Baby Makes 3 – prevention of violence against women in action
This article features in the December 2018 edition of DVRCV Advocate.
Change the Story identifies new parenthood as a key transitional phase in which to address the drivers of violence against women; Baby Makes 3 accesses new parents through the maternal and child health sector. Anita Thomas and Olive Aumann from Carrington Health and Helen Keleher describe how the program influences attitudes and norms about equitable parenting and women’s empowerment to prevent violence against women.
There is strong evidence demonstrating the link between mothers having their first baby and their increased risk of experiencing intimate partner violence, and both physical and psychological abuse during pregnancy have been linked to adverse birth outcomes. Becoming a new parent is also key transition point in the life course that presents important opportunities to address social norms about gender equity, which is a driver of violence against women. There is compelling evidence demonstrating fathers’ potential to positively influence their children’s health outcomes, social success and academic achievements. Yet there is a vacuum of interventions in this key life stage; Baby Makes 3 is the only primary prevention of violence against women program in Victoria that targets new parents.
What is Baby Makes 3?
Baby Makes 3 is a primary prevention program that aims to influence relationship dynamics between new parents, and to prevent violence against women by promoting equal and respectful relationships during the transition to parenthood. Baby Makes 3 is owned by Carrington Health based in Box Hill, Melbourne.
A core component of promoting respectful and equal relationships involves working with both parents, so the Baby Makes 3 program targets messages at new fathers, not just new mothers.
The most common format involves three two-hour group sessions for first-time parents delivered in partnership with Maternal and Child Health Services (MCHS) in Victorian local governments. Baby Makes 3 is programmed as an extension of new parent groups using an opt-out model, with all new parents encouraged to attend the sessions. Each session is co-facilitated by a male and female facilitator who undergo two days of training. We are also trialling a single condensed three-hour session during childbirth education classes in hospitals and targeted approaches to respond to intersectionality.
What is the role of the Maternal and Child Health Nurse (MCHN) in preventing or responding to violence against women?
MCHNs are frontline, primary health care workers who deliver direct services, universally available at no cost, based in communities across Victoria, to new parents and their babies. They play a critical role in supporting the transition to parenthood and a key role in connecting families and communities to the health and social care systems.
MCHNs don’t need to be prevention specialists but their roles are critical. The 2015 evaluation of Baby Makes 3 showed that while some MCHNs were enthusiastic and supportive about the program and keen to be involved, others were uncertain. Many became more supportive during the professional development sessions provided by Baby Makes 3 project staff, but it became clear during the implementation of the project that MCHNs were not always familiar with the theory, principles and practices of gender equity and respectful relationships education and the gendered drivers of violence against women.
Baby Makes 3 has built a workforce of skilled facilitators across Victoria, with expertise in delivering gender equity messages.
The impact Baby Makes 3 seeks to achieve
The program content challenges traditional gendered roles and expectations of women as carers and men as breadwinners, by constructing parenting as a shared and equally valued responsibility. This challenging of rigid gender roles and gender equity are key messages of Baby Makes 3. New parents have reported a better understanding of the importance of sharing household and caring responsibilities with their partners, and new mothers lowered their own internalised expectations to assume responsibility for all caring and household tasks.
MCHNs report that Baby Makes 3 helps them understand how to communicate respectfully about parental roles in a non-confrontational way. New parents are given an opportunity to strengthen, reassess and improve the quality of their relationships after the birth of their baby.
This article features in the December 2018 edition of The Advocate. Download article (PDF)