Coping during coronavirus: through babies’ eyes
Page last reviewed: 11 September 2020
Caring for a new baby can come with varying stresses and challenges, as well as being a joyful time for many. In this time of international uncertainty, parents’ and babies’ mental health may be affected more than ever before.
With such unprecedented situations, no one could have prepared for this challeng;new parents are doing the best that they can with the resources available to them.
Alongside this, parents have the incredibly important role of supporting their babies and managing their feelings, helping them to feel calm and safe.
Parents can act as a ‘buffer’ – protecting their babies 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, are more able to support their baby’s mental health needs.
Some ways to protect and promote parents’ and babies’ mental health include:
1. Coping with social isolation
Being isolated from supportive family, friends and community members while adjusting to a new baby, can add further stress to the whole family.
Older babies and younger children may also wonder why they aren’t seeing important people in their lives, like grandparents and carers. 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 soon.
Babies and young children also have big feelings during times of change or when adults are feeling more stressed. Their feelings can be shown as challenging behaviour, such as becoming more clingy or changes to sleeping patterns.
Research has shown some specific methods can help baby to cope with strong feelings, such as using a sling or doing baby massage, to bring you both towards relaxation.
If you’re a family member or friend of a new parent, you can support the new baby’s mental health by listening to the parent supportively.
Using video calls, sharing photos and recording videos can help parent and baby feel more connected during this time of separation. This can also help baby to adapt and build those key relationships with you once they are able to see you in person.
Partners or family members who are living with a new mum can also support by making space in daily routines for mothers to have some time to recharge, for self-care and relaxation.
2. Interrupted health and community care services
With baby cafes and other community support options being temporarily interrupted, using face-to-face calls can help with staying emotionally connected and feeling supported.
This time of being alone at home with baby can be a wonderful opportunity of quality time and bonding with baby. Playful interactions, singing, reacting to what baby is looking at, and copying the sounds they make, can help with healthy bonding and provides baby with a sense of safety. This is a protective factor for baby’s mental health and can help you both build positive wellbeing.
It may be reassuring to know that even though there is a break in community services such as baby groups, babies’ development will not be affected as parents can provide enough stimulation to meet their baby’s needs.
While being confined to the home, routines can be helpful to provide security and structure for both you and baby. However, it’s also good to allow space for not having the perfect schedule. Small adjustments to your day after a sleepless night or a stressful morning can provide some needed flexibility into your daily timetabling.
3. Home and life circumstances
In some circumstances, it is even more important to build upon the factors that protect baby’s mental health. Being a lone parent, experiencing an abusive relationship, mental and physical health conditions, or money and housing issues can create challenges for baby’s developing wellbeing too.
You’re not alone – services are still open and available to help. Getting support when needed is very 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 baby is resting in a safe place, take time to get support by phoning a friend, family member or service who can listen.
4. Recognizing need and getting help
While some experiences can increase our risk of emotional and mental health difficulties, anyone can be affected by mental health challenges. For new parents who feel worried about changes to thoughts, feelings or behavior, it is important to access the help and support needed.
Mental health can change quickly during this time. All parents who face mental health challenges deserve appropriate and timely support, whatever the individual circumstances.
Getting support quickly when you need it will help you to feel better and to be the parent you want to be for your baby. If you are struggling you can contact your midwife, GP or health visitor and, in many cases, you can gain direct access to mental health services. There are also many options available for digital support during this time, including online support forums and virtual groups.
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.
Public Health England have developed explicit guidance on mental health in the crisis. If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can also visit the PHE 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.