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Editors Welcome

Summer is officially over, the new term of classes and groups has started again, the weather has cooled and leaves are starting to turn. Autumn is now here. Hopefully everyone has had a lovely summer making lots of memories. 

toddler boy playing with autumn leaves

Our recent Nearly New Sale, held at Highdown School on 13th October, shows early signs of being one of our most successful yet, with over 350 people through the doors! Thank you to all those who gave up their time to make the NNS run so smoothly on the day, as well as those who planned it all. If you bought any bargains at the NNS that you would like to share, please feel free to post on the NCT Reading Facebook group - we’d love to hear about your best buys! 
 
For this issue of our branch newsletter we asked our Facebook group members for their advice on the challenges of going from one child to two. A new group of volunteers recently received training, paid for by our branch, to become Breastfeeding Peer Supporters; you can read about their experience and learn a little more about them here. We have a fantastic article about plastic-free parenting – you may not be quite ready to go completely plastic-free but it just takes a few little changes to make a difference. We also have the first in a series of Birth Stories, this one is about the intervention-free, pain-relief-free, waterbirth of twins at RBH! 

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If you would like to be involved in volunteering at any of our events or would like to get more involved with the NCT, there are currently several exciting vacancies within our branch. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining the fun and helping out in any capacity: branch.reading@nct.org.uk

Claire, Louisa and Cristabel  
The Editors

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NCT Breastfeeding Peer Supporters

This summer 9 NCT Reading volunteers and I completed training to be the third cohort of NCT Breastfeeding Peer Supporters. The training consisted of 6 sessions which covered a number of topics including: communication, barriers to breastfeeding, attachment and positioning, supply, hand expressing, storing breast milk and understanding boundaries. The sessions were very interactive with lots of role play and group work, and we also each had to complete a workbook. After successful completion of the sessions and workbook, all supporters earned an ONC level 2 qualification in peer support.  

I have been breastfeeding for over 3 years and I have to say I learnt a lot. I had a relatively easy breastfeeding journey. I was unaware of just how many issues mums are met with and shocked at how many stopped sooner than they’d like due to insufficient support, or as a result of being misinformed. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and made some great new friends. I have been volunteering at regular meet ups for a couple of months now and it is a fantastic feeling to have helped someone on their own breastfeeding journey. Reading NCT aim to have a breastfeeding peer supporter at every meet up and event. We are also working with the Royal Berkshire Hospital maternity department and will be offering support to brand new mums waiting to be discharged. 

BFPS photo

As NCT newsletter editor and newly trained supporter I wanted to introduce a few of the new peer supporters. These are all wonderful women giving up their own time to help other mothers in need. All supporters are mothers themselves with a minimum of 2 months’ personal breastfeeding experience, with many exceeding the WHO recommended 2 years. 

I’m Louisa, and I have been newsletter editor for 2 years; my fellow editor Claire trained last year and I was really keen to train myself after hearing about her experience. I am a mum of 2: my eldest daughter is almost 4; I fed her until 2 years 3 months, and my second daughter is 10 months; I am still feeding her – I hope to continue until she is 2 at least. I volunteer at the nappy library and John Lewis central meet up. 

The other new recruits are Fran, Hannah, Heather, Katie, Kate, Karen, Robyn, Ruth and Sophia. If you are familiar with NCT Reading you will have more than likely met or spoken to Heather, as she is the deputy branch coordinator. If you’ve attended the sling library you may have also met Hannah, Katie and Ruth. The rest of us are new to volunteering.

Here’s a little bit about some of the other new peer supporters: 

Hannah
Tots to Toddlers, Bumps and Babies, Nappy Library, Crawlers and Explorers 

I'm mum to Charlie (18m).  I love breastfeeding him and I was very enthusiastic to train to be a BFPS – I was asking our branch coordinator Laura about when the next course would be last summer!  I also co-host Tots to Toddlers, volunteer at the Sling Library (we love babywearing) and help at Nappy Library Playtime (we also love cloth nappying), so I'm a busy NCT volunteer!  It's been lovely getting to know the members of the cohort I'd not met before and spending more time with those I knew. 

