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Wondering how to survive the Covid-19 pandemic with a new baby?

Many mums are understandably anxious about Covid and what it means for them if they have a new baby, or are expecting.

Love it or hate it, our hard border in Western Australia has meant that we have lived Covid free for most of the pandemic. This is about to change on 5 February 2022 when WA opens up.

Here are some tips on how to manage your social and emotional wellbeing in the lead up to next month.

Be informed

There is so much information out there – it’s the number one story on the news, but it can be really difficult to get your hands on accurate information. Mainstream media favours sensational story lines and click-bait, but this isn’t necessarily the most helpful or relevant information for you and your family.

If you’re wanting to get pertinent, helpful and accurate information, then speak to medical professionals. These are the people trained and qualified to give you the most helpful information about yours and your baby’s health and the implications of Covid.

Other great sources of information are:

· Your treating specialists – particularly if you have underlying health issues; and

· Professional organisations such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association and the World Health Organisation.

Accessing information that is important to you can help you make informed decisions for your family based on the facts, not fear.

Be Prepared

There are plenty of practical steps you can take now to prepare for the coming weeks, and I’m not talking about stockpiling toilet paper!

Having the basics to look after yourself and your family can help prevent getting Covid and look after yourself in the event that you do become ill. Hand sanitiser, face masks, paracetamol* and electrolyte drinks* are really helpful to have on hand if you are ill, and to prevent transmission (*please check with your GP or pharmacist before taking any medication if pregnant or breastfeeding, and before administering any medication to your baby).

If you have capacity to cook a few meals and freeze them to use later on if unwell, your future self will likely really appreciate this!

If you have a toddler, maybe you can set aside a box of toys and activities for days that you’re not feeling well. They’ll be entertained by “new” toys which can buy you some time for a much needed rest.

Having a few practical considerations taken care of now, can make life a lot easier later on.

Think about alternatives

Can you stay at home and do click and collect grocery orders or get them delivered? Are there family members and friends that can help out? What places can you avoid going to? Do your health care providers have tele-health options?

These are all things to consider, but remember

1. We are social beings; and

2. Consider your baby’s needs for sensory nourishment to keep them dialled down.

Don’t hide away and isolate yourself from others. Being a new mum can feel like an isolating and lonely experience even without a pandemic. Having mum-friends who understand what you’re going through can be really helpful and therapeutic. We are so fortunate that in 2022 technology means that video-calls are accessible to most. Make yourself a cuppa and have a virtual coffee date with a friend!

Step outside into the sunshine and fresh air, head down to your local park for a stroll, or pick up a takeaway coffee from your local café – these are all lower risk options to fill your social cup and your baby’s sensory needs, which is a win-win for mum and bub.

Practice Mindfulness

Being bombarded with bad news in a time when we might already feel a little more on edge, concerned and vulnerable can be really difficult for new mums. We can feel the pangs of anxiety when we are thinking about the unknown, especially when we have very little control over it.

One of the most effective tools for combating this is to practice mindfulness. This is something you can do right now! In fact, it’s best to practice this when you’re calm and have a headspace that is more receptive to learning. Trying something new when you’re already under the pump can be a big ask of yourself.

Anchor yourself in the present moment. What are 5 things you can see, hear, smell? Press your feet firmly into the floor below you. Notice where your body is touching the chair or couch that you’re sitting on. This can really bring you back into the present moment, stop you ruminating and thinking about all of the “what if’s”, and promote a calmer state of mind.

Set Boundaries

You are your baby’s number 1 advocate and carer, and it is totally reasonable to want to limit the number of visitors during a global pandemic. You are under no obligation to have to entertain guests, and pass your baby around like a canapes platter at a cocktail party! Pandemic or not, this always holds true.

It is reasonable to say no to visits, ask that people not visit you if they are unwell or have been identified as close contacts, and ask them to wash their hands before they touch the baby. This is just common sense and good hygiene.

Have a think about what your boundaries are, and practice assertive communication to get your point across in a respectful way that promotes healthy relationships with family and friends.

Practise Self-Compassion

Now is the perfect time to let go of the perfect mother myth.

If you do happen to get Covid, and you’re feeling unwell, now is not the time to put extra pressure on, or berate yourself. You don’t need to have organic veggies from your local farmers market for dinner, and if your toddler is watching more TV that usual, that is totally fine.

Remind yourself that you are doing your best with the resources you have in this moment. How can I be kinder to myself? How can I set more realistic expectations of my mothering when I am ill? What would I say to a friend who is unwell and feeling guilty because she ordered uber eats for the third time this week?

As a single mum, when I am sick it’s just about getting through. I make time for myself to rest, and sometimes that means we have a quick dinner, or that miss 3 watches TV. I value myself enough to make time for healing and recuperation, and there is no need to feel guilty about that.

Repeat after me: "I am a good enough mum". Pandemic or not, that's a valuable reminder for yourself.

Want mental health support?

Julia D’Orazio is an Accredited Social Worker, Possums NDC Practitioner, Postpartum Doula and Motherhood Studies Practitioner.

If you’d like some support with your mental health during the pandemic, contact One for Women on 9328 0500 to make a counselling appointment with me, or contact me directly through my website.

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