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…and why we need to stop pretending it is!

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:

self care for mums

It really hit a nerve. And had hundreds of likes and shares. Some of the responses from mums included:

‘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?

self care for mums

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.

Watch our video all about self care

Recently we had a brilliant Facebook Live Happity Expert Talk all about self care and why it is so important for mums. With Kim Golson from @mylifeafterbirth. You can still watch it back in our Facebook group for mums. Not a member? We’d love you to join.

If you have a clingy baby or toddler it can feel harder still to make time for self care. Here are some top tips to help.

Do you run classes for mums-to-be, new parents or parents and babies? Or are you a parent that would love your provider to help support your mental wellness?

If so – this is the perfect opportunity for you. Enhance your classes by putting their mental wellbeing at the heart of what you do.

Pregnancy, birth and new parenthood are transitional times in our lives. While wonderful, they can bring with them feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. Right now, after a year in the grip of a pandemic – the need to support parental mental wellbeing is greater than ever before.

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.

Sign up for the FREE Perinatal Mental Health Workshop & Beyond Birth Training Waitlist here.

About Beyond Birth and Sophie, the Mamma Coach

Sophie Burch - the Mamma Coach, maternal mental health

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).

Raring to go! Sign up now

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.

Sign up for the FREE Perinatal Mental Health Workshop & Beyond Birth Training Waitlist here.

Disclaimer: Beyond Birth pays a small fee for providers who go on to do the full training.

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.

3)They can combat loneliness

Feeling lonely as a new mum is something we don’t talk about much. It’s a bit of a taboo subject. But one that has been highlighted by the pandemic. In a recent survey over 50% of pregnant women and new mums admitted feeling anxious or lonely as Covid-19 and lockdown has impacted their daily lives. https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/23/new-mums-anxiety-loneliness-lockdown-12889601/

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!

why baby and toddler classes are so important

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!

why baby classes are so important

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.

We founded Happity to help new parents combat loneliness. By finding classes to meet other mums (and dads). Join the thousands of parents who are searching Happity each week to find baby and toddler classes. 

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

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.

References

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 & medicine11(4), 389-398.

Bauer, A., Knapp, M., & Parsonage, M. (2016). Lifetime costs of perinatal anxiety and depression. Journal of affective disorders192, 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.

Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/nov/27/kate-warn-impact-children-parents-lockdown-loneliness-duchess-cambridge

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 Reviews22(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 nursing71(6), 1260-1273.

Sockol, L. E., Epperson, C. N., & Barber, J. P. (2013). Preventing postpartum depression: a meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review33(8), 1205-1217.

The Children’s Commissioner (2020, May). Lockdown babies: Children born during the coronavirus crisis.

Retrieved from https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/lockdown-babies/

Tronick, E. Z., Morelli, G. A., & Winn, S. (1987). Multiple caretaking of Efe (Pygmy) infants. American Anthropologist89(1), 96-106.

As soon as we become parents we can be vulnerable and feel our anxiety rising. As wonderful as it is to give birth and bring a new baby into the world, it can be scary too. And it can feel overwhelming at times. Here are some practical ways you can manage your anxiety when it hits you. Simple and actionable ways you can feel calmer and more in control.

Parents are feeling anxiety three times more since we experienced the first lockdown and the start of the pandemic a year ago. But anxiety has been felt by parents since the dawn of time and we are no strangers to it. However, if it increases, it can present mental and physical health problems, which is an additional threat to our children too. So finding ways to manage anxiety has never been more important for us and also our families.

So what is anxiety and how can we manage it?

Believe it or not, anxiety is a normal part of us.  It’s there to keep us safe when we think or experience something is going to happen.  I like to think of my anxiety like an inner lioness. A fierce protector that is getting me into high alert should I need to defend myself or my children.  However, she is hyper vigilant and often appears when I don’t actually need her. So those thoughts that tell me there is danger (or has been), may not be so realistic. But my lioness doesn’t differentiate between fact and imagination, and by realising that, we are able to take the first steps to tame her.

In essence, if we can welcome anxiety and see it for what it is, it often lessens as soon as we do so. By recognising anxiety for what it is, we in effect, take back a smidgen of control and can process in a more healthy way.  Once we see anxiety for what it is; our inner protector, we can take steps to become more rational-minded and calm again. 

So what does anxiety feel like?

