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When Justina Perry set up MamaBabyBliss she wanted to help women make the huge and often traumatic adjustment to motherhood. She knows only too well the toll that adjustment can take on a mother’s mental health.
Over the years her passion has only increased and she is now working with the NHS and intends to champion maternal mental health at government level, In addition she is providing mothers with flexible businesses through licensing MamaBabyBliss.
Justina, a mum of two, suffered post-natal depression after the birth of her first daughter. “I found it very, very hard to adjust to motherhood,” she says.
Ten years ago when her second child was two she took voluntary redundancy from her senior position in advertising and marketing at a bluechip agency. “I was a high flyer and I loved what I did, but I struggled like many women going back to work at a very senior level because work was not compatible with being a mum of two. I was so exhausted by the end of the day. I found I was almost dreading bath and bedtime,” she says.
She got some redundancy money, enough to allow her to think about what she really wanted to do. “I have always had an entrepreneurial streak and I was interested in health and wellbeing,” says Justina.
She went to a health show and met a baby massage trainer. Justina had done baby massage informally and found it helped her so she started training and working with a group of mums. It made her realise that what she had experienced when her daughter was born was fairly common. “It was the way motherhood evolved for many women. You can see the pressure on women trying to juggle everything. They look almost shellshocked,” she says.
She discussed with her husband the idea of running classes that supported mums as much as their babies – something she saw as missing from what was on offer in the lead-up to and aftermath of childbirth. MamaBabyBliss was born.
Justina says she never had an amazing business plan. “It just evolved with input from mums,” she says.
She got the training she needed in pregnancy and post-natal massage and yoga for mums and then in baby yoga to complement her baby massage training and in time extended the course curriculum to classes for toddlers and older babies. The classes include discussion time for the mums taking part.
Then the business evolved again. In 2010 Justina read that working mums were being heavily hit by the recession, particularly those working part time. “I thought that was not right. I had a business mentor at the time and he said why not develop a training programme for mums as part of my brand,” she says. She jumped on the idea of developing a licence package which could enable women to get a better work life balance. “It has grown organically from just me to 25 teachers running their own businesses across the UK,” she says.
Justina advises that the secret to a self-sustaining long-term business is through offering all the classes, from pregnancy to toddlers, not just baby massage which means that you are constantly having to market to new parents.
Not all teachers are mums, but passion is important, says Justina. Training takes nine months and can be done on a part-time basis. It is modular, flexible and accredited by an expert body. The training can be done at weekends or round work via distance learning and webinars mainly, although there are some face to face practical sessions with direct feedback. Licensees pay around £4,500 to start up, which covers everything from training to marketing, a microsite, handouts, yoga mats, a booking system and the business licence. They are assigned a territory which includes at least 10,000 mums and babies under three. Classes are kept small – a maximum of 10 mums to give them the space they need.
Justina is absolutely passionate about what MamaBabyBliss offers. “We are giving women critical support in early motherhood. One in four women suffer anxiety and depression in the peri-natal phase. Suicide is the main cause of maternal death in the first year after childbirth. We have to acknowledge the epidemic out there,” she says. “We are there to support women and their families. Our teachers are passionate about making a difference and what differentiates us is that we are focused on mums.”
In 2015 MamaBabyBliss in Nottingham started a voluntary scheme in the local hospital offering baby massage and baby yoga. They identified a demand from staff to get training. “They could see the impact,” says Justina. In 2016 MamaBabyBliss began rolling out its classes and training to other mother and baby units and NHS staff across the country. Justina hopes eventually to work with health visitors and to influence government policy on maternal mental health. She says there is a dearth of support for mothers suffering mental health problems.
She has written a white paper on maternal mental health and has set up the MamaBabyBliss Foundation to bring the benefits of baby massage, baby yoga and new mum treatments to those who would not otherwise have access, including mothers and babies in prisons and terminally or very ill babies or parents.
“There is much work to be done,” says Justina. “Every woman deserves and needs to be nurtured at this time in their life. The demands are crazy and we are so often hard on ourselves.”
To find out about becoming a licensee, click here.