BANGOR mums are taking ‘baby steps to friendship’ at weekly outdoor gatherings with their tots.
A unique pair of programmes, which aim to encourage mothers to enjoy the outdoors with their babies and peers, have helped local mums find connection with their little ones, while also making lasting friendships.
Overseen by Natasha Higgins, a New Parent Program health visitor, Walkie Talkies and Tree Babies invites new mothers who may need some extra support to join in weekly groups in Bangor.
In particular, the groups reach out to mothers from socially deprived backgrounds, young first time mothers and mothers who may be facing mental health issues or need extra support.
Natasha explained that her role doesn’t just focus on health visiting, but also takes a holistic community approach – linking in with the local food banks, Kilcooley Women’s Centre, the Book Trust, Kilcooley Mums and Tots, as well as Kilcooley Primary School.
Explaining how the groups began, Natasha said during Covid she ran a Zoom group to allow mums a chance to meet and talk.
“The walking group ‘Walkie Talkies’, came out of the back of Covid, when you couldn’t meet indoors,” she said.
“The benefits of walking and getting outdoors is obviously great for your mental health, as well as the benefits of socialising and meeting other mums,” Natasha continued.
“Being outdoors is great for bonding as well.”
The weekly walking group, which meets in Bangor, has been a huge success with the current mums taking ownership of the group and deciding where to walk each week.
Natasha also runs Tree Babies, a course which promotes mindfulness, socialising and bonding with your baby, all while connecting with nature.
“Tree Babies is just lovely. It’s lovely being outside with the babies in nature,” Natasha said.
“There are so many benefits being outside with the sounds and smells naturally relaxing the babies and mums.”
As well as bonding with their babies, the mothers have been able to share tips and concerns with one another, while also normalising issues and feelings – creating a healthy environment for open discussions and friendship.
“Babies aren’t text book and it is so important to get that support and build friendships,” Natasha added, noting how it was great to watch the friendships bloom at the Bangor-based groups.
Looking to the future of the groups, Natasha said she hopes they will continue to run more continuously with an increase in the number of participants.
“It’s not easy being a new parent and it can be quite hard to fill the day,” Natasha stated, acknowledging how maternity leave could be quite a lonely time for some.
“What I say to my mums is don’t be worrying if the house is a mess or you haven’t done the dishes when I come in because you are spending time with your baby and it can be hard getting them ready to leave the house,” she said.
“I think there is a lot of pressure on mums with social media that they have to be the perfect Instagram mummy.”
She noted that going to these groups was a good chance to take time to connect with their babies, while also acting as a reminder that they are doing great.
“Everybody is navigating the same path and as long as everyone is happy and healthy that is all you need.”
Those interested in finding out more about the next Bangor-based Tree Babies session, due to start on October 11, or joining Walkie Talkies, are encouraged to speak with their health visitor.