It’s been a long road to reopening for baby classes. But finally indoor classes parent and child classes are coming back. You might be feeling really excited about the chance to get back to classes – or go to them for the first time. But you might also be feeling a little nervous about indoor parent and child classes too.
Covid safety measures for indoor classes
Rest assured, properly run baby and toddler classes are operating as professional businesses, with high safety standards and your best interests at heart.
Everyone has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to complete their covid-safety training, undertake full risk assessments, and work with local authorities to ensure classes are as safe as possible. ❤️
What to expect from indoor classes
Here are just a few of the examples of the things you can expect from returning classes:
⭐️markers or mats placed 2m apart or more ⭐️controlled entry / exit points ⭐️hand sanitisers on site ⭐️’one use only’ sanitised equipment – no sharing between families ⭐️appropriate use of face coverings (this might be ‘mask to mat’ in some settings so you can remove your mask once in position – face coverings may need to be kept on in others) ⭐️use of microphones and visors for class leaders, reducing the need to project voices ⭐️smaller class sizes, in larger venues
Some providers also are putting in place extra measures, like having temperature checks on the door, and allowing families to purchase their own kit that they can bring to each class.
Nervous about joining an indoor baby class?
Even before Covid you might feel a little nervous about going to a baby or toddler class. We get it. Walking into a room of strangers can be daunting. The whole ‘new girl at school’ feeling can creep up on you.
Feeling like the new girl at school!
Nicola from Team Happity recalls how nervous she felt whenever she went to a new baby class (pre-Covid):
“I was so desperate to meet other mums and make friends. But every time I joined a new class I felt a real rush of anxiety before I walked into the room. I wouldn’t know anyone. Would anyone like me? What would I do? How would I talk to other mums?
Most of the time either the class leader or another mum would put me at ease and say ‘hello’ and welcome me. And having a baby was an easy way into talking to other parents. That’s what we had in common and asking questions about our babies was an easy conversation opener”
If you’re nervous about going to an indoor parent and child class here are some top tips.
Top tips to make going to a baby group less daunting
Make sure you know where the group is and how to get there – The last thing you want to do (when you’re nervous already) is to turn up at a class or group at the wrong time. Research local groups, book your place and maybe even do a recce to make sure you know how to get there.
Start the conversation – Babies and children are a great leveller. It’s easy (but daunting) to start a conversation with mother mum at a parent and child group. You can ask them about their child’s teething toy, compliment them on their child’s outfit, ask the mum if she’s been to the group before…Once you’ve opened up the conversation you might find it leads you to more chat. If not – talk to other mums. You’re all there to connect.
Lower your expectations – In lockdown we’re all desperate to get out there and meet new mums friends! When baby groups are open we want to walk in and find our new mum BFF instantly! We know you’re excited but lower your expectations. A group of mums in a room might have one thing in common – babies around the same age. But that doesn’t mean they will instantly be best friends. That takes times. You might have to join more than one group and talk to more mums to meet the ones you really click with. Keep going. It happens. You’ll find your tribe in the end.
Don’t give up after the first time – you might be shy when you first go to a class. Or your baby might be clingy and not seem to have joined in. You might feel like you’ve made no connections and feel a bit left out or lonely. Don’t give up. It takes time to make friends. Joining a class gives you a shared experience. Smile, be friendly and approachable and keep going. Over time friendships might develop. If you give up after one or two classes feeling shy and uncomfortable you will never know if you might have found friends by sticking with it.
Be brave and suggest a next step – If you have enjoyed talking to another mum at a group be brave and suggest keeping in touch and meeting up again. Chances are they’ll be delighted you’ve made the first move. You could go for a socially distanced walk together or meet up in your garden. Go for it and make that first step towards what could be the first step to making a new mum friend.
Booking your indoor classes
As a community, we care hugely about the safety and wellbeing of parents and their children – and none of us have taken the decision to return to classes lightly. There are higher costs, and greater risks. This means you might find classes need to be booked in blocks, or that they are only transferrable to online classes if there is a local lockdown or the situation changes.
For classes that are coming back, their small biz owners have put in weeks, if not months of planning and hard work, just so that they can get back to you – all the families that have missed them – as soon, but as safely as possible! ❤️
Please support your local class providers – visit happity.co.uk to book your favourite classes.
We would also LOVE you to spread the word about Covid-safe classes by sharing our post on Instagramand Facebook.
Not quite ready yet?
Although the government roadmap allows indoor parent and child classes to return (in England – and hopefully very soon in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) you might not feel ready yet to go back. That’s understandable. And totally OK. There will still be many online interactive classes on Zoom. Check Happity to find amazing online classes that you can join from the comfort of your own home.
Self care for mums is NOT going to the shops alone, it’s NOT having a shower without the kids being an audience, it’s NOT cleaning the house without the kids around. All these things are NOT self care and we all need to stop pretending they are.
The viral meme that made mums stop in their tracks
Recently we posted this infographic on our social media, which had a huge response:
‘Agreed although going to the loo without an audience does feel like a luxury sometimes!!’
‘I’m so guilty of most of these being my time to me’
‘I even said to my husband the other day when I got back from a rather unpleasant dentist appt that it was a bit like going for a spa day as I got to lie down and someone touched my face’
Self care – pre-kids
Before you had a baby if your friend asked you what you’d done to take a little bit of time out for you to recharge your batteries there’s NO chance you’d have said: ‘I went to Tescos last night. It was really relaxing and really energised me’. So why do we feel like any mundane everyday task we get to do without our kids is self care?
