NEW parents across the country have been “walking away the Covid blues” thanks to the enterprising efforts of a Helensburgh mum.

The Scottish Buggy Club was launched on social media site Facebook last year by Mairi Queen, who had just become a first-time mother to daughter, Eilidh.

After moving to the town in September 2019 when she was pregnant, 34-year-old Mairi gave birth shortly before the nationwide lockdown was enforced in March 2020 – and she quickly found herself isolated at home like the rest of the population.

Hoping to meet other local mums to go to baby classes and spend her maternity leave with, she resorted instead to joining everyone else in Saturday night Zoom quizzes and endless message streams sharing photos of her baby girl.

Following a brief easing of restrictions in the summer Mairi was finally able to attend a baby sensory class and she was lucky enough to meet other parents.

But as the rules tightened again, she was keen to work out a way to meet up with others, outdoors, for coronavirus guidance-compliant activities.

READ MORE: 'New parents need access to better lockdown support,' says Burgh mum-to-be

She said: “Under the Scottish Government’s ‘organised activities for children’ guidance, a certain number of adults can meet up outdoors with unlimited under-fives for walks or trips to the park, so long as they have performed a risk assessment, taken a register of who attends and follow some general risk mitigation advice.

“This advice includes maintaining social distancing, having all participants download the app and thinking carefully about where and when to meet, to avoid crowds and confined spaces.

“From October until January we could meet as groups of 15 adults, plus kids, but this has understandably now been reduced to seven adults, plus kids.

“I had imagined that a few of my friends might see the ‘Scottish Buggy Club’ Facebook group I set up and organise walks in their local areas, but we now have nearly 4,000 members and almost 100 different local groups.

“Our local groups now span from Oban to Dundee, Inverness to Haddington, Ayrshire to Moray and everywhere in between.

“There are countless groups across the central belt, and we have our own group, ‘Walk-a-Bye Baby’, here in Helensburgh and Lomond.”

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Mairi got in touch with the Advertiser after reading our story about mum-to-be Laura Hosie’s calls for more support for new and expectant parents under the current lockdown restrictions.

Despite her worry that people might think they are “breaking the rules” by gathering outdoors, Mairi said the walking groups have proved to be a “real lifeline” for babies, kids and parents, and could be beneficial to others, like Laura.

Mairi said: “When the council area restrictions came in our group split into two and we now walk as a Helensburgh group as well as a Dumbarton and Balloch group.

“The reaction to the group has been fantastic, with parents chipping in to help create a logo for the group, help each other with setting up Facebook groups and simply sharing photos of their walks.

“So many messages of joy at meeting others have been shared that there’s a real sense of community and togetherness - like we’re walking away the Covid blues together.

The Scottish Buggy Club has members from all over the country

The Scottish Buggy Club has members from all over the country

“The groups are important for babies and toddlers, who have often had no social interaction with other children since lockdown began, which can be their whole lives.

“It’s also hugely important for parents to be able to get out the house and have a bit of chat with others in similar situations about how lockdown has affected them, sharing tips on teething, breast feeding and everything in between.

“Postnatal depression is a real issue in normal times, but in our current world it’s even more important to do everything we can to support parents through these difficult times.”

New members are welcome to join in the group's activities; for more information search for the 'Walk-a-bye Baby' group or 'Scottish Buggy Club' on Facebook.

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