Supporting Mamas is what we’re all about! So we caught up with Lara Russell-Jones, founder of Apparently Kids – an online directory of trusted antenatal and postnatal professionals – about the realities of postnatal care in London (UK), what inspired her to start the business and her advice for expecting Mamas.
What inspired you to start Apparently Kids?
Like many new parents I found the transition to being a mum hard. My son arrived early, so I finished a very busy city job and before I knew it, I was rushing into hospital and was out again just a few hours later with a new baby. My husband and I had read the books, attended antenatal classes, got the birth plan prepped, but in hindsight I don’t think we had really thought beyond the birth. When we arrived home, it really hit us that we didn’t know what to do and we suddenly had a very vulnerable baby dependent on us.
I was so fortunate to have been recommended a wonderful private midwife for postnatal care. She arrived the following morning and over a few weeks guided us through a number of complications. My son had a tongue-tie, reflux and I had significant tearing. Over the first few months I was put in touch with some amazing professionals without whom I would really have struggled. In particular, I hadn’t known about specialist women’s pelvic health physios. I saw a fantastic lady who over the course of three appointments and regular homework exercises helped me regain control of my pelvic floor, tighten my diastasis recti and build confidence in my own body again.
It was only when I met my antenatal class and other new mums that I realised how lucky I had been to have found these professionals. When a close friend ran out of a baby class 5 months in, due to incontinence issues, I suggested she go see a women’s pelvic physio. She also had never heard of them before and thought mild incontinence ‘was part of having a baby’.
It was then I realised how many women were in this position. We’re so incredibly lucky in the UK to have our NHS, however they can only do so much. In London especially, we’re also lucky to have so many fantastic ante and postnatal professionals to support us, however it seemed to be a lottery if you were recommended to one. I want to remove the lottery and give all new parents a single platform to find and access the diverse range of ante and postnatal professionals in their area.
You’ve spoken to lots of expectant and new Mamas –did you see a common concern regarding the levels of ante and postnatal care they’ve received?
The overwhelming feeling is that our NHS is a truly wonderful service, but it’s inconsistent. On average new mums have 12 antenatal appointments, but very few mums saw the same midwife twice. Postnatally, mums had just two midwife checks and health visitors, again rarely seeing the same person. Some mum’s felt that common issues (such as difficulty breastfeeding or tongue-tie’s) were missed or not discussed/seen due to time constraints.
New parents also felt unprepared by some of the antenatal classes they had attended. Common feedback is that classes focus too much on the birth itself and gloss over the postnatal period as ‘the wonderful cuddles with your newborn’. Especially when sleep deprivation kicks in, many parents wished there was more emphasis on this period and access to formal support.
What would you recommend expectant Mamas to consider?
It’s natural that new mums are completely focused on preparing things for the baby, but I really recommend mums consider investing in themselves to prepare for the new arrival. In particular:
- Book an infant-specific First Aid course for yourself and your baby’s main caregivers to do before the birth. You will feel so much more prepared and confident. We have some fantastic ones on our website, they’re not expensive and it could make all the difference.
- Book a specialist women’s health physio appt for 6-8 weeks after your birth. No matter what type of birth you’ve had, they will be able to properly assess your pelvic floor and posture, supporting you with rehabilitation exercises. It’s so important to look after your own body so you can properly support your new baby.
- Think about what support or help you may have access to. Have you got friends or family nearby who might be able to help for the odd afternoon? It’s amazing how little things like someone cooking, cleaning & running a wash can make all the difference. If you don’t, consider a postnatal doula who can act as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to help you. For a little extra help, you could consider private midwives or maternity nurses.
- Think about how you intend to feed your baby. If you’re keen to breastfeed, seeing an IBCLC lactation consultant within the first couple of days of birth can be really helpful. Our mum’s say that IBCLCs were able to immediately spot tongue-ties and support them with correct latching and feeding positions which set them-up for their breastfeeding journey.
- Finally – consider a few things closer to home. Stock your freezer with your favourite meals, your fridge with healthy snacks (especially for those 3am feeds when you’re a bit peckish too) and queue up those guilty-pleasure Netflix series!
What’s been the best and toughest thing about starting a business as a new mum?
I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of starting this business which gave me something to focus on and think about which wasn’t necessarily when my son last fed or did a poo…! Meeting all the wonderful professionals in the area and hearing their stories has to be the best thing. The toughest element has been working in nap times. I felt like I was reducing my free time even further, but it’s been more than worth it.
How are you finding juggling work in lockdown life?
This is definitely the tricky part. My husband has a full time job and a month ago I also went back to work 4 days a week. We’re now looking after our little one in a shift-pattern to make sure we both get enough time. A colleague recommended just blocking out your diary with childcare commitments two weeks ahead so that colleagues know when they can book you for meetings or not. This advice has really worked for us and we’re pretty strict on it.
It’s challenging to create ‘me-time’ with kids in lockdown, so we’re trying to be creative. I’ve started taking a kettlebell to the park so I can do some circuits whilst my son plays in the shade. He absolutely loves watching me do burpees and giggles away – not sure if that is a complement to my technique or not!
Finally, what’s the one thing you’d say to any new parent?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, in whatever form you need. I think becoming a parent is possibly the biggest transition you’ll ever make in your life and you can’t be expected to know everything and be perfect at everything straight away. You can be the best parent in the world, but it always helps when someone is there to pop food on the table, clean the house or hold the baby so you can take a shower!