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Better Biscuits Next Time Please

Our thanks to Sasha Barber for writing for us about multiagency training sessions on perinatal mental health.  Sasha is a mental health nurse with a background in health visiting and is a Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting and Perinatal Mental Health trainer.

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In 2013 I trained as a perinatal mental health champion as part of the Institute of Health Visitors champion training, whilst working as a health visitor in Gloucestershire.  Fast forward 5 years and my training has been updated to encompass the latest research in perinatal and infant mental health and once again I have the opportunity to roll out the training to all agencies in the Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset area , as part of my role as the perinatal mental health nurse for Southmead maternity. With the support of NHSE, 10 multiagency training sessions have been delivered and 3 more are booked throughout the rest of the year.

When you teach on a subject that you feel passionate about the evaluations can stop you in your tracks, they can take you from a momentary  high to a chasm of despair but apart from the comment on my poor selection of biscuits, I have been lucky that the eclectic group of 200 have been forgiving enough (mostly) to look past not only this but the occasional dodgy teaching method, the IT fails, the poor quality photocopying  and badly stapled handouts (which I did at 2am as I juggled the demands of 4 children, full time work and the organisation involved in the training). What I found was a collective passion and thirst for knowledge around supporting families with perinatal mental health issues and a theme of “how can I make a difference” has resonated throughout each session.

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I have also been struck by the number of different agencies that have attended, health visitors, midwives, social workers , GPs (hurrah), psychologists, housing officers (I was overjoyed at this), probation staff, prison officers, mental health nurses, infant mental health workers, child minders, charities and the voluntary sectors,  nursery managers, obstetricians and nurses  This has added such a richness to the training and an opportunity to learn about others roles which is often a barrier to interagency working.

Through group work, films, role play (me, not them), discussions around infant mental health, epigenetics, research, medication, local services and the exploration of different mental health issues I have tried to convey not only the importance of identifying the signs of perinatal mental illness but also the importance of relationships, however fleeting, however inconsequential you feel the conversation was the power of validating someone’s  experience through empathy and compassion is powerful and life changing.

To tune in and listen to understand rather than respond can be a catalyst to meaningful change but what I have discovered over the years is that if those who are working with women in the perinatal period do not have an awareness or adequate knowledge they are unable to hear what is being said. I can prove this myself; If anyone asks  me about diabetes I go into full on internal melt down and listen to approx 3% of what somebody has said because  my  mind becomes full of what if’s “what if I don’t pick up what she is telling me, what if I miss something, what if what if what if”.  We are also more likely to go into our judgement and fixing mode.

“Well you didn’t attend your CBT session”  “have you tried doing this …”

If you feel confident in your knowledge you are more likely to ask meaningful questions and listen to the answer… Those panic, judging and fixing voices in your head also subside as well.

The part of the day that always stops everyone in their tracks are the women’s voices themselves, I have been so lucky to have Sara, Georgia and Jodie take time to come and tell their story. They have been brave, honest and so candid and it is a rare opportunity to ask questions face to face about what we could all be doing differently.  The feedback always highlights how their story will make a difference to their practice.

“I know after today I will be more confident, open and honest with mums who I have concerns about and may be suffering with poor mental health” – Health visitor

“I think my general practice will be better, I will take more time and more consideration with each patient contact” – GP

“I feel I know more about what is important to women and families” – Nursery Nurse

“I will make sure I will check in with fathers about how they are feeling” – Midwife

“I have more understanding and knowledge on recognising signs of illness and where to signpost” – Health visitor

“I feel much more aware of the distress mental ill health causes and the importance of ‘noticing’ and ‘holding’.”

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But, we need to be doing more, many of those attending identified that they felt out of their depth when assessing mental health, that there was a lack of knowledge around where to signpost and little knowledge about maternal OCD, intrusive thoughts, complex trauma and how this could impact on parenting.

But for those days when you are working with a family, when you don’t feel you are enough, when you feel out of your depth and those panic voices start to shout at you… Just being there to listen and be human can be enough to rip through the fear and allow you to truly hear what is being said and when that happens, it’s an absolute gift.

 

Sasha Barber

2018

A Holistic Approach to Perinatal Wellbeing

Our thanks to Gill Phillips and Florence Wilcock of the #MatExp (maternity experience) team for this blog post, part of our April series on Perinatal Mental Health.  For more information about the #MatExp campaign, please check out their website, Facebook group and the #MatExp hashtag on Twitter.

