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Editors Welcome

Welcome to your Autumn 2020 Newsletter!

There’s a definite chill in the air this week as we say, “Goodbye, summer,” and “Hello, autumn”. The new season brings beautiful autumn colours, and as we all inevitably spend more time outdoors the kids will enjoy collecting those colourful leaves and conkers. Get inspiration for where to meet friends both outside and in with our ‘Pram Meet Ups’ feature.

Also in this newsletter we speak to two mums who had newborns during the spring lockdown to find out how they coped, and we update you on how Covid-19 restrictions are affecting local pre- and post-natal services and resources. Plus, children’s food brand Little Puku talks about food allergies and how to cope if your child is diagnosed with one. 

We hope you enjoy reading, and if you have any comments, ideas on future articles or would like to join our team please do get in touch: newsletter.reading@nct.org.uk.

Cristabel and Natalie 
The Editors 


Jump to Articles

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Branch News

Online Evening Bumps

Lockdown Babies

Birth Story

Pram Friendly Meet Up Locations

Coping with Children’s Food Allergies

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last Updated 18 September 2020

Please try to keep up to date with the latest information to help reduce the spread of infection.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced information on coronavirus for pregnant women and their families

The NHS website has more information about how to reduce the possible spread of infection.

Maternal Mental Health Alliance members have offered reassuring tips and practical advice to help us all manage our mental wellbeing during the outbreak.

Royal Berkshire Maternity have put together a frequently asked questions about antenatal, through to postnatal care. 

NCT have a series of articles regarding coronavirus and your baby.

Online Support

Parent to Parent Support
NCT Reading & Wokingham Breastfeeding Peer Support 
Breastfeeding Counsellors 
Slings and Carriers
Cloth Nappies
Lockdown Bumps, Births and Babies in Reading
Reading Maternity Clothes Library

Groups

NCT Reading’s primary focus is the safety of parents and our volunteers, practitioners and staff, as such all in-person groups, events and courses are closed until further notice.

Keep an eye on our Facebook group for any updates on events and daily threads to help with any feelings of loneliness through isolation.

Sling Library

The library will be closed until further notice. Our volunteers are still manning our Facebook group if you have any questions, and YouTube is a great resource for help with fitting.

One of our volunteers, who also runs her own sling consultancy, will be offering free online mini consultations during this time.

Breastfeeding Support

Our NCT Breastfeeding Counsellors have set up an online support group for anyone to access support at home while our groups are not running.

We also have our local peer supporter page that you can message to arrange an online chat with one of our peer supporters.

You can also chat to NCT Breastfeeding Counsellors on 0300 330 0700.

Royal Berkshire Maternity

Midwives at Royal Berkshire are doing weekly Q&A sessions on their Facebook page.

A FAQ document has also been put together about care during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic  

Rushey Ward, the Midwife Led Unit, has reopened. 

All women who are going to stay in hospital for any reason during pregnancy, or labour, or if they need to return to hospital after giving birth, are currently being tested for Coronavirus. If you choose to, you can refuse the test. 

Tongue Tie service has resumed: Referrals only from your Community Midwife/ HV/ GP.

Partners

Partners can go with you to your scan at both RBH and West Berkshire Community Hospital, to your antenatal clinic appointment, AND to the Day Assessment Unit.

This means your partner can be with you all the way through your labour including when you are being assessed before being admitted, though if the waiting room is full they may have to wait outside until you are called in for assessment.

Labour, Birth and Postnatal 

Only one birth partner can support a woman during induction of labour, labour or a Caesarean section. The birth partner must be well, without symptoms of Coronavirus and have not tested positive for Coronavirus in the last seven days. 

Visiting Hours

There is now restricted visiting on the wards this must be the birth partner and no children allowed. 

Marsh Ward – 1-2pm and 5-6pm. 
Iffley Ward – Green beds 1-2pm and 5-6pm / Yellow beds 3-4pm and 7-8pm. 


  • All visitors must wear a face mask and use hand gel. 

  • All visitors must stay in the room or by the bedside. If a member of staff if needed, you must use the call bell. 

