Is “Babies in lockdown” an all too familiar phrase to you? Did you have a baby in the 2020 lockdown, perhaps even the latter end of 2019? If so this letter is to you. I see you and I admire your strength and resilience (whether you feel strong and resilient or not!)
We have all faced our own battles over the past 10 months and as the saying goes: we’re all in the same storm, but in different boats. But how has Covid-19 impacted our most vulnerable members of society, including our new babies in lockdown, and their parents?
2020 was a year like no other. We stayed at home to protect each other, we sacrificed rights of passage, celebrations and shared experiences. 2021 has started in a similar ilk although there is, at least, an end in sight.
Babies in Lockdown
There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year to become a parent. From busy hospitals, to anecdotally over-stretched midwives and health visitors; birthing without partners and missed newborn checks. These are just some of the things thrown at new parents this year. Almost 200,000 babies were born between March – July 2020, during the most restrictive part of the UK’s national lock down.
The Parent Infant Foundation’s report “Babies in Lockdown” highlights the stark reality for so many new and first time parents and babies during this time. The report lays out a clear path to recovery and improvement for services designed to support this vulnerable group. The Babies in Lockdown report found that 87% of parents felt more anxious as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the concern they had over its impact on their family.
This year I have been in the privileged position of becoming an auntie to a beautiful niece and honorary auntie to two other gorgeous babes. At the start of 2020 I was playing the part of doting auntie and help to my own sister with her newborn. Although I have found it difficult not being able to cuddle these new babies (or mummies), and not being allowed to pop round and offer support to my friends and sisters this year. It has, without doubt been harder for my wonderful friends for whom this year has brought a myriad of emotions. Sadness and despair sitting closely with happiness and joy at their new baby. Watching the difficult situations they’ve had to navigate has broken my heart on more than one occasion.
These co-existing feelings can be confusing to a new parent, whose hormones are already flying high. Add into the mix potentially difficult emotions around their pregnancy, labour and birth of their child and it’s no surprise that almost 7 out of 10 new parents found their ability to cope with their baby had been impacted as a result of COVID-19. If you have experienced any part of this I write this blog with you in mind. To hold you and offer you the knowledge that you are not alone. All your feelings are heard and are valid.
Don’t Suffer alone
If you have been affected by any of this or would just like to talk to someone about your experiences there are links at the end of this article. Please reach out and talk to someone. You do not have to manage this alone. Your baby is safest being with you and you need to take care of yourself first (remember the airplane oxygen masks analogy? Put your own mask on first before helping anyone else with theirs.) You cannot look after others if you yourself are without basic needs.
It’s not all Doom and Gloom…
Despite not having the start that you may have wanted some would argue that babies born during this period have had everything they need in abundance. Of course this depends greatly on how mum and dad are feeling; how safe home feels and how well supported mum is. But the reality of being stuck at home, in bubbles, has perhaps given these babies just the start they need: uninterrupted time with mummy and daddy. No rushing out for appointments, baby classes or pressured meets. Just day to night blurring of time and safety.
Although it might have felt impossible at times, for some the periods of lockdown have meant that as well as the primary carer being at home, there may have been a second parent also at home, albeit working, but a second pair of hands nonetheless. Baby’s primary carers, loving parents and first teachers. This “extra” time together for some has created stronger parental bonds and secure attachments with both parents.
Your baby will come to no harm having been “cooped up” inside with only you for the first few weeks or months of their lives. In fact when thinking about the fourth trimester it’s a calmer place for babies to be at home with very few (if any) visitors, and the quiet and safe regularity of his parents. Although it might feel hard and unfair for you hopefully you have found space to learn about your baby together and to develop skills in the safety of your home. Your natural response to your baby’s cues: sucking and calling for example will be honed specifically to meet your baby’s needs. This sensitive response enables baby to develop a secure attachment to you.
From birth your baby is watching you and learning from you, although it might not seem this way initially. Babies are hard-wired for relationships and are drawn to faces above all other shapes. They seek out faces and “coo” to interact with us. Every time you hold baby and rock him or her to sleep they internalise the safety and comfort you are providing; your calm voice singing to them and your physical presence. As they grow this will be part of their internal dialogue when looking for compatibility and love in future friends and partners. As you sing to them they watch your mouth move, which again develops their feelings of safety and awareness of a social and emotional world. For inspiration or songs to sing visit our social media pages and via our website.
DW Winnicott (1953) coined the term “Good enough mothering”. He spoke of mothers (and fathers) not trying to be perfect parents, but just being good enough. That it is ok, and perfectly normal to have feelings other than loving ones towards our babies and children. That allowing our babies to cry or call for our help is a good thing: they can begin to realise their own discomfort and seek help, rather than having every need met instantly, before they even realise it is a need. The concept of “good enough mothering” is perhaps a useful thing to know during this time, while we try to be all things to all members of our family.
In Awe of You All!
From my viewpoint of outsider, aunty, friend, as well as supporter and ambassador for infant and maternal mental health I am amazed at the resilience and absolute power of women this year! Well, truthfully I wouldn’t expect anything less from such an amazing species but I am fully in awe of all new mothers this year!
As the African proverb states: It takes a village to raise a child. We are not meant to do this alone. What has taken place this past year is unprecedented and however you’ve dealt with it has been beyond belief. You have shown remarkable strength and fierce mothering this year. You are goddesses and should be recognised as such.
If you’d like some affirming company why not join us online at IG / FB and via our website to meet with other new parents.
For more support around anything that might have come up for you while reading this blog see links below:
- NHS Support: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/services-and-support-for-parents/
- NCT: https://www.nct.org.uk/
- NCT: 0300 330 0700
- Family Support: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Support for young parents: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/parenting/where-can-young-parents-go-for-support/
- Helpline / Legal Advice / Redundancy Rehab: https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/support-services/
- To Access LHM Postnatal Music Therapy Group: email@example.com
- https://www.home-start.org.uk/ where you can find your local home start team.
Babies In Lockdown: Listening to parents to build back better (2020). Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and the Parent Infant Foundation.