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Brilliant to see that the ‘Growing Families’ blog is kicking off with perinatal mental health, so we thought we would tell you a little bit about the new national #MatExp #MindNBody project, a holistic approach to perinatal wellbeing.

Our project is very timely as we are half way through a national maternity transformation programme following the publication of Better Births in 2016 when one of the seven specific areas that needed improvement was noted to be perinatal mental health. We are delighted to have links to both the national perinatal mental health team and the national maternity transformation team so that as the project progresses we will be able to help shape the future care women receive. One of our project aims is to not just improve care in the event of a mental health problem but in some instances perhaps even prevent a problem from happening in the first place.

We are currently crowdsourcing over 100 new Whose Shoes?® scenarios and poems exploring all aspects of perinatal mental health. We are looking to include a very wide range of topics, from prevention through to serious mental health problems, and similarly to touch upon everything from pre-conception through to growing families. A tall order indeed, but one which we are very honoured to accept and explore together. There is a dedicated page on the #MatExp website, so please take a look to find out  more: http://matexp.org.uk/matexp-mindnbody-a-holistic-approach-to-perinatal-mental-health/

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We are off to a cracking start, but there is still time to submit any scenarios that you would like us to consider for inclusion. It is proving to be a difficult process as there are so many issues and so many different perspectives, and we are trying to get a good mix and balance. It is all about coming up with really good conversation starters to help people take things forward locally, building their perinatal mental health networks and aiming to provide a comprehensive range of support for women and families, both informal and formal.

The main #MindNBody action is happening in London, the South-West and the West Midlands, as these regions have come together to fund the project. However, in total the new resources will be made available to nearly 50 trusts across the country who already had a #MatExp Whose Shoes? licence when we started the project and there will be lots of other ways for everyone to get involved. We are aiming to produce another booklet of case studies, so please let us know if you have any simple, transferable best practice examples that you would like to share.

We are delighted that Catherine MacLennan is our project administrator. Catherine runs the Pinks N Blues and played a big part in our previous ‘Nobody’s Patient’ Project, having initiated the work around second trimester loss, so we are thrilled she was able to join us. Please feel free to contact Catherine mindnbody@thepinksnblues.co.uk if you have any questions and please send her your ideas for scenarios as soon as possible, but no later than 30 April. We would love to hear from you.

We look forward to a truly collaborative project, making a real difference to mums and dads everywhere … and their growing families!

Gill and Flo

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Contact us on Twitter:

Gill Phillips: @WhoseShoes

Florence Wilcock: @fwmaternity

 

The birth of a mother; my journey through darkness

Our thanks to Sheryl Wynne of Simply Natal for this, the third of our April blog posts focusing on perinatal mental health.  For our full 2018 blog schedule please click here.

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There are no beginnings without endings.

I never imagined what that could mean when I set out to start a family. Being a mother was what I had always wanted. A dream I had had since I was a young child playing with her dolls; a dream that became all the more important after the loss of my own mother at the age of 19. I knew about endings; the sadness, the finality, the despair. Beginnings though, brought hope. Beginnings could only be good?

Our first much wanted pregnancy ended at 7 weeks. And there was my first bitter taste of a new beginning brought to an abrupt end. I had no idea that this loss of life would be a catalyst for much more heartache. Our second pregnancy was a healthy one, physically speaking, although the anxiety I thought was normal in pregnancy turned out to be more indicative of my own mental health struggles and fear of death. I suppose on reflection, the intrusive thoughts began in that pregnancy, at first, the vivid living out of an early miscarriage, then as the pregnancy progressed I imagined delivering a baby that had died in utero, I imagined being told there was no heartbeat, I began to grieve for the loss I felt so imminent, I couldn’t quite accept that this baby would arrive safely, if I did I would ‘jinx’ it and my world would fall apart. I didn’t share these thoughts, like I said, I thought they were normal. I was asked at antenatal appointments, and whenever I went in to be monitored for reduced foetal movements, whether I had a history of anxiety and depression (it said as much in my notes). I waited for the next question, or something that acknowledged what this might look like in pregnancy, but it never came, so my conclusion was that it was irrelevant, and the way I was feeling must be normal.

Without dwelling on the ‘what happened next’ (my birth story is already out there for anyone interested), my almost 42 week pregnancy riddled with anxiety ended in a long traumatic labour. This trauma was predominantly emotional, and as I realised much later, was very much influenced by my belief that my baby would die.

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And there it was my new beginning; a beginning that meant the end.

