Parents reported high levels of anxiety, feelings of guilt and loneliness, a new survey from the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) has found. However, GPs can play a vital role in supporting new parents through the first year.

The survey, which looked at responses of 1,000 parents with children under three years of age, found that parents generally find parenting more pressured than they had anticipated. In addition, more than 60% said they felt more anxious, judged, guilty and lonely (53%) than expected.

Supporting data from 120 healthcare professionals, comprising GPs, pharmacists, and health visitors, clarified the scale of parental worries, with 65% of GPs confirming parents are often anxious about moving their infant on to the next stage of feeding.

Common feeding problems are also a concern, with 93% of parents wanting instant solutions to colic, reflux and constipation, and over one in five GPs (21%) were asked for advice about these concerns at least once a week. Despite this, GPs felt under-valued, and said that their advice is often not respected, with the majority of respondents (73%) believing parents put more value on online communities and website advice than from healthcare professionals.

GPs also acknowledged that they would like to be more prepared, with only around one in seven (15%) feeling very well informed, and the majority (70%) wanting up-to-date summaries of the latest guidelines about infant nutrition and common feeding problems.

GPs also acknowledged the value of spending more time reassuring parents to alleviate anxiety (68%), and of giving advice on common feeding problems (58%).

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF, said: “New parents don’t necessarily realise how challenging their baby’s first year can be. Feeding babies can be a rewarding and fun, but sometimes surprising and deflating when babies’ responses are not as expected. GPs play a vital role in providing guidance and reassurance to parents who may feel overwhelmed by external pressures and vulnerable as a result of high levels of anxiety and concern.”

The ITF have developed the Ten Steps for Feeding Babies (0-12 months) -  practical tips, simple and sound advice for parents, and a helpful tool for healthcare professionals both to support their own nutrition knowledge and to facilitate positive conversations with new parents.

BJFM recently published a summary on the management of colic, which can be accessed here.

The Infant and Toddler Forum has published a new infographic summarising the parental pressures, and that can be found below.