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From the Christmas Light Express to the North Pole breakfast – here are some magical Christmas traditions for toddlers that they’ll love.

Once your toddler is at an age where they really start to ‘get’ Christmas you can start some family traditions. Traditions that will become part of your own family Christmas year after year. And ones that your toddler will look back on when they are older with fond memories.

Family traditions all add to the anticipation and the build-up to the big day. They create the magic and wonder of Christmas.

Watching the wonder of Christmas through your own child’s eyes brings back so much of the excitement you too felt when you were younger.

Here are some of the new family traditions you might want to start as a family, all perfect for toddlers.

1. A special decoration each year as a new Christmas tradition for toddlers

A lovely family tradition to start is to make or buy a special decoration each year. There are a lot of different options out there! If you visit your local Christmas market, you’re bound to come across a stall or two selling personalised Christmas decorations. Or, alternatively, you could make one yourself!

You can buy little snow globe baubles where you can insert a photo of your toddler. Or why not visit a pottery painting studio so that your toddler can decorate their own bauble?

Or get the glitter out and make some of our Easy Christmas Crafts for Toddlers.

2. Waiting for Father Christmas

Much of the magic of Christmas for little ones is waiting for Father Christmas to bring presents. There are so many lovely Santa traditions that you can start.

You might hang a “Santa stop here!” sign in the garden. Or put out milk and cookies for Santa – and a carrot for Rudolph, by the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

You could even draw around a large pair of shoes or wellies and cut out foot shapes from card. Then sprinkle flour or icing sugar (or fake snow) over the footprints. Once you take away the card you will be left with a footprint or two outlined in ‘snow’ as proof that Father Christmas really did arrive!

Christmas traditions for toddlers - santas footprint

3. Christmas stories by the light of the tree

T’was the night before Christmas, and it’s late in your house. Your toddler isn’t sleeping, but who is? Your spouse!

There are some brilliant Christmas classics out there for bedtime stories just fit for your babies, toddlers and children alike. Reading books in the run-up to the big day is a lovely Christmas tradition for toddlers. Pick out all of your favourites and enjoy the look of wonderment in their eyes!

One of the lovely Christmas traditions for toddlers to start is to pick 6 Christmassy stories, wrap them and place them under the tree. In the 6 days before Christmas, your child can unwrap a book and it can be their bedtime story.

You could also take them to a group that does group reading to feel the joy with other mums, dads and tots.

Check out some of the classes we list over on Happity here!

Christmas traditions for toddlers - reading books

4. Make/buy a personalised stocking for your to create a new Christmas tradition for your toddler

Whether you’re putting presents under the tree or filling a stocking -there’s something heartwarming about having a personalised stocking for your little one that you will be able to bring out year after year. Whether you’re buying one or making one -you won’t regret getting a stocking for your toddler.

5. All Aboard The Christmas Light Express

There’s nothing more magical than seeing lots of Christmas lights twinkling in the dark skies, in the run-up to Christmas. One late afternoon or early evening you could all go on a drive around your local neighbourhood to see the sparkly trees and lit up windows in the houses and gardens all around you.

You can make this experience even more exciting by making a ticket out of gold card and announcing to your toddler that they can step aboard the ‘Christmas Light Express’. You could wear a Santa hat and decorate the inside of the car with tinsel. Throw in some yummy drinks and snacks that they can enjoy on the journey. This will build up the magic even more!

Team Happity have said across the board that it’s one of their firm favourite Christmas traditions for toddlers – and older kids love it too!

christmas lights - toddlers first christmas

6. New Christmas tradition for toddlers: Visiting Santa’s Grotto

There are many places where your toddler can go and see Father Christmas in his grotto. At some, they may even be able to see his reindeer too.

Grottos are pretty booked up this year but if you can get a slot it’s totally worth it for that magical feeling of standing in Santa’s Grotto and seeing your lovely little bundle of joy staring up at Father Christmas in wonder. You’ll keep hold of the photo you take that day for far longer than you expect!

The big man himself- Father Christmas! Ready to say hello on toddler's first Christmas

7. Advent calendar and a reverse advent calendar

Toddlers will love opening the doors of an advent calendar and finding out what’s inside. At this age an advent calendar with pictures to reveal is perfect. It also helps your little one see how many days are left until Christmas. For them, the wait can seem to last forever!

