Coronavirus (COVID-19) and mental health while pregnant and after giving birth
If you're expecting a baby or have recently given birth, the coronavirus outbreak might be making you feel anxious and isolated. Taking care of your mental health when you or your partner is pregnant or after having a baby is important for you and your baby - especially at the moment. You might feel a lot of pressure to care for your new baby – and it might feel even stronger due to the coronavirus outbreak. You might be worried about other things as well, like the health of loved ones, your job or getting sick yourself. We've got tips to help.
If you're pregnant it's a good idea to know what changes you might have to make to your birth plan. Having a stand-in birth partner might be a good idea if your first-choice birth partner is sick or showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). The way some services are being delivered has changed too so it's good to be aware of these and prepared.
Keep up to date with local information from your midwifery team - for example through maternity ward Facebook pages. You can get advice and information from trusted places like the Royal College of Midwives or the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Whether you're preparing to give birth or already have a newborn in the house, it's important to get as much rest as you can. This can be easier said than done but try to sleep when they sleep or let your partner help if they're at home with you.
Try and focus on the here and now. Each day can be exciting or emotional enough when you're preparing for life with a baby or getting used to them being here. Try not to worry too much about the future and things you can't control. And speak to someome who can support you if you're struggling.
Mums and dads often put extra pressure on themselves. Be kind to yourself and accept that you might not get everything perfect all the time.
Try limiting the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news and social media. Staying informed about the pandemic is important but over exposure to constant news, discussion and speculation can increase your anxiety.
Try keeping a journal or diary of your daily life or write a letter to your future self. This will give you space to jot down any anxious thoughts and help you focus on the fact that the current crisis will not last forever. You could also write a letter to your baby for them to read when they grow up about the opportunities and challenges these unusual times bring.
Keeping a mood diary to track how you're feeling can help you spot any difficult days, times of day or patterns in your moods. You can use this to think about how you can put a small enjoyable activity in each day to enjoy and look forward to, like listening to your favourite music, having a relaxing bath, doing some pregnancy yoga or taking some time to talk with friends.
Depression and anxiety can be common for soon-to-be and new parents and it's understandable this might be made worse by the current crisis. It's important to remember that you're not alone and there's support available to you. If you have any concerns or worries, speak out and get help from your midwife, health visitor or GP. You can speak to our trained counsellors by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There are lots of charities offering support to pregnant families and new parents - you can find national and local charity contact details on Best Beginnings.
Fight for a Fair Start
Demand perinatal mental health support for every mum, so that every baby and every family gets a fair start.
5 tips for getting babies to sleep
All babies have different sleep patterns and it can be stressful for parents if their baby isn't going to sleep easily. We've got 5 simple tips that might help you both get into a routine:
It’s important to help your baby tell the difference between day from night. Try:
- keeping your baby involved in your usual activities during the day
- going out for fresh air as daylight helps to set babies' body clocks
- keeping things dark and quiet at night and avoiding activity and eye contact to create a calm space.
A good sleep routine is key to having healthy sleep habits. Try doing the same thing every night so your baby learns to know when it's time to sleep.
This might include:
- quiet play
- a short warm bath
- a story followed by bedtime.
Sticking to the same routine can help your baby learn it's time for sleep.
Young babies can get used to falling asleep by sucking on a bottle or breast. From 3 months you could try separating the bedtime feed from your bedtime routine. This can help to avoid wind issues at bedtime and teach them to fall asleep without sucking.
Try putting your baby to bed when they're drowsy but not fully asleep. And use your bedtime routine as a wind down so your baby is ready for sleep.
If your baby can fall asleep on their own they're more likely to be able to settle by themselves in the night.
Aim for your baby to take regular naps in the day. This not only helps to establish more predictable times for eating but will mean they won't be overtired when you put them to sleep. And they'll settle more easily.
From 9 months of age try to avoid late afternoon naps.
