At a recent screening in Twickenham of the 2016 American film ‘Resilience’, Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Twickenham, Whitton, Teddington, and The Hamptons, summed up the post-film discussion with a question, “What do children need to thrive, and how can we help parents to provide this?” He said, “They need more time.”
But we all know that ‘Time is Money’, so how can this be achieved? Mothers are now expected to work through their pregnancies up to the end and then resume work as soon as possible – maybe as soon as six months after the birth when they may still be breast-feeding. Barely enough time to establish a good maternal bond, or attachment. We know that the stress hormone cortisol can be passed through the placenta to the foetus, so a mother who is highly stressed at work is more likely to produce an infant who may grow up suffering stress as an adult.
It is recognised that the first 1001 days . https://www.1001criticaldays.co.uk. are vital to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development when the brain is creating a million new neural connections every second. If a mother is happy and relaxed and adapted to her new role, the child has a good chance of thriving, but if both mother and baby are stressed, the outlook is more uncertain. Should we, therefore, be calling for maternity leave to be extended for the duration of the first 1001 days, giving more time for the development of secure attachment and thereby enhancing the status of motherhood?
This Government has indicated its concern for the rise in teenage mental health problems with their publication of a Green Paper in December 2017, entitled ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’, but its focus was on school-aged children. What About The Children? believes that the seeds of mental health are sown much earlier, during the period of development from conception through the first 36 months of life. What About The Children? is encouraged by comments made in the debate that took place in the House of Commons in July 2018 on Perinatal Mental Health, https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-07-19/debates/6CFB396E-9AFF-410E-B4E2-66037AD424EF/PerinatalMentalIllness addressing the causes of postnatal depression and associated problems. Once again, the theme was ‘more time’. More time to train doctors to spot the signs of perinatal distress and more time with professionals to allow mothers the opportunity to ‘open up’ about their feelings and be heard.
In the UK mothers are discharged from hospital within 48 hours, or sooner, with little time to be pampered and supported with breastfeeding, returning all too soon to the demands of day-to-day family life. It is important for mothers to be able to access plenty of support when they go home with their new baby. Community based support from, for example, the charity Home-Start (www.home-start.org.uk) or a paid Doula, is especially important as now so many new mothers don’t have extended family close by to support them.
Since David Cameron’s pledge to ‘more than double’ the number of Health Visitors, recent months have seen their number significantly decline. This trend must be reversed, Health Visitors are an invaluable resource for promoting healthy relationships between mother and baby – and of course fathers too. So often new fathers feel left out and need to be included.
Giving birth is a special time in a woman’s life: it is vital that she has the time to bond with her baby and build a secure attachment relationship, the basis for future mental and physical health.