The beginning of my journey through Birth Trauma; the end of my life without it as a defining event.

The beginning of new intrusive thoughts; the end of sleeping soundly.

The beginning of hypervigilance; the end of my dream of motherhood.

The beginning of unbearable guilt and feelings of failure; the end of my self-confidence and trust.

The birth of a mother broken and bruised; the end of every positive expectation, because I got it so wrong.

I was ill prepared and I blamed myself. Despite the late night reading, the classes, the understanding of the process, nothing had prepared me mentally for such a brutal entrance into motherhood. I knew the Post-natal Depression questions, I anticipated them. I felt like screaming. I’m not depressed, I’m traumatised! And despite the lack of support I received, I persisted, I kept asking the questions, I kept asking for help. I accessed High Intensity CBT to help me deal with the persistent and painful memories. I wrote to the Head of Midwifery and finally my voice was heard.

The beginning of a healing journey; the end of the most intense pain.

The beginning of reaching out to others; the end of blaming myself.

The beginning of accepting events; the end of wanting to turn back time.

The beginning of validating others’ stories; the end of feeling so useless and alone.

The beginning of the feelings that I’d longed for; the end of the desperation to feel anything at all.

The beginning of the panic disorder; the end of the anxiety I had known how to cope with.

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I am 3 ½ years on now and I am still living with the effects of my experience. I began taking medication (anti-depressants that are also prescribed for anxiety) which, in time, helped me to cope better and another course of CBT helped me to get to a good place.

I had my second son, now 18 months old, in the midst of my darkest time, not least because the thought of another traumatic birth was a constant trigger. However, in this darkness I also found light, in the form of key people who helped me to believe in myself and gradually relinquish some of my pain and fear, guilt and shame. I was able to take control and planned my positive experience through emotional preparation, hypnobirthing and informed choice. As a result, I had a very positive, and emotionally healing, planned caesarean section and I can honestly say that every day since I have healed a little more, which is more than I could have wished for or believed possible.

I will continue to heal, and with each new beginning I will never be quite the same again, but that is because at the end of each new challenge I prove myself stronger than I ever thought I was.  And that’s the thing I want to share; the birth of a mother is much more complicated than the birth of a baby. It is not instant, it is a journey that means lots of endings too. It requires sacrifice and heartache and strength, so much strength. Strength that you didn’t even know you had.

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If your experience has left you feeling traumatised or you recognise any of the thoughts or feelings I have mentioned, please know that you are not alone. It is not your fault and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. It can get better, but it will take time. If you haven’t been offered the help that you need, keep asking until you are- because you matter, your experience matters, and what happens next matters.

The beginning of a meaningful purpose; the end of punishing myself.

The beginning of being the light for others; the end of the dark silence.

The beginning of accepting a different future; the end of clinging to what was expected.

The beginning of Simply Natal; the end of trying to prove myself to anyone other than myself.

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Simply Natal with KG Hypnobirthing

Empowering minds and enabling bodies through the power of positive thought.

I can’t change my past, but I can change the future for someone else.

My hope is that the people I teach will never know the pain that I have endured to get here.

 

Sheryl Wynne

2018

What is Perinatal Depression and When should you Seek Help?

Our thanks to Dr Bronwyn Leigh for this, the second in our series of Perinatal Mental Health blog posts for April.  To see the full list of themes for our 2018 blog series please click here – and please email growfamilies@gmail.com if you would like to contribute!

Bronwyn is a clinical psychologist, perinatal and infant clinician and early parenting consultant, practicing in Australia.  She is the Director of the Centre for Perinatal Psychology – an Australia-wide network of psychologists specialising in the emotional well-being of parents and infants before and during pregnancy, and the three years following the birth of a baby.  Bronwyn also provides training and supervision in the field of perinatal and infant mental health.

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The perinatal period is before and after birth, usually spanning pregnancy and the first year postpartum.  While depression can occur at any time during life, the perinatal period is the time of highest risk for a woman to develop, or have a reoccurrence of, a mental health condition.

Chances are you’ve heard of postnatal depression (PND), sometimes called postpartum depression (PPD).  PND is a depression that occurs in the first year after the birth of a baby.  But what about antenatal depression?  Antenatal depression, or depression during pregnancy is far less recognised by health professionals and by expectant parents.  Antenatal depression might start in pregnancy or it may have started before conception and remained into pregnancy.  Reliable research data highlights antenatal depression is almost as prevalent as postnatal depression.