Often anxiety feels like a racing heart, a tight chest, sweaty palms, dry mouth and a feeling of wanting to run, hide or an inability to think clearly.  It is triggered by a thought, or by an experience. Once we notice it, we can take steps to master it, although at first, we may have an inner experience that would have us believe it’s the other way around (it is master of us!).

As with everything in life, if we practice it enough, it becomes habit.  So here are my top tips to practice when you are feeling fine as well as when you start to notice anxiety standing guard and creeping into your thoughts and feelings.

5 steps to manage your anxiety

  1. Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
  2. Name it  – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
  3. Ground yourself with a hand on heart anchor – Cross your arms around your chest – really allow yourself to feel held. Say to yourself “I am held, I am safe” . Take as long as you need until you feel your calm mode kicking in.  Visualise being held and safe too.
  4. Breathe – Take 5 deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth – with a longer exhale.  Think about the oxygen coming in, and the stress going out…
  5. Affirm – Say to yourself: “These are just thoughts and I know my reality is…. It will be okay/ I know I can do this / I am safe”

If you can, get used to this when you are feeling normal, so that you can be conditioned to spring from anxious to calm when you really need to.  But also, practice befriending your inner protector, as you never know when you really will need it and it’s there to guard you and keep you safe.

If you would like to know more about my work as The Mamma Coach and how I can support you 1:1 or with Beyond Birth: A Mindful Guide to Early Parenting and the groups and Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training, then please see the website www.themammacoach.com or get in touch with me here [email protected]

We have more information and support if you are suffering with PND or anxiety here.

And, if you are worrying about how your baby or child is coping in the pandemic we have some top tips from a clinical psychologist.

Are you a new mum? Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging things we can do. There’s the broken sleep, breastfeeding and changes to your body to contend with.  Add to that the challenges of Covid-19, and you may feel like everything’s just a bit too much.  Mums need to look after their mental well being as much as their physical well being. And we know that postnatal depression can affect as many as 30% of new mums.

But what do you do when life with your new baby isn’t quite as rosy as everybody said it was going to be? What if you can’t stop worrying. If you feel isolated. Or your mood is consistently low? 

Melodies for Mums

Breathe Arts Health Research are currently running, Melodies for Mums. This free support is a singing programme for new mothers who may be experiencing anxiety, low mood, stress, loneliness and possibly be at risk of or have postnatal depression.   

This isn’t your average mum and baby music group. Firstly, it is completely free, ensuring accessibility for women of all socio-economic backgrounds. Groups of 10 – 12 women are led by a trained musician. Instead of popular nursery rhymes, women learn everything from folk songs and lullabies to gospel, in a range of languages making it a culturally inclusive environment. The songs explored are focused on creatively stimulating and challenging the women taking part, which makes them different from many mum and baby groups.  

While the little ones will definitely get a lot out of the session, we’re specifically here to support mums. We want to offer mothers a joyful shared experience, that connects them to other women as well as their baby. There’s no need to share or go over anything that’s troubling you in the sessions. Just show up and get ready to sing! 

maternal mental health - happy mum and baby

Pioneering research into maternal mental health

Melodies for Mums is a model based on really pioneering research which, for the first time ever, looked at the benefits of singing on symptoms of Postnatal depression specifically.  We know that PND affects between 13-30% of new mothers… a broad bracket because so many mums don’t seek help or recognise their symptoms of being something more serious than the baby blues. So it’s hard to know exact numbers… but its high! And of course, during and as a result of this pandemic, the fear is this number will drastically increase.   

This research by Royal College of Music and Imperial College London investigated the impact on PND symptoms across three groups – 10 weeks of social care, social and play activity and singing activity. It was the singing programme that showed a faster improvement in PND symptoms, 1month earlier than the others. With PND, we know it’s important to address symptoms as early as possible so this was a key finding. 

How singing can improve mental wellbeing in new mums

From this research, we also know:  

  • Stress hormone levels (cortozol) levels reduced in mothers after singing activity 
  • There was a 41% reduction in symptoms of PND in 73% of women who took part
  • Opportunity to meet other mothers facing challenges in a familiar group setting, which is important for maternal mental health
  • Improved mother and baby bonding through singing over play 
  • Gives women an emotional outlet where they can express themselves 
  • A tool to use at home with baby – improving confidence 

How Covid has impacted mental health of new mums

Navigating through the pandemic as a new parent, must be extremely challenging. Especially with less tangible support available, prolonged periods of time without seeing friends and family and disrupted daily routines. There is a concern that mums suffering with maternal mental health will not be able to access the support they need.     

