Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 7-13 June 2021 Part 1

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

Part 1 INTRODUCTION and food for thought

(Throughout the article: star followed by a number in brackets e.g. (*8) means reference number 8 in our collection of references at the end of the article, to be published on Saturday, day 6)

I’ve been asked to write something for INFANT mental health awareness week. I had been taken by surprise and had to look up what IMHAW meant. When I found out about the rich programme being offered in the UK, it was a HUGE sigh of relief. Why am I excited for this topic to be talked about? Let’s start at the very beginning…In my years of growing up (in 80s and 90s Hungary), I can’t remember often being asked what I wanted, what my wishes were. It just wasn’t the done thing. When I ask my husband who grew up in England, he has similar memories from the 70s, 80s also. In my work, initially as a teaching assistant, then a primary school teacher, we didn’t often have the space to allow free choice to children under our care. We did things TO them.

Once I started my own family, in 2010, many many parenting books and courses of all approaches often told me how to care for my baby, what to do TO them or WITH them. At best, they told me to be gentle, listen to their feelings and try to acknowledge those, while trying to do no harm.

The search continued. There seemed to be a very important missing link.Then I ventured to find my own path and calling, and about 8 years ago became a breastfeeding supporter, first and foremost in a voluntary capacity as a breastfeeding counsellor, and more recently as an IBCLC lactation consultant.

This new career path has given me the privilege to spend a considerable amount of time around families with bumps, newborns and young children. In my work, I help mothers breastfeed their babies. It is a lot more varied than just the mechanics of latching a baby on or dealing with milk supply issues. All too often, these mothers are at best exhausted, at worst completely traumatised by having to mother in a society that doesn’t necessarily value motherhood. (*1)

Having to do the hardest job of their lives WITHOUT all the support networks of -their families (often overseas), -their community (isolated alone in a home) and -support networks (the service to support them either doesn’t exist or it’s out of reach, perhaps just have failed to be linked up with it). Imagine being a mother, a parent who is struggling to keep their head above water, who is on the verge of drowning. And we’re not just talking about people with mental health issues, severe illness or isolation, not necessarily in (although clearly exacerbated by) COVID pandemic times. (Have you ever felt like one of them yourself?)How can anyone in such a state be responsible for caring for another, helpless human being? To give up all hours of the day, day and night, selflessly putting energy, thought and time, not sparing money and resources available to us… just to keep that little human alive! We try our best to make them thrive. But is it humanly possible? Thankfully, there is an ever growing awareness of adult mental health issues these days. Parents are impacted by it to an ever greater degree.

Who hasn’t come across a friend or an acquaintance with post-natal depression, birth trauma, parenting struggles, who themselves hasn’t ever felt on the verge of ‘throwing in the towel’ or (on occasions) our kids out the window at least once?

Naomi Stadlen, in her book What Mothers Do, quotes mothers of babies of 6 month olds:

“During the day, it’s hard to believe that how I feel at night can be real. I get so tired then that I feel I can’t go on. It sounds terrible, but I’ve just prayed to God to let me pass away.”


“I screamed at F: ‘I don’t care about you! I don’t care about G. All I care about is getting twenty-four hours’ sleep.’”

What anyone in this situation needs is not judgement but a warm hug, a nice cup of tea and someone to LISTEN. Someone to support. Practically. Emotionally.

Someone to hold space.

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

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