Karen
East Reading meet up and hospital 

When I had my first baby, I really wanted to breastfeed but struggled initially due to various issues including a tongue tie. I was lucky and received some excellent support from breastfeeding specialists.  This enabled me to persevere and continue feeding my first born, and then successfully breastfeed my other two babies when they came along.  I would love to be able to support new mums in the same way by offering information, practical tips and reassurance that may help them to achieve their breastfeeding goals. This is why I have recently completed the NCT Breastfeeding Peer Supporter training course. I'm really looking forward to volunteering in this role and supporting new mums through their own individual breastfeeding experiences. 

Fran
Hospital 

I’m new to the NCT – I saw the advert to train as a BFPS which is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while. I’ve had a positive experience breastfeeding my daughter Ruby, and I also work as a dietitian, so was keen to learn more about breastfeeding and help support other mums to have positive experiences. I’ve loved meeting other NCT mums and making new friends with the group.

Ruth
North and South Reading meet up, Bumps and Babies  

I’m Ruth, mama to an almost 1-year-old boy, Noah. Breastfeeding for me was a difficult journey to say the least and I can wholeheartedly say that if it wasn’t for NCT peer supporters I wouldn’t still be doing it now, so I want to pay that forward and hopefully help and support mothers to feel informed and supported in their choices. I help to host Bumps and Babies, the South Reading meet up and I go wherever else I’m needed. 

Robyn
Nappy Library, Central NCT, South Reading meet up 

I’m Robyn, first time Mummy to my little boy Hazel. We are a vegan, babywearing, cloth-nappy-using family. I chose to become a breastfeeding peer supporter because I have loved feeding my son and discovering how complex and fascinating breastfeeding really is. I look forward to helping other women on their breastfeeding journey no matter where they want it to lead or how long they choose it to be. 

Sophia
Bumps and Babies, Crawlers and Explorers 

Hi, I'm Sophia. I live in Reading with my husband and 19-month-old. I have enjoyed my breastfeeding journey with my daughter. I would like to support others to enjoy breastfeeding. 

You can find breastfeeding support at all our regular meet ups. Here is a quick reminder of these: 

Monday 

Tots to Toddlers 

10:30-12:00 

Fairview Community Centre, 90b Great Knollys Street, RG1 7HL 

Tuesday 

Bumps and Babies 

13:30-15:30 

Parkside Café, 34 Parkside Rd, RG30 2DD 

1st Wednesday 

2nd Wednesday 

3rd Wednesday 

4th Wednesday 

North Reading NCT 

East Reading NCT 

West Reading NCT 

South Reading NCT 

10:00-12:00 

10:30-12:30 

10:00-12:00 

10:00-12:00 

The Baron Cadogan, 22-24 Prospect St, RG4 8JG 

Bosco Lounge, 55 Crockhamwell Road, RG5 3JP 

Mad Hatters Café, 114 School Road, RG31 5AX  

Fidget & Bob, The Piazza, Whale Ave, RG2 0GX

 

1st & 3rd Thursday 

2nd & 4th Thursday 

Nappy Library 

 

Central Reading NCT 

10:00-11:30 

10:00-11:30 

Coley Park Community Centre, 140 Wensley Road, RG1 6DW 

John Lewis Café, 108-113 Broad Street, RG1 2BB 

Friday 

Crawlers and Explorers 

10:30-12:30 

St Luke’s Parish Hall, Erleigh Road, RG1 5LH 

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What I Wish I Knew...

…about going from one to two (or more!)

Preparing to bring more children into your home and into your life raises different emotions and challenges than with the first, and now there is a whole other (little) person whose thoughts and feelings need to be taken into account and who needs to be prepared! Members of our NCT Reading Facebook group have offered their handy hints and advice on how to make it as smooth a transition as possible for you and your children.

