When Sharon Armstrong and Kathryn Bishop launched their North Lakes business Embrace life in 2009, they were motivated by a desire to help new parents, particularly mothers, be happy, confident and healthy.
The pair were mums themselves, and with the support of their husbands, juggled running a business with raising their young children.
Ms Armstrong, a registered nurse with a passion for mothers and babies, saw an opportunity to realise a dream of working with families in a way that aligned with her values.
“I’ve got that community-orientated love of families. My mother was a midwife, so I was surrounded by babies as a child. She used to hold the Australian Breastfeeding classes at home. There were always mothers and babies in my life,” she said.
Ms Armstrong and Mrs Bishop realised families, and particularly new parents, needed more support and many were buckling under the pressure to be perfect.
“For us, it was very much about values-based, non-judgemental information and support for families,” Ms Armstrong said.
“I see parents for any number of things, but usually start out just with the breastfeeding. That could they’re having a little bit of pain, it could be they’re struggling to adapt to the new baby, it could be in pregnancy as well.”
Clinics, a lifeline
As well as offering a range of services to assist, they provide free clinics twice a week which aim to bring new parents together and answer questions.
“We’ve offered that free because, for us, it’s about community. Anyone can come to that, they don’t have to be a client,” Ms Armstrong said.
“We’ve always advocated for women’s health, particularly around birth and babies, and we continue to do that every opportunity we get.”
The main issues new mothers are concerned about are sleep, feeding, their baby’s development or their own mental health.
Ms Armstrong said feelings of anxiety and isolation had been amplified during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“It’s about normalising parenthood as a challenge, normalising developmental milestones instead of a competition over how much weight this baby has put on,” she said.
“There are so many things that people can get insecure about when it comes to parenting because there is a lot of social media – they say keeping it real but I would be very concerned if some of it is real.
“I’m able to say to them, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it wrong because the baby doesn’t know you’re doing it wrong. They’re not judging you, so don’t worry about it.”
Reducing the pressure
She said there was too much pressure on new parents, with misplaced emphasis on hours slept, nappies changed and weight gained.
“People need to feel parenting a little bit more instead of being too rigid. There will be parents who can do rigid, but there’s a lot of people who cannot and need a lot of support,” she said
“There’s a lot of calming it down and really going back to their values. For me, it’s about having a conversation with them about what sort of parent they want to be.”
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