New mums don’t get enough help – survey
TWO in five new mothers have struggled to cope with the demands of parenting during the first few weeks after birth, with a similar amount admitting getting "angry" with their baby, according to a poll.
A further one in five (20pc) were frequently very upset at their child's crying during the first eight weeks, a survey by the NSPCC finds.
Almost three-quarters (72pc) of new mothers wanted more professional advice before their baby was born, on subjects such as how to deal with anxiety, fear and depression, the effects of their own sleep deprivation and how to cope with their baby's crying and sleeplessness.
Two in five (40pc) of the mothers polled by YouGov on behalf of the charity either find it fairly difficult or very difficult to cope with the demands of looking after their newborn baby.
There was also a marked difference between the number of ante-natal classes attended by well-off parents compared with those from a more disadvantaged background.
The NSPCC called for sufficient resources are available to "provide the services babies and their families need".
Mothers need better support in dealing with the "emotional turmoil" of looking after a young child, according to Chris Cuthbert, the charity's head of strategy and development for children under one.
"Currently much of the focus of antenatal education is on physical health, such as the choice of pain relief during labour," he said.
"However, we want both mothers and fathers to have access to high-quality antenatal education on the practicalities of caring for a baby that prepares parents for the emotional challenges they will face.
"This will help them cope with the impact it will have on their life, their relationships and their own well-being and assist them in being the best parents they can be.
"We appreciate times are tough financially but failing to provide vital support to new mums is a false economy. Damage done at this stage of their lives can prevent them reaching their full potential which also has a knock-on effect on society as a whole.
"Babies who are not well cared for are more likely to struggle at school and to have behavioural and relationship problems in later life."
The online poll of 516 women with babies aged under one finds that around three-fifths (57pc) "felt isolated with no one to turn to".
Whilst two-thirds (65pc) of new mums from well-off families attended antenatal classes, less than two-fifths (39pc) of less well-off mums had done so.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of the Netmums parenting website, said the first few weeks of a baby's life are vital for their development but "can turn a mother's life upside down".
"Lack of sleep, isolation and loneliness and the fear they are not mothering in the right way can combine to make new mums feel distraught," she said.
"Many women who have been cared for throughout pregnancy can feel abandoned after the initial euphoria of the birth has worn off. But this is often the time they need most support."
Health Minister Anne Milton said: "We want to make sure that new mothers get the support they need. That's why we are increasing the number of health visitors by 4,200 in the coming years and doubling the places on the Family Nurse Partnership programme, so we can work with the most vulnerable young families.
"We also produced Preparation For Birth And Beyond, a resource pack that will help midwives and health visitors run community groups for expectant and new parents.
"We are also about to launch a new information programme that will give more support for new parents. We will say more on this shortly."