If you’re currently looking after a baby during the pandemic, please take a moment to reflect on the amazing job you’re doing. Parenting infants is tiring at the best of times, but Covid 19 has presented lots of new challenges. From closed play parks to being cut off from your parenting village, it has been tough to parent these past couple of years.
It’s not all bad news, though. There have been some silver linings to the Covid 19 cloud. If your partner is working from home, you might have benefitted from extra time as a family during these early days of parenthood. Many people have enjoyed the more balanced family life allowed by remote working.
The lockdowns also forced some people to slow down and appreciate their lives. Your baby’s early days can easily be spent zooming from one baby class to another, but lockdown meant the number of activities available was greatly reduced. Perhaps you have enjoyed this slower pace of life and the time spent bonding with your new baby.
Be kind to yourself
This is not a regular maternity leave; you do not have to hold yourself to unachievable standards. It’s ok that life has slowed down and that your baby isn’t attending classes every day of the week.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby during lockdown is to lower your expectations. Parenting in a pandemic is not a walk in the park, and it’s not the same as parenting when there’s no pandemic. You should not hold yourself to a pre-pandemic ideal.
The world is tough right now and all you can do is your best. You don’t have to be perfect. You are already enough for your baby. You are your baby’s whole world and your baby wouldn’t change you for anything. Don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on the bigger picture.
Put yourself first
It doesn’t always happen naturally, especially for new mums, but you need to put yourself first. You must secure your own life jacket before you can take care of your baby. Lockdown is tough, pandemic parenting is challenging and you are doing an amazing job.
Take some time for yourself each day and spend it doing something for your well being. This might be a stomp through your local park, an hour relaxing in the tub, or a phone natter with your best mate at the end of the day. Whatever you need, take it. You deserve to be taken care of, too.
Make sure your partner understands that this time is important for you and your mental health. Prioritize family well-being and make sure you both have time to focus on yourself. It’s tough without child care, so make sure you support each other.
If you don’t have a partner, it might be harder to carve out time for yourself as only one parent, but it can still be done. Utilize nap times to give yourself a break or relax once baby’s gone to bed.
What to do on maternity leave in lockdown
Your maternity leave might not look quite as you imagined it. If you saw yourself sitting in cafes, chatting with friends while your baby nuzzled happily at your breast, you might feel cheated by this pandemic maternity life. After all, what are you supposed to do when everything is closed?
The days can feel long when you’re trapped at home with a baby, and the pandemic has certainly made that struggle even more challenging. However, there are things you can do to pass the time.
Try the following helpful tips to make the most of your pandemic maternity leave:
Reach out to local mums
You’re not the only parent who’s sitting at home wondering how to pass the time. Try reaching out to other local mums with babies, it can make a huge difference to know you’re not alone. If you’re able to meet other people outside with social distancing, you could suggest a mum and baby walk in your local area. Or, if the weather is nice and outdoor gatherings are permitted, what about a mum and baby picnic in the local park?
If meeting up is not permitted, try setting up a group chat for local mums. Try posting on your local social media groups to find other people in your situation. Local baby groups might be able to help connect you to other babies and parents.
Get out of the house each day
It can be difficult to motivate yourself when there’s nowhere to go, but getting out each day is always a good idea. Spending time surrounded by nature and breathing in fresh air can lift your mood and help you appreciate the simple things in life.
Dress in weather-appropriate clothing and bundle your baby into the sling or buggy each day for a walk. You can be adventurous and go for a long walk or do a shorter local walk, it’s up to you. You might find your baby will nap while you’re out, freeing you up to enjoy a podcast or some music during your walk.
If you’re able to, meet up with friends or family for walks. Your baby will enjoy seeing new people and you will benefit from the social connection and adult conversation.
DIY baby class or child care for one
You can easily recreate some of the baby classes at home. OK, you won’t get adult conversation or free biscuits, but you can still create a nice bonding activity for you and your baby. If you have a newborn, you could follow a YouTube video and recreate a baby massage session for your beautiful babe. For an older baby, why not set up a messy play activity? There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest and your baby will love getting messy and having fun. Bonus point, attending your DIY baby class won’t cost you a small fortune!