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Perinatal depression does not only affect women – men can also be affected.

The stats are staggering…

1 in 10 pregnant women and 1 in 20 expecting men will be affected by antenatal depression, while 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men suffer postnatal depression.  In Australia, this equates to almost 80,000 Australian women suffering depression during pregnancy or following the birth of their child (perinatal period) each year.  Other countries report similar numbers.

Perinatal depression is different from the baby blues, where new mothers are tearful and feel overwhelmed.  The baby blues affects up to 80% of women between days three and ten after birth.  This is due to hormonal changes and symptoms usually resolve within a few days.

Symptoms of perinatal depression include:

  • Low mood, feeling flat
  • Feeling sad, irritable or resentful
  • Tearfulness
  • Low motivation
  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness and guilt
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Fear of being alone with your baby or excessive worry about your baby
  • Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Difficulty getting to sleep despite being tired or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low sex drive
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, wanting to end your life, or wanting to escape everything

If you have experienced some of these symptoms and they have persisted for two weeks or more, it’s time to get help. 

Perinatal psychologists work with families during this life phase and understand how debilitating depression can be when you have a little one to care for (in utero or on the outside).  They work with you to improve your mental health and your relationship with your baby.  There are safe and effective treatments for perinatal depression available.

But how would you know if seeing a psychologist would be helpful? It can be hard to know for sure, as there are so many factors that are changing at this time.  When women and men struggle during pregnancy or after having a baby, it is hard to know how much to attribute to biology, how much to changing circumstances or whether there is something more serious going on that warrants professional treatment.  And what’s normal anyway?  First time parents don’t have a benchmark to measure against and it can be hard to tease out whether your experience is simply adjustment to a new life or something more serious.

So, here’s one key deciding factor in whether you seek help: if you are distressed by your situation and your distress doesn’t resolve within a couple of weeks, then don’t hesitate to seek help.

A perinatal psychologist can help if:

  • You feel distressed
  • You feel you are not coping
  • You want more support
  • Things are not improving on their own

Remember, you are not alone.  It is very common to feel wobbly during this life phase, at least at times.  Perinatal psychologists are used to seeing men, women and infants with a range of concerns, including depression.  They help stabilise you, so you are less wobbly in yourself and in your parenting.  Perinatal psychologists are interested in supporting parents so they can enjoy parenthood and optimise their infant’s development.

Clare Snow

Dr Bronwyn Leigh

2018

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For families in the UK, The PIP Network has a list of parent-infant psychotherapy services: http://www.pipuk.org.uk/node/50.  There are also perinatal psychologists practicing all over the UK, such as Ruth Butterworth who kindly spoke at our 2016 conference.  The British Psychological Society emphasises that it is the responsibility of each individual to verify, independently, the background, qualifications and experience of any BPS member whose services they are considering using.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nourish Your Well-being

Our thanks to Emma Jane Sasaru of Unfold Your Wings and Beyond Birth Trauma for being our first author in our new 2018 blog series.  April is our Perinatal Mental Health month, and Emma has kindly written for us on the subject of emotional well-being.  If you would like to write for Growing Families you can find details of our upcoming themes by clicking here.

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You scroll down the pictures, your phone alight with happy, smiling faces. A day at the zoo, games in the park, oh and look your friend has posted the unicorn cupcakes she made with her daughter. You heart sinks, you can feel the tears stinging and you sniff them away. You look up at your living room. There are toys everywhere, brightly coloured plastic cups have left rings of orange and the remains of half eaten cheese sandwiches from lunch on the coffee table. There’s a few odd socks too. You feel like you have barely survived the day and there is bedtime to do yet. You start to wonder how everyone else is getting it so right, and you so wrong. You wonder what happened to the organized, happy confident YOU!

Ah parenthood, let’s be honest its hard, not only physically with the sleepless nights and a little human that needs you every second, or every day, but emotionally too. Navigating parenthood while making sure you are emotionally ok too is challenging to say the least. This can be even more difficult if we add to it the battle that many parents face due to struggling with a mental health condition.

Around 20% of women will develop a mental health issue either while they are pregnant or in the year after the birth of their baby and this doesn’t include those that already have a pre-existing mental health condition. Of course, it’s not just women but their partners too who can struggle. So, when it comes to perinatal mental health the family as a whole needs support and also to have information on how they can help themselves to keep emotionally well. Perinatal mental health issues are diverse, complex and difficult to diagnose, OCD, antenatal/postnatal anxiety and depression or PTSD are just a few that can leave families needing help. Sometimes pregnancy and birth has been a difficult time, leaving new parents struggling with feelings they don’t understand or finding it hard to adjust to life with a new baby.