Another idea to add to our list of Christmas traditions for toddlers to start is a reverse advent calendar. To make one you can stick four wine bottle holders together so you end up with a box with 24 sections. Use a pen to write numbers 1-24 on the sections. Each day your toddler can help you place one item into your reverse advent calendar. The idea is you fill your box with items and – when it is full – take it to a food bank or charity. It’s a really nice way to teach little ones about the joy of giving and thinking of others at this time of the year.

Christmas traditions for toddlers - advent

8. North Pole Breakfast as a new Christmas Tradition for toddlers

You might want to start Christmas day in a magical way with a North Pole Breakfast. You could make pancakes and use whipped cream and strawberries to turn them into Father Christmas and serve with a glass of milk or a hot chocolate. An exciting breakfast is a good way to refuel after your (no doubt) super early start to the day! And it makes a nice break before opening more presents or visiting Grandma.

Father Christmas pancake for a toddler's first Christmas

9. Snuggling up to watch a festive film

Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas without enjoying some festive films. There are some lovely Christmassy animations that little ones will love. Here are just a few:

  • The Snowman
  • Trolls Holiday
  • Olaf’s Frozen Adventure
  • The Snowman and the Snowdog
  • Arthur Christmas

There’s nothing lovelier than putting your PJs on and watching a festive film with the Christmas tree lights twinkling.


We hope you enjoyed our list! If you want to see some Christmas content from us, our lovely parents and some fabulous classes, jump over to Instagram and check out the tag #HappityChristmas

From all of us at Happity, we wish you a Happy Holidays and hope that you have a wonderful time this Christmas season! 💝

If you liked this blog, you might also like:

Easy Christmas Crafts for Toddlers

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9 Brilliant Benefits of Baby and Toddler Classes

Today there is huge pressure to be the perfect parent.

A recent survey from BabyCentre revealed that 3 in 5 mums feel a huge pressure to be perfect parents. Another survey by Sure Start Scotland found that 50% of parents said they were put off seeking help because they felt like ‘bad parents’ for asking.

Where does this pressure come from and how can we deal with it?

Nicola, a mum of two girls from Team Happity, addressed this in our latest Instagram Live. Here’s what she had to say to open up the conversation:

The overwhelm of parenting advice

Today we’re bringing up our babies and children with an overwhelming amount of advice from digital media. There are so many blogs, surveys and media headlines coming at us from all sides telling us how to parent (and how not to). Often, the advice is changing and contradictory. It can be confusing and lead us to doubt our own instincts. And worry about whether we’re getting things wrong. It all adds to the pressure.

Our own grandmothers and mothers brought up their babies without this plethora of parenting advice. They relied on their own instincts as well as asking advice from family and friends (who they lived close by providing a village to raise their child). Things were simpler. There was more hands-on support. There wasn’t the same level of scrutiny.

Now many more of us live far away from our families. Our ‘villages’ are not there to step in and provide reassurance, help and support on a day to day level. And we can feel more alone and more doubtful about our parenting.

A mother’s place is always in the wrong!

There are online debates daily on the rights and wrongs of parenting. You can easily feel like you don’t know which way is up and feel like, if you get it ‘wrong’, then you’ll be judged.

Even if you don’t face direct judgement from people you know – you make you can read tweets and comments online from others who disagree with any parenting decision you make.

You give your baby a dummy – and then read hundreds of judgemental comments online condemning parents who do that. You stop breastfeeding at 3 months or 9 months (or keep breastfeeding until 2 years plus) and wade through hundreds of comments on social media about why either decision is harming your child.

Even if you feel like this was the best parenting decision for you and your baby and your family at the time you made it, you’ve got to have a thick skin. And a high level of confidence to brush this level of passionate online criticism and judgement.

The pressure from social media to be a perfect parent

In the survey from BabyCentre 2 in 5 mums said that social media intensifies the pressure to be a perfect parent because you are constantly bombarded with perfect images of parenting and compare yourself to others.

There’s a well known saying that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. When you’re constantly being fed photos of happy parents with Insta perfect lives then this is elevated. Comparing yourself and finding that you come up short can really chip away at your self-esteem.

The pressure was less without social media

My girls are both grown up now and so I went through the early years of parenting when social media wasn’t a thing. I actually feel really lucky and thankful for that. Don’t get me wrong – there are many positives to social media – especially in terms of connecting parents and providing an online community and support. But that level of ‘in your face’ comparison just wasn’t there for me.

