Covid: Baby groups 'forgotten' as Wales' restrictions eased

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image copyrightSarah Jones
image captionBabies, mothers and fathers, have been missing out on indoor group activities during lockdown

Parents with new babies have said living through lockdowns in Wales without being able attend indoor activity groups has been "really tough".

Some have said it has affected their mental well-being as they missed support from other mothers and fathers.

Those with businesses running parenting groups said they felt "forgotten".

In England, indoor events for young children are allowed, but no date has been confirmed in Wales.

The Welsh government has indicated that indoor activities for children will be part of the a Covid review on 13 May.

Emma Loyns, who runs music clubs for babies across Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, described the situation as "crazy".

"In Wales, the gyms are going to be open before we can start meeting indoors - it's unbelievable," she said.

She has only been able to operate her music activity club franchise for nine weeks since the pandemic closed everything down last year.

She has moved as many of her activities as she can online, but said the support role from meeting other new mothers and fathers was missing.

"I have had parents crying because they just haven't seen anybody else during lockdown, their babies have not seen anybody else.

"It is not just a baby group - it is far more than that."

image copyrightBeth Britten
image captionBeth Britten is worried about how more anxious mothers are coping with lockdown

Beth Britten knows that better than most.

A teacher, she is on maternity leave after having her second baby Audrey, five months ago.

She also has a part-time business hosting a baby sensory activity group at weekends in Swansea.

"It can be such a lonely time if it is your first baby - so in that sense, I've been lucky - I know what I'm doing this time around.

"But it is also about the social side of things and I certainly miss that."

image copyrightEmily Higgnet
image captionReady to play! But when will parents and babies return to sessions such as this in Bridgend?

From a business point of view, she said it had been a hard year.

"As a franchise owner, it's been horrendous. I'd only just taken it over a year last June, so I'd only really just got my numbers up. I feel like I'm starting from scratch again."

She said she was particularly worried for those new mothers who could have post-natal depression and how they can be coaxed back when lockdown restrictions were finally lifted.

"Those mums that are going to join us will be the confident ones who are ready to come out into the big wide world. I'm worried about the ones who are feeling apprehensive.

"It's hard enough coming out with a new baby, but having being locked in for so long, I think there are a lot of anxious mums and dads out there.

"That's the thing we have got to deal with now - how to reach them."

Sarah Jones is one of those mothers who took her first child to sensory play sessions around Bridgend, but has also experienced post-natal mental health challenges with her second child Sullivan, who was born in lockdown 10 months ago.

"It's been really, really tough," she said.

"The mummy friends and the support you get from those groups is incredible. To not have that this time around, it has been so isolating and so difficult.

"I think the biggest thing with the classes and baby groups is support.

"As much as the baby gets out of it, I think the parents get just as much or even more. You do rely on that mummy support."

image copyrightSarah Jones
image captionSarah Jones said she was missing "mummy support" after having Sullivan

The professional photographer said it also meant "mummy guilt" had become an issue for many.

"My little one has never been swimming, he's never been to a soft-play area, and even days out have been limited - so many places are just closed.

"I feel guilty Sullivan hasn't experienced what my other child has had."

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the restrictions on children's indoor activities could be lifted on 17 May, providing cases of Covid remain low.

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