Helen Hayes meets families at LEAP at the start of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week
Helen Hayes MP has attended a LEAP group session, called Together Time, where parents with babies aged 3 to 8 months share their experiences.
Together Time is part of LEAP’s Parent Infant Relationship Service (PAIRS).
Helen is the Shadow Minister for Education and the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood.
Helen spent time at Liz Atkinson Children's Centre listening and talking with parents about their experiences during pregnancy and with their new babies.
PAIRS supports families to develop and strengthen healthy nurturing relationships. The Together Time group is a safe space to share experiences, and support each other. PAIRS mental health professionals facilitate the group.
The LEAP PAIRS service also offers one-to-one parent-infant psychotherapy. And it supports Lambeth’s parenting workforce to deliver other groups for parents. Services are for parents and babies from pregnancy up to the age of 4.
Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) is supporting Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, which is run by the Parent Infant Foundation. The theme for the week is ‘Bonding before birth’.
Helen also met Laura McFarlane (Director of LEAP), Tamora Langley (Head of Policy and Communications, Parent Infant Foundation), Ben Yeo (Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at PAIRS), Ben Curran (Campaign Manager, First 1001 Days movement), Melissa Kelsey (Clinical Lead at PAIRS), Emily Hamblin (Public Health Officer, LEAP), and Sophie Woodhead, (Assistant Director, LEAP).
Parents need support
More than one in ten women (11.5%) struggle to bond with their baby in the first few weeks after birth, according to a survey of over 1,000 mothers by the Parent Infant Foundation. And 71% would have liked more support during their pregnancy to bond with their baby.
Some stress is both expected and normal in pregnancy. However, severe anxiety or depression in pregnancy is associated with higher rates of mental health conditions in children.
Parents experience stress and adversity from a range of circumstances including:
- worries about finances
- housing problems
- mental health issues
- domestic abuse
- past adverse experiences
Stresses increase the risk that a parent will find it more challenging to provide a safe and secure parent-infant relationship.
Sensitive, nurturing relationships between parents and their babies are fundamental to emotional attachment and infant mental health. It is not widely understood that these relationships begin during pregnancy.
Mental health at stake
The quality of the parent-infant relationship during pregnancy is a predictor of the relationship once the baby is born, and an important factor for children’s future mental health. It can be hard for mothers, fathers or partners to admit when they are struggling to bond with their baby.