BBC Three explores life for young parents
I've been blessed with three children who have given me some of the most joyous moments in my life. But they didn't come with an instructional manual and even if they did I probably would have been too exhausted and blurry eyed to read it. No amount of reading parenting books can prepare you for the seismic shift which occurs in your life with the arrival of a baby.
Tonight sees the launch of our Bringing Up Britain season on BBC Three - a collection of programmes that explore, without judgement, what life is really like for young parents in the UK. BBC Three had produced a number of programmes like Kizzy - Mum at 14 and Underage and Pregnant that had been watched by many viewers. Danny Cohen (now Controller of BBC One) was keen to explore the next generation of films in this area - instead of focussing purely on pregnancy he was keen to explore what happens when baby comes home.
In their different ways, all the programmes paint an intimate picture of both parenting and childhood - from extraordinary personal stories to practical advice and debate programming. It's not just aimed at mums and dads, we hope Bringing Up Britain will also offer a unique window into the complex, varied and sometimes downright hard lives of young parents, and the many issues they are now facing in today's society.
BBC Learning have also produced a series of short videos in which young parents share practical tips and advice. We're thrilled with this collaboration and hope that the additional online footage will help soon-to-be mums and dads understand the stark realities of their new-found situations, and reassure them that they aren't alone.
The Bringing Up Britain season kicks off tonight with Is Breast Best? at 9pm. BBC Three presenter Cherry Healey found the experience of breast feeding both painful and traumatic and with the UK having such low breastfeeding rates in comparison with the rest of Europe she is on a mission to find out how other mums feel. Viewers can also chat with her online during the programme.
Abandoned At Birth - Gatwick Baby and Jono Lancaster's So What if my Baby is Born Like Me? are moving portrayals of childhoods lost. Steven Hydes was abandoned at Gatwick airport when he was 10 days old and is on a life-defining search to find out his true identity. Jono has Treacher Collins syndrome - a rare genetic condition - and is trying to decide if or how he should ever have children.
It is essential that the young people we feature are portrayed accurately and fairly and I believe this is also part of the reason factual on the channel is doing so well. We have lead the way in covering issues that are relevant to the lives of young people in society - allowing them to tell their own stories in their own way. Take Misbehaving Mums to Be, a six-part series that follows a team of midwives as they take pregnant women who binge drink, chain smoke and over-eat and attempt to help them get back on track and into shape before they give birth. The statistics are quite staggering; 20% of women smoke during pregnancy; 35% of women continue to drink alcohol; and 20% of pregnant women are worryingly obese. Contributors in our series are very open about the difficulties they've faced - as well as their positive experiences - and I really hope the programmes will reassure other young mums who are struggling and help them to see that they really aren't alone.
Childhood obesity has reached alarming levels in the UK and Fast Food Baby follows families as they attempt to wean their children off a diet of fast food. The programme tries to understand and explore the reasons that parents up and down the country are resorting to convenience foods.
Preparing and caring for one child is a daunting enough experience for parents, and our last programme in the season, Meet the Multiples, captures what life is life in a multiple child home - from being told you are expecting more than one child, to insights into how it feels to reach young adulthood having grown up with so many same-aged siblings.
Factual programmes on BBC Three have seen a significant increase in audiences over the last two years, and I'm really proud of what we have achieved with the Bringing Up Britain season - a unique collection of programmes that tackle some important contemporary issues.
Samantha Anstiss is Commissioning Executive Producer for Bringing up Britain