A Letter from Dr. Pauline Lee, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and GM Lead in Parent Infant Mental Health…
Since lockdown began a year ago, about 35,000 babies have been born in Greater Manchester.
For babies this age across the UK, the first few months of life have been different from anything any baby or parent has experienced before. In many cases, parents have also had to adjust to parenting without the usual support network of friends, family and social groups.
COVID lockdown has affected all babies in different ways. The impact for some will be serious and long term if support is not put in place.
- Local authorities across England reported more than 100 serious incidents of injury and death involving babies under one between April and October 2020, up 50% on the previous six months. Of all the serious incidents involving children in that period, 36% were babies under one. (Ofsted).
- In the recent Working for Babies Report (Jan 2021), 98% of survey respondents said the babies they work with were affected by parental anxiety, stress and depression.
- Babies admitted to the Neonatal Units during lockdown also were affected with restrictions around parental access and some parents unable to be present together with their baby, resulting in a lack of close physical contact between baby and parent. The wearing of facemasks adds a further barrier to usual baby and parent interaction.
We are beginning to see the impact of giving birth during lockdown with worrying presentations of trauma in parents, not least those who have experienced a loss of a baby during lockdown. The experience of a loss of a baby affects parents, their families and also their relationship with future babies they may choose to have. We are also hearing from more parents who are concerned about attachment issues and sensory problems in children who experienced neonatal care. Support with these issues can be hard to access and this is causing stress and anxiety for families.
In April 2021 the government published The Best Start for Life: A Vision for the 1,001 Critical Days, a renewed commitment to improve the health and well-being of babies in the first 1001 critical days. It outlines plans to reduce inequalities in the services available to these children and their families, but sadly, does not allocate any extra funding.
In Greater Manchester there has been investment in a whole system approach to perinatal and parent infant mental health. Read about the GM Programme here.
However, COVID-19 has meant there is more demand for services and families are presenting with more acute problems than we have seen before. Babies need our help now, not later. Read Baby Ava’s letter and find out about her experience being born during lockdown (see attached).
We are working together and focusing our resources so that we are:
- Identifying parents and babies at risk early
- Providing support for all families, especially those with the most vulnerable babies.
- Working together across services, the voluntary sector and peer to peer support, so there are ports of entry for all families to access support, depending on their need and capacity to accept support.
Pregnancy and the earliest years of life are a critical time for brain development and bonding, both of which lay the foundation for future health and emotional wellbeing.
PLEASE KEEP BABIES IN MIND
Dr Pauline Lee
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
GM MHSCP Lead in Parent Infant Mental Health