Dr Sophie, co-founder and In-House paediatrician at Little Tummy, shares her top tips on how to cope with lockdown when you have a baby at home.
Having a baby is hard enough but if you are constrained to your home, possibly with having to look after older siblings, a house and a husband, it can have a severe impact on your mental health. In addition, it is difficult for the outside world to see your struggles. The most important thing in these times is to ask for help even before you realise you might need it. Here are some tips on where to find it:
1) Advice on (breast)feeding
Feeding a baby, both bottle or breast, is a tough skill to learn and often doesn’t come naturally. Especially during these times, it is important to find a way which suits you and your baby. This might be exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding or a mix of both. Call your local midwife centre if you are struggling to get support over the phone. UNICEF has a great video masterclass on latching and feeding. It can be helpful to find a dedicated space in your home where you can tune out the noise, get comfortable and enjoy this moment of bonding with your little one. Especially evenings and nights can take their toll when your baby is cluster feeding. Your partner can take over some of the feeds or just the cuddles in between feedings to give you a break.
Most importantly make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels whilst breastfeeding
2) Weighing your baby
It might feel daunting to go out to the newborn clinic to have your little one’s weight checked and some of the services might not be opened at the moment. Ring your local health visitor to check what safety measures they have in place. In general, if your baby is feeding well (at least 4 times a day), has more than 4 wet nappies per day and is awake and active, there is nothing to worry about.
3) Introducing solids to your baby
Just when you feel you have nailed motherhood and have established a fairly good routine, you take on the next step of starting to wean your little one and a ton of new questions arise. Try to keep it simple and take it meal by meal. Start with dark green vegetables, as they are relatively rich in iron and the earlier your little one gets used to bitter flavours, the easier it will be for them to stick to this healthy habit. Introduce one meal per day (e.g. lunch), this can be puree or finger foods, depending on what you and your baby prefer. After one month, introduce another meal (e.g. breakfast) and a third one after another month. Your little one will gradually reduce their milk feeds intuitively as they continue to eat more solids.
Starting solids during lockdown can be a great opportunity to think about what and how you eat. Maybe you will experiment and add some greens to your table. It is much easier and faster to prepare the same food for everyone. With the whole family at home, it will also be easier to introduce your little one not only to the nutritious but also sociable aspects of food as you can sit down as for a family meal.
If you are not sure if your baby is ready for weaning, learn more about the 4 signs of readiness here.
4) Relax around screen time for older children
Screen time has had a bad reputation and rightly so as sitting in front of a TV or screen leads to less physical activity. But what if you have to look after a baby and older siblings need to be occupied, too? The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has a very realistic approach to screen time. They suggest that using educational apps might even be beneficial for children. So make sure you download one of these and give yourself a break.
5) Rest when everyone else is resting
Try to plan your little one’s nap with a time frame where your other children can occupy themselves, e.g. with the above mentioned apps, and rest! This is not the time to do the laundry or clean the house. You have deserved to sit down, take a nap or do anything that will relax you.
6) Share the mental load
Whatever occupies your mind, try to share it with your partner. Juggling a baby, older siblings, maybe home-schooling and a household was never meant to be done by one person. Give concrete tasks to your partner or older siblings. And know that you are not alone in this. Every single mother in lockdown is experiencing the same feelings. Reach out to them and have a laugh over the phone.
I admit it’s hard to be isolated and not have anyone to share the mental load over a cup of tea with. However, there is always a silver lining. Some statistics say that breastfeeding rates have gone up because mothers have more time at home. The first weeks after having a baby can usually be filled with a horde of visitors who might give well-meant advice. It can be a blessing not to be bothered by them! Finding like-minded mothers online has never been so important, so go ahead and find your tribe. And always remember, this is going to end.
(The original article has been published on Crummy Mummy on 18th of May 2020)