  • Visitors must wash hands with soap and water before holding the baby and after nappy changes. 

  • Visitors must leave promptly when the bell is rung to indicate the end of visiting. 

  • Staff reserve the right to ask visitors to leave if they are unable to comply with the above. 


NCT Courses

All in-person NCT courses, workshops and groups are still cancelled until further notice. All courses through to August are now online. 

As society adjusts to life with Covid-19, our friendly, highly-trained course leaders are using Zoom to grow your knowledge in fun, interactive group sessions. Even though we’re socially distancing, you’ll still make new friends and build a supportive network of local-parents-to be.

If you have any questions about NCT services or courses for parents, please call the Enquiries Team on 0300 330 0700.

Reading Council

Following the latest government advice – which includes social distancing measures – the council has taken the decision to close the following buildings to the public with effect from Tuesday 17 March 2020:

  • Town Hall
  • Leisure centres
  • Museum
  • Arts and theatres
  • Community buildings
  • Civic offices

Libraries

Central Library reopened on 27 July for limited services. 

All other libraries remain closed

Birth Registrations

Reading Council are now taking Birth registrations appointments by date of birth order. 

  • If parents are married to each other, only one parent will be allowed to attend the appointment
  • If parents are not married to each other, only the two parents will be allowed to attend the appointment
  • Whenever possible do not bring the baby to the appointment

Playgrounds and outdoor gyms

Playgrounds and outdoor gyms across Reading have been gradually opening from Saturday 4 July.

When using newly reopened playgrounds, people are strongly encouraged to stick to coronavirus safety advice, to help avoid the spread of coronavirus. Anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus must not visit a play area. Other advice includes:

  • adults and children maintain a minimum 1m+ distance from others
  • don't be offended when others try to maintain a distance from you
  • if the playground is busy, consider coming back when it is quieter
  • bring and use hand sanitiser or wet wipes before and after play
  • wash hands before you come and when you return home
  • put rubbish in litter bins or take litter home
  • Stay safe, be kind, protect others
     

Reading Children's Centres

Following the closure of all of Reading Borough buildings all Reading Well Baby clinics will be closed until further notice.

If you have any Health Visiting related queries, please contact the Health Visiting Duty line (Monday – Friday, 09.00am-4.30pm) on: 0118 9312111 (option 1).

Although children’s centres, which are in Reading Borough Council buildings are now closed to the public, the exception is pre-arranged (not drop-in) health appointments for expectant mothers.

All updates for the children’s centres will be posted on their Facebook page.

Speech and Language

All speech and language therapy drop-in clinics have been suspended across Berkshire until further notice.   

If you were intending to go to a Speech and Language Therapy Drop-in clinic during this time as you have a concern or need advice and would like to speak to a speech and language therapist, please send an email to the following:  

The Early Years SEND Advisory Service have adapted their way of working to support families directly during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents can now also refer to the Early Years Advisory Service by completing this parent referral form and returning it to early.years@brighterfuturesforchildren.org

Face Coverings

You can read the Government’s guidance on face coverings here.

Who should wear a mask

  • Anyone in public buildings such as libraries or museums (mandatory)
  • People in shops and supermarkets (mandatory)
  • People visiting a hospital (mandatory)
  • People using public transport (mandatory)
  • Anyone who cannot easily social distance e.g. working in a small office space

Who shouldn't wear a mask

  • Children under 3 years old or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. Wearing a mask is not compulsory for children under 11. 
  • Anyone with breathing difficulties
  • Anyone who experiences stress or extreme discomfort wearing a face covering
  • Anyone unable to remove a mask without assistance e.g. an unconscious person

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NCT Reading News

Groups

NCT HQ are reviewing guidelines pertaining to new parents’ groups being exempt from the new rule of 6. Should the risk evaluation dictate that some groups can be run, we will run a group for non-mobile babies every Tuesday on the Bel & Dragon boat. 

We at NCT are looking at replacing our local meet ups in coffee shops with Walk & Talk groups. Under the new parent support exemption we can have 15 attendees inclusive of volunteer host (s) and children.

