After months of isolation and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, reasons to go out can seem less plentiful than reasons not to. When you’re a new parent, the practical considerations of travelling somewhere, let alone getting out of the front door, with a baby, can be restrictive. But speak to any seasoned parent and the vast majority will tell you the same – getting out of the house, even when you don’t feel like it, is good for you.
The benefits of going to baby groups are well documented. As of this moment in time, 2022 is looking more positive than the start of last year for social opportunities for new parents and their babies. In February, we will launch our own free baby group on the Ashville College campus, called Baby Acorns. The move, a first for the College, follows the appointment of Mrs Rhiannon Wilkinson, Ashville’s eleventh and first female Head, in September 2021, for whom the School’s early years offering is a key focus in her strategic plan. According to Mrs Wilkinson, early learning is probably the most important part of education. Cognitive scientists believe children learn more between the ages of zero and six than at any other time of their lives. A baby’s brain doubles in size during her first year alone.
The pandemic has certainly had an impact on support systems for young families and the social opportunities that are so beneficial for child development. Playgroups, health visiting, play centres, child-friendly visitor attractions, and face-to-face contact with friends and family, have all taken a hit, transforming the maternity/paternity experience for so many new parents.
This is why it’s great news that organised activities for babies and children once again have the green light; as well as providing a source of play, stimulation and social interaction for infants in their crucial first years, playgroups can be a lifeline for parents.
Equally we understand that the idea of going to a baby group for the first time can be daunting. Here we offer our solutions to some of new parents’ most common concerns.
· Getting out of the house with a baby is hard. Isn’t it just easier to stay at home?
It may feel that way, but this can be self-perpetuating the longer you opt to stay at home. Dedicate at least a day each week to a planned activity out of the house, like a parent and baby group, to start with; getting out will feel like an achievement, and a change of scene can be revitalising for you both. Repeating this once a week, and then building on the number of activities you do in the week, will help you build confidence and leaving the house will get easier each time you do it as you create your own routine.
· What if my baby starts crying? Other parents just seem to have it all together.
It may sound clichéd, but everyone is in the same boat when a new baby arrives, and in the months that follow. The idea that other parents know fully what they’re doing is a myth, and chances are, if you have to soothe your baby, you will only receive support and compassion from others because they know what you’re going through. Think about it: how would you react to another parent in the same situation?
· With the Covid situation, is it worth the risk of going out and mixing with other people?
This worry is totally understandable. The answer is, if precautions are followed, yes. Quality providers of playgroups will follow rigorous cleaning processes, and will adhere to current
coronavirus guidelines; they would not run a group if it was deemed a risk. There are safety measures you can take too; for example, by wearing a face covering when it’s required; sanitising your hands, and of course, not attending if you have a positive result or you or your baby develop the main coronavirus symptoms.
· I’m so new to feeding my baby in public. What if people look at me or I feel like they’re judging me?
Baby groups should be safe spaces with no judgement, particularly when it comes to feeding. Other group members will expect you to feed your baby in a way you feel comfortable; indeed, groups like these can be an ideal place to ‘practise’ feeding in front of others and gain confidence for when you need to feed in other public places. They can also be a fantastic source of advice and support on feeding, whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed. At Baby Acorns, an early years nurse will be present to answer any questions or concerns parents have about their babies’ health, development, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances it will not be possible for an early years nurse to be present at our Baby Acorns group. This is something we are still working towards being able to offer, but not for when we launch in February.
· It will be hard enough getting there in the first place. How will I get the pushchair in and out and where will I store it?
This can be a common concern but is easily resolved. Most providers will be pushchair accessible and will help guide you to where to store it. Parents generally help each other at these groups too. Baby Acorns, for example, is the perfect space for parents with babies, offering a safe, carpeted play area, and easy access for prams because where it is housed, our Little Acorns cabin, is all on one level, with no steps. If in doubt, get in touch with the group organiser in advance; they will put your mind at rest.
If you’d like to make Baby Acorns your first or one of your weekly activities with your new baby, sign up here. The group will meet in the ‘Little Acorns’ cabin on the Ashville College site in Harrogate between 10am and 11am every Friday morning from 11 February 2022 in term-time. The group will be run by Little Acorns staff, giving a taste of what our early years provision is like.