Maternal Mental Health Week (29th April – 5th May) is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about the issues that new mams face before, during, and after pregnancy; helping people to access the information, care, and support that they need to recover. 

At Tiny Lives we are not just here for the babies that spend time in the neonatal unit, we are also here to support every member of the family as they navigate through their journey. Every family is different, and each neonatal journey is unique, but whatever your circumstance, being on the unit with your child can have a huge impact on your mental health. 

Remember that there is no right way to be feeling, and feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear are completely normal – that’s why we are here with support and guidance during and after your time on Ward 35. 

Key themes for this year’s Maternal Mental Health Week include the demystification of perinatal mental illness, finding your identity, and how we can all be stronger together. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby, so we wanted to share some self-care tips from Nicky Robertson so you can take time to focus on your mental health and well-being during and after your time with us: 

1. Take time away from the bedside 

Make sure to get out of the hospital for regular short breaks. Getting some fresh air and sunshine can lift your spirits and ease stress. 

2. Ask for and accept help 

Recognise that you have a lot on your plate and don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. Family and friends will be looking for ways to support you, and you don’t have to deal with everything on your own. 

3. Talk to someone 

Talking can help you to manage some of the emotions that you are feeling. Open up to a partner, friend, family member, one of the hospital staff, or other parents navigating their own experience. There are also professional resources available to you, you can find all of the details at the end of this article. 

4. Eat well & stay hydrated 

Finding time to grab a bite to eat or to remember to drink water can be difficult when your energy is being directed toward your baby, but it is important to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up so you can be there for your little one. 

5. Get enough sleep 

Sleep might be the last thing on your mind, but your body and mind will be exhausted. Try where you can to take naps during the day and create a new routine so you can get as much sleep as possible a night time. We know it is difficult but it will help you digest all of the new information being given to you and give your mind time to recover from highly stressful environments.  

6. Take a moment to breathe

Find a quiet space, either on the ward or on your own at home, close your eyes, and take some slow deep breaths until you find yourself becoming more peaceful. Take time to recognise and acknowledge how you are feeling in your mind and body before you move on to the next challenge. Even if you have never tried meditation before, a short 5-minute session can be beneficial if you practice regularly. 

7. Do something for you 

There are lots of emotions that can take a toll on your mental health. Taking time to do something familiar that you enjoy will help you switch off or reflect on how you are feeling. Try writing in a journal, reading a book to yourself or out loud to your baby, enjoying your favourite treat, or doing something creative. You can activate your self-soothing system when you need to by stroking your arm, massaging your scalp, or applying moisturiser. 

If you feel like you would benefit from speaking to a professional, there are Clinical Psychologists you can talk to on the Unit. Ask a member of staff or call 0191 282 4081.

Often it isn’t until you get home that you start to reflect on your neonatal hospital stay., Tiny Lives funds a Clinical Psychologist who is there for any parent who may need some support after discharge. Please get in touch with us directly and we can help with this, or feel free to ring the number above. Please do not hesitate to reach out, taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your baby!

Any parents who have left the hospital can access funded counselling sessions via self-referral to Tiny Lives. Counselling is available to any former Ward 35 parents, no matter how long you have been off the unit and you can attend as individuals or as a couple. For more information and to self-refer, please click here.