What IS self care?
Put simply, self care is choosing and making the time to do little things for you that recharge your batteries and re-energise you. It’s finding the time to do things that make you happy; things that boost your physical and mental well being; taking time to do things that make you feel good.
Doing the weekly food shop or cleaning the kitchen when your kids are not around do not fit into this description of self care. It might be easier to do these kinds of errands or chores without a child hanging off your ankle but they don’t make you feel like you’ve taken a little time for you.
You wouldn’t let your phone battery run low
Once we become mums we put so much (all?) of our energy into looking after our child and keeping the household running and our own needs can all too easily be put to the back of the queue. Life’s busy. There’s always something that demands your attention and your time. And you can feel guilty for making time for something that seems a bit self indulgent – such as reading a book, going for a walk or carving out time to paint or craft.
But if you always put your needs last and neglect making time for self care then you can become frazzled and worn out and low on batteries. And that’s not good for you OR your children. It’s an overused phrase but a happy mum – happy baby is so very true.
The more you take time for self care the better you’ll feel and the better mum you’ll be.
Mamas, make that time for you!
Drop the mum guilt and make time for self care. Each day and each week. There are lots of small ways you can build it into your busy life. It’s just about making it a priority.
We’re delighted that Emily from Happity is nominated for the Petition Campaign of the Year Award!
She is nominated along with James and Jessie Zammit-Garcia and Bethany Power. All four are nominated for their campaigns supporting parents in the pandemic.
Happity’s petition campaign in the pandemic
We began our campaign in May 2020. Shortly after we went into lockdown. Emily was keen to share her own experience of PND, as well as her concerns for new families during Covid – including why parent and child classes are so vital for parental mental health.
More than 70,000 people have since had their say on this issue. As a result the Committee published report was published in July 2020.
The result of this petition is that important clarifications are now added to the Covid guidance for baby and toddler groups. Finally parent and child groups have been added to the guidelines!
The response to our petition campaign
Catherine McKinnell, Chair of the Petitions Committee says:
“Because of these petitioners’ drive for change, many who otherwise might not have had the support they need will be able to access these groups. During what has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging time for new parents.
These campaigns are a testament to the power of petitions to raise awareness of issues that might otherwise struggle to be heard in Parliament.
The nominees have each shown how to organise a successful campaign. Building on their petitions by gathering support from the wider public, charities and others who share their concerns.
I have been so impressed by our nominees’ passion, determination, and ideas. For how to tackle the problems they’ve set their minds to, and congratulate them on their achievements.”
Happity in the media
Emily spoke on BBC Radio about the award, which you can listen to here (go to 1hr 6mins).
We want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who supported our mission to get clear guidance for baby & toddler classes. You can do a little happy dance every time you see “parent and child classes” in the Covid Roadmap. And can say “I did that!”
When we are pregnant we (naturally) focus a lot on pregnancy, labour and birth. We read all the books and parenting forums about what to expect when we’re expecting and what labour and the journey after birth and postpartum will be like. But, often, what comes next is a bit of a shock. It’s as if we didn’t turn the page to read on to discover what to expect postpartum . What it will really be like in those first few hours, days, weeks and months after birth?
Postpartum and what happens after birth can come as a shock for so many mums. We asked mums in our Facebook group about what was most unexpected about their experience postpartum. These are the key points they raised:
The pain of stitches down below
If you have an episiotomy during labour the pain of the wound and the stitches might come as a bit of a shock. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area and even going for a wee can sting. Nicola from Team Happity says:
“I winced every time I sat down postpartum. My midwife gave me a surgical glove and suggested I fill it with water, freeze it and sit on it to ease the pain. Her tip was a lifesaver in the early days after birth. Even if it did feel a bit odd She also told me to rinse with a warm jug of water after a wee instead of wiping. And that really helped”
Nobody ever warns you about after pains – do they? We focus on what contractions might feel like and how we can get through them but after-pains are something that is not talked about enough. After pains (when your womb contracts) can be really sore. It feels like very intense cramps. It’s just your uterus contracting to shrink to its original size. But if you didn’t expect it – it can feel alarming
One mum said:
“The pain! I couldn’t stand up without pain for more than a few minutes of time. The cramps were insane. I took painkillers and it got better after a couple of weeks. But nobody had told me it would be so sore after birth”
Styling out a HUGE maternal nappy!
The discharge after birth is a bit of a shock!. Who knew we would have to rock HUGE postpartum nappies or ginormous sanitary towels in those days and weeks after birth? Often quite how much postpartum bleeding occurs and for how long can be something we didn’t quite expect.
Sore and cracked nipples
We might expect breastfeeding to be natural and plain sailing. But nobody tells us about the sore and cracked nipples that we might experience along the way. Every new mum is on a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. If your baby doesn’t latch on correctly your nipples can soon become super sore and even cracked. With support new mums can be guided to make sure their baby is latching on correctly and find ways to soothe any pain. But it seems that there’s still not enough support available when new mums need it most.
The intensity of your emotions
Of course having a baby is life changing but the intensity of emotions that hit you can be a bit of a shock!. You can find yourself overcome by emotions – both happy and sad. And the wave of strong emotions you feel can hit you like a rock. One mum spoke about this swing of raw emotions:
“I was so emotional after labour. I kept looking at my newborn and crying. I felt such a wave of love. And it was intense. I was suddenly in charge of this tiny human and the responsibility made me panic”
Being able to function on so little sleep
Before birth the world and his wife advise you to get as much sleep as you can because you’ll lose out on so much sleep once your little bundle arrives. You smile and nod but you don’t quite get it until you give birth and experience sleep deprivation like never before!