I felt like I was on a good day if I left my house without an obvious baby sick stain on my jumper and having found time to brush my hair! I didn’t even give a thought to whether my baby’s nursery was beautifully themed or whether I was pushing a stylish buggy. (Mine was the one I could afford at the time and later one I got as a hand-me-down from a friend).

Social media is now part of our lives and is here to stay. We all know that behind every perfect Insta shot there is no doubt a pile of clutter that a mum has pushed away. And that, more often than not, the pics show the best sides of a parent’s day and not the tears, tantrums and ‘in the trenches’ moments.

When you’re feeling a bit wobbly it’s harder to remember that a photo does not tell the whole truth and to stop comparing your own life to the lives we see on social media.

Putting pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parent

For me, the idealised picture of motherhood that I had in my head during pregnancy was just not realistic. I remember being told I could go home with my newborn baby and feeling overwhelmed. Although I’d had nine months to plan for this moment, it felt a little reckless that now I was taking this tiny vulnerable newborn home, feeling suddenly like I had no clue what I was doing!

Of course I learned along the way, but that feeling of overwhelm and uncertainty rocked my previous vision of myself as ‘the perfect mother’ right from the get-go.

Expectations vs reality

I had strong feelings of how I would parent before giving birth. If any of the things I’d planned didn’t work out, then I’d really beat myself up and feel like I’d failed somehow.

For example, I’d planned a natural birth. After over 32 hours of agonising and exhausting back-to-back labour, I begged the midwife for an epidural. It was the right decision for me at the time but I still felt guilty for ‘failing’.

There were many other moments where the ideal and the reality of parenting didn’t meet up and the guilt I felt for ‘getting it wrong’ was huge. Whether this was giving up breastfeeding too soon or shouting at my child after a day when I was exhausted and frustrated and just didn’t have the patience to deal with the crying or tantrums.

Work and mum guilt

the pressure to be the perfect parent

I grew up with the message that women could ‘have it all’. Which is empowering on one hand. But adds to the pressure on the other. Especially since flexible working, affordable childcare and gender equality are not yet at the level where women can find a perfect balance between work and being a mum.

We are expected to work as if we don’t have children, and parent as if we don’t have to work. I have worked part-time and full time as a mum. And have often felt like I couldn’t give both my full energy and attention. It never takes much for a perfectly planned week to go off the rails and for the plates we spin in the air to keep both going crash to the ground. All it takes is a poorly child or a childcare issue for things to start feeling stressful.

The guilt that comes with not always being able to find the balance between work and parenting adds to the pressure.

There’s no such thing as a perfect parent

My children are now both grown up and over the years I have worked hard on being kinder to myself and trying not to beat myself up for not being the perfect parent. After all – the perfect parent doesn’t exist. Just as the perfect human doesn’t!

I make mistakes. Of course I do. I always say sorry afterwards and try not to let the mum guilt eat away at me. All the choices I have made as a mum were the best for me and my children at the time and with the resources (and sometimes the energy!) I had.

The truth is we’re all just doing our best. And that makes us good parents. Which – seeing as perfect parents don’t exist – is good enough!

The very fact that you are worrying about whether you’re a good enough parent means that you probably already are.

You’re amazing and you’re doing a great job.

You’ve got this!

Watch our Instagram live

We’d love to know what you think about whether there is too much pressure to be the perfect parent. Hop over to watch our Insta live and please do leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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Loneliness as a new mum: One mum’s story

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The impact of the pandemic on parents: One year on

Is loneliness a new epidemic amongst new mums? It’s a paradox because as a new mum you’re never alone (with your new baby with you every day and night) but you can also feel so very lonely.

A recent study by the Red Cross found that more than 8 in 10 mums feel lonely some of the time. Another survey by Channel Mum revealed that more than 90% of mums in the UK admit to feeling lonely since having children. A statistic that is shocking, but perhaps not surprising.

Loneliness as a new mum is something we don’t talk about enough. 3 in 5 new mums surveyed said they tried to hide their feelings and 38% have never told their partner.

In the past 18 months, as we’ve all gone through lockdowns, this epidemic of loneliness amongst new parents has surely got worse.

Nicola from Team Happity opens up about how much loneliness affected her after having her first baby. We hand over to her to tell her story:


How loneliness as a new mum took me by surprise

I’d done everything I thought possible to prepare for having a baby. I’d bought all the kit, read all the books, been to all the antenatal classes. But one thing I hadn’t prepared for was loneliness.

