TinyStart is Northern Ireland’s first holistic programme of support and child development specifically tailored for families with premature babies up to the age of 3 years.

TinyStart combines the key proven elements of the partners’ existing services to provide an intensive programme of support in order to reduce the adverse effects that being born prematurely can have on a child’s development and longer term outcomes.


Research has shown that babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of a variety of developmental problems related to health, psychological adjustment and intellectual functioning (The Urban Child 2012).  Effective intervention, such as home based and early education programmes, during the child’s first three years can buffer them from the effects of preterm and low birth weight (Msall and Parts, 2008, The Spectrum of Behavioural Outcomes After Prematurity).


Each year families who live in the Belfast, South Eastern, and Western Health Trust areas will be identified to receive the programme which will include one or more interventions tailored to their specific circumstances.

These services are aimed at

  • providing parental support to reduce stress and isolation
  • offering information that can increase their parenting skills
  • offering support for the wider family; and more importantly
  • supporting the child’s development

The programme consists of two home-based or community interventions: practical and emotional support to the child and their family (up to the child’s second birthday) provided through a weekly visit by a TinyLife volunteer alongside a monthly child development session delivered by a Lifestart Family Visitor (Lifestart Growing Child Program) up to the child’s third birthday.

These interventions are also underpinned by community based support activities such as local baby massage, baby sensory and parent support groups.

For further information on the TinyStart project, please contact Dr Pauline McClenaghan paulinbe@lifestartfoundation.org

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