You might be surprised by how you can function in the early days and weeks on so little sleep (new mums are protected by hormones which help them feel like supermums!). You feel like you are buzzing and invincible. But after a few weeks the exhaustion kicks in – big style!
The shock of the new
Becoming a new parent is a new experience and something we can never fully prepare ourselves for – no matter how many books we read. We focus so much on the labour and birth that what happens next can feel like a bit of shock. It’s normal and natural. Be reassured that you will learn as you go. Every hour and day you spend with your baby you will learn. And, when you have questions or are unsure – ask! Ask your mum, your friends, in parenting forums or in our Facebook Group. And trust your instincts.
Join our Facebook group to connect with other mums
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Stay connected. We have a lovely and supportive Facebook group for mums, where you can share your parenting stories and get help and advice from other mums. Join our group today.
There will be times when your baby or toddler is clingy and demands your attention a lot. It can be tough as a parent to have a clingy toddler. It can be tiring and wearing – we’re all human after all!. Dr Zara Rahemtulla, a clinical psychologist from Gentle Journeys shares her top tips on why little ones can be clingy and how best to deal with it.
What is clinginess?
If you’ve got a clingy toddler, you’re not alone! Clinginess is extremely common and is a behaviour that all children display at some point during their development.
Examples of clinginess are: when a child cries and shouts because they have to separate from their parent (e.g. to go to nursery, or parent goes out to run errands, etc.), they want their parent’s attention more than usual, they are constantly seeking physical contact with their parent (e.g. more hugs or physical touch), they want to be in the same room as their parent all the time and/or they act younger than their age at times.
Clinginess vs Separation Anxiety Disorder
Clinginess is different from separation anxiety disorder, which is a significant fear or anxiety of strangers and the child cries inconsolably and shows extreme distress in these situations. (NICE, 2020). Mild forms of separation anxiety can occur in children and is usually something that naturally passes, however if this is prolonged and is getting in the way of your baby/child having new experiences then it is important to check this out with a health professional.
Clingy toddlers: It is developmentally normal for a child to go through?
Sometimes it can feel like there is no obvious reason for clinginess, and other times there can be clear reasons for the change in your child’s behaviour. Levels of clinginess can also be related to your child’s developmental stage; for example, children can become more clingy around 8-10 months, 2 years and 3 years old.
This is often due to them making big developmental leaps and becoming more independent in various ways. For example, around 8-10 months babies may be crawling or walking, at 2 or 3 years children often become toilet trained and around 2-3 years children may start to separate from their parents, attending nursery or pre-school. All of these events can feel exciting to a toddler, but also overwhelming and strange at the same time, which can trigger increased clinginess to their caregiver.
Another important reason why your child might become more upset when you have to leave their side is when there are significant changes to their routine or daily life. For example, the arrival of a new sibling can be a particularly big upheaval for the first born as they now have to wait longer for their parents’ attention, there is less focus on them and their needs and they have to share their parent’s love. This is a life event that takes some time to adjust to, and it is very common for toddlers to become more clingy, tearful or angry at this point.
The impact of Covid-19 and clinginess in toddlers and children
Of course the single, biggest change to our lives has been that of Covid-19. We have all had to stay at home and stop socialising. What we knew as our familiar, daily routines have been completely turned upside down. We have been at home for a year, and the idea of going out and socialising again can be both exciting and scary at the same time – for both adults and toddlers alike.
As we gradually come out of lockdown, it is normal and expected for babies and toddlers to show more clingy behaviours and become more upset or distressed when their parent(s) tries to separate from them. For those babies whom have spent over a year in the care of only their parents or a few close adults, going to a baby group, nursery or a social gathering may feel a little daunting and it will take time for them to integrate these situations into their ‘new normal’ and feel at ease within them.
Ways to support your toddler through clinginess
1. Start by leaving them with someone familiar
If you know you will be separating from your toddler soon, build up to this and start by leaving them with someone who is familiar to them. Start by leaving them for a few hours, then gradually longer, for an afternoon and then the whole day. Similarly, when at home, try popping out of the room for a very small amount of time and coming back, whilst at the same time saying “mummy is just going into the kitchen and then I will be back”. Talk to your child whilst in the kitchen so they know you are still there.
2. Talk to your child beforehand
No matter what age they are, always try and talk to your child about what will happen, before you are due to leave them. This gives them time to process what will be happening and ask questions or get reassurance from you before they separate from you. Bringing up the topic a week in advance and then mentioning what will happen in the few days running up to the event will help children prepare.
For example, “tomorrow mummy is going to be out for the day and grandma will be looking after you. She is going to play with you lots while mummy goes out. Then I will come back and make your dinner and put you to bed”. Giving children a reference point to when you will be back is really important. If they know that you will be back at dinner time, they will hold this in their mind.
3. Do not sneak out on your child
It can be tempting to sneak out and avoid saying goodbye to your little one when you leave. Letting them know you are going and will be coming back is so important to them so they can hold this in their mind while you are away. If they don’t get to say goodbye to you they will be wondering where you are, why you left and if you are coming back, which can distress them even further.
