Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 12-16 June.
Better Start Bradford’s 'Happy Mum, Happy Bump – Begin before Birth' campaign is highlighting the help available to families who struggle to cope with stress and worries during pregnancy, and aims to inform people of the lasting effects constant stress can have on both mother and developing baby in the womb.
Better Start Bradford will be handing out ‘Happy Mum, Happy Bump’ leaflets together with a small gift bag containing a massage ball with tips on how to use it to relax.
The gift bags and leaflets will be distributed at local antenatal clinics in the three areas Better Start Bradford covers – Bowling & Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton.
Rachel Wild, specialist midwife at Better Start Bradford, said, ‘Everyone has stress in their lives, and a little stress is fine. But, when we have ongoing stress for a long time, or a sudden traumatic experience, it can mean our level of stress becomes too much for us to bear on our own. When you are expecting a baby, this type of stress can affect the baby too, so it’s really important to support mums-to-be to help protect babies.’
Ms Wild added that, while it was not always possible to reduce the amount of stress in one’s life, it should usually be possible to get help and support.
‘Mums and Dads can speak to their family, friends, community projects, voluntary organisations, midwife, GP or health visitor. At Better Start Bradford we also have many projects to support families during pregnancy and post pregnancy such as our Perinatal Support Service, Bradford Doulas and Midwifery Support pilot to name a few.’
The Perinatal Support Service offers emotional support to families where a parent is struggling with their emotional health or wellbeing during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Sian Kilcommons, Bradford Perinatal Support Service Manager, said, ’Family Action Perinatal Support Service is a Better Start Bradford initiative and works in partnership with local parents, many of whom have had their own challenges, in order to help isolated mums and dads struggling with their emotional wellbeing.
‘We also help parents who are finding it difficult to bond with their baby to speak about their feelings in confidence, to build supportive networks and access the right support to help them and their baby develop a positive and strong attachment and reduce parental distress.’
Blackpool Better Start is running a separate campaign during the week, with the theme ‘Begin Before Birth’.
Blackpool Better Start is working in partnership with children’s centres and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to promote awareness and inspire conversation about infant mental health.
Information will be displayed in the community, children’s centres, hospitals and via social media.
Expectant parents participating in Better Start’s Baby Steps Antenatal Programme will also receive information about Infant Mental Health Awareness Week.
Dee McGregor, ex-Health Visitor and Development Support Officer at Blackpool Better Start, said, ‘It’s well known that bonding with your baby is critical, but not many parents-to-be realise that this can start before the baby is born. By talking to and connecting with your unborn child, you are helping to develop their brain and helping to shape and strengthen your future relationship.
‘Once the baby is born your attachment remains critical, and eye contact, touch and talking will all help to shape your baby’s brain and build a loving and powerful relationship. This week we are trying to engage with as many professionals and parents-to-be to really raise awareness of the importance of beginning [attachment] before birth.