Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 7-13 June 2021 Part 3

Babies are Humans! or An IBCLC lactation consultant, breastfeeding counsellor and mother’s free associations around Infant Mental Health Awareness Week

Your body. Your mind. Your support network.

Let’s move onto the practicalities of what you can do now to shift your thinking and make an immediate start in this work, whether you’re just thinking about conceiving, you’re pregnant already or have your baby in your arms or one or more beautiful humans in your family already whom you call your children. I see this work come under 3 categories, and in each category I will offer you some further reading, assuming you would want to dig yourself deeper into this work and understanding for months/years to come.

These 3 categories are:

  1. Yourself: your body and your mind. Your support network.
  2. Your baby.
  3. Historical and geographical context for child rearing.

Hopefully just reading this piece will help to some degree, so please feel free to choose how far, how wide or deep you go into it, as only you know yourself and your circumstances. Take what serves you and please feel free to leave the rest behind!

Yourself: your body AND your mind. Your support network.


It’s a good idea to start getting into the habit of looking after yourself NOW. During your pregnancy, your body is changing, your hormonal balance is shifting, your mind is racing about all sorts of things. It’s vital to remember you’re not alone! Whether you have financial resources to pay for an antenatal or postnatal doula, an independent midwife, a mother’s help, takeaways, a nanny for your older children or not, there is support available to ALL. Self care begins with YOU. Yes, YOU. Getting into a mindset of asking for help from whoever is available IS HARD.

Zainab Yate and Naomi Stadlen explain these phenomena with amazing accuracy in their books listed on my reading list. The enormity of the challenge and the remarkable lack of support from our society clashes above the head of individuals:

“Breastfeeding mothers who are struggling in modernity are trying to exercise their autonomy when they feel trapped – for their own sanity – because the transition to parenthood is considered one of the most demanding and stressful life changes we face. And depending on how you are able to manage and deal with stress, it is not surprising that when making this transition, a sense of control will predict symptoms of anxiety and depression.”

Zainab Yate (*18)But there is a LOT you can do to prevent problems.

WHAT TO DO?-Surround yourself with like-minded people. They don’t necessarily come from your antenatal class: after all the only thing that brings you together is being pregnant which is, let’s face it, really common!

-Trawl the internet for local mother-baby groups, so you have a list ready to go when you feel ready. Attend them, get a feel for them, don’t feel obliged to stick with them if you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb. Your tribe IS out there somewhere! Don’t give up on finding it! I come from a breastfeeding background and see how the mothers in my local La Leche League group bond, friendships are forged and nurtured for years to come!

-Your biggest cheerleaders might come from a completely different age bracket or interest group: your yoga class, your grandmother, someone you go running with, your breastfeeding counsellor whom you phone when things get tough…

-Social media groups can be a truly mixed blessing. You have heard it all. Tread with caution. If it feels good, if you read what resonates with you, stay. Otherwise, click that ‘leave group’ button and move on!

-Read books from the list below. They have all been hand picked by me, for you, with love, and a sensitively resonant pregnant or newborn parent brain in mind. You can pick them up safely and be assured, encouraged and guaranteed to feel encouraged in your choices. You may be surprised I have included those with ‘trauma’ in the title. I believe that if you are armed with information, you’ll be empowered to take what you need and leave the rest. Being informed about how to deal with the fact your birth hasn’t gone as you planned, is POWER. There is a wealth of resources in these little books (the Why…Matters series), which you can use to your advantage, including UK charities where you can access FREE support, should you need to.

-Find the types of exercise for your body and mind that nurtures, refreshes, recharges you, if you haven’t already. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are accessible and work for so many people out there. Again, the wealth of resources out there are endless. Classes for pregnant women and parents with young babies are many and varied. You will benefit by gaining fitness AND building your social network.

-Anna Le-Grange has written a book especially for pregnant and breastfeeding and/or pumping mothers (see book list), titled Mindful Breastfeeding. It’s an incredible resource to gently ease you into tiny chunks of mindfulness practices that you can work around a busy life with a young baby.

-Going for nature walks (no matter the weather), your baby on your front or your back can be a truly uplifting, bonding experience. Don’t underestimate the value of getting out of the house even for 15 minutes at a time. You’ll feel like a different person!

-Once you’ve made it to the 4th trimester, TAKE YOUR TIME! Our culture doesn’t appreciate the amount of time it takes for your body to recover from birth, for your mind to adjust to life with a new baby, for your emotions to embrace the arrival of a brand new human into your heart. In many other parts of the world, 40 days is the very minimum a new mother receives nurturing, food, love, practical and emotional help from extended family and friends. Can you recreate a bit of this ‘baby moon’ in your life? Inspiration in the book: The Fourth Trimester. (*17)

-Find a private professional if you need more: if you can afford it and you feel the need to have that special attention from a private professional, seek it out. Do your research. Find who is available locally to do to support you through birth (doula? Antenatal teacher? Hypnobirthing professional? Independent midwife?), breastfeeding (IBCLC lactation consultant) and postpartum life in general (a mother’s help, a cleaner, a postpartum doula, a counsellor to help you with birth debriefing…)?

-Have a thorough health check! Things like thyroid issues are common after giving birth (postpartum thyroiditis) and can be treated relatively easily, IF anyone discovers you have it, as it can be easily confused with ‘ordinary’ postpartum tiredness. You may be lacking certain vitamins or minerals which, again, can be identified by performing a simple blood test and treated by supplements.

-Your baby will soon turn into a young child, then before you know it an older child and finally an adult. Just like you. Do you want to put down the foundations of a truly wonderful relationship with your offspring? Time to start. As we discussed above: with yourself. Hand in Hand Parenting is one of the truly wonderful organisations, for which I can vouch from positively life changing personal experience. Look up their website, they have a tonne of free resources online to get yourself immersed in ONE way of parenting. Their approach is unique in that they offer much needed and ongoing support available to all parents, where you can dive as deep as YOU need to, if necessary, unpicking your own triggers and sticking points from the past, so history doesn’t repeat itself if you don’t want it to.

-Feel into it. Is it your way? If not, find your own path. Keep searching. Read Philippa Perry’s book from the book list. (*21)

to be continued…

Your reading list

  1. Naomi Standlen: What Mothers Do (especially when it looks like nothing)
  2. Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld: Hold on to your kids
  3. James McKenna: Sleeping with your Baby & Safe Infant Sleep
  4. Sarah Ockwell-Smith: Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters
  5. Amy Brown: Why Breastfeeding Grief and Trauma Matter
  6. Amy Brown: Let’s Talk About the first year of parenting
  7. Emma Svanberg: Why Birth Trauma Matters
  8. Why … Matters series including Why Babywearing Matters from Pinter and Martin Publishers
  9. Lyndsey Hookway: Let’s Talk about your new family’s sleep
  10. Carlos Gonzales: Kiss Me
  11. Anna Le-Grange: The Mindful Breastfeeding Book
  12. Meredith F. Small: Our Babies Ourselves
  13. Jean Liedloff: The Continuum Concept
  14. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Sweet Sleep by LLLI (La Leche League International)
  15. How Do Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood
  16. Patti Wipfler and Tosha Schore: Listen
  17. The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson
  18. Zainab Yate: When Breastfeeding Sucks
  19. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill
  20. The Positive Breastfeeding Book by Amy Brown
  21. Philippa Perry: The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read
  22. Amy Brown: Informed Is Best
  23. Daniel J. Siegel: Parenting from the Inside Out
  24. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson: The Whole-Brain Child

Similar Posts