Experts have expressed concerns about the wellbeing of new parents of babies born during lockdown, as mums and dads struggle to access usual support services.
Having a baby and navigating the new normal that comes with that can be challenging at any time, but throw in a lockdown which means access to usual support groups and systems isn’t available and it’s understandable concerns have been raised about the knock-on effect on the wellbeing of new parents.
With baby and playgroups remaining closed due to COVID-19 measures and most health visitor ‘visits’ being carried out via video or telephone, new parents can find the period after welcoming a baby in lockdown somewhat isolating.
England’s children’s commissioner has been highlighting the pressures facing new mums and dads caring for babies without the usual family and support networks.
A briefing paper from children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield’s office says an estimated 76,000 babies will have been born in England under lockdown so far, but has voiced concerns about families abilities to cope under the challenging circumstances.
“The Children’s Commissioner’s Office is particularly concerned about the limitations in support offered to new families under lockdown, the reductions in contact with health visitors, and the inability to maintain birth registers,” the paper explains.
In a blog post about the subject Catherine McKinnell MP raises similar concerns.
“Last month, we held two evidence sessions on the impacts on maternal mental health, childcare, and adoption during the pandemic,” she writes on Politicshome.com.
“Experts reported increased levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues among new parents since the outbreak began, with one expecting a “tsunami of mental health referrals” in months to come.
“Baby classes and groups are a lifeline for many as sources of information and support. Those struggling with specific challenges including breastfeeding and mental health issues like post-natal depression are particularly affected by cancellations or moves to online provision,” she continues.
“One mum told us that classes and a routine out of the house were a saviour to her mental health, helped develop the bond with her baby and her confidence as a mother.”
The mum-of-three is now calling for the government to take urgent action.
“Hearing personal stories through online engagement and evidence sessions has made it clear how difficult many people on parental leave are finding this pandemic,” she writes.
Commenting on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on new parents Siobhan Freegard from ChannelMum.com tells Yahoo UK: “The Coronavirus crisis has been very tough on new parents. You’re already on high alert for anything which can harm your baby and the virus is an additional silent and unseen threat which makes well-wisher visitors and trips outside a potential killer.
She says new parents have been heading to the parenting site’s chatboards to discuss their experiences. “[They] are currently packed with new mums and dads who feel robbed of their birth experience, from partners left outside the delivery room to new mums feeling unsupported as their own mum can’t come to help with the newborn,” she explains.
But there have also been some positives to emerge from the situation.
“It’s amazing how fast everyone has adapted, with Zoom baby introductions, virtual baby showers and a real sense of support and camaraderie with parents online,” she explains.
“The pandemic has also unleashed a wave of kindness with two thirds of parents saying their local neighbourhood has become closer by helping each other through the outbreak.”
And there’s a further plus point lockdown may have influenced.
“Previously many new mums reported feeling overwhelmed with attention after giving birth, and faced with a stream of new visitors all wanting to hold the baby and taking up time when mums need to rest and recuperate,” she explains.
“Now, we’re seeing parents say they are enjoying a long ‘lockdown babymoon’ with their new arrival, with no visitors and days of peace and quiet to bond.”
She goes on to explain that many cultures already embrace this for new mothers as a way to heal and recover and suggests it might start to be seen as more valuable in the UK too.
“Parents can still stay in touch with friends and family online and hold Zoom chats to show off the new arrival, but there will be less pressure and more control on how to introduce the baby to the world.”