Suffolk Babies was created in the summer of 2016 as a community interest company with two main aims:
- To improve antenatal, postnatal and early childhood education,
- To provide families with choices.
We provide birthing courses, and baby classes, right through into toddlerhood. We are a one-stop-shop for up to date, respected and high quality education and support. We firmly believe in building a community for parents, to help them through a time of massive change, which can be difficult or stressful without the right support.
All our educational courses are designed to ensure that families are aware of all the options available to them so that they can make well informed choices regarding their antenatal care, labour and birth or parenting choices. We are also part of a wider professional network and will use our local knowledge and contacts within other specialist organisations and the public sector to ensure that every family being supported by Suffolk Babies is able to access the best services for their individual circumstances.
We value people. We believe that every person has a right to support without judgement. We support our clients whatever their parenting style or choices. We also firmly believe in supporting women in their return to work after having children and all our staff are mothers who have sought employment from family friendly and flexible employers.
Our ground-breaking collaboration with Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust sees us providing antenatal workshops free of charge to all women and their birth partner who register with their midwife in this area. These high quality 4 hour long workshops prepare couples for labour, birth and the early days with their new baby.
We do not receive any funding whatsoever to run these workshops; we fund them entirely from our own enterprise activities, mainly through the profits we make from our classes run at the Suffolk Babies Centre in Kesgrave.
What drove us to set up Suffolk Babies was seeing how variable antenatal and postnatal education could be, and how little funding it received. The NHS budgets continue to be cut and funding for all maternity services comes out of the same pot – so funding for antenatal education is further down the list of priorities than, say, emergency caesarean sections, which is entirely understandable. However, as people who work with new parents, we were seeing all the time how a lack of decent, accessible, free antenatal education was contributing to parents feeling less than happy about their birth experience, and inadequately prepared for parenthood.
We knew there was a better way. We can use enterprise as a force for good. Many parents are happy to pay for antenatal classes and baby classes, and people who come to us for their classes also know that they are contributing to providing free antenatal education. It’s like donating to a charity, except you also get an excellent class in return, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Our mission is to create a fully self-sustaining model that will last forever, where those people who are able to pay for classes help fund free classes for those who cannot. We don’t want to rely on funding from government or other agencies, as this tends to only be guaranteed for a short period of time. Our model has no end date, so we can continue providing support for families in Suffolk for years to come. The bigger we grow, the more free services we can provide. We have started with the Essential Preparation for Birth Workshop, but we also regularly offer free places on our other classes in certain circumstances, and we have ambitions to provide even more in the way of free support.
Jo Cresdee, CEO, is a Fedant registered Antenatal teacher, baby massage instructor and baby yoga instructor with a background in Montessori teaching. She is also a qualified Personal Trainer, qualified Hypnobirthing Instructor and Doula. Jo has worked in this field since 2003, and in 2011 began building up a local business providing private antenatal classes and baby classes. The business was based on a licensed antenatal educational package and Jo originally taught in Woodbridge with one small class of 4 clients. At the point of setting up Suffolk Babies her business had grown to the point where nearly 500 clients attended per week (approximately 20% of women delivering at Ipswich Hospital).
Katie Mackenzie, Director of Operations, has worked with local families since 2011, providing educational courses for parents, having trained as a BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm teacher. During this period, Katie created a website bringing together local baby and toddler activities and courses, helping to inform parents’ choices, and to help promote small businesses like her own. She is also a trained Performance and Emotional Coach (www.katiemcoaching.co.uk).
Patron of Suffolk Babies is Dr Benjamin Solway of the Clinical Executive of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
As the commissioner, the CCG decides which health services should be provided, who will provide them and how they should be paid for. The CCG has a duty to act as an advocate for patients and ensure that the appropriate high-quality services are provided and that those services represent a good use of taxpayers’ money.
The CCG is responsible for commissioning a wide range of clinical or service areas for people in Ipswich and the East Suffolk area.
Dr Benjamin Solway is a GP at Drs Solway and Whale at the Orchard Street Health Centre in Ipswich and has been a GP for over 15 years. He is a member of the Clinical Executive and works on improving prescribing and diagnostics. He is the CCG’s lead clinician for Learning Disabilities, Children & Young People and Maternity as well as for marginalised vulnerable adults (MVA) and safeguarding.