175738673867375672 days in lockdown? Honestly we’ve lost count! The UK is in the midst of its third national lockdown. There is great uncertainty as to whether or not restrictions will be lifted in February and what exactly this will mean in terms of social distancing measures and getting life back to ‘normal’.
Fortunately there is hope with the coronavirus vaccination programme, of which I am fully in the swing of now. If you’ve been following Lotus Maternity’s social media, you will know that I am part of the care home vaccination team and since we launched the service on New Year’s Eve, I have drawn up and administered over 1.5 thousand vaccinations. As a nation we all sit speculating, 90% the conversations I have with mothers, nurses and fellow midwife colleagues on shift open with, “What do you think will happen with the lockdown?” Not one of us can say for certain, but what I do believe is that the status quo will not return to what it was for quite some time and to be able to socialise feely again is at present a distant dream.
So what will this look like for new parents and mums-to-be? 150 000 babies will be born throughout the covid-19 pandemic across the UK and what my midwifery career has taught me so far is that nothing can delay the arrival of a baby, as much as sometimes we might try! PS. This static was from The Nursing and Midwifery Council when I joined the covid 19 temporary register back in March 2020, so that figure is likely to have doubled with all these lockdown 1 babies making their arrival.
So birth cannot be put on hold (unfortunately) and pregnant women simply cannot just cross their legs and wait for it all to blow over! I have been contacted by many pregnant friends during this crisis whose anxieties and fears have escalated as the virus has scaled and intensified. Whilst I cannot provide any specifics on how covid-19 affects pregnant mothers or newborns, I can present first hand accounts to those expecting, from mothers with young babies who have been living through lockdown.
Thus I’ve teamed up with some of the mums who were part of our last Postnatal Plan course, which is designed to teach and support mothers with everything they need to know about caring for themselves and their babies in the first 0-6 months. All of these lovely ladies are first time mums to babies Walter, 12 weeks, Ada, 17 weeks, Rose, 16 weeks and Roman, 20 weeks old. Each had very active social lives prior to lockdown, taking their babies to massage classes, mother and baby groups, like our Postnatal Plan, and frequently seeing friends and family.
I’ve put together a few questions to help them share their different experiences of having a baby in lockdown and also to reflect on this period and how it may have affected their parenting. Just a note to say these interviews were conducted during lockdown 1, the babies have all now turned one and the mums are back to work. Nonetheless the advise is just as relevant today, as we’re living through lockdown 3. Here’s what each of them had to say:
Q1. Have you found it difficult to cope with a new baby in lockdown without having the support networks available physically? Ie. family/ friends, mother and baby groups etc?
Personally I have found it much more difficult that I thought I would, I have days where I feel really happy, optimistic and thankful of how lucky I am other days I cry and think I’m going to go insane! I think not having a break in the day to chat to other people or mums and having to constantly think of things to occupy baby is really draining…. I would usually nip to my mums or friends would pop over if I’m having a particularly testing day which helps so much but obviously at the moment that can’t happen. ~Hope
The most difficult part of lock down for me has been the fact that we haven’t been able to see our friends and family face to face. With Ada being so young still, every day she is learning new things and not being able to share those moments in person, especially with her grandparents has been hard. I also think we sometimes take for granted how much support and help your friends and family do give when a new baby arrives, but this is something I definitely wont in future.~Verity
Yes! My mum, stepdad, sister and brother in law had just moved to Nottingham so we could all spend more time together. So I have struggled, particularly without the support of my mum-before the lockdown happened she was coming over twice a week to help me look after my little girl and give me a break. It’s also such a shame that we didn’t get to go to the baby groups like we were planning. All the companies have been brilliant and used zoom etc. but it’s really not the same as seeing other mums and babies face to face and getting out of the house. ~Nat
In many ways having a baby in this lockdown period has been difficult, because the support networks that I had told myself throughout my pregnancy would help me when baby was here, were no longer accessible, for example close family members (we’re fortunate enough to have both sets of grandparents within a five minute drive), uncles, aunties and close friends. This has meant that I have had to spend nearly all day every day with a new baby, which can become very tiring and overwhelming at times. In addition to this, the professional and leisure networks have also become very limited or unavailable, with my eight week health visitor check having to be over the phone instead of in person, breastfeeding cafes no longer running, walk in weighing sessions closed and all mother-baby groups cancelled. These are perfect opportunities for meeting new mums and developing a peer support network, but also for reassurance from professionals that you’re doing a good job and not to worry. Lockdown has prevented these things from happening, meaning that support during this time has been very limited. On the other hand, due to lockdown, my husband has been at home for the past seven weeks, allowing him to spend more time with our baby and support me in a way he couldn’t have if he was at work full time (allowing me time to myself to read my book, sleep or exercise!). ~Libby
Q2. What are the benefits of having had so much one-on-one time with your newborn?