We need volunteer hosts for a once a month walk on a Wednesday morning in Christchurch Meadows, Palmer Park, Prospect Park and Cintra Park. This will allow us to have at least one group weekly.

More information can be found here https://www.nct.org.uk/.../join-nct-walk-and-talk-volunteer and the branch team will help with the set up, publicising and booking process. Please comment email coordinator.reading@nct.org.uk if interested

Evening Bumps are still running virtually every Wednesday evening but are looking for new hosts. Unfortunately Bumps & Babies and the West Reading virtual meet ups no longer have a host. 

If you are interested in hosting any outdoor groups or online meet ups, please do get in touch with coordinator.reading@nct.org.uk

Sling Library

The risk assessment paperwork has been sent to NCT HQ with the hopes of launching a contactless service on Thursday 1 October. 

Nearly New Sale

The Nearly New Sale has been suspended and will not run until it is safe and practical to do so.

Support

Keep an eye on our Facebook group for any updates on events and daily threads to help with any feelings of loneliness through isolation.  

For further local support:

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Online Evening Bumps

Kristina 

Sarah and I volunteered to co-host an Evening Bump zoom chat back when lockdown started as a way to connect with other expectant mums. This is my second pregnancy but first as a twin mum and I knew it could be a lot more isolating. Sarah and I really got on well and have loved getting to know a group of expectant mums over the weeks and being able to talk baby stuff with others who knew what you were going through, especially during this crazy time of Covid. I have volunteered for NCT before, during my first maternity leave, by setting up the branch’s sling library and I would encourage any expectant mum to get involved as much or as little as you can because it really does help during those lonely times as a new parent. 

Sarah

As a first-time mum-to-be, with none of my friends pregnant, or already having kids and stuck in lockdown, pregnancy was starting to look like it might be a bit of a lonely journey. My friends were certainly a bit bored of conversations about aching limbs, birthing balls and breastfeeding! So when the opportunity to help set up and run an evening ‘bumps’ call arose, I jumped at the chance. We’ve run a weekly video call since mid-May, where I’ve got to know lots of other expectant mums and made some new friends that I hope I’ll get to share the next part of my motherhood experience with – maternity leave! I can’t recommend enough to everyone to take that little leap and throw yourself out there to speak to new people in the same situation as you, at such a strange time to be pregnant – it’s definitely one of the best decisions I made all pregnancy!

We would like to thank all the mums we have met along the way and wish you all the best of luck on this journey. Always ask for help if you need it, no matter how much or little, everyone needs someone to talk to.
 
Kristina and Sarah are now unable to host further online meetups as their babies are due imminently. If you are interested in becoming the new host, please do get in touch with Laura at coordinator.reading@nct.org.uk. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t joined before. All you need to do is be able to log on for 8pm each Wednesday, ideally for a few weeks at least, and want to chat to other mums-to-be.

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Lockdown Babies

Having a new baby is difficult at the best of times, but lockdown restrictions this year brought new challenges for mum of two Agi, and first-time mum Adina. Here they talk about what it was really like having a baby during lockdown, and how they managed to stay positive, despite the situation.

Newborn

Did your birth plans change as a result of lockdown?

Agi: Thankfully I gave birth just before lockdown so I wasn’t affected.

Adina: I was hoping to have a water birth in the hospital birthing suite, but the pandemic scuppered that. Just days before my son was born the birthing pools were out of use due to fears about infection. Despite the change of plan I had a positive birth experience and was looked after by a fantastic midwife.  

How did lockdown affect you introducing your baby to family and friends?

Agi: My plan was always to take some time away from everyone and everything as a family (maybe 2/3 weeks). So sadly after the initial planned alone time, we had almost no opportunities to meet with friends, and as our families live abroad we were not able to visit them. Even though many friends went over the summer to see their families we decided against this.

Adina: Sadly my family and closest friends missed the newborn stage. My parents saw their grandson for the first time in person when he was about nine weeks old. However I was able to do regular video calls from hospital and home. My husband’s parents live in Sardinia so we’ve had to put visiting them on hold for now.