Loneliness as a new mum was something I’d never expected and something I hadn’t prepared for. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I hadn’t ever felt lonely before: through school, through university and at work.

I was the first of my friends to have a baby. All my friends were busy with work and with their own lives. Suddenly I found myself alone all day, every day with just my baby for company.

I felt lonelier than ever before. And it had a huge effect on my mental health and my confidence.

Where do all the other mums go?

I found myself with every day yawning ahead of me with nowhere to go. I walked with my baby in her sling or her pram finding myself in an unchartered daytime world. I passed pensioners, hurried people on their way to goodness knows where.

I also passed other new mums pushing their prams with more purpose than me. Where were they going? How did they know where to go?

I smiled at every other mum I passed trying to put out ‘Please be friends with me’ vibes!

lonely mum staring out of the window

Accosting the postie!

As the weeks went by I found myself craving adult company. Here I was, day after day, feeding, rocking and soothing, and talking to my baby (who at this age gave very little chat back!).

I used to head out to the corner shop and talk to the till assistant for longer than was socially acceptable. And when the postman rang the bell to deliver a parcel I would strike up a conversation and keep him on the doorstep. I was just so desperate to speak to another adult human being!

Plucking up the nerves to get out there and confront loneliness as a new mum

I eventually found out details of baby classes and baby and toddler groups near me and plucked up the courage to go along to one or two each week. After weeks of being at home alone with my baby, suddenly getting back out there was daunting.

I used to have to steel myself to go. And often had to pause at the entrance to try and settle my nerves before walking into a room full of other parents. Would they all be friends and would I be left out? Would my baby be the only one that cried and then would everybody judge me?

Slowly finding my tribe

group of mums at a baby class

I didn’t make friends instantly. Often I’d feel shy and awkward in groups and leave feeling a little lonelier than before.

Things changed when I found a lovely baby music group that was warm and welcoming. There was time at the end of each class to have a cuppa and chat.

Having babies is a great leveller. I think we were all feeling lonely to some degree and we all wanted to share our stories with other parents who might ‘get it’.

I soon found that over cups of tea we were sharing birth stories and breastfeeding struggles; tales of sleep deprivation and new mum worries. Over time we opened up more and more. Feeling OK to admit we were having a tough day or that we’d had a cry just before class after an exhausting morning where the baby just wouldn’t stop crying.

I began to look forward to Wednesdays as ‘baby music days’. And over time, as we swapped numbers, the other days of the week were filled with coffee dates and walks in the park.


Nicola spoke about loneliness as a new mum over on Instagram. You can watch the Instagram video here.

Loneliness: How the pandemic affected new parents

While loneliness is something many new mums feel, things got tougher still for new parents during the pandemic. Lockdown forced new parents to tackle the challenges of bringing up a baby without the usual support network of classes, family and friends to help them.

Talking to the BBC, one mum, Zunaira from Peterborough, describes how it felt:

“It’s lonely. You lose your own self, you forget about yourself – and all the focus is on another person. Your identity goes and I fel like I was suffocating. You just want to sit in a cafe, have a bit of cake and a talk.”

Talking to The Metro, Theresa Raymond, who gave birth to her daughter just before lockdown, said:

“Not being able to let my family see my baby or have face-to-face follow-up midwife appointments have been the hardest things to adapt to. 

Especially as a first-time mum, I had this image of how it was meant to be which has been scuppered a little.”

Thank goodness that classes and groups are now back.

Find a baby class: meet others who are tackling loneliness as a new mum

Happity was set up by Sara Tateno after she herself felt lonely as a new mum. Emily Tredget, our co-founder, experienced severe PND and anxiety after having her son and one of the things that helped her recovery was getting out of the house and going to groups and classes to meet other parents.

One of our missions at Happity is to combat loneliness for new parents by connecting them though baby and toddler classes.

If you’re feeling lonely – do go along to a class or group. We know it can be daunting. But it’s definitely worth it.

Find a baby or toddler class near you here.

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6 reasons why mums friends are so brilliant

Why baby and toddler classes are so important

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Baby and toddler groups are back on. But what a rollercoaster it’s been during the last 18 months or so. Both for class providers and for new parents.

