In the past couple of months, we've heard several stories from parents on how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown affected their experiences of pregnancy, birth, and being a new parent. Read on to hear from new mothers Roopa and Bethan.

"To say those first few weeks was a whirlwind is an understatement. Recovering from childbirth, trying to persevere with breastfeeding through the pain & wanting to give up thinking my supply had run dry, the crying (not just from Theo) and the debilitating lack of sleep; (which no one can prepare you for) is mentally draining for a first time mum, that’s just in ordinary times. For 6 weeks I had my husband, my family, in laws & my friends round contributing to my village support. I suffer with anxiety due to my OCD & therefore didn’t feel ready to go to any baby classes or the breastfeeding clinic, and Theo and I had only been out on our own once before lockdown was imposed.

When I felt ready to go out, we had to stay in. My husband worked from home stealing a few cuddles here and there, but other than that it was just Theo and me. Theo was 6 weeks old when lockdown started - he’s now 28 weeks. I grieve for my lost maternity leave. The leave, opportunities & memories that other Mums before me have experienced. It's hard enough suffering with anxiety, buying a home, moving to a new city, being a first time Mum & then throw a pandemic into the mix; the last 5 months have been one long & lonely rollercoaster ride. I grieve for the lost support from the in-laws who live round the corner and could have watched him while I caught up on lost sleep. I grieve for the lost memories between Theo & family; memories my parents will never get back with their first grandchild. It saddens me that it’s normal for Theo to see his grandparents via a screen instead of in their arms. I envisaged going to groups, meeting other mums & baby friends for Theo, sharing stories and advice. Being reassured that the things that happen in motherhood are ‘normal’. Instead google has become my friend & what I’ve used to help me begin our weaning journey. I have joined online sites but there is no substitute to face to face interaction.

As Theo doesn't know his grandparents or Aunties, who would have supported with childcare, along with nurseries not taking on new babies until the new year, and the lack of socialisation Theo has had outside of our home being in lockdown, we have therefore made the decision to take the unpaid part of my maternity leave and struggle in those last 3 months, as precious time with Theo is more important." - Roopa Robson

Here's Bethan's story.

I had my son via a planned section at 38 weeks due footling breach and severe SBD. It was quite clear to my midwives and health visitors that visited me in the first few weeks that I was suffering from being so isolated, recovering from surgery, and an infection that required a visit to hospital that I was suffering from Postnatal Depression and was told I would be referred.

Baby classes forced me to leave the house and meet new mums the same as me and helped ease the unknown of being a first time mum. I then contracted the virus and began isolating early March, and was still isolating when lockdown hit - my son was 10 weeks old when we isolated. I quickly realised that I wasn’t just suffering with PND, I was suffering from PTSD from mental abuse. At that point my doctors had closed (bar vaccinations) and health visitor service was voicemail only. Nothing came of my referral at that time.

In May, my son developed what I now know is a reflux issue but at the time my health visitor advised it as something else. Weeks went by my son suffering, until finally I had enough. I waited over a week for a call back, and then another week for someone to be able to come and weigh my son. This led to a misdiagnosis from the doctor of a dairy allergy, so then I waited another 4 weeks for a referral to a dietician who prescribed dairy free milk that then made my son worse. After no results, it was clear it wasn’t an allergy and the dietician discharged my son. I was then referred to a paediatric consultant and after another 2 weeks I was prescribed a drug, but would have to depend on a postal prescription which took 2 weeks!

I had the agonising problem of how do I return to work? How do I pay my bills? I can’t work from home with a baby that needs 24/7 care, and with my job being very intensive on the phone, I had no option so I extended my leave, taking the unpaid portion, leaving me with zero income and zero support. Thankfully my childminder will be able to provide care 3 days a week from October and I have enough annual leave to cover me until Christmas, so as long as government can actually adapt the social distancing guides by then, I should then be able to go back full time in January. Luckily, my employer has been nothing but understanding and supportive. The last 7 months have been the worst period of my life." - Bethan Jones

The findings from our Babies in Lockdown Report laid bare the challenges faced by parents and the impact it the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children in their earliest years. Over 5,000 people shared their experiences, and we found that:

  • 87% of parents said they were more anxious as a result of COVID-19
  • 7 in 10 said their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby had been impacted
  • Only 32% had confidence in being able to access mental health support if required
  • 7 in 10 felt the changes from COVID-19 were affecting their unborn baby, baby, or young child

Evidence shows that pregnancy and the earliest years lay the foundations for a child’s lifelong health, learning and happiness.

That's why we're calling on the government to introduce a new Parent-Infant Premium into the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review. The Parent-Infant Premium is an exciting new policy proposal, which would provide additional funding for local areas across England to spend in the best way to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities for young children in their area. It is not a one-off spend or a single initiative but a sustained investment that will drive change. It would be a distinct grant, paid quarterly to local commissioners, according to the number of babies and young children in their area from disadvantaged families from the last trimester of pregnancy until their third birthday.

For example, the Parent-Infant Premium could be used to help ensure routine Health Visitor contacts are face-to-face and create more capacity within the health-visiting team to provide additional support to families. To find out more about the Parent-Infant Premium and ways you can support us, visit