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A parenting guru today called on major baby brands to stop peddling the myth of the “perfect parent” and do more to help mothers suffering with postnatal depression.
Entrepreneur Siobhan Freegard, 50, co-founded Netmums following the birth of her first child in 2000. It grew into one of the biggest parenting websites, with hundreds of support groups, thousands of bloggers and millions of monthly web visitors.
After selling up six years ago she quit as managing director in 2014 and founded a new online community for mothers to encourage more open discussion around topics such as postnatal depression.
Channel Mum uses forums, social media and streaming video to support subscribers, and has contributions from psychologists.
She is now lobbying major baby brands to use their advertising budgets to promote realistic parenting instead of the idea of the “perfect mum”.
“It is not just doing a clever and funny advert but more about saying it’s not a perfect world where the baby sleeps all night in its cot with a mobile above its head surrounded by bunnies. They sell you the dream but it’s not bloody like that,” she said.
Supermarket chain Iceland has made a “substantial” investment into Channel Mum to produce original content and create an “online village” to promote realistic depictions of family life.
Mrs Freegard, a mother of three, was awarded an OBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for her work on parenting. She suffered postnatal depression after the birth of her first child and had “worrying thoughts” before seeking help. “I thought I was the only person in the world to feel this way. It was proper anxiety; I could not sleep or leave my baby for more than a second,” she said.
One in five new mothers report suffering postnatal depression, but Mrs Freegard believes the true number is higher as mothers are reluctant to seek help. Although there is now more awareness about mental health issues, she said that it was different for mothers to be open about it.
“If a mother says she is depressed or anxious it immediately brings up the idea that you’re a bad mother and not fit to be a parent,” she added.
“Part of it is feeling low about thinking this. One of the biggest thoughts is that you cannot cope and it is an overwhelming sensation.
“Your mind races and you think social services are going to take your baby away. I want to say to these mothers if they can’t speak to GPs then talk to other mums.”
For the next two weeks Channel Mum will be producing original content to raise awareness about postnatal depression using the hashtag #sadmums. The PANDAS Foundation, a charity that supports mothers suffering postnatal depression, backed Mrs Freegard’s stance.
A spokeswoman said: “Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience… If a mum or dad is already finding it hard and then compares themselves, their life and parenting to others on social media it can exacerbate these feelings.”
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