This week a new report from the House of Commons Petition Committee has been published. Amongst other things, it looks back on the issues raised when guidelines were not clear for baby and toddler groups. As well as every time lockdown restrictions were lifted, and furthermore the lessons we must learn going forward. But the report covers so many more aspects of the impact on parents including ‘mental health services’, ‘workplace discrimination & redundancy’ and ‘recovery funding and the “baby blind spot”’ (just to list a few!).

The new HoC report looking back on this journey

A new report has just been published (in October 2021).

This was following the House of Commons Petitions Committee hearing evidence from panellists about the issues faced by both parents and baby and toddler group providers during the pandemic. It outlines the confusion about support groups being listed as exempt from restrictions:

“Since last autumn, Government guidance has allowed up to 30 people to meet as a “support group” (specifically including parent and baby groups), in an exemption from restrictions on gatherings. Witnesses suggested that while this exemption had been “really helpful” in giving some groups the confidence to restart, many others had not done so, depriving parents of what Dr McMullen described as “a vital safety net”.

HoC Petitions Committee

5 babies laying on  Matt in a circle after the pandemic, during a baby and/or toddler group

Emily suggested parent and baby group organisers were wary of restarting classes following negative experiences last winter. Even with such groups having been exempted from restrictions on gatherings and now the removal of legal restrictions. She told the committee:

We did a survey and it said that 24% [of providers] are still very confused as to whether they can go back. Some of them are quite traumatised from their experience back in November. We were telling them that they were allowed, the DfE was telling them that they were allowed. But still, their councils were coming in, forcibly in some cases, with police, shutting them down […] We definitely need to look at what we do going forward, in case there are any further issues.

-Emily Tredget

How the closure of groups affected parents

The impact of not being able to run classes on providers is clear. But the lack of face to face classes and the support they provide had a massive impact on parents too. The report found that:

Witnesses were also concerned the pandemic may have a long-term scarring effect on the provision of community-led support groups and parent and baby groups. Emily Tredget suggested parent and baby group providers had seen an average drop of 63% in their revenues over the last 12 months. While Dr McMullen cited figures from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) suggesting many charities organising such groups had also seen financial losses. We heard that families in more deprived areas may be particularly affected by the loss of such services.

-HoC Petitions Committee

Mother at a Mum/Baby & toddler yoga group, with her baby in a sling

The road ahead for baby and toddler groups after the pandemic

We’re at the stage where many (almost the majority) of legal restrictions that were put in place before have been lifted. And that means so many more baby and toddler classes are back and running in person again. Which is just fantastic!

Class providers carry out their own risk assessments to make sure classes are safe and secure. And, as always, are welcoming and fun for parents and their little ones.

We all hope that we’ve seen the last of lockdowns (please!). But there are important things to learn if we do face them again. The report summarises:

Our inquiry last year heard compelling evidence on the crucial role of community support and parent and baby groups in supporting new parents’ wellbeing. The Government’s recognition of this in exempting such groups from some gathering restrictions last year was very welcome. However, the Government must now do more to clarify how organisers of these groups and classes can offer these services in a safe and responsible way following the lifting of most legal restrictions. The Government should produce clear and dedicated guidance for organisers of community and charity-run support groups (including parent and baby groups) on how they can safely restart and continue classes in a covid-safe way. It should work with group organisers, local authorities and other relevant sector stakeholders to develop this guidance and ensure it is widely communicated. 

-HoC Petitions Committee

Have you been back to baby and toddler groups after the pandemic?

Have you been to a baby or toddler class since restrictions were lifted? We know (from following so many class providers on social media) just how delighted they are to be back. And they’ve been sharing lovely feedback from the parents who are loving being back in class too.

Search Happity today to find baby or toddler classes near you.

Feeling a bit nervous about going back? You don’t need to be:

Did you know that six weeks into motherhood, new mums should receive a mental health check? At the end of your six-week perinatal visit, your midwife should check on you as well as the baby. Well, there’s a high chance that you are a young mother who was hastily questioned in a fluster towards the end of a visitation or simply not asked at all.

But after announcements and effort put in by the government about paying more attention to this issue why is it still not working? If you are a new mum struggling emotionally and/or mentally how can you seek out the help that you need?

The announcement of mental health checks for new mums

According to NHS UK, 1 in 10 mums suffers from PND. This figure is likely higher following the pandemic too, but this issue was being addressed in the past.