Before the birth 

Prior to the arrival of your second, you may find it useful to begin preparing your firstborn early on. This could be in the form of story books on the subject or lots of talking about what life may be like when the baby arrives. Some parents find it useful to involve their children in talking to their unborn sibling, or having them help to choose clothes for them to wear once they are born. 

child listening to mums bump

Upon “arrival”

If you give birth in hospital, consider whether or not you are going to introduce your children to one another on the ward or until you return home. For some children, hospital can be intimidating, especially seeing their mum in a hospital bed, whereas others will take it in their stride and are just excited to meet their new sibling! 
 
You might want to buy a present “from the baby” to give to your eldest. Not only does this help form a bond between them, it also gives the eldest a new toy to play with while you are inevitably caught up in dealing with the demands of a newborn.

Expect the unexpected

For many of us, having one child is tiring; parenting two children is sheer exhaustion. I’m sure you’ll have heard this before, but it really can feel like more than double the work. So be prepared for this – find as many little ways as you can to make life that bit easier. 

First time round, I bet you took copious photos of your first born. With your second, you may find you have to remind yourself to take photos, as your hands will be all the fuller! 

Your youngest child, as they become more aware of their surroundings and increasingly mobile, is going to want to do whatever their eldest is doing. Always. Play with their toys, read their books, eat ice cream, climb to the highest, most dangerous part of the playground. All the things you want them to be able to do, and all the things you don’t yet! 

But most importantly, don’t expect your children to be the same. They may have come from the same parents, have had the same upbringing, but their behaviours and personalities are likely to be quite different. Everything from feeding to achieving “milestones” – you may find that everything is a different and new experience for you.

Normality 

Many parents find that second (and subsequent) children have to fit in to the existing routine and schedules that you have in place. This may help to keep your older child ‘on-side’ as things stay much the same. 

If you can afford it, you could continue sending your eldest to their existing childcare, if any. This not only maintains normality for them, it allows you time to bond and just “be” with your newborn, or even catch up on that often-elusive sleep.  

You might also want to try to set some time aside regularly to spend with just you and your eldest. Don’t go overboard in those early weeks though – normality doesn’t have to involve long walks, hours at the local park or trips to Legoland! You need to rest to allow yourself and your body recovery time, so keep it simple. 

mum reading book to child

Building bonds between siblings

For many parents, building a close bond between siblings early on can reap rewards down the line. Perhaps let the eldest help with nappy changes, bathtime and choosing baby’s outfits. As the baby grows older, they could share baths and story time together, or if your firstborn is able, maybe they could read stories to the baby. 

toddler boy cuddling baby

Parental guilt

Parental guilt is real. With two, it does seem to get worse! Acknowledge this. It’s hard to split your attention equally to two children who both crave it.  

You may find you have to let go of “perfection” and know that if the kids are alive at the end of the day, it’s a win! Don’t let the parenting guilt get in the way of that. 

Coping strategies for you

As a new parent, there are many tricks you will have found to cope. But this time round, you may find some of them won’t work now you have two (or more) children to juggle, so you may want to consider some of the ideas below. 

Bed-sharing may help, as that amazing “sleep when the baby is sleeping” adage will no longer necessarily apply. Just make sure you’re following the guidelines on safe co-sleeping (see www.lullabytrust.org.uk

For when you’re out and about – something many parents recommend to help keep your eldest occupied and blow out any cobwebs – a compact way of transporting two children with ease can be beneficial. Perhaps consider either babywearing (visit the NCT Reading Sling Library) or a buggy board to help you out. 

mum with two children, baby in a sling

When at home, try to make meals in advance or batch cook and freeze meals that are easy to reheat, and take all offers of help! Also, if it’s financially viable, get a cleaner. 

Depending on the age of your older child, it may be helpful to encourage their independence so you have less to do. Generally, you may find you need to lower your standards and expectations and do whatever it takes to survive!

The Highs

When you first see your children having a cuddle together, hear the first “I love you” uttered by your eldest to their younger sibling, and vice-versa, or when they first play nicely together (however briefly!), all these things will melt your heart, completely and utterly. It may take some time to get there but such precious moments as these make it all worth it.  

