Our thanks to all of our speakers who joined us at our inaugural event in Manchester on Thursday 6th October 2016

Main Session Speakers

Gail Allan
Director of Business Development
Family Links


Gail has over 15 years’ experience promoting emotional health for families and schools and is a National Trainer for the Family Links Nurturing Programme and a parent group leader.  A degree in English Literature led to an early career in product marketing, working for international corporate organisations in Europe and the US.  Gail has further qualifications in counselling and supervision, and has experience working one-to-one with vulnerable families and teenagers as part of the Oxfordshire parenting support provision team.  

Gail was part of the start-up team for the child obesity charity, HENRY.  She is constantly inspired by visiting professionals and practitioners around the country who are using the Nurturing Programme to change lives.

Professor Helen Ball, BSc, MA, PhD
Head of Department, Anthropology
Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, & Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS)
Durham University, Durham, UK

Helen Ball

Helen Ball obtained her PhD in Biological Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1992. Her undergraduate degree was in Human Biology, and her interests span both biology and anthropology. She established the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University in 2000, was promoted to Professor in 2007 and became Head of the Anthropology Department in 2013. Broadly defined, her research examines the sleep ecology of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs. She conducts research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care (see www.dur.ac.uk/sleep.lab/). She oversees the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via ISIS — the Infant Sleep Information Source website (www.isisonline.org.uk).

Stephen Bell
Interim COO
Best Beginnings


Stephen has a wealth of experience in the trauma and recovery field, working for several years in therapeutic communities with NCH and Pepper Harrow, before going on to establish Resolutions UK.

Resolutions was a long term therapeutic residential provision working with vulnerable and severely traumatised children and young people, the approach focused on meeting the individual needs of children and their families, by providing the clinical practice and therapeutic expertise and interventions to support their journey of recovery.

Stephen is passionate about the wellbeing and care of children and the role that family and society has to play in providing the security and structure for them to develop, flourish and recover from early traumatic experiences. A firm believer in preventative approaches and early interventions that help prevent trauma and to free up the resources to properly and fully address the needs of children who experience trauma and don’t get the best start in life.

With over 25 years of senior executive leadership and business transformation experience in the private and charitable sectors across the UK and has a proven track record in leading successful strategic, operational and organisational change to achieve better outcomes and results for families and the organisations working with them.

Stephen has campaigned and influenced policy and practice change especially around young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. He was the co-founder of the Big Society Co-operative and the IRCT and is the owner and Managing Director of Prime Partnership, a management consultancy specialising in working collaboratively with the voluntary and statutory sectors.

Mary Nolan
Professor of Perinatal Education, University of Worcester

Mary Nolan

Mary trained as a nurse in the 1970s and then as a childbirth educator with the NCT. She has worked with parents across the UK and has trained educators in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium and Germany. Mary was a member of the Expert Reference Group set up by the Department of Health in 2008 to create ‘Preparation for Birth and Beyond’, a new antenatal education programme that has led to a resurgence of interest in the potential of early parent education to enhance maternal and family mental health, build supportive social networks, promote sensitive parenting and reduce ill health and abuse of young children. Mary has published several books including, ‘Antenatal Education: A Dynamic Approach’, ‘Home Birth: The Politics of Difficult Choices’, and chapters in ‘Essential Midwifery Practice: Intrapartum Care’ edited by Denis Walsh and Soo Downe. Her PhD examined the impact of antenatal education on women’s choices around pain management in labour and her research into women’s and men’s experience of early labour, what women want from antenatal classes, and health visitors’ engagement with new fathers has been published in peer-reviewed academic and professional journals. Mary lives in York.


Breakout Session Speakers & Panelists

Shel Banks IBCLC
Infant Feeding Specialist
Chair of Local Infant Feeding Information Board

Shel Banks

Shel is a mother of three from Lancashire, England. After the birth of her first son in 2001 she became a breastfeeding peer supporter with a national charity and over the following years grew more and more interested in the effective provision of information and effective support to help women breasfeed. In 2010 she gained the IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) qualification.

She works in Infant Feeding in her local area, and is employed in a local hospital both to run their UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation, and as a researcher. Shel is a Trustee of UKAMB – the United Kingdom Association of Milk Banking, and a member of the Committee of the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, as well as running a small private IBCLC practice supporting women and new families with infant feeding issues across the North of England and North Wales.

Since 2007 Shel has been working with a local multidisciplinary group providing evidence based information around all aspects of infant feeding, to health professionals – this group is now LIFIB – ‘your Local Infant Feeding Information Board’ – www.LIFIB.org.uk – and with this group Shel delivers briefing papers, newsletters and training as well as educational study days and workshops. LIFIB fills the gap in information around infant milk, bottles, teats, and non-breastfeeding feeding issues, not filled by First Steps Nutrition Trust, with whom they work. As the LIFIB information is on a website free to join for health care professionals working with new families, the information LIFIB provides is now available nationally, and the workshops are delivered wherever they are needed.