4. Don’t dismiss or ignore their clinginess
Dismissing or ignoring your child’s plea for you will actually just make their clinginess worse. This is because clinginess is triggered when a child is feeling more vulnerable or less confident, therefore they need the extra support and acknowledgement from their caregivers at this time. Giving them those extra cuddles, instead of pushing them away, will actually reassure them and give them more confidence in the long run, leading them to be less clingy!
5. Use a transitional object
A transitional object is an object that your child can have in replace of you while you are gone. It is often an object that smells of you, so your child can be comforted and reminded of you if they miss you. A scarf, t-shirt or another item that has your scent is useful here.
6. Use games and play
Play is such an important tool for children. They will often ‘play out’ their difficulties or worries and this can be really cathartic for them. For example, it might be peek-a-boo for your 10 month old helps them establish when mummy/daddy disappears she/he comes back, or your toddler pretending to be a baby helps them come to terms with jealous feelings about a new sister or brother arriving and sharing their parent(s).
7. Listen and acknowledge their feelings
Your child may tell you with their cries or words that they don’t want to leave you. One of the most helpful things you can do to help a clingy toddler is genuinely listen to your child as they express themselves to you, and acknowledge their experience. Their feelings are so big for them in these moments, but research has shown that when a child’s feelings can be heard and empathised with by their caregiver, feelings of distress do decrease. If you can get down on your child’s level, touch them in a gentle way and say, “you really don’t want mummy to go. I understand darling. It is hard to leave mummy/daddy sometimes”, “you’re feeling so sad that mummy has to go out. You will miss me. It’s normal to feel like this.”
8. Being aware and managing your own response
Try to make saying goodbye to your child a positive experience, however worried or sad you might be feeling about your child’s tears. By giving your child a positive experience of a goodbye and reunion they will remember this and feel more confident during the next separation. Perhaps separations are tricky for you as a parent in some way and this might be important to reflect on, so you can be aware when these feelings arise for you.
If you feel like you would like more support with understanding your child’s clinginess, or you have worries about separating from your child, please get in touch with us at Gentle Journeys, www.gentlejourneys.org. Instagram Gentle_Journeys or Facebook GentleJourneys
Maariya Arshad, mental health expert, shares her top tips to help little kids manage their big emotions.
Little children have BIG emotions and they don’t have the words to describe them or the experience to understand them. As every parent who has seen their child have a tantrum or be overwhelmed by anger or fear will know! When your child is crying a lot or having a lot of anger outbursts it can feel pretty overwhelming for you as a parent too. But how we respond can make a big difference.
Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence
Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is all about helping them to deal with and express their emotions in healthy ways. When it comes to our children, being emotionally intelligent affects:
How the communicate
The way they socialise
How they control their own emotions
Their ability to adjust to change
How they make decisions
The way they see their own self-image and self-worth
By teaching our children how to be emotionally intelligent at a young age, we’re setting them up for success in almost every area of their lives!
The 8 big emotions little children have
We all know that little kids have big emotions. All children have 8 primary in-built emotions. Primary emotions are those emotions that all children experience without being taught about them; these are:
– anger – sadness – fear – joy – interest – surprise – disgust – shame
8 ways to help your little child manage their BIG emotions
1. Label the emotion
There are 2 easy techniques for teaching your child to label emotions.
1) When your child is crying, you could say: “I know you’re sad.” Or if they’re scared, you could say: “Are you feeling scared?” Or when they’re happy you can say “You’re so happy!”
2) When you’re watching TV or out in public, and you see somebody showing emotion: acknowledge it. If someone is crying you can say: “they are very sad” and the same for scared, happy etc.
Overtime your child will be able to identify these emotions for themselves, which is the first step before they can verbally communicate their feelings with you. As they get older, you can start bringing in a greater range of emotions.
2. Validate their feelings
It’s always useful to note that often when a child feels indifferent towards a situation, they won’t say anything, but when they’re feeling a strong emotion, that’s when they will tell you about it.
So if they have told you something is “unfair” draw on your own experiences of when you have felt something is unfair, and feel that with them. You can do the same for when they are happy, excited, sad etc. This is also a great way of validating their feelings and developing a stronger relationship with your child.
3. “Use your words”
When children are starting to get frustrated, they will often show this through their non-verbal behaviours (certain noises and actions). So if your child is at the stage where they are starting to speak, encourage them to “use their words”. This technique:
– redirects their attention and focus away from the overwhelming feeling – teaches them an alternative, healthy way of expressing their emotions – helps with their language development – overtime it makes it easier for you to respond to their needs, because they are able to tell you, so less guesswork will be involved.
4. Create a quiet place
Have a quiet place they can go to when they need to calm down. This isn’t the same as a naughty corner. This space is specifically for the purpose of teaching them to deal with their intense feelings. It can be a chair at the dining table, the corner of a sofa, anywhere that can be quiet and calming.
In this space, think about bringing in some techniques that might help them calm down. For a toddler, you might want to teach them breathing exercises, e.g. breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds – repeat this 6-10 times. You could put out cards that show images of different emotions, and ask them to let you know how they feel by holding up one of the cards. You could even have soft play toys that they could use as a stress ball.
This is a technique they can use into adulthood, where when they’re overwhelmed, they can take themselves away from the situation, and employ healthy coping strategies.
5. Make a safe space to talk
Create opportunities in your day/week where your child can speak to you about anything they are thinking and feeling. You could do this as a family at dinner time, or spend 5-10 minutes everyday or a few times a week with each child on a 1:1 basis where you ask them to tell you things they like, dislike, feel, etc.
