'IT ENDED UP BEING BOTH EMOTIONAL AND EYE-OPENING'
We know about ante-natal courses, but what about post-natal courses?
You’ve experienced the joys of pregnancy, your little bundle of joy is here and you’ve managed to survive the first few weeks by eating lots of cake and drinking vats of tea, writes Lisa Broom. Then a well-meaning relative/friend/stranger says, ‘You look tired, how’s the sleep routine going? Your baby looks hungry, have you thought about weaning? Careful when you start on solids, you did that first aid course, didn’t you?’ and ‘Have you thought about what you’ll do for your baby’s development?’ It’s enough to strike fear in your already very sleep-deprived and emotional mind. And just when you thought you had a handle on this new life of being a mum...
When this happened to me, a new mother with two-month-old twins, I realised I needed to drown out the unhelpful advice and scaremongering with some guidance from sensible people who know what they’re talking about. And that’s how I found Nurturing Mums, which was offering postnatal courses in my area.
Antenatal courses are brilliant for preparing you for birth and for meeting other new parents in your area. But there’s something special about meeting new mums after you’ve all given birth. You’re a little less ‘deer in headlights’ and a little more ‘been there, bought the t-shirt and now it’s got sick stains on it’. You have the under-eye bags to tell the story, and you need camaraderie more than ever.
The women on the postnatal course (unlike with NCT, this course is just mothers) all had completely different reasons for attending, their own unique set of challenges to deal with, and a healthy 50/50 split of wanting to learn more about the course topics and potentially making some new friends.
Meeting once a week for five weeks, gave us a chance to take the time out to talk about the next stages of our babies’ lives, and what matters right now, to us and our little ones. It was something we all agreed we didn’t make enough time for. We got the opportunity to ask the experts questions we wanted to, no matter how silly or trivial they seemed. More importantly, unlike the random encounter with the well-meaning stranger on the bus, we got the reassurance, from people who know their stuff, that we’re doing a great job.
How the post-natal course worked:
Week 1: Introduction
A lovely informal get to-know-you session in which we shared our stories and met the brilliant Lucinda who’s the #mumboss responsible for making this non-judgmental course available.
Week 2: Sleep & Routines
In which we got relevant advice for our individual sleep routines. Maryanne from Child Sleep Works gave us some great tips such as keeping the room dark for all sleeping (both naps and at night time), letting our baby play in their cot during the day to help make their cot and bedtime a happy place. She was objective when discussing things such as controlled crying, and encouraged consistency in whichever approach we take.
Week 3: First aid for infants
With a focus on CPR and choking, these are the things you hope you never have to do, but should have in your back pocket. I was looking forward to this session the most as it’s the one I knew the least about, but it ended up being both emotional and eye-opening. Emotional because the thought of any of this happening to your child is the stuff of nightmares, and eye-opening because until now I hadn’t appreciated how important CPR is and that it could not only save a child’s life - but also the quality of their life thereafter.
Week 4: Weaning ideas
When, how and what you need to know for introducing your baby to solids. Sam from Happy Eaters was clear that there’s no need to rush weaning, so around six months is a good time to introduce solids to a baby. Babies love finger foods, so let them feed themselves (something I’m keen on doing with twins!) and introducing the idea of drinking out of something other than breast or bottle (eg a beaker) were a couple of Sam’s top tips.
Sam also stressed the importance of eating well for mothers, too, including that it is normal to feel very thirsty and hungry when breastfeeding, (which made me feel better about my humongous appetite for breakfast cereal), and to ensure we eat regularly and have carbohydrate-rich foods at every meal.
Week 5: Baby games for brain development
This was a session giving us great ideas to keep our babies entertained and developing well. Gabi from Movers & Shakers told us how to make sugar bubbles (which don’t stain clothes, unlike other bubble mixers), and a ‘treasure basket’ to stimulate a baby’s different senses by choosing what they want to play with from a basket of ‘safe but not plastic’ treasures (e.g bottle brush, bath sponge, pine cone, egg whisk etc). The key is to be an attentive observer, she said, rather than an active participant. Messy play was another suggestion from Gabi – she actually suggested filling a paddling pool with baked beans. But I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that, no matter how much I’d like to see the look on the well-meaning stranger’s face when I tell them about it.