For me this time although testing has been such a wonderful time to bond closely with Roman. He sees me and his dad so much more and it’s made me actually take a ‘proper’ maternity leave rather than working here and there like I was before. It’s also been amazing to focus on his routine, especially his sleeping and naps which have improved huge amounts recently! ~Hope
A good thing to come from lockdown is the time we’ve all been able to spend as a family. Although at times having a baby 24/7 can be a little overwhelming, the days where everything goes right are just great. I have noticed a much stronger bond with her dad now too as he has been home with us (she thinks he’s the funniest person alive!) The time when they are small you never get back, so being able to have this time almost interrupted has really been special. We have also been able to work on our nap/ sleep routines without distractions and getting this sorted has really helped us set a routine that will certainly last post-lockdown. ~Verity
I think it has given us lots of bonding time which we otherwise wouldn’t have had (with visitors wanting cuddles/getting out and about much more). I also hope it has meant that my daughter has had a lot more stimulation- possibly improving her physical and mental development due to the amount of things I’m doing with her (a lot of it to prevent myself from getting bored!). For example, to keep both of us entertained I’m doing regular baby massage/baby sensory/baby yoga/reading books to her and singing to her all the time. It is very unlikely I would have had the time/inclination to do as much of that if I’d been off out seeing friends and family etc. We have also managed to develop a routine with naps/bed times and had the time and energy to devote to sleep training which has been so, so useful as we now get an evening as just us two! ~Nat
Spending so much time at home has allowed me to really understand my newborn baby – I have become attuned to his cues/demands and am able to meet them almost immediately due to being at home – I am not having to ‘make him wait’ to sleep, eat or nappy change due to something I have going on that day. It has also allowed me to get my baby into some really good sleep habits (no more dummy!), having the time to allow for him to take longer to go to sleep and not having any pre-made plans to disturb his ‘training’. ~Libby
Q3. What’s been the most difficult part about staying at home?
The monotony of it all! Most days are pretty much the same, no variance in people I see or new things for Roman to experience, whether that’s interaction with other babies or activities such as swimming. But most of all not seeing family, it’s been so tough on us all as we are very close to our families. ~Hope
The most difficult part about being at home over the past 6 weeks, has been the monotony that comes with each day. It’s not boredom because there’s always something to do, but each day rolled into one, without having anything to really look forward to. Before lockdown we had quite a busy schedule and enjoyed getting out and about but this changed almost overnight. Mentally adjusting to the restrictions was tough, as I suffered with low mood for quite sometime after Ada was born and I really didn’t want to dip back into this. I felt that you couldn’t always express exactly how you felt to others as there have been people much worse off than us during the lockdown. The loneliness that can come with having a new baby was certainly amplified and I am grateful for the Postnatal Plan support network (albeit virtually) that helped us through. ~Verity
I think I have mainly struggled with loneliness as I am usually very sociable and have a great network of friends and new friends in my NCT group. Although I have my husband at home he’s still having to work very hard so there’s a lot of time where I’m on my own with my baby. But I do realise I’m very lucky to have him at home and I’ve been doing lots of zoom calls to try and help that. The trick is to stay busy! ~Nat
The most difficult thing about staying at home is seeing how desperate grandparents are to see their grandchild and how much they are missing out on each day/week, particularly the grandmas. With having both sets so close by, they were so excited to be able to spend so much time with their grandson and having that taken away so completely has been really hard. ~Libby
Q4. If lockdown is to continue, is there anything you would do differently and what advice would you give to new mums having babies now who may be facing further lockdown measures, or social distancing at the very least?
