In this world of uncertainty, there’s one thing I’m sure of: looking after a newborn is no walk in the park, not even at the best of times. With COVID thrown into the mix, I know first-hand that it can be pretty trying. In my case, I gave birth amid growing angst, several weeks before my due date, in London just as lockdown was announced (quite the entry into the world, so I expect she’ll become every bit as commanding as my six-year-old, Juliet!).
When I had my first daughter, Juliet, I was very lucky to be able to breastfeed for the first 12 months. There were definitely ups and downs, but fortunately, it fell into place, and I followed the route I’d hoped for. While pregnant with my new baby, Scarlett Rose, I didn’t know how things would work out, but I knew because of my personal circumstances, breastfeeding might not have been an option for me. I decided that if I formula-fed my second child, I wanted to use a product in which I have 100% confidence so, as founder of Piccolo, I set out to launch our organic infant formula.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to breastfeed Scarlett up to now, and our Piccolo baby milk has allowed my partner to help me out, especially with the night feeds! This is my personal story and it’s important to remember that it’s up to you and nobody else how you feed your baby. While breastfeeding should be encouraged if available, I believe that parents should be supported to make their own decisions without being judged or feeling pressurised.
The impromptu set up of our new online store in response to COVID has also been a saviour for many parents who continue to contact us. I know the only way I shop right now is online too, so that’s another major milestone that I’m really pleased we were able to reach before Scarlett’s arrival.
As a baby food brand owner who lives and breathes all-things-baby, I feel I do have an advantage and so I’ve pulled together my top tips to support new mums and dads with this whole parenting thing.
Social connections: keep them up
Mums of very little ones, in my view, are feeling more acutely the emotional taxing nature of not being able to do all the normal mum activities with a newborn.
When you have a baby, it’s a real joy to introduce them to friends and family. I know, for me, it was really tough not seeing any of my closest friends or our Italian family for them to meet baby Scarlett. I had luckily squeezed in a fair bit of travelling with my closest girlfriends before giving birth as I knew this was my ‘last chance’ for a while!
I was hesitant to do a virtual meet and greet but realised that it would be quite some time before international travel opened up, so I’ve set up a regular Zoom ‘Meet and Greet’ time with my close friends during my daily walk with the baby. Being with your baby doesn’t have to be a socially isolating experience, even now!
Housekeeping: don’t do it all yourself
New studies* show traditional views persist about who does what at home – and it’s holding women back. The IFS found that mums were only able to do one hour of uninterrupted work, for every three hours done by dads. This means for the 76% of working mums of little ones in the UK, we are doing a double duty shift of housework and professional work.
Recent studies across the pond have also shown similar results around housework and domestic duties in parenting couples so it’s not British specific, but an issue I think all women should be aware of, as tidying up and housework shouldn’t automatically be necessarily with one parent just due to gender. Taking care of the home and children is work that should be valued and has a cost. If a couple is in a partnership, and has a new baby, it’s really important to have an honest and candid discussion about a fair split on housework. I find that having this split in place leads to a much less overloaded mum and taking care of the newborn becomes that bit less pressurised.
* The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and University College London (UCL) interviewed 3,500 families.
Navigating feelings around fear between parents
There’s no doubt about it: navigating feelings about protecting your newborn are totally natural. But now, it’s a double whammy: navigating these feelings during a pandemic is another heightened reality. I was reminded of this when I did something totally normal; I let a family friend hold our baby. But my partner later asked me why need I take that risk.
My learning? Agree ground rules together even as and when lockdown rules are eased; your partner could have differing views on how to navigate during a challenging time like COVID.
The benefits of establishing a routine
With a scaling business and lots of evening events, I’ve never been the most routine kind of person, as my typical schedule is all over the place. That said, I’ve seen how much a healthy routine can be beneficial for my family, especially Juliet, whose morning schooling routine is really critical. ‘Schooldays’ are still adhered to – as without them, she could easily lose connection to the fact that, despite the pandemic, it’s still time to study and learn on weekdays.
Babies, too, thrive with some routine in place and there’s no doubt that keeping a routine when you are more homebound than usual is much easier. This is definitely true for me and my family with our little one: we’ve been able to do bath time at somewhat of a regular hour. This has come to be a moment in the early evening which marks a ritual where baby Scarlett and I both know it’s wind downtime. I’m going to take forward some more routine in my day after the corona period as I have seen real stabilising benefits for the whole family.
Juggling both work and childcare is quite the balancing act but there’s something kind of comfy about getting the opportunity as new parents to find the positivity in an enforced hiatus to spend quality time with their baby, time we might not otherwise have had. I’m truly grateful that I get to revel in each moment almost uninterrupted for a bit. I know that in time, we will get through this, and certainly be able to tell our daughter how her arrival made this unique period so much more bearable.
Cat, Gazzoli, founder of Piccolo Organic
Piccolo Organic makes healthy (and very tasty) baby meals, cooking products and snacks to help you get the balance right every day. The brand is partnered with City Harvest and Little Village, and gives 10% of its profits to charity. Available in all major retailers and its online store www.mylittlepiccolo.com.
About Cat Gazzoli
Before setting up Piccolo, Cat began her career in the charitable sector with the United Nations food agencies in Rome. She then became the CEO of Slow Food UK, the global campaigning organisation for good, clean and fair food. Cat has launched programs across the UK to help families consider the provenance and nutritional make-up of what they put on their plates.
Although Piccolo acknowledges breastfeeding* is best, Cat launched the organic formula milk range to support parents in their decision to feed their babies how they choose. Developed by experts with 35 years’ experience, the milk is made from organic, high-quality ingredients, guaranteed to be pesticide-free, and enhanced using science to make it nutritionally suitable for growing infants from birth up to three years old. Like all Piccolo products, the formula milk is proudly palm oil-free, and its packaging is fully recyclable – a “non-negotiable” in the range’s creation.
*Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Please consult a healthcare professional to make an informed choice on feeding your baby milks & weaning onto solid foods.
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