When you first begin this practice, they may not be able to fully verbalise their thoughts. But that’s okay. Use this time to turn this practice into a habit, and overtime you will have developed a stronger relationship with your child, because they’ll start to see this 1:1 time with you as their own “safe space”. After a while, it will become easier for you to identify areas of their life they may emotionally be struggling with.
6. Model big feelings that little kids have
Children learn a lot more from how we behave and respond, than from what we say. Use this as an opportunity to develop your own emotional intelligence. Be honest with yourself about how you are when it comes to:
– identifying your emotions – managing your emotions – how you express your happiness, sadness, anger and frustration
If there are any areas that may need some work, take steps to start working on these, so that you can then model emotional intelligence to your child.
7. Each child is different
Keep an eye out for specific things when it comes to your child:
– what are my child’s triggers? – what makes my child feel better? – does my child need to be informed when a change is coming? – are there certain sounds, textures, toys or people my child likes/dislikes?
Observing these things can help you to settle your child at difficult moments in a calm and stress-free way. Also, remember that if you have more than one child, the answers to these questions are likely to be different for each child, and the answers may also change as your child grows and develops.
8. BIG feelings that little kids have: managing tantrums
When a child is experiencing a tantrum, they’re feeling very overwhelmed, and in that moment they are struggling, emotionally and physically, to handle what they are feeling. Where possible, try to identify the early signs of overwhelm before it occurs and use some of the techniques mentioned above. However, if in this moment we have passed the point of rationalising and teaching, and our child is in the middle of a tantrum; it may be best focus on protecting their physical safety.
Intervene if your child’s tantrum is causing physical harm to themselves or anyone else. However, if they are safe, observe their tantrum from a safe distance. As soon as the tantrum has passed its peak, you will notice that your child gradually begins to show signs of calming down; even if that shift is a subtle one. This will be your cue that within the next few moments your child will be receptive to you intervening again.
It’s normal for little kids to have big emotions
Remember that even despite your best efforts, sometimes toddlers will still respond in explosive ways. This is perfectly normal, and know that the work that you’re putting in will help to minimise how long the tantrums last, and reduce how explosive they might be.
Best of luck on your parenting journey!
You can find more parenting tips as well as advice and support for mental health, productivity and lifestyle advice from Maariya in her You Tube Channel – Insightology.
This is why we are excited to tell you about Beyond Birth – a training opportunity for providers to help support parents’ mental wellbeing.
Easy and enjoyable online training
Beyond Birth offer online Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Certified Training that is both enjoyable and easy. The training will teach you how to Prevent, Protect and Preserve Parental mental health. You will be able to show parents how to bring in simple, effective wellbeing practices into daily life.
The course will teach you how to incorporate practices like mindfulness, relaxation, journalling and affirmations into the work you already do. To make the parents in your class, their babies and children and you feel better.
Why supporting parental mental wellbeing is so important
Beyond Birth Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training will allow you to enhance what you offer already in your classes. It will allow you to connect on a deeper level with parents. It will also enhance the bonds between parents in your group whilst managing and maintaining their mental wellbeing and subsequently their babies.
Of course, the more you learn about simple practices to increase mental well being the more you learn to adapt them in your own life too. Simple practices can add up to big changes in the mental wellbeing of the parents and children in your classes – and in you too!
When you register your interest you will be invited to a Free Workshop on why it’s vital to bring mental wellbeing into your practice and how to do this simply, and effectively.
Small online wellbeing training workshops that fit into your life
Beyond Birth keep their workshops small so that you will really feel part of a group and can get the most out of Sophie’s expertise. You can train over a weekend or train in instalments – whatever fits in best for you.
Beyond Birth is run by Sophie Burch, aka the Mamma Coach, who has over 14 years experience working in the birth and baby world. She set up Beyond Birth to bring her wealth of experience to parents and practitioners. She says:
“I’m on a mission to help as many people as I can to have a more balanced experience of birth, parenting and transitional times in life”
Sophie is a mother of 4 boys. She has over 11 years experience as a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, IAIM Baby Massage Teacher, IFA Aromatherapist, Holistic and Pregnancy Massage therapist, Usui Reiki therapist and ex-professional singer. All rolled into one: she’s The Mamma Coach! (Fully accredited by the CNHC, General Hypnotherapy Register, GHRsc and fully insured).
If you can’t wait to get started then hurry as the new training takes place on the 27th/28th March. You still have time to register. But hurry! – as bookings close on the 18th March and there are only a handful of spaces left.
If you miss out this time round then the next workshop will take place on the 22nd and 23rd May, and there will be more throughout the year.
Baby and toddler classes are great for little ones, for so many reasons. They help with early learning and development : teaching your baby valuable skills – from movement to language and so much more. If you’ve taken your baby to a class you know how much they enjoy it and are excited by being around so many new people and exposed to new experiences.
But baby and toddler classes are important for mums too. Perhaps even more so!
Classes are important for kids but even more important for mums
Having a baby is a life changing experience. No matter how prepared you think you are and how many baby books you read, when your baby arrives your whole world is changed forever. Suddenly you are in charge of a tiny human who relies on you to meet their every need – no matter how little sleep you’ve had or how hard you’re finding it.
It can be harder than you imagined and lonelier than you thought. Almost overnight you switch from being a busy working woman to being at home looking after a small baby who needs your attention day and night. Chuck in a serious dose of sleep deprivation and it’s no surprise that many new mums can begin to feel isolated and alone like never before.
Why baby and toddler classes are so important.