In 2018, the NHS introduced a brilliantly progressive introduction to mental health checks for new mums. The idea being that 6-weeks after you have had your baby, your midwife should take time to check on your mental and emotional well-being.

This is a super important step forward in trying to tackle PND. The sooner that PND is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated! If someone can pick up on signs of PND at 6 weeks, then support and help can be put in place quickly.

Support for partners too?

Man sitting on sofa looking low and suffering from their mental health

In December of 2018. NHS England announced that new and expectant fathers would also be offered medical health checks. Yup. Dads suffering from PND, you were noticed too!

With growing figures of 1 in 10 new or expectant dads to be having symptoms of anxiety and depression, this was yet another issue that needed addressing. And, with this, they were offering treatments such as peer support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family interventions.

2018 marked a period where mental health in new parents was being addressed. It appeared that the issue was being taken seriously, and with an aim to reduce the figures, things were looking a little brighter for those suffering with PND.

What’s happened to the mental health checks for new mums?

Unfortunately, mental health checks have taken a dip from how highly they were prioritised on the agenda. Warning: here comes the numbers bit!

A high percentage of new mothers (85% according to an NCT survey released April of 2021) say the focus on appointments has been mostly on their babies. (That’s up 45% from 2019!). 60% said their check has been rushed at the end of their visit. And, 25% of parents from this 2021 figure said that they were not being asked about their mental health at all. This lead to a lot of young parents feeling rejected, ignored, and placed on a back-burner, where they are potentially left!

We asked mums in our community about their experiences with the 6-week mental health check-in’s. Here are a few things they said:

‘My doctor refused to do any 6-wk check for me or my baby… I had to make appointments and ‘fight’ to be seen.’

‘Mine was cancelled at 8 weeks. They have said it will be 10 weeks.’

‘They didn’t care at all about me considering I had a difficult labour and were in hospital for a week.’

‘My little one is 1 on Sunday and I have no check up and have never seen or heard (from them)…’

‘I asked for one and was refused.’

These responses, heart-breaking they may be, are not difficult to get your head around following the pandemic. And, as a quick reminder, we cannot shift blame to our midwives right now. Over 2020 and 2021, all NHS staff has seen a colossal amount of strain and is doing their best. We have to keep that in mind when looking at this drastic incline. But, still, we can’t ignore the fact that there are mothers who have truly suffered during the pandemic.

What’s the response?

The issue has clearly become an intimidatingly big issue through the duration of Coronavirus. But, thankfully, it has not gone under the radar of the government and the NHS.

Following these results, the NHS responded by saying they would start opening “Mental health hubs” for new, expectant and bereaved mothers.

This is a long term plan, stating ‘ten sites will be up and running within months’ and ‘every area will have one by April 2024’. As well as offering ‘psychological therapies’ these hubs will provide appropriate training for maternity staff and midwives. This, in time, means parents going through a tough time will receive the mental health support they need.

So, that means we have good news in the long run! NHS has got a long term plan in place for trying to resolve this problem (We are being heard, thank you NHS!). But what about those currently suffering? We have a 3-year waiting period between here and 2024. New mums will still be suffering from their mental health. So, what should they do?

How do I ensure I get a mental health check as a new mum?

Two hands: one offering a little heart (a little bit of love) to the other.

If you are in a strong enough mindset, then it would seem that the answer is to just push. These checks are important and if you think you have it in you to fight for it, then armour up and hit the battle stations! Either contact your GP or tell your midwife that you need it to be made more of a priority. And if it doesn’t happen immediately, keep pushing! Want to take it further? Maybe it’s a good time to start a petition to get the issue raised in parliament.

But, not everyone always feels capable or able to push when in that grey-cloud headspace.

We can offer a few tips on how to manage anxiety in the moment if you are severely suffering. These are a good short-term relief if you feel at the end of your tether.

If you feel like you might know someone who understands what you’re going through, it’s a good idea to reach out to them! Whether they’re parents themselves or you know they potentially suffer from their mental health. It’s very likely they will make for a good shoulder to lean on.

However, if what you’re feeling is quite severe, we have some more information on support for PND here. There are some brilliant charities that you can call (PANDAS and MumsAid just to list a couple). They specialise in specifically helping parents suffering mentally. If you feel that you might be in danger, your best option will be to call 999 or call the Samaritans.

Regardless of how it may feel at times, there are people out there willing to listen. There are people who know how to help. Please, reach out to someone, because it can get better.

