As COVID restrictions continue, we know that expectant and new parents are among those who will lose out as a result. A recent study by Make Birth Better, showed that 90% of women felt that maternity care had deteriorated as a result of COVID.
So, how can new parents overcome these challenges, and feel more supported in what seems to be an increasingly isolated world.
OVERCOMING THE STRUGGLES FACED BY NEW PARENTS IN A PANDEMIC
Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, Paediatrician and (Co-Founder of baby food brand Little Tummy) feels very passionately that the first weeks with a new baby (while exhausting and sometimes overwhelming) should be enjoyed regardless of the outside world. She has some wonderful insight to share with new parents, if that is of interest.
Covid has brought many changes to our lives this year and a lot of new parents experience the tighter restrictions as an additional burden. Having a new baby can be challenging, even at the best of times, but it is also an incredible time with memories you will want to cherish forever. The current circumstances have certainly changed the way women give birth, but we need to ensure that does not deny women (and their birth partners) the joy of those special moments. Whilst we cannot change the greater circumstances, there are a few small things parents can do to prepare for birth during lockdown and to make sure they enjoy the newborn bliss at their fullest.
- Preparing for birth
Most birth units will restrict access for birth partners and other family members before and after the birth. Speak to your midwife about hospital-specific regulations so you know what to expect. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to fully understand the process. It can help to have an ‘extended birth plan’ where you plan ahead for the time while you are at the hospital and after, for example having a small stock of groceries, nappies and baby clothes at home for the time after birth. Make plans for childcare, if you have older children, and remember you may have a longer stay in hospital than anticipated, so have someone on hand in case that does happen . Talk about your worries with your partner and with the hospital staff once you are admitted. They are there to support you and talking to them about your feelings will help them give you the best care possible.
2) Advice on (breast)feeding
Feeding a baby, both bottle or breast, is a skill which needs to be learned by parents and baby. Especially during these times, it is important to find a way which suits you and your baby. This might be exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding or a mix of both. Call your local midwife centre if you are struggling to get support over the phone. UNICEF has a great video masterclass on latching and feeding. It can be helpful to find a dedicated space in your home where you can tune out the noise, get comfortable and enjoy this moment of bonding with your little one. Especially evenings and nights can take their toll when your baby is cluster feeding. Ask for help – your partner can take over some of the feeds or just the cuddles in between feedings to give you a break.
3) Introducing solids to your baby
Just when you feel you have nailed motherhood and have established a fairly good routine, you take on the next step of starting to wean your little one and a ton of new questions arise. Try to keep it simple and take it meal by meal. Start with dark green vegetables, as they are relatively rich in iron and the earlier your little one gets used to bitter flavours, the easier it will be for them to stick to this healthy habit. Introduce one meal per day (e.g. lunch), this can be puree or finger foods, depending on what you and your baby prefer. After one month, introduce another meal (e.g. breakfast) and a third one after another month. Your little one will gradually reduce their milk feeds intuitively as they continue to eat more solids.
Starting solids during lockdown can be a great opportunity to think about what and how you eat. Maybe you will experiment and add some greens to your table. It is much easier and faster to prepare the same food for everyone. With the whole family at home, it will also be easier to introduce your little one not only to the nutritious but also sociable aspects of food as you can sit down as for a family meal.
For every step on the way you will find plenty of support online. Little Tummy offers regular Q&A on their Instagram feed with their In-House Paediatrician Sophie. Even better: They deliver fresh and nutritious baby food directly to your doorstep. This allows you to offer your little one an equally healthy alternative to food cooked at home and give you a break from the constant shopping and chopping.
4) Rest when everyone else is resting
Try to plan your little one’s nap with a time frame where your other children can occupy themselves, e.g. with the above mentioned apps, and rest! This is not the time to do the laundry or clean the house. You have deserved to sit down, take a nap or do anything that will relax you.
5) Share the mental load
Whatever occupies your mind, try to share it with your partner. Juggling a baby, older siblings, maybe home-schooling and a household was never meant to be done by one person. Give concrete tasks to your partner or older children, as age appropriate.. And know that you are not alone in this. Every single mother in lockdown is experiencing the same feelings. Reach out to them and have a laugh over the phone. Finding like-minded mothers online has never been so important, so go ahead and find your tribe. And always remember, this is going to end.
OVERCOMING THE STRUGGLES FACED BY NEW PARENTS IN A PANDEMIC
Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, Paediatrician and (Co-Founder of baby food brand Little Tummy) feels very passionately that the first weeks with a new baby (while exhausting and sometimes overwhelming) should be enjoyed regardless of the outside world.