time organisations like the Fatherhood Institute, the Royal College of Midwives, the Departments for Health and Education, Barnardo’s and many others have provided valuable research, guidance and best practice examples to encourage services to work better for dads - the “forgotten fifty per cent” of parents.

Despite all this excellent work, there is still a long way to go. As this report shows, many dads still don’t get the support they need. Gender inequality still exists in early parenthood and health and children’s services often still forget to ‘think family’. New solutions are needed to these old problems. We hope that this report brings some fresh ideas, insights and inspiration