What breastfeeding support was available to you during lockdown?

Agi: I’m not sure as I only had two health visitor appointments and due to lockdown everything else was over the phone. Thankfully it was my second baby and I knew what I had to do and breastfeeding wasn’t a problem. However, if it was, I’m not sure how easy it would have been to get support that was more than a chat over the phone.

Adina: My health visitor came out to see me when my son was six weeks old and I was also able to pop into one of the local children's centres for an appointment. On both occasions we wore PPE. The national breastfeeding helpline was also available as well as Dr Google!

How have you coped with parent and child groups and play groups being closed during lockdown?

Agi: I tried to focus on the wellbeing of my kids and planned activities and made lists of things I could do with them the day before. I tried to do more video calls with family and friends so they saw people even if for a short time. Not having groups was sad, but perspective is everything, and I knew we were safe at home and blessed with health and extra time alone as a family (even though it was hard at times as my husband was working). I missed the freedom that we very often take for granted, yet found myself bonding even more with my little family.

Adina: It's not the maternity leave I'd envisaged, but we've been able to bond very quickly after so much time spent at home. Since my son was a week old we've been for walks in his baby carrier almost every day. Those moments outside have been wonderfully uplifting and great for ensuring he naps during the day.

Did you meet other mums and how did you do this?

Agi: During the lockdown we didn’t see anyone in person for weeks. When the rules eased we saw two mums with kids for a walk and made sure we had a ball to kick or bikes (for kids) to avoid face-to-face contact or passing of objects. It worked very well. We made a game out of it so the kids were not scared or frustrated and they understood even at that age to stay at a distance.

Adina: I went along to a couple of evening socials when I was in my third trimester and used a Mum app. I also booked a hospital NCT course, which fortunately happened two weeks before lockdown. I've since made some other friends through baby groups.

How did lockdown make you feel, and what was the one thing you wished you could do?

Agi: I became even more grateful and blessed for what we have and tried to focus on what we can do, not what we lost. I hoped to have family over from abroad or to fly there but that was not possible.

Adina: I'm a very sociable person and love being outdoors. I was determined to not feel trapped at home and spent a lot of time in my local park enjoying the fresh air with my son. My garden has also been a lifeline as well as video calls with my nearest and dearest. I wish my Mum, Dad and sisters got to hold my son when he was just born; that special moment was taken away from us.

What’s the biggest difference having a baby during lockdown compared to previously? 

Agi: Lack of support was the main difference. No friends popping over to break up the day and have a simple yet very important face time with very needed hug or 5-minute break to shower. It was and still is a very testing time in everyone’s lives. However, I’m making sure my kids will remember fun, fun, fun and mummy having to wear funny masks to shops, not a stressful situation when we were angry, frustrated or sad. If it was my first child I would potentially feel more lost or bored, but having two under two years during lockdown one can’t get bored.

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Birth Story

Natalie gave birth at the beginning of the year, before COVID-19 restrictions were in place. 

Pregnant Natalie at Christmas

It was just a regular Saturday morning in our household. My husband and 2-year-old son had gone to their usual football class and being 37+3 weeks pregnant I decided to have a relaxing bath and listen to my hypnobirthing tracks.

Whilst in the bath I started to notice some period-like pain coming at regular intervals, but quickly dismissed it as Braxton Hicks.

My husband arrived home and I very casually told him that I could be in early labour. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this was the real thing, despite my protests that it was probably nothing. My husband on the other hand was far more sceptical, given that it was almost 3 weeks before the due date, and was still talking of his plans to play hockey later that day.

By 11am I was even more suspicious that it was the real thing as the cramps were regular and hadn’t dissipated. Despite it being my second baby, I didn’t have any experience of Braxton Hicks, and after checking online realised my symptoms didn’t match. At that point I debated whether or not to call my parents to come and look after my son, who were over 2 hours away, but I decided to wait; just in case it was a false alarm!

By 1.30pm however the cramps had intensified enough that I knew I needed to call them, especially given how long it might take them to arrive. They were equally as sceptical to begin with, and I had to convince them this was the real thing.