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Plastic-free Parenting

When I first thought about trying to cut down our single-use plastic as a family I was incredibly daunted by the prospect. I thought it would be expensive, take way more time than I had spare, and would lead to us having to give up lots of the things we loved.  
 
I have learned a lot, and I still have a lot to learn but we’re on a journey and get closer to our goal of being as plastic-free as we possibly can every day.   
 
I have found that some options are more expensive but there are other things we’ve been able to stop buying, so it has balanced out. Some things do take more time but now that we've added new ways of doing things into our weekly routine this doesn't feel unmanageable. And we've found alternatives we love as well as finding we care so much more about trying to cut down that we’ll happily choose to give up some things.  
 
Here are some of the changes we have made so far.  

Out and About

  • When lunchboxes and water bottles have needed replacing, we’ve bought metal ones and water bottles and we all have reuseable cups for hot drinks, including our toddler.  

  • We didn’t use straws much apart from when the kids were given them and now we whip out our metal and bamboo ones and say, ‘No thanks!’  

Kitchen

  • When our cling film ran out, we didn’t replace it and I haven’t missed it since! 

  • It takes a bit more planning but every week I try and do a food shop with as little plastic as possible. This means less spontaneity and sometimes going out of our way to find things in different shops but actually it’s helped with our budget as we are limiting what we can buy. Wonky and reduced veg in supermarkets are absolute winners for us when it comes to food.

vegetables

 

Baby & Toddler 

  • We didn’t use reusable nappies with baby number one but we’ve managed it with number two and we’re loving it. We’ve managed to get lots of our ‘stash’ secondhand and have found it way easier than we expected.  

cloth nappies hanging on washing line

  • We use cheeky wipes instead of baby wipes but any kind of cloth wipe works well. I’ve actually found them way more effective at wiping than disposable ones. 

  • When it comes to birthdays or new toys we try really hard to direct people to our plastic-free wish list but we also buy second-hand or swap with friends. I’d rather re-use secondhand plastic and save it going to landfill than have new plastic.  

Bathroom 

  • There are so many recipes for homemade beauty products and I’ve had fun experimenting. Currently loving my homemade soap, using a shampoo bar and apple cider vinegar to condition. 

  • I’m completely converted to my metal safety razor – when I concentrate it does a way better shave then my plastic razors used to. 

  • We now buy our toilet paper in bulk unwrapped, so we get a month’s worth of rolls delivered in a big cardboard box.   

Cleaning  

  • I’ve enjoyed experimenting with homemade cleaners and I’m amazed at the effectiveness of lemons, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda when it comes to cleaning our house!  

natural cleaners

  • We also have masses of wipes/cloths which all just go in the washing machine when used. I haven’t bought a cloth in over a year now. 

Those are just some of the changes we’ve made. We’re constantly trying new things and learning lots as we go.  
 
The little steps matter and each thing we do is better than doing nothing. There was a quote which was all over social media a few months ago from Anne-Marie Bonneau (a zero-waste chef) who said, ‘We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’ I think that’s the biggest thing I’d love people to hear when it comes to thinking about plastic-free parenting. We don’t need to change everything all at once.  
 
Throwing out all your plastic only sends it to landfill sooner so first thinking about how we extend the life of the plastic we already own is helpful. Or, when we do buy something plastic, thinking about how we make it multi-use. For example, re-using a plastic tub as much as possible before we throw it away. 
 
The biggest change for me has been that the more I’ve researched and made changes, the more I’ve found that my attitude has changed. I’ve become more passionate and more keen to make changes and it has got easier. If you haven’t started your journey yet then why not pick one small change you could make this week? 

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My Twin Birth Story

Jamie (7lbs2) and Lily (6lbs11) were both born in the inflatable pool on RBH's delivery suite, spontaneously on their due date (2 Feb) with no intervention or pain relief. 
 