How to calm a crying baby
Crying is the only way a baby can let you know that something's making them unhappy. If a baby is crying, it's not the end of the world, even if it sounds like it.
A crying baby might be:
- too hot
- too cold
- have a full nappy
- or just need some attention.
If you can't find what's making your baby cry, see if there's anything else you can do to calm them down, like:
- sing a song
- give them a baby massage
- go for a walk to change the surroundings.
Talk to other parents about how they calm down a crying baby, or visit an online forum like Netmums. Other mums and dads probably all have their own ways of soothing their babies and their suggestions could work for yours too.
Cry-sis is a UK charity that offers help and support for parents with babies who cry excessively or have trouble sleeping. Their helpline is available 7 days a week from 9 am to 10 pm on 08451 228 669.
As babies grow in to toddlers, they start to push the boundaries. When they get upset they might throw a tantrum and scream or kick.
This is normal, but it can be very stressful for parents. We've got tips and advice on how to cope with tantrums.
Tips for managing stress
Sometimes stress can become too hard to handle. But when you're looking after a baby or toddler, it's important to take action to relieve stress.
Having a few relaxation techniques can help you focus on your child's safety.
Feeling tired or trapped can make stress feel even worse. See if you can arrange set times when your partner or a family member can take over the baby care and you can have a rest or get some exercise.
Stressful events are going to happen. But if you already have a strategy in place to deal with them, it'll be a real help. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10 is a favourite but you could also go for a walk or get some fresh air.
Music can be one of the best ways to change your mood straight away. So you could make sure your baby is in a safe place where they can't come to any harm, go into another room and listen to one of your favourites to give yourself a short break.
Talk to other people about how they handle stressful situations. They might have a solution that could work for you too. Remember, it's okay to experience stress and frustration, you're not alone. It's all part of bringing up children.
Looking after you
Looking after yourself is also very important. There are tips to help you take 5 and react calmly in our guide on how to cope with tantrums.
You can also watch this video to hear from other parents about taking time for yourself.
Mindfulness guide for families
Looking after a new baby can be stressful, and it can be difficult finding the time and space to take care of yourself too. Our best-selling mindfulness guide is filled with exercises and activities to help your family understand and manage how you're feeling in the here and now.
Bonding with your baby
Before you know it, your child will no longer be a baby. But during these early years, the bond you form will build a solid foundation for you both.
You can start the bonding process before your baby's even born by talking to "the bump" even if you haven't picked a name yet.
There's a few things you can try to make your bond even stronger.
- Have lots of skin-to-skin contact - touch and smell are 2 of the most important senses in the bonding process.
- Smile, talk, sing, cuddle and play with your baby as much as you can.
- Learn some massage techniques - this could also come in handy when you're trying to calm a crying baby.
- Make eye contact - this could also help you tell your baby's mood.
Look, Say, Sing, Play - bonding and brain-building
We’ve got lots of fun and easy tips for bonding with your baby. Talking, singing and playing are all great for bonding, but they also help your baby’s brain to grow.
But it’s not just about singing or talking at your baby. Brain-building happens when you and your little one are interacting with each other.
Baby safety in the home
It's natural to want to keep your baby as safe as possible, outside or at home. So here are some important things to consider.
If you're going to leave your baby alone in a room, make sure they're not at risk of rolling or falling off something, like a sofa or a bed. Make sure that if you leave your baby, it's not a place where brothers, sisters or pets could accidentally cause them harm.
In any instance, have a thorough check that there's nothing within reach for them that could hurt them - for example, objects they might put in their mouth or cords they could get tangled up in.
Place your baby's cot by your bed or a mattress by their cot if you want to be close to your baby at night. There's a real risk that a sleeping adult could easily roll over and suffocate a baby.
Mae pob babi’n cyfrif: Cefnogaeth i rieni
Download our Welsh language guide with advice and tips for new parents on bonding with your baby, crying, difficult behaviour and what to do if you can't cope.
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