As the contractions became more regular and intense I started using my TENS machine. It was a very different experience to my first labour, which was completed without the presence of a toddler - the image of my son climbing on my back as I was having a contraction on all fours will definitely stick in my mind forever!

As the minutes passed I realised that I may have left it too late to call my parents or arrange any sort of childcare. I tried my best to hold out, but the contractions were getting stronger and as my first labour progressed quickly, I was worried about leaving it too late to go to the hospital.

So, with toddler in tow we left for the Royal Berkshire at 2.30pm. I felt extremely calm despite the situation and even when we pulled up on the maternity ramp and there were no parking spaces, I very calmly told my husband that I would go in by myself and he should find a parking space with my son.

I went up to the Rushey midwife-led ward and checked in. The waiting to be seen has to be one of the most gruelling experiences as the midwives go about their routines and seem oblivious to how you’re feeling. After what seemed like forever (but was most likely only 5 minutes) I was taken to be examined and found to be already 8cm dilated! At that moment I felt like dancing around the room with joy!

My husband arrived and we were escorted to the summer birthing room. It was where my son had been born and the familiarity brought me a wonderful sense of comfort. The room has a large birthing pool with low lighting; the perfect atmosphere for a calm birth.

The midwives started running the pool and I continued to use TENS. I was offered gas and air, but I found it interfered with my breathing, which was hugely important in being able to cope with the contractions.

I climbed into the warm water and continued my breathing - 4 breaths in and 8 breaths out. I quickly got the urge to birth my baby and switched my breathing to accommodate. I was quite vocal on the out breath making an ‘ahhhhh’ sound, which felt natural. The contractions were very intense as the labour was progressing so quickly.

The midwives kept checking my progress and I was impatient to hear whether they could see the head. There was lots of encouragement from them and my husband, which really helped to continue motivating me. I knew I was coping well with the labour and it wouldn’t be long before I’d meet my baby.

I kept asking whether it was time to pant yet - I was so determined not to tear! I’d been lucky to get a mild graze with my son and I wanted to avoid anything worse. Eventually when they told me to it seemed like forever before I was allowed to push again. I saw my whole body shaking with the effort of it.

Through the birth I mainly used breathing to birth my baby. Towards the end however I did need to give a few active pushes as I instinctively felt it was needed. On that final push and with that wonderful relief of release, my baby was passed forward under the water to me and I was so thrilled when I realised it was a girl.

I sat on the edge of the bath and held her with the cord attached still - feeling relief and a sense of euphoria at welcoming baby Zara into the world.

Newborn Zara

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Pram Friendly Meet Up Spots 

It can be tricky to find places to meet up with other mums when you have prams. There may not be enough space for all the prams and everyone to sit, paths may not be wide enough. Some places aren’t even very accommodating for just one! We asked our Facebook group for suggestions of where they have found to be pram friendly.  

Outdoors 

  • Beale Park 
  • California Country Park 
  • Christchurch Meadows 
  • Dinton Pastures Country Park 
  • Forbury Gardens 
  • Green Park 
  • Nature Discovery Centre 
  • Palmers Park 
  • Prospect Park 
  • Sulham Woods 

Indoors

  • Bel & the Dragon 
  • Bill’s 
  • CUP 
  • Franco Manca 
  • John Lewis Cafe 
  • Mad Duck Café 
  • Mad Hatter’s Pottery Painting Café 
  • Madhouse Soft play 
  • Parkside Cafe (currently takeaway only)
  • The Packhorse Pub  
  • Wellington Farm Shop 

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Coping with Children’s Food Allergies

Baking

Natalie Gangeswaran, owner of baby and toddler food brand, Little Puku, talks about her experiences with food allergies and how to cope if your child is diagnosed with one.

“I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy in my early 20s and have since been interested in special allergy diets and understanding how to cater for them. 

In the UK it is now estimated that around 7% of breast-fed infants develop a food allergy, with 1 in 40 developing a peanut allergy and 1 in 20 an egg allergy (BSACI, 2011).  Cow’s milk protein allergy is shown to affect up to 7.5% of infants in their first year of life (Allergy UK).

