02/01/2019 15:20 GMT | Updated 02/01/2019 15:20 GMT

Babies' 'Red Books' Are Going Digital. But Is It A Good Thing?

As a midwife, I see the main pro being the motive behind these changes. It comes as part of wider government plans to improve NHS care for mothers and new babies, and it’s about time.

Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

For anyone that doesn’t know ‘The Red Book’ is a health record for babies and children up to four years old. It’s basically the closest thing you can get to a “baby manual” from the NHS. There’s a hell of a lot of information in there for parents, like a list of all the vaccinations your baby will be having and when – right the way through to four years old. Every time they have a vaccine the nurse will record it in the Red Book so you know what they have had and when, if you choose to vaccinate of course.

Growth charts are used mainly by us health care professionals and they look complicated at first – as a student I remember thinking what the hell is a centile – but, once your health visitor or midwife talks you through it, you’ll probably find monitoring their changes slightly addictive.

Every time your baby is weighed and measured we write a little x on their growth chart, but don’t get too hung up on the first x because a baby may be smaller or bigger but if they are growing well at their own pace that’s usually fine. It’s also important we document what kind of birth the baby had, not just the mum as this can have implications for a baby and the more we record the more with know and are able to see correlations. This kind of data is vital to our understanding of neonatal health and therefore human health in general. 

The new plan released by Matt Hancock will be trialled this year with 100,000 women, and there are plans for it to be rolled out across England by 2023/24. The trial should iron out any teething problems (no pun intended) meaning that parents really are getting an improved service.

As a midwife, I see the main pro being the motive behind these changes. It comes as part of wider government plans to improve NHS care for mothers and new babies, and it’s about time. Pregnant women, new mothers and new babies are our most precious yet vulnerable members of society so it’s vital that we invest in them and take a good look at how we can improve our care. Not only that, it’s about time we really look into the information we provide parents with, after all, they are raising the future.

So the new digital records will probably more convenient and easier for parents to access, especially now we are living in the digital age. Plus, it’s now unrealistic to expect parents to keep a book for four years, carry it everywhere they go and keep it in good condition. They need it for all the health checks with GPs, clinics, immunisations and any visits to A&E. It’s surprising that it’s only now going digital and more parents didn’t complain about the inconvenience before. 

Nowadays, the problem for the modern mum is not scarcity of information but all the misinformation that exists: fake news, unsolicited comments, online forums and idealistic social media posts. I believe it’s important the NHS and medical professionals keep up with the times to ensure parents are provided with unbiased, evidence-based guidance. 

The downside to going digital is the lack of handwriting and the iconic tradition of recording each milestone with indelible ink. Not everyone is able to access the digital world so these people will need extra support but I do  think the pros outweigh the cons. After all, there are other ways to create keepsakes.

Follow The Modern Midwife on Instagram