Sue Welby has been a NNEB qualified nursery nurse for over 30 years working in a variety of childcare and advisory roles, and is also an infant massage instructor.
Having worked with children through the NHS, Sue has a wealth of experience and has successfully helped parents find solutions to overcome many different parenting challenges including: introducing solids, sleep routines, toilet training, behaviour management and diet.
Sue aims to give personalised support and advice to empower parents; providing the tools they need to raise happy, healthy children.
What inspired you to create Littlelifesteps?
I was inspired to start Littlelifesteps when the NHS trust I was working for had a major reshuffle of staff and huge cutbacks. They cut all the health promotion workshops I was delivering to parents, baby massage classes and were implementing more changes where families would not be receiving the face-to-face contact.
Baby weighing clinics were changing to self-weigh ins where parents would weigh and plot their own child’s growth and not have the face-to-face interaction of a health professional.
My aim for Littlelifesteps was to share my training, experience and knowledge to empower, support and advise parents to feel confident by providing the tools to help them in their parenting role.
What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?
My biggest challenge as a parent has been to accept my children for who they are - their uniqueness.
I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to be “the perfect parent”. I know now that does not exist; you don’t have to be.
As I was an NNEB nursery nurse and worked in nurseries before having my children I thought I should be able to do this, why am I struggling?
I worked in a baby room with 12 babies so I should be able to look after just one.
But I did not realise having your own child is so different, as our emotions are connected and our own unique “model of the world.” Our memories, our values, our beliefs, how we were parented all affect how we respond to situations.
Being a mum was not how I had imagined as I was not looking at my own individual child and accepting her, being mindful of her temperament, what her body language was telling me, her likes and dislikes.
Therefore, now at the start of any of my workshops I tell parents to put their own child in their head and think about their uniqueness. Are they sensitive or cautious? Do they go with the flow? Are they mild in their responses or more intense? Are they strong willed? You are then working with them not against them.
What do you think are the biggest challenges new parents face?
I think the number one challenge parents face is “mum guilt”.
I get emails daily and these are some of the common comments from parents relating to feeling guilty.
Their child has watched too much TV.
They have given a ready beige meal.
They have yelled at their children.
They are not spending enough time with their little ones.
They are putting little ones in their bed.
They are being cross their child has weed/pooed on the floor again.
They feel guilty for having bad days. Some days they enjoy being a parent, other days they find it tough.
During lockdown it has been much harder for parents they are trying to juggle working from home, home-schooling and trying to entertain their children.
Children have been more demanding as well due to them trying to make sense of this “new normal”. I tell parents we get the” Mum guilt” because they are passionate about being the best parent possible.
What advice would you give any couple before they think about having children?
Have a strong relationship and know each other well before you bring children into the mix as you will need each other to get through the challenges. Lack of sleep and lack of time are common areas parents stress about.
What aspect of motherhood have you enjoyed the most?
Bonding with my two children and getting to know what their strengths are and what makes them tick and excites them. It's lovely to see them grow and blossom into two amazing young ladies.
Do you think social media gives unrealistic images of parenthood and children?
Yes, I do feel some accounts give unrealistic images, as parents like to share the best bits as it can sometimes make them feel better about the not so good areas.
It's sometimes to do with how we are feeling and our state of mind when we are viewing the wonderful parenting photos. It can add to our “mum guilt” thoughts that we are not enough. I tell parents they are enough for their own child.
However, I do feel more accounts are now showing the real side of motherhood and this is refreshing. We are more aware nowadays of how these images can impact on the already high numbers of people suffering with their mental health, anxiety, isolation and low moods.
What would be your one piece of advice to any new parent?
Try and explore ways your child’s behaviour provokes a reaction in you that may not be helpful. We all have triggers so if we can be aware of them and take responsibility, it can give us the opportunity to surrender and allow that emotion to come. This in turn will help support our child’s development.
I say to parents during potty training you find out more about yourself and how you parent than at any other time (see one ordinary mother's blog on how Potty Training can be Pants!)
Being prepared and realistic about your child and the situation will make potty training a fun and positive experience.
I have a favourite saying for a parent I recently heard from a mindfulness coach which I love: “We are a human being not a human doing”. So, we need to BE in the moment and allow ourselves to stop all the doing.
How did you adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic?
I took my face-to-face workshops online and it was the best approach for me. My workshops are working extremely well via these virtual meetings. It meant I could open up to more of the world and am now supporting more families further afield. I also got to see my family on these video chats as this is good for my emotional health.
Did you notice parents facing any particular challenges during the pandemic?
Yes, I have supported more families with behaviour, eating challenges, sleep and toileting regressions since the lockdown. These are areas children will try to get control as we can’t make a child fall sleep, we can’t make a child eat and we can’t make a child wee or poo. We set everything up for these areas, but they have the choice. A regression is a child’s way of acting out their feelings that they can’t express in words. The pandemic has left children feeling unsure of their environment and picking up on parental anxieties.
My “Preparing for potty training” workshop has sold out during the lockdowns as many families have decided to tackle this milestone as they are at home more or furloughed from work.
My 4 weeks course “Toddlers throwing wobblers “workshop has also been popular during the pandemic as parents love the convenience of not having to get a babysitter and their partners can attend for free. They meet weekly as a group so great support network while we are feeling anxious. They can gain tips and strategies to help with their own triggers and their children’s and understand more about their child’s temperaments and working with their individual child.