I don’t think I would do much differently as we try to keep busy with the house, cooking, walking etc. I don’t think there’s much else I could be doing! If new mums are having a bad day, I would advise always thinking that it is one day closer to all being together again and the amount of time we will get with loved ones after lockdown is lifted will be far greater than the time we will spend apart. ~Hope
I imagine it is likely that some of the measures we have been living with will continue for several months yet. For any new mums or those expecting a baby soon, my advice would be not to put too much pressure on yourselves and take each day as it comes. No two days with a baby are the same and not being able to live our ‘normal’ lives can feel overwhelming, but if you don’t think too far ahead and just enjoy the small things each day you will feel much better. ~Verity
I’m not sure there’s necessarily anything I would do differently but personally what I found very helpful was having a plan for each day of a different activity (for example; Tuesday is baby massage, Weds is baby yoga etc). It’s also been great having the classes to look forward to, to catch up with other mums and have another planned activity for that day. The Postnatal Plan with Liv has been invaluable – it really set me up to start sleep training and getting a schedule. The other advice I would give is to get out with the pram (or even on your own if you have the luxury of a partner being able to look after the baby)! I have found getting fresh air every day really helpful. I think the other thing to remember is (and I keep having to tell myself this too) is that it’s okay to have bad days where you don’t really want to do any specific activities and you just want a bit of a break – and that feeling like that doesn’t make you a bad mother! It’s so tough not having the usual support network and the added anxiety of everything that’s going on so I think we need to be kind to ourselves! ~Nat
There’s not necessarily anything I would do differently, as I have tried to use this time at home with my baby as well as I possibly could – making sure I still introduce him to new things (using the internet for ideas e.g. baby massage, sensory ideas, play ideas etc.) and as mentioned previously, instilling some healthy routines into his day.
For other new mums in the same situation, I would highly recommend using the lockdown period to introduce new routines or make any desired changes to habits whilst having so much uninterrupted time at home (if baby is of an appropriate age). Additionally, if they too have a partner at home – use them! Getting even one hour a day to do something for yourself away from baby makes a HUGE difference to your mental wellbeing. ~Libby
Q5.Thinking back to when your baby was only a few weeks old and your husband had returned to work following paternity leave, do you think he now has a greater understanding, with being at home too, of what it’s like to care for a baby 24/7?
I’m lucky that Adam has always said he has the easier job going to work everyday, so I think he’s always understood how tough it can be! I think he was most shocked at how many naps he needs a day and how much of a cycle his little life is wake, feed, play, sleep! Even though he is working from home now, we still don’t see him most the day, so midweek there hasn’t been much change in who’s the sole care giver, although he can look after him before bed now as he is no longer commuting which is amazing! ~Hope
I was lucky that my husband had nearly 6 weeks off work after our baby was born, so he spent a good chunk of time with us but I still think that being around a baby 24/7 was still a shock. During lockdown I would say that he has become much more patient with Ada and is better able to cope with the demands, especially when she has her crying/screaming periods. The difficulty of looking after a baby in lockdown has made it harder for him, as he would have usually suggested to go out for example if Ada was having a bad day, but now we’ve had to learn how to adjust and are both much more tolerant. ~Verity
Absolutely!! To be honest my husband was always very good and admitted that it was harder work to stay at home and look after a baby than it was for him to go to work. However, I do think the lockdown has really helped him fully understand how hard it is. He is also very much appreciating the extra time with our daughter (around him also having to work from home). ~Nat
YES! I honestly believe that some men will now have a greater understanding and appreciation for the amount of work it is to look after another tiny human life! Speaking from personal experience, my husband has outright said, “I would not be able to do this all day” as he handed me back the baby monitor, with a crying baby. It is hard work, and I think alongside this greater appreciation will come greater support from the husbands/partners, as they have first hand experience now of what it is like to be around a baby all day, every day (particularly if they’re having a bad day)! ~Libby
Q6. Lots of mums report that they quite like it when their partner returns to work as they can get into more of a routine and just focus on baby, are you ready for your partner to go back to work or would you like them to continue working from/ staying at home?