After having a lovely pool home birth with my daughter, I really wanted to have something similar for my twins. I didn't feel it was fair to put pressure on our local NHS midwives to attend a twin birth at home, and it would be better for everyone involved if I was in hospital. I hired a fantastic birth friend (a retired independent midwife with a wealth of experience and a strong advocate for a natural approach) and she recommended I contact the consultant midwife at RBH. Together we made a plan that if all was to go well, I would use the adjoining rooms 1+2 on delivery suite. The benefits were that room 1 is right next to theatre and I could labour in there with a pool and my birth partners and midwives present, and the extra equipment and staff could remain in room 2 until they were needed, so I wouldn't feel crowded or stressed by unfamiliar people being there. She also assigned a student midwife to my case, which meant I would have a familiar face on the staff team throughout my pregnancy who would also be there when I gave birth. 

38 week twins bump

At 39+6 I went to the hospital for routine monitoring. The current recommendation for twins is to induce by 38 weeks. I had declined induction and accepted regular CTGs and ultrasound scans as an alternative. I felt this was a way to keep the peace with hospital staff, as I felt quite happy with how the babies were doing. The ultrasound that day showed that twin 1 had less fluid around him than the previous scan two weeks before, and the obstetrician doing the scan recommended induction within 24 hours. I was pretty upset by this and went up to the day assessment unit to check if my waters were leaking. They weren't, so I went back to chat to my consultant. She was, to my surprise, happy to let me continue with the regular monitoring and respected my wishes to avoid induction while it was still safe to do so. I returned home feeling positive again. 
 
The next morning I woke at 06:45 and knew immediately that I was having a contraction. They continued every 10 minutes for the next couple of hours, and I reminded myself of my hypnobirthing techniques to stay calm and focused. My husband, toddler and I got up, had breakfast and contacted work, grandparents and my birth friend. By around 9, my contractions were coming every 5 minutes or so and lasting longer and we prepared to head into hospital. I struggled to get through to triage, so I texted the consultant midwife. She immediately started organising the rooms on delivery suite so they would be ready when I arrived. 
 
My contractions had ramped up by this point and the car journey (via grandparents' house to drop off our toddler) was quite a challenge! When we arrived, I was surprised that they showed no sign of slowing! In fact, I felt completely relaxed and calm, which amazed me as I spent most of pregnancy terrified about having a hospital birth. I laughed and chatted to the midwives and was delighted when I was introduced to my lead midwife who just so happened to have attended me at home for my first baby. 
 
It was incredible that, after all the planning with the midwives, plus concerns from the obstetric team, I was able to walk confidently into hospital on my due date, breeze through to delivery suite and get in the pool. 
 
The pool took a little while to fill and while I was waiting I started feeling the urge to push. As soon as I got in the water, I felt such relief: it was the best feeling! About half an hour later I could feel a head. I remember thinking it felt much more painful than my first baby but with the next few pushes, Jamie arrived at 12:40. It was a magical moment when my husband leaned over me and said happily, "We have a little boy!" 

Birth of baby in pool

After some quiet cuddles with my husband and baby, a midwife came and held my tummy to keep my second baby from turning breech or transverse before she engaged. I tried to move Jamie to my chest and suddenly his cord snapped, which surprised everyone! I felt the urge to push again, handed Jamie to my husband for more skin-to-skin, and Lily was born at 12:52. Pushing her out felt like the easiest thing in the world after Jamie! My student midwife delivered her to me (another lovely moment) and as I brought her up to my chest her cord also snapped, which caused everyone to rush around a bit to check she was ok. After a quick cuddle, I got out of the pool and had a physiological 3rd stage 20 minutes later, while having skin-to-skin with both babies. We were then left to enjoy our babies for a while, which was such a precious time. 
 
The midwives were concerned about the amount of blood I had lost and kept me in overnight but my toddler was able to visit that evening and we were all able to go home first thing next morning. 
 
I was so pleased to have had both babies in the pool and without the doctors intervening. I was told afterwards that room 2 was absolutely packed with people ready to jump to action stations if anything had gone wrong! It was fantastic that even the on-duty consultant didn’t feel the need to come in at all and just let me get on with birthing my babies. I am hopeful that I have given RBH more confidence to empower twin mums and respect their wishes.  

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