Caring for a new baby during the pandemic
Page last reviewed: 6 January 2022
The stress of caring for a new baby during the pandemic may affect your and your baby's mental health.
Parents have the incredibly important role of supporting their babies and managing their feelings, helping them to feel calm and safe. Parents are a ‘buffer’ – protecting their baby from what is happening in the outside world by providing consistent, secure care.
Parents who can care for their own feelings, especially during times of added stress or uncertainty, can be more able to support their baby’s mental health needs.
Here are some ways you can protect your and your baby’s mental health.
1. Coping with social isolation
The pandemic may mean you’re more isolated from supportive family, friends and community members. This can be very stressful, and might not the start to parenthood that you imagined.
Older babies and younger children may wonder why they aren’t seeing important people in their lives such as grandparents and family friends. It can be helpful to talk to them about this, show them photos and let them know that those adults are still thinking of them and looking forward to seeing them.
Babies and young children can have big feelings during times of change or when adults are more stressed. They may express their feelings through challenging behaviour such as becoming more clingy or having different sleeping patterns.
There are some specific methods, such as using a sling or doing baby massage, that can help your baby cope with strong feelings and make you both feel more relaxed.
Using video calls, sharing photos and recording videos can help you feel more connected with family and friends if you’re not able to be with the important people in your life.
If you live with your partner or with relatives, they can support you by making space for you to recharge, take care of yourself and relax.
2. Managing without in-person community support services
If baby cafes or other community support groups are temporarily closed, you might feel disconnected from other new parents and unsupported. Check to see if any groups have moved online: it won’t be the same as meeting in person, but might help you feel more connected and heard.
Spending time alone with your baby can be a wonderful opportunity to bond. Playful interactions, singing, reacting to what baby is looking at, and copying the sounds they make can help with healthy bonding and provides your baby with a sense of safety. This can protect your baby’s mental health in the long-term and can help you both build positive wellbeing.
Routines can be helpful to provide security and structure for both of you. However, don’t get fixated on having the perfect schedule. Small adjustments to your day after a sleepless night or a stressful morning can provide some needed flexibility into your day.
3. Dealing with difficult home circumstances
Being a lone parent, experiencing an abusive relationship, living with mental or physical health conditions, or dealing with money and housing issues can not only be difficult for you but also create challenges for your baby’s developing wellbeing.
If you need help, remember you’re not alone – services are still open, even if they’re not face-to-face. Getting support is important, especially when we’re facing significant life challenges.
In moments that feel like too much to handle, try to be kind to yourself. Take a moment to breathe deeply; make the most of soothing music or a cup of tea. While your baby is resting in a safe place, take time to get support by phoning a friend, family member or helpline. The Maternal Mental Health Alliance has information on parenting during the pandemic as well as a list of useful organisations (scroll down to their section for new and expectant parents).
4. Recognising when you need help
Your mental health can change quickly as a new parent. Postnatal depression is one of the most common problems that parents can experience: our page can help you recognise the symptoms and get help.
Getting support quickly can help you feel better and to be the parent you want to be for your baby. If you are struggling, contact your midwife, GP or health visitor. There are also many options available for online support during this time, including support groups for people who are affected by postnatal mental illness or have experienced postnatal psychosis, and online forums such as Netmums.
The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.
We need your support to keep providing vital information during this time.
If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.
If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.