Stay safe.

A lot of parents assume that the benefits of baby and toddler classes are mostly for the parents. They’re a great way to meet other mums and dads, and finding your tribe makes parenting so much easier.

But toddler classes are not just a place to hear a choir of mums and dads singing baby shark with half-a-dozen giggles. They actually have a ton of surprising benefits that will be preparing your little one for school in advance! We wouldn’t expect anyone to be thinking that far in advance, but it’s exciting to learn how much classes could be helping!

Here’s just a few ways that all the play and fun they have at classes are an important part of early learning:

1. Story time at toddler classes – introducing reading and phonics

We all know how much little ones love hearing stories. You may be all-too familiar with the regular books that pop up at story-time’s (Gruffalos are not a myth and many a Tiger will probably come to many a tea!). But, did you know that this hearing these stories are helping to develop their reading skills?

The repetition of these stories helps to introduce new concepts like phonics, rhythms and sounds. This will really help children build the foundation of skills needed to learn to read later on.

2. Moving and grooving is more than just fun!

According to the NHS, once your child is walking, they should be staying active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) of the day! A toddler class is a great way to encourage toddlers to begin exercising in a group. They begin preparing them for physical education and perhaps encouraging them to join sports teams in the future.

All the moving and grooving is helping them with gross motor skills, which will continue to develop as they grow.

The NHS have also encouraged being active together. And if any of our baby and toddler classes are to go by, then you need to be ready and willing to get a sweat on too! (Check out some of our baby classes today!)

3. Beep beep! – Crafts & motor skills

toddler benefiting from drawing at toddler class

What might look like “Play Time” at your toddler group or baby class is actually far more developmental than it might appear.

Simply letting your child squish a ball of Play-Doh helps them to develop fine motor skills their hands and fingers. While riding around and driving a toy Coupe Car helps to develop other gross motor skills.

Developing motors skills from an early age will benefit them when they come to learning more complex skills at nursery and school. Like holding a pencil and beginning to write.

So next time your toddler gifts you their latest Jackson Pollock imitation painting, remember that they’ve developed more than just their artistic talents!

4. One, two, three, four, five, now my child is counting right!

As many times as you have heard those familiar favourite nursery rhymes, they are still a fairly new concept to your little ones. Hearing them repeatedly is helping to introduce and teach counting at an early age. This might mean that maths comes a little bit easier for them when it comes to nursery and school.

These nursery rhymes often include movements that will be using our fingers too, very useful for also helping out with teaching toddlers motor skills again. (And the more opportunities to help with that, the better!)

5. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, here we go around again – Routines

Finding a class that connects with you and your little one (one that includes a snack time or tidy-up time) is a great opportunity to introduce the idea of routines.

Introducing this concept at a young age will make it less of an alien concept when it comes to that daunting first day of nursery. Which hopefully means it will be a dry-eyed drop off. Well, from your kids at least!

6. Benefits of teaching manners & etiquette at baby and toddler classes

We sometimes forget that something that is an afterthought for us hasn’t been taught to our children yet. Basic manners and understanding the correct time to speak or stay quiet would not even cross your mind.

But baby and toddler classes are a great opportunity to teach all the basics. Greetings, Turn-taking, sitting in an allocated spot and please’s/thank you’s all start to happen all around your child.

This encourages them to copy and do the same. Before you know it, they’ll be holding doors open for others and unnecessarily apologise as much as the rest of the UK.

7. Benefits of cleaning at baby & toddler classes

It’s more than likely that you have simply got used to cleaning up after your little one by now. But, we should definitely be encouraging them to pick up after themselves and clean up. It’s an important habit to enforce while your child is young so that they are ready when attending nursery for the first time.

Attending a toddler group might be just the thing to helping your child learn all the correct social skills that influence tidying up your own belongings and leaving a room as neat as possible.

8. Introduction to other cultures

Little ones are the least likely to judge another based on their background. But every child gets to an age where they will ask questions about that which is different. Baby classes are a great way to begin to introduce your little ones to different families of different backgrounds.

This might be to race, religion, or perhaps different family dynamics such as single parents & LGBTQ+ parents. This will lead to a hopefully judgement-free time when that dreaded first day of school finally arrives.

