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"Perinatal Mental Health and Nature"

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

How can Tree Babies Support Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing?

I was attracted to becoming a ‘Tree Babies Instructor’, because I had a vision of supporting mothers in nature, in an open and holistic space to share and develop self-compassion and feel comfort in spending time with oneself and baby. This was a course which put the mother first and recognised the importance of the wellbeing of mums at all times, but even more so during challenging times.

The content and structure of Tree Babies means that you can interpret the delivery of the course in your own personal way. Ultimately, I hope the course gives mothers as sense of awe and wonder at the simplicity of the practices shared.

Of course, Tree Babies is suitable for all mothers, but I feel that it has the potential for its biggest impact on the wellbeing of mothers suffering with perinatal mental illness.

Science and psychology support the fundamental principles of Tree Babies. We know that spending time in nature, amongst the natural chemicals of woodlands in not only good for the soul but proven to have physical benefits on the body. Regular mindful practice, whatever that looks like, has positive effects on peoples physical and mental health. People feel that they belong to a community they have higher self-esteem and motivation.

We know that new mothers’ threat systems are high after the birth of a baby and the best way to support mothers in this state is to help them to activate soothing systems. Tree Babies gives mothers stepping-stones to soothe their mind and body, through focusing on softening the body through movement, posture, breath and engaging with the senses.

The mindfulness tools that are taught help you to ensure that mothers can learn techniques to feel grounded and calm, particularly when they feel overwhelmed. These techniques serve to help mothers feel empowered but also supported, in a community of women who also use these methods of relaxation. Therefore, normalising meditation, mindfulness, and prioritising physical or spiritual ‘me time’ for new mothers.

Teaching breathing techniques, particularly long out breaths can be very relaxing, and mothers will soon become more attuned to their own breathing rhythm and be able to tune into their heart and breathing rate to feel relaxed.

As facilitators we can hold space for women to practice being mindful and to accept that it is normal to be bombarded by thoughts or what some refer to as ‘monkey mind’, but we can support them to approach these thoughts with compassion and develop skills to not get caught up in thoughts.

By providing group activities at Tree Babies, or alternatively named outdoor classes, we are helping mothers to feel kindness from others and genuine interest in their being, which also works to soothe mothers and activate parasympathetic nervous systems.

Forest bathing, sit spots and meditative walking all serve to create, ‘safe places’ for mothers to go to with their babies. These practices allow mothers to have space to visualise or focus their attention on the real or imagined. The facilitators of the courses can help new mothers, become in tune to their senses and perhaps activate new experiences and sensations. Most importantly these methods give mums strategies to be comfortable in their own company.

In my case I have decided to bring in elements of self-care including aromatherapy, herbal teas, creative writing, gratitude circles, compassion focused practices and mindfulness practices. The creative practices of Tree Babies can evolve with the openness and creativity of the mothers in your group.

Mothers circles at the end of each session also provide an opportunity for mothers to share their feelings, concerns, worries and experiences of motherhood. Sharing common experiences through discussion allows people to bond and connect; and in the case of supporting mothers with perinatal mental health is serves to normalise PND, PNA etc.

I believe that Tree Babies can be used as one therapeutic tool to support mothers recover and/ or prevent maternal mental illness. I know that personally, as a mother with PND, I would have hugely benefitted from all that these immersive, nurturing Woodland based classes have to offer. I can’t wait to see the impact of my courses and help mothers to transform their sense of wellbeing.

Charlotte Burkett @botreebabywellness

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