Recognising that lots of services, offers of care and activities are on hold because of COVID, Melodies for Mums has been redesigned to deliver the programme online. Running the sessions in this way increases the opportunity for mothers to get involved, as the location is not an issue. It also gives mothers who would ordinarily feel shy in group settings the freedom to join from the comfort of their own homes.    

Melodies for Mums is recruiting for a number of online programmes, open to women with young babies up to 9months, from across the UK. To sign up

Visit www.breatheahr.org or email us at [email protected] to sign up.   

Hannah Dye – Head of Programmes, Breathe Arts Health Research 

If you have PND we have a wealth of information, support and help in our PND section.

maternal mental health - Hannah Dye from Breathe Arts Health Research

 

#Shoutie Selfie – why we need to shout about mental health this year more than ever before

We are in our 5th year of running our annual Shoutie Selfie campaign. It was started by Emily (co-founder of Happity) back in 2017 – when she ran MummyLinks. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Now in 2021 – after the year of the pandemic – we all need to shout loud about mental health more than ever.

What is everyone shouting about?

Do you know five parents? One of them is struggling with a mental health issue. And the likelihood is that all of them struggle with loneliness as some point each week.

Do you know which of your parent friends are struggling? I bet you don’t. And not because you’re a bad friend, but because they are probably hiding it from you.

This is what #ShoutieSelfie is all about. It’s about showing parents that are struggling that you love and support them. That they are not alone, and that it’s ok to feel they way they are.

shout selfie - why we need to shout about mental health

Why we need to shout loud about mental health

Luckily mental health issues have been getting more and more airtime. Celebs are talking out about it (watch this space for their #ShoutieSelfies!) and normal parents like us are too.

And it’s important, because no parent should feel alone in this.

That’s why I launched #Shoutie Selfie back in 2017 – to help parents out their struggling with their mental health to know they are not alone. I launched it because after struggling for 2 years with Post-Natal Depression and anxiety I started to share my experience and realised it wasn’t just me who was struggling – and knowing that helped me on my road to recovery.

The success of #Shoutie Selfie

I launched it in 2017 (with just 10 days planning and 2 months social media experience, but bags and bags of energy and passion!) and it was a great success. It got maternal mental health trending in just 30 minutes of launching, and a million impressions in the first week.

It’s been a huge success, with over 10 million impressions and the support of amazing charities, organisations and celebrities such as BBC5Live, HeadsTogether, Baby Buddy, NCT, PANDAS, World mental health day, Binky and Jane Felstead, Anna Williamson, Josh Paterson and many more!

#ShoutieSelfie 2021

This year with the pandemic we’re facing a mental health crisis.

The Health Foundation research found that:

More than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. The most common issues affecting wellbeing are worry about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%).

Our own research at Happity in the past years has found that 93% of mums are lonely each week. And that struggling with loneliness makes you 50% more likely to struggle with your mental health.

And with perinatel mental health struggles, even before Covid-19, costing the UK £8.1bn for each one-year cohort of births, something needs to be done.

We need to be supporting each other in understand why looking after our mental health is so important, and how to do it.

How to do a #ShoutieSelfie

So, if you love someone who is struggling – or have/are struggling yourself – of even if don’t know of anyone struggling but want to let those around you know that you support and don’t judge them, please:

  1. Take a selfie of you shouting (feel free to write #ShoutieSelfie on it if you fancy!)
  2. If you’d like to us the official wording make sure you are signed up to our newsletter to hear updates before the big day!
  3. Post it using #ShoutieSelfie on Wednesday 5th May on your social media platforms, tagging 5 friends who understand if you can so they can take part too!
  4. Tag Happity (@happityapp on Twitter and FB, and @happity.co.uk on IG!) and we will share your post 🙂

What to write in your #ShoutieSelfie post

You can, of course, write your own words to explain why you are posting your #ShoutieSelfie. But, if you prefer, we have put together some words that you can use on each of the different social media channels that you can copy and paste.

Instagram:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happity.co.uk for shares

Facebook:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happityapp for shares

Twitter:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie. 
If you are struggling with mental health I’m shouting that I support you, I don’t judge you, and you are not alone.
Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too? 
Tag 5 friends who understand & @happityapp for retweets 

If you want to see more updates about #ShoutieSelfie and Happity please follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter.