9. Social skills & the benefits of emotional understanding at toddler and baby classes

Toddler's benefiting from drawing and reading at a Toddler and baby class

This next point might feel like an obvious (but important!) one. Being surrounded by other parents and children may be one of the main reasons that you would book a class in the first place.

But establishing those crucial social skills will really help your toddler in the future. It’s important for your child to understand social cues and learn how to make friends. But by attending these classes you may also be introducing them to new concepts like empathy. If another child is upset, your toddler might start to question why that is and try to help make them feel better.

Maybe one of the reasons you’re slightly worried about your little one going to nursery is because you have a clingy tot? Well we have a list of tips to try and help your toddler overcome this, check them out here!

Maybe your child is nearly ready for heading off to nursery! But are you?

A recent post on our Facebook page revealed that too many parents are feeling desperate and ignored because their baby has reflux but they struggle to get a diagnosis and support. It can be heartbreaking if your baby cries unconsolably. If you ask for help and feel dismissed, it is harder still.

I asked for help but was ignored

“One midwife told me I just had an ‘irritable baby’ and that I was ‘tired’. Another health visitor over the telephone told us to try her back on normal formula and plough on through.”

These are the words from one mum in a BBC report on reflux diagnosis in babies.

Another reported a paediatrician suggesting her baby was crying all the time because she was “bored”.

Becky Palmer, who graduated from Aberystwyth Law School, and was inspired by her own experiences with baby reflux to give up her job as a solicitor and start a reflux and colic support group for parents, Colic SOS, commented in the BBC report: “Some health visitors are very much on board with it and will push GPs to help, but then you hear stories of parents really having to fight to be heard.”

Mum’s battles to get a reflux diagnosis

baby reflux - the struggle to get a diagnosis

We asked mums to share their own experiences and their replies are eye-opening.

Here are just a few of their stories:

“Silent reflux was something that I really think contributed to my PND. I barely had any sleep for months. My baby cried and screamed so much that it was exhausting.”

“I was told my babies reflux was a ‘laundry problem not a medical problem’. Every time I asked for help they asked me if I was a first time mum, which suggested they thought I was just fussing and somehow making it up. It was heart breaking seeing her in pain and so, so tiring”

“Being ignored and dismissed whenever we asked for help was such a cause of stress and anxiety. All we could do was keep on going back to the GP and insisting that my baby’s symptoms be reviewed to finally get a diagnosis and support”

The signs and symptoms of reflux in babies

How do you know if your baby might have reflux? Here are some of the signs to look out for. If you notice any and are worried, ask your GP about reflux and ask for advice and help:

  • Your baby might fuss over feeds or avoid feeding
  • They might bring up sick during or shortly after a feed
  • They may choke, cough or hiccup during feeds
  • You might notice their back arching and their head turning
  • Your baby might stretch out flat – this reduces pain. Instead of snuggling up to you they may stretch out flat after a feed
  • They might cry for long periods and be irritable during and after feeds
  • Their cries might sound hoarse
  • Your baby might be slow gaining weight
  • They might not be sick after feeds but you still might notice some of the symptoms above – this could be silent reflux

(Sources: NHS & La Leche League)

Persevere to get a reflux diagnosis

One of the things our post about reflux highlighted was the importance of getting a diagnosis for reflux. If your baby has any of the symptoms and signs above and if, in your gut, you just feel that something is not right then seek medical advice. And, if you feel like you are not being listened to – ask again!

How to help your baby if they have reflux

Your GP or health visitor will be able to advise you as to the best things to try to soothe your baby and help with relflux. This might include the best positions for feeding. Or giving shorter and more frequent feeds. If you find that nothing you have been advised is working then do go back to your GP for further help.

If you find yourself struggling with depression on anxiety then visit our PND page for advice and places to go to get help.

Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about your baby’s health.

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! Helping kids learn how to manage their emotions can truly help them to shape their future!

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”

Little girl yells out! Help little kids manage their emotions

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 to help kids manage big emotions

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 and help kids manage their emotions

Mother and child are hugging, encouraging being open about emotions and creating a safe space.

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 every day 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 kid is different and need help to manage their emotions in different ways

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

Child is sitting in the middle of a road experiencing a tantrum.

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!

Maariya

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.

For tips on how to help your child through the pandemic read our advice from a clinical psychologist.

Read more:

Parenting in the pandemic: the impact on new mothers

Top teething tips – the best ways to soothe your teething baby

7 ways to help your baby or toddler cope with the pandemic

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.