Staying connected during lockdown
One of the hardest things about Covid 19 has been the isolation from loved ones. If you have had a baby during the pandemic, your little one might not yet know your friends and family members. You might feel heartbroken for the grandparents who have missed out on so much of their grandchild’s early months.
Staying connected to friends and family during lockdown is important for everyone’s mental health. While they might not be able to cuddle your newborn, they can still cherish watching baby grow from afar.
Here are some ideas about how you can stay connected during the pandemic:
Have regular video chats with family members
Video calling has been a saving grace during the pandemic. Make sure you make use if it so that grandparents can see their grandbaby growing up. Video chat is much better than a phone call because it means they can have eyes on the baby. They will notice how the baby grows and changes each week. Have a set day each week for a video call so it’s something you can all look forward to.
Post regular updates
Whether you do this on social media or on a private group chat is up to you, but be sure to post regular updates about your baby. Your family will love being kept in the loop about how your baby is developing. Grandparents are missing so much during the pandemic, but regular updates could help them to feel involved from afar.
See each other when the rules allow
The rules are changing constantly so you’ll need to keep up-to-date with what the latest guidelines are where you live. If you are able to see your loved ones, be sure to do this. Meeting outside for walks and having a cup of tea in the garden are easy ways to stay connected when you can’t meet indoors.
Create a photo book
Having a photo book filled with pictures of your loved ones might help you. You can show your baby the people who cannot be present and tell stories about each one. This is a great way to introduce your baby to your friends and family and will help you to feel closer to the people you love.
Playing when parenting infants during the pandemic
Playing with your baby is important and will help your little one’s brain development. Infant development relies on stimulation and interaction. This doesn’t mean your baby is at risk of delayed development because of the Covid 19 pandemic, but it does mean you should make an effort to interact with your baby throughout the day.
Here are some ideas for games you can play with your baby at home:
Once your baby learns to babble, you can babble right back to her. Repeat each sound your child makes. Your child will love chattering away with you. Leave time for your baby to chat before repeating the sounds back. This to-and-fro conversational style is important for babies as it encourages language development. You can also copy baby’s facial expressions and gestures.
What’s in the bag?
For this game, you’ll need a bag (a pillowcase will do) and some toys or household items. Hide one of the items in the bag. Give the bag to your baby to explore. Don’t rush; wait to see if baby can find the item hiding inside. Describe each item. What is it? Is it soft, hard, noisy? You can repeat this game with different items until your child gets bored.
Chores, but fun
Without your regular childcare or family support, you might be struggling to stay on top of the housework. Don’t worry, you and your partner will be able to get the house tidy while entertaining your baby. Babies benefit from listening to you chat so talk your child through everything you do. If you’re folding laundry, tell your baby about each item as you fold it. Give her some clothes to play with. If you’re cleaning, give her a clean cloth to play with.
For more fun games you can play with your baby at home, look at Baby Games – 5 Fun Games To Help Your Baby’s Development.
How has the pandemic affected babies?
Babies born during the Covid 19 pandemic have had very different early months to those born before. Firstly, they have missed out on social interaction during these early days. They have missed out on baby groups and activities that might otherwise have filled their social calendars. And pandemic babies have been born to parents struggling without family support.
There is some evidence that babies born during lockdowns are experiencing slight developmental delays. They are nothing to worry about, it just means babies might not be ticking so many boxes at their developmental checks.
Researchers think parental stress could be playing a part here. Are new parents worried about the Covid 19 pandemic, financial insecurity or suffering from isolation? Yes, probably all three. New families struggling without support might be less able to support their baby’s development.
There is also an argument that limited support for new parents means some parents simply don’t know how best to aid their baby’s development. Pre-pandemic, new parents received plenty of help and advice from local services. Pandemic parents might have worries about their baby’s development but are unsure about how to access help.
If you have any concerns, please contact your doctor for advice.
Postpartum depression and Covid 19
Experts have noted increased numbers of women suffering from mental illness, such as emotional distress and postpartum depression, during the pandemic. This is hardly surprising when you consider that many families have been trying to raise their new babies in isolation, away from the help and support of friends, families, and local services.
If you think you might be suffering from postnatal depression, please reach out to your healthcare provider. There is help available, even in lockdown. Your healthcare provider will be able to get you the help you need to be able to thrive as a new parent.