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The hidden benefits of mothers’ groups

Joining a mothers' group isn’t just about the lattes, there are lots of important benefits for your health and for your baby’s development.

Generally in Australia, you’ll be invited to attend a mothers’ group once you’ve had a baby. This isn’t just about meeting some women who are also new mums, they actually have important benefits for your health, physical and mental and positive impacts for your baby.

Becoming a parent, especially if you’re a primary caregiver can be a period of huge change, which can be accompanied by anxiety. The early years are crucial for the development of your child, and when you’re new to parenting, you also have the pressure of wanting to get things right.

Creating a peer support network

When you see a mothers’ group in action, it might seem like there’s a lot of laughter and coffee going on, but this points to something very important. Social isolation can be a risk factor for postnatal depression and anxiety. So, what seems like a social outing, is actually fulfilling an important role for mothers’ wellbeing by reducing maternal stress and strengthening social bonds.

MORE: How to recognise postnatal depression

Joining a group while your child is a baby could also have long-lasting social benefits. The Australian Government has undertaken a major study into the development of Australian children, called Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. This study found that parents who regularly took part in groups when their children were younger than three were twice as likely to say that they enjoyed support from friends when their children were older.

So, the people in your mothers’ group become the people who you can share the highs and lows of parenting with. As the babies grow, you’ll be able to swap notes, trade information, and see friendships form. Plus, in a pinch, you’ve got a group of people who might be able to pitch in and babysit!

Getting into a routine

For parents who are used to working full-time, the adjustment to being a home-based carer is huge. Having fixed dates, like a weekly mothers’ group, in your social calendar can help you and your baby to get into a routine together.

Apart from attending a mothers’ group, there are a huge number of activities on offer for parents, ranging from music appreciation, to yoga, to massage. While the jury is still out on the developmental benefits of many of these extra activities, researchers and parents will agree that an activity that both mother and baby enjoys is beneficial. And a mothers’ group should tick that box.

Keeping an eye on milestones

While every child is different, and will hit their milestones at their own pace (and in their own order and probably in their own way), seeing them in a group of kids about their age is a good way to keep an eye on how they’re progressing. If there’s something they’re not doing, or doing in a very different way, it can be useful to mention this to your GP.

MORE: What’s really going on in the brain of a baby: 10 developmental leaps 

What happens next?

After mothers’ group, or as your child gets older, you might consider a playgroup. Unlike mothers’ groups which are established more formally by your hospital, playgroup is an informal session, run by parents and caregivers.

By the time your child is ready for kinder or school, they’ll be used to being in a group, doing activities in a community and the transition will hopefully be a smooth one. As parents, you’ll have the advantage of connection to other parents, and social support.

New parent? Head to School of Better to learn more about taking care of your baby, and making the most of this exciting time with Obstetrician Danielle Wilkins. 

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