We're delighted to say that our trial Listening Service has been very well received by attendees and it will now be running for the foreseeable future. Find out more about it below.
Why launch a Listening Service?
At Baby Umbrella we are committed to supporting all parents on their parenting journey. Many families access support from our groups in the early weeks and months when feeding is challenging, and sometimes this can be enough.
However, we often see families where pregnancy, birth, challenges in the early weeks with their baby, or the adjustment to parenthood has taken an emotional toll leaving them feeling lost and overwhelmed. With limited options available locally, many families feel they aren't 'bad enough' for formal counselling services, or NHS mental health support, and don’t know where to turn.
That's why back in March, we trialled a new 'listening service' designed to bridge the gap between emotional support and more formal counselling or mental health support. Our listening service provided a safe and confidential space, with trained practitioners, for you to share any experience that felt challenging for you in and around pregnancy, birth and the early months of parenting.
What we learned from the our initial trial
Attendees told us the Listening Service was more accessible than formal counselling - somewhere to test the waters or a stepping stone into further support.
They also told us how important it was that the service is free. Early parenthood is a time when families are often struggling to prioritise spending on themselves, particularly if they are on parental leave, and particularly if they are already anxious about accessing support.
Many of our attendees were worried about whether they were 'bad enough' and many expressed guilt about why they weren't able to cope - open access to all without topic barriers or hurdles of levels of distress is important.
All our attendees told us the impact our service had on them was positive, and for many it was very powerful. The service enabled them to 'breathe out' and reflect on their experience of new parenthood, which had often been some of the most challenging of their lives.
Our broad knowledge of local services for signposting was also gratefully received, enabling parents to take control of their wellbeing and make their own plans for additional support.
Following on from the success of this pilot, we are delighted to say that The Listening Service has been extended and is available for all parents to access across West Kent, completely free of charge.
About The Listening Service
The service is open to all parents in West Kent who are finding things challenging, or who experienced any challenges around pregnancy, birth and the early months of parenting.
Examples might include:
Feeding your baby
Adjusting to parenthood/ family life
High needs/ unsettled babies
Medical/ health complications
Feeling overwhelmed/ tearful/ anxious
Our service offers parents a confidential space to talk about their experience and the impact it has had on them. Each session is up to 75 minutes long and includes an optional guided relaxation at the end to enable any feelings that have come up to settle. Parents are welcome to attend on their own, or with a partner or supporter. Some may prefer to arrange help/ care for their baby during the session, but we are happy to welcome babies to the session if that is easier.
About our practitioners
Our Listening Practitioners, Jennie Yelverton and Laura Shtaingos, have been passionate about setting up this service since the charity began, having experienced themselves what a huge difference a compassionate listener can make to each of our unique journeys through the huge transition of early parenthood.
Laura and Jennie are experienced Breastfeeding Counsellors having trained in using person centred counselling skills and holding a non-judgemental, safe reflective space. They have both undertaken additional training in compassionate listening skills over the years, and also trained with Mia Scotland (a well known perinatal psychologist) to learn even more about supporting perinatal mental wellbeing and listening safely to traumatic experiences.
Who can use The Listening Service
Whether you are at the start of your journey and are preparing for the arrival of your baby, or perhaps your baby is no longer a 'newborn', or even a toddler, there is no time limit on when you can access The Listening Service.
Our service is tailored to all individuals with parental responsibilities in West Kent, that includes mothers, fathers, step-parents, biological, adoptive, surrogate, foster, grandparents and legal guardians. Baby Umbrella is committed to being an inclusive charity, and we welcome all parents from all backgrounds.
Our practitioners support parents struggling with all kinds of difficult feelings and are skilled at holding space for feelings and experiences that might bring shame or guilt. We passionately believe that by bringing these difficult topics out of the shadows, we can support every parent to find their unique way forward. The listening service is open and available to all parents.
"Sunlight's a thing that needs a window before it enters a dark room" (R.S. Thomas 1986)
Why you should use The Listening Service
Many parents who have already used the service recognised that they felt lost, struggling with overwhelm, low mood or anxiety and didn't know where to turn. Perinatal mental health still carries a taboo, with parents often feeling isolated and a ‘failure’ if they are struggling.
The Listening Service offers a safe space to enable all parents to share their difficulties and find validation and support without judgement. It is not a birth de-brief, or a counselling service, instead it is a service entirely centred around you. You can talk to us about any experience that felt challenging for you and the impact it has had on you. You are completely in control of what you’d like to talk about throughout the session.
With so many of us facing financial pressures at the moment, and even more so when raising a family, we are committed to ensuring our services are free and available to everyone who needs it when they need it. This is why our Listening Service is free and quick to access for all parents across West Kent.
As part of this service, our practitioners can signpost parents to sources of further support, which could include NHS, affordable or private sector counselling services, health professionals, support groups, infant feeding services, and so on. Parents are welcome to book for a further session if it feels useful, but this is not a regular weekly counselling service and is not appropriate for long term support.