Shel will be speaking at Growing Families on Infant Milks.

Lynne Barton
Entrust Care Partnership

Lynne Barton

Lynne Barton is by profession a qualified teacher and has worked extensively in the public sector in Education, Health and more latterly an integrated multi‐agency service. She has worked in the Voluntary Sector, with the playgroup movement whilst her children were small, and in later years in a Director capacity with a National Charity supporting disabled children, young people and their families.

In her role as a Service Development Manager for Warwickshire County Council she led on Aiming High for Disabled Children: Short Breaks, all Commissioned services and was responsible for the engagement of families in the development of service provision. She gained promotion becoming Assistant Head of the Integrated Disability Service in Warwickshire, a jointly funded post with the NHS, with responsibility for 240 staff and a budget of 8 million, her innovative ideas brought together services for disabled children across Education, Health, Social Care and Connexions. In a voluntary capacity she is currently the Chair of Cruse Bereavement Care: Coventry and Warwickshire. She sits on the local Doctors Surgery Patient Participation Group and is the Parochial Church Council, secretary.

It was Lynne and her drive and expertise that created Entrust Care Partnership, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company working to meet the needs of disabled children and their families. As a founding Director she continues to attract funding to and support for the organisation.

Dr Ruth Butterworth
Clinical Psychologist

Ruth Butterworth

Dr Ruth Butterworth is a Clinical Psychologist who is passionate about nurturing the mental health of parents and infants as they begin their journey as a family. Ruth works part time within the NHS, in a specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team in Coventry and Rugby. Outside of her NHS role she is involved in various initiatives that aim to raise the profile of psychological wellbeing during this critical period, and develop the awareness, skills and confidence of ‘front line’ professionals to respond to these needs. She also supervises a range of related research projects at the University of Birmingham. 

Maddie McMahon
Developing Doulas

Maddie headshot 1

Maddie has been a doula since 2003. She is a Doula UK Mentor and runs Developing Doulas (www.developingdoulas.co.uk), which is a Doula UK approved doula preparation course. She is also a member of the Doula UK Board. She is a founder and trustee of Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance and also a Breastfeeding Counsellor with the ABM. She recently achieved her childhood dream of being a published author with the publication of Why Doulas Matter in 2015.

Mum to boy and girl teens and stepmum to one all-grown-up boy, she lives and works in Cambridge.

Catriona Ogilvy
The Smallest Things

catriona ogilvy

Catriona Ogilvy is founder of The Smallest Things Foundation, campaigning to raise awareness of premature birth and advocating better support for parents following their journey through neonatal care. Catriona is a highly specialised children’s occupational therapist, having spent 15 years working on the front line of the NHS. She has worked in busy level three neonatal units and used to think she knew all about neonatal care – that was until her first son was born quite suddenly and with little warning at 30 weeks. Catriona now campaigns to raise awareness of the realities that parents face in NICU and in the weeks, months and years following discharge home.

Emma Pickett IBCLC
Chair, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers

Emma Pickett

Emma became a mother after a career in primary education and a Deputy Headship in central London. When she realised how many women were struggling to find breastfeeding support when they needed it, she initially trained with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk), qualifying as a breastfeeding counsellor with them in 2007. Since then she has taken more than 3000 calls on the National Breastfeeding Helpline, as well as volunteering at 3 breastfeeding drop-ins a week in Haringey, North London. She became an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in 2011 and recertifies this year with more than 120 hours of additional education in lactation. She is Chair of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and this includes national strategic work in breastfeeding advocacy as well as the day to day training of new breastfeeding support volunteers and healthcare professionals. In 2015, she published her book, “You’ve got it in you: a positive guide to breastfeeding” which is available in eBook and print version. She blogs at www.emmapickettbreastfeedingsupport.com and in the last year her website has had more than 1.7 million page views. You can find her on Twitter as @makesmilk. She believes that knowledge of what is normal, confidence and support are the keys to helping families reach their breastfeeding goals.

Victoria Ward
School of Babywearing


Victoria is the founder of the School of Babywearing and Babywearing UK, which she established after becoming aware of such high demand for parents for babywearing information via her sling shop, and from fellow antenatal professionals. She is Mum to four children, all who have been carried in baby slings and carriers. She is an NCT Antenatal teacher, Antenatal & Baby Yoga teacher and Baby Massage instructor and ran a yoga business and a retail business before selling them in 2014 and moving to Devon.

Victoria has been a qualified Babywearing Consultant since March 2010. She is a board member of the Baby Carriers Industry Alliance [BCIA] and chairs the BCIA UK Issues Committee. She has travelled to run babywearing courses in Asia and Australia since 2012 and has organised both of the European Babywearing Conferences in 2013 and 2015.