1) They give you a reason to get out of the house
After you’ve got past the first few weeks in your baby bubble with your partner at home your days and weeks can feel empty: governed by feeding schedules and baby nap times. With broken sleep and being woken at dawn – days can yawn ahead of you. And feel like they last forever. If you have a baby class to go to it gives you a reason to get out of the house – to head into the big wide world and give your day a purpose.
2) They give structure to your week
Every day can feel the same when you’re a new mum at home looking after a tiny baby. Baby classes are something to put in your calendar to give structure and purpose to your week. They give you something to look forward to: a reason to get dressed and up and out of the house. They can be something fun to look forward to in an otherwise empty week.
Being at home with a new baby IS lonely. Paradoxically you’re never alone but you sometimes have never felt so lonely. Baby classes are a vital way of combating this. They give new mums a place to meet other parents, to feel like part of a group. When you go to a group you’re part of a team – a room full of other parents who have been through and are going through what you have. It’s a game changer!
4) They provide an opportunity to form friendships and find your tribe
It can take a while but being together with other new mums at baby classes is a great way to find new friends and find your tribe. The experience of going through birth and embarking on the journey of new parenthood is very uniting. You may be in a room with several other new mums and feel shy but you all have something in common and conversation can flow naturally. Before long you can find new friends that make motherhood easier.
5) They make you feel more confident about your parenting skills
Let’s admit it – when it comes to motherhood – we’re all finding our way and learning on the job. Basically – we’re winging it. Which can feel scary at times. Baby classes can help you build up some valuable skills, which make you feel more confident as a parent.
6) They give you a chance to spend focused time with your child
At home there’s a lot to distract you from spending focused and quality time with your baby. The doorbell might ring, the phone might go, there are chores to do. When you go to a baby class you have a length of time to really focus on being with your child and connecting with them. Whether it’s through massage, singing, signing or sensory play. It can be a cherished and focused bonding time together that is hard to carve out at home.
7) They provide a safe space to discuss your birth story and your experience of early parenting
Once we become mothers we have stories we want to tell. And other new mums are the perfect audience. They listen when we tell our birth stories – and are just as keen to share theirs too. They are as fascinated as you about the colour of your babies’ poo (in a way your best friend without a baby will never get!). Baby groups provide the perfect platform for mum chat and as it unfolds – for friendships to be formed.
8) They take the pressure off having to entertain your baby 24/7
Being at home with your baby 24/7 has its own pressures. `You feel like you have to provide them with chat, stimulation and learning activities to boost their early learning. But you soon run out of ideas and energy. Which is why baby classes are a godsend. They give you songs to sing, baby signs to practice, movements to make and stories to tell.
9) You can drink a cuppa and have a biscuit in peace!
The very best baby classes are the ones where you get a chance after the session to have a cuppa and maybe a biscuit too and can chat to the other mums in the class (Covid guidelines permitting!) Every new mum knows how hard it is to drink a hot cuppa in peace. So often we end up bunging our morning cuppa in the microwave to heat it up – and then the moment we take a sip our baby cries again. At a baby class there’s always another parent (or the class leader) on hand to make sure you get your much needed time to enjoy a hot drink and an energy boosting biscuit to make your day. And the best thing is – you get to chat to other mums while you enjoy your restorative cup of tea! It’s a win-win.
And if you’re a class provider and are not listed on Happity yet – sign up now! Here’s how you can add your baby & toddler classes for FREE – or choose to upgrade so we can manage your bookings and make running your classes hassle free:
Parenting in the pandemic has had a huge impact on thousands of new parents. Feelings of isolation and loneliness have been heightened. And, for many it has a negative impact on their mental health. Dr Kerri Walster, from Gentle Journeys, wanted to share some current themes amongst parents embarking on motherhood and suggest some ways of overcoming challenges.
A ‘double-lockdown’ for new mothers
Becoming a parent under the most optimal conditions can raise feelings of loneliness, identity loss, and uncertainty about how to care for this little life in front of you.
Embarking on maternity leave, with friends perhaps in different life stages, we can naturally become more isolated. A walk in the park or a trip to the shops may be a weekly highlight. You may breathe a sigh of relief when your partner returns home in the evening to assist with bath time.
Here we are faced with parenting in a pandemic. We are being told to ‘stay at home’, bombarded with news headlines on the dangers of contracting Coronavirus, and perhaps it all feels a bit overwhelming and stressful.
The common feelings women experience when having a baby are inevitably intensified in the current context. One way to think about this is it has been a ‘double lockdown’ for new mothers – with the confinement that pregnancy may include, alongside the national rules and restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.
This increases the number of parents struggling with mental health difficulties and loneliness.
The impact of Covid-19 on new parents
The Children’s Commissioner (2020) released a paper citing approximately 1,688 babies are born in the UK each day. Over one hundred thousand babies have been born during lockdown and many parents are adjusting to the psychological, emotional and physical challenges.
A decrease in support
Services that were once available to support women are being facilitated online, paused or reduced. Typically one in five mothers and one in ten fathers can experience perinatal mental health difficulties (Bauer, et al., 2016).
Redeployed midwives, online health visiting appointments and closed children’s centres have restricted typical discussions and opportunities for reassurance.
According to a new UK study of six hundred women with babies up to twelve weeks old, forty three per cent met criteria for clinical depression and sixty one per cent for anxiety (Fallon & Harrold, 2021). This is in comparison to twenty per cent of women meeting criteria for anxiety and depression in typical circumstances.