Let’s do something great!

Need help with your mental health?

If you need support with your mental health please click here.

Supporting Organisations

NCT
Pandas
MMHA
World Mental Health Day
Best Beginnings
Heads Together
Baby Buddy
BBC 5 Live
ITN
Glamour
Channel 5 News

Are you ready to do something amazing?

This year #ShoutieSelfie is for everyone struggling with the isolation Covid-19 has resulted in.

To join me, and the many charities and organisations getting involved with #ShoutieSelfie please:

  1. Take a selfie of you shouting
  2. Post it from Wednesday 15th April with the official message – see below

Official Wording

Instagram, Facebook & Linkedin

REMEMBER – copy the entire message below down to the hashtags so instructions are sent on

This is my #ShoutieSelfie! I’m shouting about mental health because I love someone who has / is struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental health issues. This is so important during this time of isolation as loneliness can increase the risk of mental health struggles.

[Insert why you are supporting if you’d like to.]

If you need support, please head to happity.co.uk/pnd-support.

Please show your support by:

  1. Taking a selfie of you shouting
  2. Posting it with this entire message incl. hashtags (updated to include your personal story/reasons for supporting if you fancy!), and tagging 5 friends to show you are here to chat if they need to. Tag @HappityApp for shares and to join the 2020 Hall of Fame.
  3. It would be great if you could pop the link (bit.ly/ShoutieSelfie) in your bio on IG so that those who see your post can get help there if they need to.

For more info on #ShoutieSelfie head to bit.ly/ShoutieSelfie

Let’s do something great!

#humanssupportinghumans #isolation #hiddenhalf #depression #anxiety #mentalhealth #findyourhappity #maternalMHmatters #happityathome @HappityApp #pnd #postnataldepression #suicide #stigma #ocd #oktosay #headstogether


Twitter:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie because I love someone who has / is struggling with their #mentalhealth. This is so important during isolation. Please join @HappityApp in supporting those struggling by copying this post with selfie, tagging 5 friends. Info: bit.ly/ShoutieSelfie.


Thanks!

Emily x

As you know, Happity is all about helping parents to beat loneliness, in a way that supports mental health. Our resident Clinical Psychologist, Dr Zara Rahemtulla, has some advice on how to keep mentally well during Covid-19.

Hello everyone,

As we re-adjust, I wanted to try and offer some thoughts on how to keep calm and carry on, despite the fact that we are faced with the restrictions and worries of Covid-19. 

This will be our first weekend in official lock down and we can’t deny that it’s going to feel difficult, frustrating and even painful at times, as we won’t be able to see some of our loved ones, have a coffee and catch up with friends or just take the kids out to a soft play or playground so we can get some respite from our four walls.

It goes without saying that these are strange times and as parents, we are going to be faced with so much uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds worry, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. And feeling overwhelmed triggers us to sometimes get short tempered, agitated and/or angry and in this case, probably with those around us (i.e. our kids, our partners). 

Brene Brown

So we need to keep two things in mind. We need to make sure we look after ourselves as parents, and then of course, our children. In that order. It’s the same as being on an airplane – we are told to first put on our own oxygen mask and help ourselves before we help others. It sounds cliched, but if we think about it, we are no use to anyone if we cannot first breathe ourselves.

So find a way to keep breathing and schedule it into your day. Whether it’s having a bath once they’ve gone to bed, catching up with a friend on the phone, putting your feet up with a glass of something, exercising, reading a chapter of your book. I speak from experience when I say I know how hard it is to make time for oneself! But that pile of washing really can wait while you give yourself some time to recharge.

The next step is to remember that caring for our children is not about creating amazing, super duper, Instagram-worthy activities. Nor is it about entertaining them every second of the day. Neither of these are possible and if you set yourself up to think they are, then this will just feed into feeling overwhelmed. Caring for our children is connecting with our children. It’s laughing with them when something is funny in a book or on TV, it’s watching them as they delight in smearing yogurt all over their face (and then running quickly to clean it up!), it’s holding them when they feel sad and it’s letting them throw themselves on the floor and be angry because they don’t know what else to do. It’s being with rather than doing with that shows care and creates connection.

Caring for our children is also about how we reconnect with our children. When you feel overwhelmed, angry, tired or fed up over the coming weeks and you accidentally lose your temper, remember to repair things after. This means going back to your child (or even your partner) once you’ve calmed down and saying something like, “I’m sorry I shouted at you earlier, I shouldn’t have. Mummy/I was feeling angry. I am feeling better now, and I love you”. 

