Butterfly Baby Clinic

Psychology Masters student Jiaqi tells us what she learned through her involvement in an alumni-supported project that helps local families during the pandemic.

The Butterfly Baby Clinic was established by Dr Angela McLaughlin, a developmental psychologist at the University of Edinburgh. Supported by the Student Experience Grants scheme, the clinic offers local families access to free resources to aid their baby’s development and own wellbeing.

Jiaqi Peng, who is studying for an MSc in Psychology of Mental Health, joined the Butterfly Baby Clinic team as a Research Assistant and shares what she learned through the project, supporting parents during the pandemic.

Jiaqi Peng
Jiaqi is an MSc student in Psychology of Mental Health and a Research Assistant for the Butterfly Baby Clinic.

From business to academia

Jiaqi pursued her undergraduate studies in business and human resources but her interest in research and academia led her to follow a new path – a Masters degree in Psychology.

“I think that business can be learned through experience so I wanted to learn something more academic.

“I just want to investigate human character and to learn why some people are different from others. I decided to study psychology at masters level. It’s quite difficult. You have to draw from an evidence base and you have to read lots of hard papers and my mother language is Chinese, so it can be tough!

“My dissertation is about examining the usefulness of meditation tools. I used to think meditation might just relax people for a few minutes but after studying it, I now know that it can help people long term and change the structures of the brain.

Helping through meditation

Jiaqi was invited by her supervisor Angela [Dr Angela McLaughlin] to get involved with the Butterfly Baby Clinic and lend her expertise by helping parents through using meditation tools. She tells us more about her work on the project.

“I worked as a Research Assistant in this project and I led the Mindful Meditation Stories Group - a group of about four to five people. Together, we created 15 meditation stories last summer.

“We added some Chinese elements into some stories, like some remarkable lakes or mountains. The pandemic means people might feel like it’s difficult to travel, so we wanted them to feel they are travelling around the world when they listen to or read the stories.

“Doing this research I realised that lots of people have experienced quite a difficult time in the pandemic. They have been quite isolated and lonely. There are baby classes and groups in Edinburgh but it was difficult to access these during the pandemic.

“I invited some parents to participate in my research and learned that if the meditation treatment was carried out over a longer time, over weeks or months, I think it would help them more, so that’s what I want to develop.

With this project, I learned that you can have negative feelings and it’s not something you have to ignore or adjust, you can just accept it.

“In China if you told someone, a friend or your family, ‘I think I need to do a bit of therapy, I feel quite unhappy, I don’t really want to do anything, I feel like my life is dark,’ people might not want to communicate with you or they say ‘try not to think too much, try to be happy, there are lots of good things you have, blah blah blah.’ But it is not something that we can adjust in a short time. The point is I don't want to be unhappy, I just can’t be happy now. With this project, I learned that you can have negative feelings and it’s not something you have to ignore or adjust, you can just accept it.

Clear aspirations

Jiaqi has chosen the path she would like to take in the future and tell us more about her plans.

“I want to continue in the psychology field in China. This is my first time joining a research project, so it will be helpful to have this experience when I apply for PhD degrees. I really want to continue to study meditation in the future. It’s been a meaningful experience for me.

“In China, fewer people know about meditation. They might be familiar with meditation in yoga but I don’t think people know much about what kind of changes to brain that meditation can bring.

 “I really want to make meditation more accessible in China. There are already some meditation tools on the market but they are just commercial and unscientific so I want to change this.

Student Experience Grants support

The Butterfly Baby Clinic was awarded £4,992 in 2021. The grant was used towards the development of digital resources to help families during the Covid-19 pandemic and wages for PhD students hired to help with the project.

Find out more about Butterfly Baby Clinic project

A parent's perspective

Lucy Atalla is a member of the Butterfly Baby Clinic's Parent Expert Panel that provides feedback to the students and staff developing resources. She told us more about the challenges of having a baby during a pandemic and why every parent needs a community.