So, what can we do to support perinatal mental health?

 

Acknowledge It

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Firstly, we all need to acknowledge that perinatal mental health is everyone’s business. Anyone can suffer from it. It doesn’t matter where you live, what career you do or the type of person you are. It doesn’t mean you are weak, or a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your children or that you simply can’t cope. We all need to maintain our emotional wellbeing, especially when becoming parents. Our mental health is never static but is a continuum of highs and lows that requires us to take notice of when we may need a little time to care for ourselves. With the responsibilities of parenting thrown into the mix we can forget that we matter too as our time is taken up with caring for our new family. The truth is we all struggle, we struggle with our beautiful newborns, our energetic toddlers, our questioning want-to-be teenagers and of course our actual teenagers. We are all doing the best we can, often in very difficult circumstances. So, we have to acknowledge that supporting emotional and perinatal mental health is a must for us all. Providing parents in the antenatal period with information on perinatal mental health can give them tools to use to keep an eye on how they are feeling and what to do if they feel they need support. Addressing mental health in families must become as normal as any other part of caring for families and by openly talking about the challenges we all face we can help make perinatal mental health something that everyone is aware of.

 

Ask for Help

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So, we acknowledge it, what can we do if we are struggling? Ask for help! Yes, it’s hard, but remember, asking for and accepting help will give you the support you need. Don’t struggle on afraid that if you say you’re feeling low or anxious you will be judged or questioned as to whether you are a good parent. There are many people put in place to give you the help you need from midwives and health visitors to baby groups and national organizations that can offer a listening ear or more tailored support. Remember too that your family and friends love you, and want to help in any way they can, so let them. A cup of tea, a sandwich, washing up those few plates or running the hoover over can be small ways they can help make a difference. Be honest too about what you can do and your expectations of yourself. Our mental health is like a bucket full of water. There are so many things that empty our bucket, tiredness, illness, caring for our family, work, etc. Before we know it our bucket can be empty and we have no water left to nourish us. We need to find things to replenish our water. This can be rest, exercise, reading, relaxation or a cuddle with a loved one, chocolate cake works wonders too! When we have a full bucket, the water nourishes us emotionally and can even help us to grow. Sometimes our bucket can spring a leak, such as a perinatal mental health issue, and our precious water gushes away leaving us feeling empty. This is when we must ask for help to stem the flow and mend the hole. Supporting perinatal mental health needs regular maintenance!

 

No one is perfect

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So, protect your emotional wellbeing and perinatal mental health by acknowledging it is an important part of your parenting journey, accepting the help of those that love you, and most importantly by keeping your emotional wellness bucket full. Let us all make it our business to keep caring for families emotionally.

There are no perfect parents, there are no perfect ways to parent, everyone is just doing the best they can. What matters is that families are healthy both physically and emotionally.

Parenthood is a journey that will takes us to many new destinations. We will face challenges and bumps along the way but there is help available and we are never alone. There will be days when you nearly leave the house in your pyjamas, or you find bits of toast in your hair and the only thing you really want is one more hour’s sleep, and you will cry because you will feel like everyone else is amazing at parenting but you. In reality you really are doing ok, so just hang in there.

Nourish

 

Emma Jane Sasaru

April 2018

For more information please visit Emma at http://www.signedemmajane.com/

New Growth for 2018!

Spring has sprung, it’s a time of new beginnings, the daffodils are poking out of the ground, let’s look forward to new growth and sunny days ahead…..

Spring is the perfect time for this type of blog post, announcing a new start, but unfortunately this year the weather is staying stubbornly chilly!  Nevertheless, Vanessa and Helen are feeling sunny (most days!) so we’re going with it, poking our heads out like daffodils despite the arctic breeze!

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We are very excited to announce that the Growing Families blog will be up and running again this year, and we have a number of topics and themes lined up for the coming months.  We already have some fantastic people who have agreed to write for us, and we would like to extend an invitation to anyone who would like to contribute to the themes below.  We may not be able to fit in everybody, but if you would like to have your thoughts, story or expertise included in any of these topics please do message our Facebook page:

April – perinatal mental health

May – special educational needs

June – surviving domestic abuse

July – supportive communities (we will be showcasing some of the amazing communities that exist to support families around the UK)

August – self-care; returning to the workplace

September – spotlight on roles (we will be looking at some of the roles held by individuals who work to support families, both voluntarily and professionally)

October – family life (including parenting techniques and relationships after children)

November – positivity for the winter months ahead

December – sharing, enjoying and surviving the festivities

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In amongst all of these themes we will be including parent stories, individuals sharing their own experiences, tips and perspectives.

