Over 500,000 babies have been born in the UK since the beginning of lockdown last year. Lots of these parents are new to parenting and have not had the same opportunities to connect with midwives, health visitors and a growing network of family and friends for support and advice. It is well-known that the transition to motherhood involves psychological and physical changes that may cause postnatal depression, anxiety and loneliness in normal circumstances, let alone in the current situation. Feeling isolated and lonely can have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing, especially if these feelings last a while. So, what is the impact of social isolation on new mums? Three new mums tell their story.
Lockdown certainly wasn’t how I ever envisaged having a baby. I expected to spend my maternity leave with a diary full of playdates and baby classes. Instead, I have a life of isolation with a baby for company. I have an amazing partner, but my daytime interaction is limited, and I find myself craving adult company and conversation. I was shocked to find a lack of interactive baby classes online. I found a ‘baby class,’ only to be disappointed that it was a pre-recorded video. A friend suggested doing baby massage online. I was cautious as I wasn’t sure how this would translate to an online platform, particularly as massage is about touch. I was so pleased to find my worries were unfounded. Baby massage was interactive and fun. Everyone was included which facilitated a good connection with the other mums in the group. I really enjoyed being part of a group and asking the other mums questions about how their massage journey was going. At the end of the course, I feel I came away with a closeness to the group of mums, which has been so important in reducing the sensation of loneliness, I know there is another mum out there feeling the same as me.
I gave birth to my son in the summer of 2020. Initially, I was overjoyed to be able to spend so much uninterrupted time with my beautiful baby. However due to living so far away from my family and friends, I quickly became isolated and extremely lonely. The first 3 months of motherhood was a difficult time for me. My days became a baby blur in which I lost my sense of self. I had heard about baby massage, but I was nervous about doing a course as I was worried that I would get it all wrong. But with each session I began to feel more comfortable. Baby massage really pulled me out of some dark days. The weekly chats helped me feel more relaxed and confident as a mum and learning the strokes provided me with a wonderful daily activity to do with my baby.
Soon after my baby was born the government increased the restrictions. This created the most heart-breaking emotions for me in that our family and friends would not been able to meet our baby. Then my partner went back to work, which was another struggle that I had not fully anticipated. On top of this we were experiencing issues with feeding and I was in a lot of pain. This was when the feelings of loneliness and isolation took effect. When one of the mums in my postnatal class suggested baby massage, I knew it was exactly what I needed. I was initially disappointed that it was online, but the classes were so well organised with a calm and welcoming atmosphere that I looked forward to the session every week. The baby massage course was informative as well as supportive. Over the weeks I felt more relaxed and able to open up to the other mums. There were many challenges to being a new mum and the pandemic highlighted and exaggerated these. While some of these have been negative, baby massage has been a positive one.
Motherhood should not be done in isolation, the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is as true today as it ever was. One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. So, when new parents are encouraged to ‘stay at home’ they are vulnerable to loneliness. It is clear to see from the honest and heart felt stories that online baby massage classes offer many benefits. Not only in supporting the emotional and mental wellbeing of new mums and deepening the bond they have with their baby, but also in providing the opportunity for new parents to gather and share their common experiences.
If any of this resonates with you, remember that you are not alone. Please get in touch with an IAIM baby massage instructor, or reach out to professional charities, a friend, or member of your family that you can trust. Together we can tackle loneliness.
Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI) for International Association for Infant Massage (IAIM)