BABY Elkie's arrival was in a completely different world to what new mum Remi Squire's had anticipated days earlier.
Elkie was born two days into the first stage three lockdown and she did not get to properly see anyone apart from her parents for the first five or so weeks of her life.
Maternal child and health resources have been limited in a face-to-face capacity and, for the most part, Ms Squire felt she was really flying by the seat of her pants to look after a new baby. She said it had been more overwhelming than she had ever anticipated.
Ballarat midwife, maternal child and health nurse and author Belinda Joyce has been offering a free online virtual village for new parents across the region to tap into and chat or to ask her general advice.
Ms Squire said sessions had been invaluable, particularly when you might otherwise fall in a trap of turning to Google for help.
"It's been a good resource to have someone qualified to chat to weekly," Ms Squire said. "I did the council mothers' group sessions but this has been ongoing. It's been really fantastic and supportive the whole journey."
Ms Joyce, who wrote the book Survive and Enjoy Your Baby, said her goal remains trying to empower parents - particularly amid the pandemic.
She calls this a virtual village because they were all navigating parenthood for the first time without regular ways to meet other new parents or draw on family support.
Since the pandemic set in, most services for new parents have been limited to phone consultations for maternal child and health, midwives, lactation, general practitioners and obstetricians. Many parents were missing out on childbirth education classes, were experiencing shorter hospital stays and mothers groups were limited to one-hour meets for four weeks.
Ms Joyce said it was important parents know help was still available from these services and professionals, just in a different format. her group helped to offer general advice but, importantly, connections.
"It's so good for parents to see they are not the only ones. They know on one level they are not alone, but it's good to see other parents with babies on their knees...to talk and hear each other," Ms Joyce said. "It's not just about me giving a talk or answers, we're sharing our wins.
"When one of our babies took to first rolling over, it lifts everybody's mood. All that said, so much of being a new parent is really reduced. There's not a chance to show your baby off to family and friends. They're just not seeing them much or at all."
When one of our babies took to first rolling over, it lifts everybody's mood.Belinda Joyce
Ms Joyce said sleep, feeding issues and growth were key concerns among new parents in the pandemic. especially the latter with further waits between weighs. Isolation also crops up every week in talks.
Socialisation and immunity are two factors Ms Joyce said were without precedent. There was no research or resource as to the impacts the pandemic might have on babies or new parents.
"We have a whole state of distressed parents who feel anxious and desperate. Parents are screaming out for help, support and social connection," Ms Joyce said.
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