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Parent and infant relationship service (PAIRS)

Early relationships matter

Illustration of mother holding baby in her arms against her chest looking happy

Early relationships influence the way that a baby’s brain develops. When parents and carers are able to tune-in and respond to their babies’ needs sensitively, in an appropriate and timely way, it lays the foundations for lifelong mental and physical health and helps them to:

  • Grow up feeling safe, secure and ready to play, explore and learn
  • Have skills to understand and manage their emotions and behaviour
  • Feel confident in themselves and develop trusting relationships with others

However, not all parents and carers find this easy. Lots of things can affect how you feel about your baby and yourself as a parent, and this can get in the way of developing a positive relationship with your baby.

Although having a baby can be a special and joyous time, it can also be challenging. Sometimes it can feel hard to cope with your baby’s feeding, sleeping or crying, or you might have worries about how they are developing. Sometimes other things can affect how you feel about your baby, such as a traumatic pregnancy or birth, mental health problems (such as depression or anxiety), loss and bereavement, or events from the past or present.

Who are we? 

We are a small team of psychologists and psychotherapists who are passionate about supporting parents, carers and professionals to make sure that every baby in Sheffield has the best possible start in life.

Who do we work with?

These problems can affect anyone. The PAIRS team are here to provide support so that you can build a strong and nurturing relationship with your baby or young child. We work with parents and carers and their babies from conception to age 3.

How we can help

Illustration of two fathers smiling down on their baby in a cribOnce we receive a referral, one of our practitioners will get in touch with you to arrange an initial meeting, either in your home, at a nearby children’s centre or at our base.

At this initial meeting, we can think together about the relationship you have with your baby and discuss any worries or difficulties you may be having. After this, we will think about your goals and how we will work towards them.

We will review our work together regularly and, with your consent, we will provide update letters to you and other key people involved (For example your GP or health visitor).

There are different ways that we can help you and your baby to strengthen your relationship and help you make sense of your baby’s emotional responses and communications:

  • We may encourage you to play with and talk to your baby.
  • Sometimes it’s helpful to try to think about how your baby is feeling and what your baby might be trying to tell you through his or her sounds and body movements.
  • Filming the positive parts of these sessions for you to watch later is also an option and can be helpful.
  • We can also help you with any difficult feelings arising from becoming a parent or carer.

Alternatively, if we think another service will be better able to support you, we will support you in accessing this.

Support for professionals

Alongside our therapeutic work with families, we also offer teaching and consultation to professionals working with parents and carers who are pregnant or have a child under the age of 3. We are keen to share our specialist infant mental health expertise through consultation, reflective case discussions or joint work with a family. If you are a professional working with families that are struggling with their parent-infant relationships, please get in touch via telephone or email to discuss the support we can provide.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact either:

  • Anna Engel – Team leader and Consultant Psychologist on 0738 541 9517
  • Amanda Platt – Art Psychotherapist on 0777 511 1778
  • Bookings team on 0114 305 3659
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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: MH16

Resource Type: Article

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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