The new Scottish Government guidelines on “organised activities for children” instructs organisers to “set a maximum number for indoor organised activities to 10 people (no more than 5 adults).”
However, leaders of mother and baby support groups argue that these restrictions – imposed to halt the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic – will make sessions financially unsustainable. They have also warned that the lack of support for new mothers could lead to an increase in post-natal depression and stunt child development as tots no longer get to spend time with other youngsters.
Kathryn Lawrence of the Daisy Foundation Edinburgh teaches pre and post-natal classes for new and expectant mothers and parents offering education, community and support. She also set up the Kin Collective Family Wellbeing CIC social enterprise to support new mums online over lockdown.
She said: “New parents are feeling increasingly anxious and more isolated. They are talking quite openly about the missed time to create a community to share experiences and learn with new parents.
“The return of these classes has been long awaited and taking them away again will cause a lot of upset, impacting mothers’ mental health.
“We have waited a long time for all the correct Covid measure to be put in place, and now that our venues meet the necessary social distancing measures, it actually feels safer than meeting people in other places.”
Kimberly Roe, new mother and attendee of Kathryn’s classes echoed this sentiment: “Kathryn made us feel so safe in the class, and being in the presence of other mothers and babies is such an important right of passage for us.”
As a business owner, Kathryn’s concerns are two-sided. “I am hugely worried about the impact on families, and I also have to consider the viability of running the classes under the new restrictions.”
Sarah Wheatley, a psychotherapist at Birth and Beyond, also expressed concerns over what the measures will mean for new mothers.
She said: “Parents are not sure what ‘normal’ is because no one has experienced what they are going through. There is definitely a lot more antenatal anxiety, as giving birth feels even more scary and unknown to many women.
“Lack of emotional and practical support around the time of having a baby increases the likelihood that someone will develop post-natal depression. Not having access to friends and family can have a huge impact on mothers’ well-being.
“We have also seen an increase in birth trauma, with mothers having unplanned home births due to being asked to hold off until the last minute before going in to hospital.”
Another new mother, Kirsty Gibbins, highlighted how the classes have helped her emotionally: “A safe and controlled return to face-to-face classes provides vital opportunities for new parents to build their support networks, boost their mental health and make precious memories with their babies, as well as providing a valuable aid to their children’s development.
“I’ve already seen a big difference in my baby’s confidence from taking part in classes and playing with other little ones, and I’ve benefited hugely from being in the company of other parents going through the same experiences.”
Associated Scottish Government guidance, posted on September 24, said “The aim of this guidance is to provide clarity on what is expected with regard to practical approaches to reopening of activities, groups, clubs and services for children and young people, babies and toddlers, including their parents where they attend, that is unregulated and not covered specifically by any other sector guidance.”