Please do keep checking back on our Facebook page to see what has been published, and also keep an eye out on Twitter as we will be waving our petals in that arena again very soon!

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In the meantime, wishing you all the very best for the coming months.

Helen & Vanessa

Growing Families 2018

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With thanks to our friends and supporters for their photo contributions for this blog post – we wish we could have used all those provided!

Dealing with change as an expectant or new parent

Family Links is a national charity dedicated to empowering children, parents, families and schools to be emotionally healthy.  We were honoured to have them as Oak sponsors of our event in Manchester in October 2016. This is their third post for our blog series, and has been written for Growing Families by their Training Lead, Rowan Smith.

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Change, in its many guises, is inevitable and unavoidable. It happens all the time throughout our lives, whether it’s major or minor; positive or negative; planned or unexpected. However, parents going through pregnancy and looking after infants could be experiencing the most intensified period of change of their lives, and it’s important to be prepared and equipped with the right skills to cope with these changes.

The changes expectant and new parents can experience are varied and can happen on physical, emotional and social levels. The most obvious external change during pregnancy can be the mother’s bump, but pregnant women may also experience other changes that are less noticeable to other people, such as fatigue, sickness and raised body temperature, amongst others.

For both mothers and partners, emotional changes may occur during this time such as feeling stressed or anxious, feeling more maternal/paternal, and positive or negative feelings around body image. Social changes may also occur, such as possibly wanting to go out less frequently, which may be linked to some of the physical changes mothers can experience. Pregnant mothers may also notice an increase or decrease in their sex drive during different stages of pregnancy. These are just some examples of things that expectant parents may go through, and changes are likely to be different for every parent.

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Once the baby arrives there are also lots of other changes to consider. The way parents perceive themselves can alter as they as they have a new role as a mother or father, in addition to being a couple or a single person. There are also very practical considerations to be made around how extra jobs will be shared when the baby has arrived, in addition to pre-existing jobs around the household. A significant change for couples may be that as parents, two different sets of morals and codes of living are converging as you begin to raise a child together. It’s important for couples to discuss and agree how to bring up their child before the baby arrives, so that decisions aren’t being made when emotions are running high.

When it comes to preparing for these varied, significant and different changes, the most important thing is to plan and if you’re in a couple, to plan and communicate. Think about what might happen if a certain change does occur, and prepare for what you might do in that situation. For instance, an expectant mother might want to consider whether she’s going to breastfeed or not and what this might be like, while a couple might want to discuss the options around feeding; who will feed the baby when, and what are the practicalities of doing this? If expectant parents plan around how they might manage changes and different situations, it may be easier to refer back to what you decided together before the change occurred. This can be more helpful to parents and couples than making decisions in the heat of the moment, or when the baby is crying and you might be tired or stressed.

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For parents it can also be important to not underestimate that the little changes can be really hard. Infants change so quickly that it might feel like as soon as you’ve gotten to grips with the stage your baby is at, they’ve already moved onto the next stage. There may be a parallel between excitement for the new stage your baby has reached, but also a genuine need to mourn the stage they’ve left behind.

Practitioners working with new and expectant parents can offer support in preparing mothers and fathers for change. It’s often an issue of “you don’t know what you don’t know”, so for practitioners to open up the conversation can be very important, so parents can think about what is coming and how they might deal with it. For example, practitioners can pose hypothetical questions such as: “How are you going to manage getting the food shopping in when the baby arrives?” or: “How will you decide who soothes or feeds the baby when they wake in the night?” This allows expectant parents to discuss and think about dealing with different aspects of being parents that they might not have thought about otherwise.

Opening up conversations around these practical, emotional, social and physical changes that many parents experience can really help and support mothers and fathers in preparing for when their baby arrives. Practitioners can also offer guidance and ease worries by normalising the different changes that parents might encounter, so that when it does come they can look back to what they decided and discussed before, and know that other parents also experience the change that is happening to them.

By planning, discussing and making decisions about how to cope with different aspects of pregnancy and looking after a new baby, parents can be better prepared and more confident to deal with the changes that a new baby can bring.

 

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Rowan Smith
Training Lead
Family Links
November 2016