An increase in loneliness
Figures from a study in lockdown found parental loneliness was more common in deprived locations, with 13% feeling lonely often or always, nearly three times more than the 5% indicated in the least deprived areas (Guardian, 2020).
Hospitals adapting to keep wards safe has meant many partners have not been allowed to be present until the end of the labour and the first few hours of the baby’s life.
As such, women have been left to labour without their birthing partner for many hours, making childbirth a very different experience to the one they had hoped for. Parents giving birth have reflected on reduced or overwhelmed staff, unconsidered birth plans, delays to discharge, and less support post birth such as with breast feeding.
Working clinically as a psychologist, it is notable that there has been an increase in post-traumatic stress relating to birth experiences. Researchers have previously described the negative impact traumatic births can have on the mother-infant relationship, including feelings of rejection from the mother towards her baby increasing over time (Ayers et al., 2006; Kendall-Tackett and Barnes, 2014).
From Alloparenting to Alone Parenting in the pandemic
There is a term, ‘alloparenting’, which captures how as humans we have evolved to raise children in groups, such as with immediate or extended family, friends, and local communities. ‘Allo’ has greek roots in meaning ‘other’.
In the study of Hadza, a hunter gatherer group in Tanzania, in times of food shortages children were likely to survive when they had grandmothers on hand, as mothers could leave their infants to forage for food and return to breast feed (Hawkes and Coxworth, 2013).
It takes a village to raise a child
Societies vary in the amount of alloparenting used, but in some form it appears to be universal. In Efe society, babies are said to be transferred between eight people in an average hour (Tronick et al., 1987). Studies have identified that for first-time mothers, social support has a significant impact, particularly for those affected by low parental self-efficacy (Shorey et al., 2013).
Self efficacy is of huge significance as it is the belief or confidence in one’s own capacity to carry out behaviours or perform as required. Peer support groups, or problem solving with family members, help to boost confidence and normalise experiences. Here, comments like “my baby only sleeps three hours at night too” can be natural remedies for over coming low moments in parenting.
The pandemic has heightened our instinct to protect our babies
The presence of Covid-19 jars with the maternal instinct to protect. Seeing people with masks and adhering to social distancing triggers an adrenaline response, eliciting fight, flight and freeze reactions.
Many women may have struggled to leave the house. We know that when a mother holds, feeds, or has skin to skin contact with their baby, oxytocin is released; this is partly how parents love and bond with their babies. This is reciprocal, leading to mutual feelings in the baby (Music, 2017). The capacity to bond with a baby is increased when mothers feel emotionally safe and cared for, reducing the chance of postnatal depression (Sockol et al., 2013). It is worth noting that bonding is not a linear process – it is a gradual, circular process, helped by supportive others.
When partners return to work, it is typically overwhelming and daunting, but this is now coupled with limitations on other support systems. Spending a lot of time at home and enhanced emotions may have triggered relationship tension.
Mums have been feeling guilty
Guilty feelings about your baby’s first few months of life not being as they should may also be commonplace. For those women coming to the end of their maternity leave, there may be grievances about the lost time, outings and family contact. Because of this context, it might be harder to connect with resentment and frustration that can come up in relation to parenting. For instance, breast feeding can be idealised as a time of closeness and intimacy, but it can also be a sacrificing and relentless process that women do have to do alone.
Positives about parenting in the pandemic
Some women have reported positives relating to the pandemic. For instance, partners working from home are able to spend more time with the baby, and relatives not working can help in significant moments. The new formats of online classes may have allowed women to attend a postnatal yoga class whilst their baby sleeps. Although online baby classes may have limitations, such as reduced opportunities for socialising with someone other than a baby, some have enjoyed the convenience of not having to travel to join baby massage and sensory time. Some have appreciated the slower pace of life during the pandemic. It could feel a little too early to think of the light at the end of the tunnel, however, vaccination programmes, and talk of reduced lockdown measures glimmers a sense of hopefulness.
6 top tips to support mums in a pandemic
1. Keep in mind there is no such thing as perfect parenting
You are learning as you go. Try not to compare yourself to friends or others, who may have had a very different set of circumstances and a baby with a different temperament to yours. Aim to be a good enough parent in those early few months. Being a parent is a huge learning curve particularly in a pandemic with reduced support. Feelings of loneliness and uncertainty are bound to come up
2. Trust your instincts
if you notice a problem, try not to put off seeing the doctor, phoning the midwife, or going to the hospital. Your needs, and your baby’s, are important and you may need to advocate for these. Sore nipples or breasts, or reductions in your baby’s weight are important to check out. You are never wasting professionals time, they are there to help.
3. Look after yourself in order to look after your baby
Eating and drinking plenty, taking a moment of self care when your baby sleeps to have a cup of tea or a bath are ways of replenishing. This is so you have that needed strength to tend to your baby. Try and be open with friends, family and partner about how you feel. Sharing can help even if the context around you has not shifted remarkably. If you had a difficult birth experience, like many women in the pandemic, it helps to process this through talking about it, reflecting on your feelings and what the significant moments were for you. If this still feels challenging after talking, do seek some professional advice
4. Make the most of outdoor walks and online activities
It is helpful for both to go out for a walk to break up the day. You can say hello to other parents or smile – this may invite socially distanced chatter or feeling shared parenthood in passing. Delaying going out may invite a cycle of avoidance where it becomes even harder to go out in the longterm. Online classes can add variation and a structure to the day until those valued in-person classes resume. Make use of your social bubble with friends/relatives and if they come over, don’t feel you have to look after them, allow them to look after you.