As per above our midweek isn’t too much different to before but we will miss him being around in the morning and evenings as we love our time together as a 3 that would usually be taken by Adam’s commute. So I’m probably not looking forward to him going back too much! ~Hope
I have enjoyed being at home with my husband and we have adapted our routine as much as we can so we don’t kill each other! I think when he goes back to work, we will miss having him around as much but it will be better in a way as the time he will be at home evenings/ weekends we will not take for granted and ensure that we spend quality time altogether. ~Verity
I am definitely not looking forward to my husband going back to work! It’s been so nice to have the extra support 24/7 and for him to be able to bond more with our daughter. However, once he goes back to work hopefully it’ll mean I can see friends and family again so it could also be a good thing! ~Nat
I am very lucky in the sense that even after seven weeks with just my husband and baby for company, we are still very much a team and are happily getting on with life in lockdown. It has been great for our baby to get to spend so much time with his dad, and I really feel like he has got to know him far better than had he been at work. However, my husband is due to go back to work in a week’s time (he has been on furlough since lockdown began) and I know I will feel lonely to start with, particularly because we are still in a state of lockdown, so I won’t be able to replace him with close friends/family. He will be working from home which is better than him going to the office/sites all week, but he will be missed! However, as the lockdown measures slowly lift, it will be useful to get back to a state of normality. ~Libby
Q7. All of you are first time mums, what would you say this experience has taught you about motherhood and do you think you’d do anything differently now with subsequent babies, as a result of what you’ve learnt/ how you’ve adapted in lockdown?
The lockdown has made me stay in so I have had no choice but to potter round the house, relax way more and really focus on our little family. Before, everyday I would have something planned, people to meet, work etc. & looking back I probably did far too much to say I had just given birth. I think it’s taught me that I need to slow down, be kind to myself more and that it’s ok to have a day chilling, watching rubbish tv and eating! I will definitely remember this time if I’m lucky enough to have a 2nd baby. ~Hope
This experience has taught me that you can never have enough patience when looking after a baby! I think that it has also made me realise you do need time away from your baby and to do something for yourself, this is so important for mental well being. It is also ok not to enjoy every single minute of having a baby as some days with them are really tough! It doesn’t mean you love them any less. Speaking about these feelings with other mums helps alleviate some of the ‘mum guilt’ that you may feel and helps normalise what you’re experiencing. I have learnt that also the simple things can make a big difference, setting up a routine as much as possible helps so much for both mum and baby. You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive toys, babies just enjoy you playing with them and homemade toys seem to be Ada’s favourite now (a bottle with some rice and lentils in, was a real hit)! I am ready to try and get back to some form of normality, but I think the time in lockdown has made me in some ways a much better mum, which can only be a good thing. ~Verity
Definitely not to spend so much money on toys – my little girl’s favourites are a piece of a foil medical blanket and lentils in a small Tupperware container! I think it’s really made me aware of the importance of taking time out of your day to spend proper one on one time with your baby to play or do massage etc-it’s unlikely I would have done this so much every day as I would have been busy doing other things and I feel my baby has really benefitted from it. Another thing I’ve learned (and wouldn’t have concentrated so much on if it wasn’t for lockdown) is the timing of my baby’s naps and bedtime etc. I started using an app to know when her naps and bedtime were due and it has resulted in MUCH less crying/a happier baby as she isn’t getting overtired. We also developed a bedtime routine in lockdown that I doubt we would have started so early if we had lots of other things to do and this has been invaluable in allowing my husband and I a child-free evening to have some time to ourselves. ~Nat
I would actually try and be less busy with a subsequent baby, ensuring that I have some days in each week where I am just at home with no commitments, to allow for me to really get to know my baby and to meet their needs quickly to avoid any upset. It’s hard to say whether lockdown has made my little boy how he is, but he is a very chilled, content baby, and part of me can’t help but think that it may be due to spending so much time in a happy home environment with both parents unrestricted by work/leisure commitments. ~Libby
I’d like to take a second to thank the mums for their honesty in answering these questions because I certainly felt raw emotion in those words as I was reading their responses. I’ve worked and supported countless mothers this past decade and I think it can be difficult sometimes to admit that it is tough, through fear of judgment from others in admitting you don’t love your baby 24/7, 365 days a week. We’re all human and although mums do possess certain superpowers, unfortunately you aren’t super-human.
Having a baby is an incredibly special and life changing experience and I think having to care for a baby in lockdown is exceptionally tough, as those precious support networks and extra pair of hands are no longer physically there. Whatever tonight’s decision turns out to be, certain measures will most likely remain. Therefore, I hope that expectant parents or mums who have just left the hospital and are bringing their babies home, can take this advice from mums that have already ‘lived through lockdown with little ones’ and use it to your advantage.