Jim Harding

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The Independent Online

Maureen Freely is right: the point of the NSPCC's latest advertisements is that people remember a simple but life- changing message, which influences their behaviour. The message must enter the public consciousness. And our message is: stop before you do your baby harm. All parents can be pushed to the limit as a result of persistent crying, sleepless nights and other complications.

Ms Freely is also right to say that this caution is not enough. The NSPCC wants parents to seek advice and help before they snap. That is why we set up a special advice line and are distributing practical advice leaflets to parents. Already, just one week into the campaign, more than a third of maternity units across the country have placed an order.

Significantly, it is our partners at the frontline of helping parents who have most welcomed our initiative. The Community Practitioners and Heath Visitors describes our advertising as "bold" and is backing the campaign "101 per cent".

Health and other child-care professionals know that these advertisements are part of the NSPCC's broader strategy to support parents, starting before the birth of their child. In this way, we begin to create the conditions whereby the goal of our FULL STOP campaign can be met.

Marketing of this kind is about using modern mass communications to influence public attitudes and behaviour over the long term. All parents get angry with their babies at some point. The vast majority never cross the line and harm their baby, but how many of us worry that we could?

Yes, we need to make people aware of the risks of shaking, smacking, or hitting fragile babies. But we also want to reassure parents that they are not alone with these feelings and give them the support they need.