5. Limit your time scrolling social media
Try not to spend too much time on social media or googling headlines. Anxiety can have a rippling effect and excessive internet scrolling can enhance rather than alleviate feelings.
6. Practice positive affirmations
Develop some positive statements to tell yourself which can help you in new parenthood e.g. “I am doing everything I can to nurture, care for and look after my baby”. “I am strong, calm and confident”. Even if you do not feel this way at the time, these statements shape the stories we hold about ourselves and can reframe how we feel.
Where to turn for help
If you would like more support with how you are feeling, or in processing your birth or early motherhood experiences, please get in touch with Gentle Journeys. We offer support with parental mental health and well being and have specialist training in this area. You can follow Gentle Journeys on Instagram.
Ayers, S., Eagle, A., & Waring, H. (2006). The effects of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder on women and their relationships: a qualitative study. Psychology, health & medicine, 11(4), 389-398.
Bauer, A., Knapp, M., & Parsonage, M. (2016). Lifetime costs of perinatal anxiety and depression. Journal of affective disorders, 192, 83-90.
Fallon, V., Davies, S. M., Silverio, S. A., Jackson, L., De Pascalis, L., & Harrold, J. A. (2021). Psychosocial experiences of postnatal women during the COVID-19 pandemic. A UK-wide study of prevalence rates and risk factors for clinically relevant depression and anxiety. Journal of psychiatric research.
Guardian, Hill, A. (2020, November 27). Kate warns of impact on children of parents’ lockdown loneliness.
Hawkes, K., & Coxworth, J. E. (2013). Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity: a review of findings and future directions. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 22(6), 294-302.
Kendall-Tackett, K. (2014). Birth trauma: the causes and consequences of childbirth-related trauma and PTSD. In Women’s Reproductive Mental Health Across the Lifespan (pp. 177-191). Springer, Cham.
Music, G. (2017) Nurturing natures: Attachment and children’s emotional, sociocultural and brain development. Psychology Press.
Shorey, S., Chan, S. W. C., Chong, Y. S., & He, H. G. (2015). A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of a postnatal psychoeducation programme on self‐efficacy, social support and postnatal depression among primiparas. Journal of advanced nursing, 71(6), 1260-1273.
Sockol, L. E., Epperson, C. N., & Barber, J. P. (2013). Preventing postpartum depression: a meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review, 33(8), 1205-1217.
The Children’s Commissioner (2020, May). Lockdown babies: Children born during the coronavirus crisis.
If you’ve got a baby or toddler with eczema – have you ever thought about what toys are best for them? It might not have crossed your mind. But some toys are better for babies with eczema than others.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a dry itchy skin condition which occurs in about 20% of babies and young children. It has been shown to run in families. So your baby is more likely to have eczema if you or your partner have had it.
Eczema usually appears before your baby turns 1 years old. Half of sufferers develop it before they are even 6 months old. Luckily most children grow out of eczema by the time they are 5 years old
Eczema can be triggered by many things including soaps and soap powder, clothes made from man-made fabrics, food allergies and environmental allergens such as pets or household dust.
What toys are the best to give to your child with eczema?
Toys can be both a help and a hindrance in children with eczema. Some toys can contain irritants in the paint or the chemicals used in their manufacture. Zinc is a particular irritant which can occur in paint or metal coating.
Soft toys are a particular problem for eczema sufferers. Many soft toys are made from man-made fibre which can be scratchy and could make your child hot and itchy if cuddled at night.
For children with eczema its best to look for soft toys made from organic cotton or bamboo. It’s best to avoid ones with rough seams or long threads. It’s best to choose an organic cotton baby comforter as they are softer and very easy to wash.
If you buy a couple then you can alternate them to ensure that your baby always has a clean one available. Before giving the new one to your baby wear it next to your skin for a couple of hours so that it smells of you rather than soap powder.
How you can make cuddly toys safer for babies with eczema
Soft toys can also harbour dust mites which are a known trigger for eczema. You can avoid this by having a weekly or monthly cleaning routine. It’s a good idea to run a hoover over soft toys on a regular basis but good soft toys can be machine washed. Just put them in the washing machine at a low temperature. We also recommend that you put them in a pillow case first. To ensure the toys are kept clean you can alternate washing them with putting them in a bag in the freezer for 24 hours. This will ensure the dust mites are kept at bay.
On the other hand toys can be a great distraction for babies and kids with eczema. It’s very difficult to stop a child scratching, and saying “Don’t scratch”. Usually just draws attention to the itch, but unfortunately it means that itching can become an ingrained habit.
Distraction has been shown to be a valuable resource in stopping the scratching.
For babies, special toys such as baby comforters, can be used during nappy changes to help keep little hands busy while you are cleaning and changing them.
What about bath toys?
For toddlers, bath toys can keep hands busy when they are distracted or watching tv. If you keep a bucket of natural rubber toys and other sensory based toys near to them while they watch tv or listen to a story at bedtime then it lessens the chance that they will scratch their skin.
Natural rubber toys are particularly good for this as they can go in to mouths with no problem and they can be squeezed and thumped with no damage to child or toy.
Best Toys for eczema sufferers
Best Years Ltd are a small, ethical toy company with a special interest in organic, fair trade and sensory toys. All our soft toys and organic baby comforters are suitable from birth and machine washable making them perfect for eczema sufferers.