Ready Steady Grow

The foundation of the Ready Steady Grow strategy is Infant Mental Health, a field of training, practice and research focussed on nurturing the relationship between parent or primary care-giver and infant/toddler to actively promote and support healthy social and emotional development. Providing 0 - 3 year olds with essential supports for healthy development means equipping parents, care-givers and others in key relationships with very young children with the awareness, knowledge and understanding of how their relationship encourages and fosters their child's healthy growth and development. 

A number of key pieces of evidence underpin the Ready Steady Grow strategy. This evidence is drawn from a range of empirical studies and international research.

The infant phase is critically important for children's later development and outcomes

The first three years of life present an enormous opportunity to give children the best start. This stage in a baby's life is especially important for brain development: 80-90% of the infant brain is developed within the first three years, growing from 50 trillion synapses (connections in the brain) at birth to 1,000 trillion synapses. In this phase of a baby's life there are critical periods during which particular skills or functions are acquired. When babies' and toddlers' social and emotional development  - infant mental health - is supported and nurtured from the very start of life, the foundation is established for significant education and health outcomes in the course of childhood and adolescence, and from there enhanced likelihood of  employment and good mental health in adult life.

The relationship with a parent/primary carer is fundamental to an infant's healthy development

Infant development is dependent on the experiences and interactions during the 0 - 3 phase and the importance of the relationship with the primary caregiver cannot be overestimated. Primary caregivers who are attuned and responsive to the baby's emotional needs help the infant to feel cared for and valued and help enable the growing child to go on to develop a positive sense of self and empathy for others.

Prevention and early intervention services for families help assure infants' social and emotional wellbeing

All parents need support to build the understanding and knowledge that facilitates healthy infant development. Some may require supports and services to help offset risk factors that may compromise optimal developmental outcomes. A much smaller number may need active intervention by specialist services to address challenges and ensure the young child's welfare, protection and wellbeing. There is a close relationship between caregivers' wellbeing, particularly maternal mental health, and infant development. Consciously and deliberately engaging with primary caregivers to proactively bolster and strengthen their sense of confidence, competence and skill in relation to parenting practices promotes healthy development and allows for difficulties and challenges to be identified and addressed. Preventive rather than reactive interventions with families can be very effective. Such interventions are also less stigmatising, and can build on both universal screening and provision.

Building the capacity of practitioners supports for families

A well-qualified and properly skilled workforce is a key factor in making a real difference to the quality of support that expectant parents and families with young children receive. Ensuring that all practitioners working with expectant or new parents are fully equipped to promote positive social and emotional learning, as well as to identify the early signs of infant mental health problems and to seek timely help for those families at risk is critical. The skill of rapidly establishing and maintaining a trustworthy relationship is central to effective working with families.


Read more about Antenatal Support 

Read more about Infant Mental Health