It has been busy as ever at Best Beginnings. I could write pages on all the things we've been up to but here's a distillation of what's been happening throughout the last few months.

The Small Wonders DVD has taken off really well and over 75,000 of the 90,000 DVDs we have for year 1 have been distributed. Our network of over 400 healthcare professional 'Champions' are now helping to embed use of this resource in 138 of the 171 neonatal units in England and we are in discussion with the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to plan DVD roll-out in their nations in the New Year. We have had some wonderful feedback from healthcare professionals, this one particularly struck a chord with me:

“I would like to thank you for providing such a valuable tool to assist in supporting the parents of premature and sick infants. I have just watched the DVD in its entirety prior to its roll out next month. It not only informed my practice as a neonatal nurse, but I feel strongly that it will inform parents of their babies journey. I applaud the effort that went into making this DVD in such detail and explaining medical terminology in such an understanding manner. I wholeheartedly believe this will be an invaluable tool for me and my colleagues to use in supporting parents of premature and sick babies. Thank you” Senior Nurse, Southend University Hospital NHS Trust.

For a detailed update on the Small Wonders and activity click here.

Our 'From bump to breastfeeding' DVD is continuing to make a difference to breastfeeding mothers and has now been distributed to 1.8 million parents since its launch in 2008, motivating and enabling them to make the choice to breastfeed. We have also provided several areas of the UK with their own bespoke version of the DVD, which includes highlighting local information, tailored film clips and more. An October UNICEF UK report evidenced that low breastfeeding rates in the UK are costing the NHS millions of pounds. The report, Preventing Disease and Saving Resources, looks at how investing locally to raise breastfeeding rates can save money through improving health outcomes. The 'From bump to breastfeeding' DVD is an invaluable intervention to increase breastfeeding rates. To find out how to get your own bespoke version for your area, please click here.

Thanks to some qualitative research being undertaken by Dr Joia de Sa, one or our two paediatric interns, we will over the next few weeks be gaining really important insights from Bengali and Somali speaking mothers on what they think of the Bump to Breastfeeding DVD. I'm so proud the DVD is in Bengali, Somali, Urdu, Polish and British Sign Language. If you are from one of these communities and would like to give us feedback we'd be delighted to hear from you, indeed all feedback is welcome. Email me at [email protected].

Conference season is upon us. Last week I presented in the main auditorium at the annual conference of the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association. It was a pleasure to give UK health visitors a sneak preview of our upcoming app project, tell them about the Small Wonders DVD and invite them to become Small Wonders Champions, connecting with their local neontal units to support families in their transition home. Early this week I was delighted to present to midwives and student midwives at the Royal College of Midwives annual conference and invited more midwives to become Small Wonders Champions linking in with neonatal and ensuring many more high-risk women watch Small Wonders antenatally.

At both conferences the plenary and breakout sessions were excellent (#rcmconf) and the Best Beginnings stand was swamped during coffee and lunch breaks. Huge thanks to Best Beginnings' project coordinator Andrea Priest and our interns Frances Dryden, Alexia Sawyer and Dr Pavan Sidhu for all their hard work at the stand. As I continue to work silly long hours as part of my absolute commitment to work with professionals, support families and have impact, it is so invigorating to talk to so many superb front-line workers and hear words of praise and thanks for our resources and work. It means the world to me to know how much our resources are valued. To top off the season, I'm honoured to have been invited to chair the second day of the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative annual conference in December. I'm looking forward to catching-up with old friends and colleagues and meet new ones.
I'm very excited to say that pilot versions of our first two mobile apps are going to be available for free-download from app stores from early 2013. The apps are being designed to enable and empower parents, particularly younger parents, to make the most of their babies’ earliest weeks and months. What's great about our apps is, though there are hundreds of pregnancy apps already out there, none of them combine the public trust of the voluntary sector with the rigour of a number of Royal Colleges and the technical and creative nous of a leading app design and marketing company. I can't wait to let you all know that they are ready for download! Drop me an email at [email protected] if you'd like to receive updates on the app project and/or get involved as a parent or professional with writing Q&As now or by giving early feedback. As I always say "Collaboration is King" - together we can make a real and lasting difference.

I was very happy to be invited to the Women of the Year lunch last month with one of my Trustees, the parenting expert Eileen Hayes. The event honours and celebrates the work of inspirational women of all kinds, from famous celebrities through to unsung heroes who have achieved much in their communities. This year’s lunch had Olympic and Paralympic athletes and medallists, the military wives choir entertaining attendees with their new single, A-listers like Helen Mirren, crime writer PD James and the wonderful Sandy Toksvig as Mistress of Ceremonies for the lunch. Alongside these were many women whose names you would not know, but who have achieved amazing things across the country, from fostering dozens of disabled children, to campaigning for legal changes.

Our accounts for the 2011-12 financial year have yet to be signed off by the auditors but it looks like we've enjoyed a growth in income for the third consecutive year and have also increased the pence per pound that we spend on charitable activity to 93p. Watch this space for more information once the audit process is complete.

Since the end of the financial year there has been a considerable slow in income to the charity. Now more than ever we need the help of our grass-roots supporters such as yourself to keep the charity going and allow us to continue the excellent work we are doing. If you can make a donation, no matter how small, please visit our 'Donate for child health appeal'.

Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And if you want to know what I'm doing, you can follow me @AlisonBaum.

Finally I'd like to wish everyone all the best over the winter season. I look forward to updating you again soon.

Very best wishes,