Letting our guard down and showing our vulnerability to ourselves and our children is the key way to keeping calm during covid-19 (and through life in general!) It allows us to process our feelings so we are likely to feel less overwhelmed, and it teaches our children how to share and understand their feelings, which means they are less likely to become upset really quickly and have tantrums (this can only be a good thing!)

Psychological research shows us that 1/3 of parent-child interactions will “go wrong” and that’s okay. The important part is how we repair them. Remind yourself of this fact every day as you make time in your day to adjust your oxygen mask in this turbulent and uncertain time.

Dr Zara Rahemtulla Clinical Psychologist – Specialist in parent-child mental health

If you are looking for online activities to do with your kids during these difficult times, please have a look at our other blogs, or head to happity.co.uk to find and book an online class. Our online classes are fully interactive so they are beneficial for children and parents alike – with encouragement and support. This can make a huge difference to you and your child’s mental health.

For more support on mental wellness please head to our Mental Wellness Page.

28/04/2019 by Emily

Maternal Mental Health week kicks off on 29th April this year and it’s a week I am passionate about supporting. I am a great believer in sharing my experience to help parents currently struggling, or those looking to support them, understand a bit more. So here is my experience…

When I had my son 4 years ago I struggled with terrible post-natal depression and anxiety.

But I hid away. I went from being a confidence and ambitious woman, to a nervous new mum who tried her best not to be left alone with her baby, and got panicky about the thought of her best friend popping round for a coffee.

Luckily it didn’t take me long to realise what was going on. The difference was so pronounced that it was hard to miss. But this isn’t the case for everyone.

But even though I knew what was going on, I still felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. That I’d let me son down, my husband down, my family and friends down. Most of them were supportive, but let’s be honest a number of them weren’t. And that made it ten times harder. Comments to “pull yourself together”, “everyone is tired”, or “you just can’t be bothered” shattered me. I’d been trying my hardest every waking moment to “pull myself together”. That’s what in hindsight actually made it worse – if I had just known how normal this feeling was and that I could get help I might have stopped beating myself up about it and recovered sooner.

But instead I battled on for a good (or bad!) two years. Pretending to be fine to many. And hiding away in my house when I just couldn’t face the world. Most of the friends and family don’t know the half of it. Because they only saw me when I was ok.

Most of them didn’t know that hardly a day, let alone a week, could pass without me wanting to run away. I truly believe that my baby and my husband would be better off without me. One less person to look after and worry about.

But I’m glad that I didn’t run away – or worse – but there were times when it was close. Luckily that isn’t the end of my story. I started to get better, and started to talk to mum friends about my experience. And unsurprisingly, given the stats of 1 in 4 mums struggling, I found that so many of my friends had experienced similar struggles themselves. Most thankfully not as bad, but a few even worse.

And that in itself made me feel a bit better. Not because they suffered too – I wouldn’t wish a mental health issue on anyone – but because it showed that they understood. They didn’t judge me. And it helped me understand that it wasn’t “just” that I was an awful mother and person.

So since then I have been creating my own silver lining.

I am now on a mission to ensure that no other mum should have to feel like I do.

This started by speaking out about my experience on Channel 4 in 2017, and since then it has grown and grown. I’ve even shared some blogs with the Huffington Post! Each time sharing my story to help mums currently struggling to know that they are not alone. And also, fundamentally, to help those around them who may be giving them a hard time, to know that it is normal – it’s awful and hard work for those supporting them yes – but it’s not their fault.

Launching #ShoutieSelfie to kick off Maternal Mental Health Week in 2017 was a steep learning curve but a great way to get people across the UK (and beyond!) to show their support for mums (and dads!) struggling. You can find out more about this year’s campaign here.

I also found that loneliness can be a cause of PND and other mental health issues, so I started a facebook group to help mums support each other, and finally launched a free app in June 2018 called MummyLinks!

MummyLinks was the safe place to meet mums for local playdate (now it’s incorporated under the Happity brand with our new app!).

If you want to see more updates about #ShoutieSelfie and Happity please follow us on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or you can sign up for updates here.

If you’ve too struggled why not share your story to help others? Or if you are currently struggling please know that you are not alone. There are parents out here who understand you.

Chat to your GP and get help.

Emilyx