A newborn received a royal welcome when the Duchess of Cambridge paid a virtual visit over the internet.
Kate, who has a keen interest in early years development, spoke to parents Rebecca Atwood and John Gill about what it was like to have a baby during the lockdown.
The Duchess, 38, cooed at baby Max, who was just 16 hours old, and said: “Hello! Very nice to meet you! This is definitely a first, I think!”
After sending “huge congratulations” to his parents, Kate added: “He is so sweet. When did you have him?”
When told he had arrived at 10pm the previous night, she replied: “My goodness, you must be exhausted!”
Kate’s surprise ‘bedside visit’ came during a call to staff at Kingston Hospital’s Maternity Unit on April 22.
She did a two-day work placement at the south west London hospital last November, and this time heard from staff about their experiences during the pandemic.
Six midwives took it in turns to join the chat, while one pulled on personal protective equipment and took a laptop to introduce mum-of-three Kate to baby Max and his parents.
The Duchess dialled in from Anmer Hall in Norfolk – where the Cambridges have been staying during the lockdown – and heard that the hospital had dealt with a rise in referrals for anxiety.
Jo Doumouchtsi, perinatal mental health midwife, said: “The main issues women are having are around coming into hospital and catching Covid, but also about the isolation after the baby is born.
“They have to self-isolate, so they are having limited support from their other family members.”
And midwife Jennifer Tshibamba added: “We want women to know we’re here, we’re still open.
“Even with what’s going on, we’re here to listen to you, we’re still here to make sure we provide you with the best care for your pregnancy, for your baby and support your family.”
The hospital’s perinatal mental health team – which includes psychiatrists and mental health nurses – sends out a weekly newsletter that gives mums advice for coping during the pandemic and lists what services are available.
Kate said: “That’s probably such a valuable tool for them now. To you all there, you do an amazing job, honestly, as you say, babies come all the time.
“The fact you’re having to work in these difficult times… well done.”
Kate told the midwives how she and husband William had spoken to NHS staff about the importance of reaching out if they were feeling low.
She said: “They don’t feel they can reach out because they feel guilty for doing it, which is extraordinary.
“With new mums and parents and families, they don’t want to feel like they’re overburdening but it is so important to reach out and ask for help when you do need it.”
As part of their work to support people during the pandemic, the Duke and Duchess have created a new text service dedicated to key workers.
Leading mental health charities will work together to provide 24-hour support to those under pressure while millions of us stay at home to save lives.
Mind, Samaritans, Shout, Hospice UK and the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation will provide support and online resources to the key workers keeping Britain moving through the crisis.
William, 37, said the text service would be their “top priority” in the coming months. And ahead of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week – which starts tomorrow – Kate said new mums should also speak up if they need help.
Typically, around one in 10 women experience a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.
Kate said that in her experience, talking to other mums helped.
She said: “You realise you are going through the same thing. Before that, you’re worried that actually, what you’re experiencing, you’re the only one going through it.
“To be able to share it in whatever way, whether it’s on the phone, through social media – in any form – it does normalise some of these anxieties.”
Using a video call to connect with others was exactly what Princess Charlotte did on her fifth birthday on Saturday.
Kate and William threw a party for their daughter at home, with lots of fun and games for her and brothers, George, six and Louis, two.
A source said Charlotte also made Zoom calls to members of her family, including the Queen.
Kensington Palace yesterday released five photos of the princess to mark her birthday – all of which were taken by mum Kate.
The sweet images showed a smiling Charlotte helping to deliver care packages to vulnerable Norfolk residents during the lockdown.