If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy it may feel stressful and restrictive to begin with. It is hard to get to grips initially with a different diet, but there is plenty of support available both on and offline. Also try to remember that most allergies are mild and can be managed easily through diet.

Thankfully times have changed since I was diagnosed and there is now greater awareness of allergies and plenty of alternative options available. Coeliac disease (the auto-immune condition caused by gluten) was relatively unheard of when I was diagnosed, but is now widely catered for by food manufacturers and restaurants, as are the other most prevalent allergies of egg and dairy with more choice of dairy-free, lactose-free and nut-free foods than ever before. 

Most supermarkets have their own ‘free from’ ranges and some specific products for children, such as breakfast cereal, chocolate and pasta, so your little one need not miss out. They also have special ranges at Easter and Christmas too, with ‘free from’ Easter eggs and advent calendars available.

Eating out with an allergy is far easier than it used to be, with restaurants now needing to legally provide a list of ingredients and allergens for each dish on their menu. Most staff are well trained in providing allergy information to their customers, but if you’re ever unsure it’s worth speaking to the manager or chef directly for greater peace of mind. A number of the chain restaurants have specific kids’ allergy menus, charged at the same price as the regular kids’ meals.

The other concern for parents is the cost of these special diets, with ‘free from’ products sometimes costing 100-150% more than regular products. To keep costs down try buying the supermarkets’ own cheaper ‘free from’ alternatives, make your own at home if you have time, or bulk buy freezeable products like bread when they’re on special offer. Also, look out for regular products that just happen to be allergy-free, such as rice noodles to replace egg noodles in a gluten-free diet. These are often cheaper than buying products in the ‘free from’ range. Always check the allergen information on the packaging before giving to your child.
Another source of stress for parents with allergic children are birthday parties. It can be challenging to manage the situation if you’re not there in person, and you don’t want your child to feel left out. Try to speak to the parent organising the party in advance so they have plenty of notice about your child’s allergy. You may have to be very specific about what they can and can’t have if they’ve never dealt with allergies before. Check what food they’re planning to serve and help them identify the things that will be a problem for your child. They might be willing to have allergen labels on the food, or even provide some separate ‘free from’ food. As an allergy sufferer myself, I have experienced both wonderful and very poor hospitality, so would recommend putting together a little pack of food for your child to take to the party in case there’s nothing they can eat. 

I often find that people panic when they’ve never catered for someone with an allergy before, but in reality it’s a lot simpler than they imagine. Understanding what you can and can’t have does take some time, but there are many alternative ingredients available and so many recipe ideas online or in magazines, you won’t go hungry! For some inspiration, check out our ‘free from’ sweet treat recipes below.

For more family and kids’ recipe ideas follow our page on Instagram or Facebook

Little Puku

Coconut Chia Pudding with Banana and Date 

free from gluten, dairy and egg

Makes around 6 portions

Ingredients

  • 75g chia seeds
  • 500ml coconut milk drink
  • 90g dairy-free plain yoghurt
  • 1 banana
  • 5 dates, stones removed

Method

Add the chia seeds, coconut milk drink and yoghurt to an airtight container and stir well. Soak for at least 2 hrs in the fridge, stirring again halfway through.

De-seed the dates and cut in half. Soak for 20 mins in hot water to soften.

Drain water from dates and add to blender with banana until paste consistency is achieved.

Portion out the chia seed mixture into bowls and top with the date and banana. Serve immediately.

Flapjack Bites

free from gluten, dairy and egg

Makes around 20 bites

Ingredients

  • 100g gluten-free oats
  • 100g smooth peanut butter
  • 25g dried cranberries
  • 25g raisins
  • 40g honey

Method

Melt the peanut butter and honey together in a pan for 3 minutes until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and add the oats, cranberries and raisins. Mix thoroughly.

Wet your hands and take a teaspoon of the mixture and shape into a ball, then place on a tray. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.

Chill in the fridge to set for 90 minutes before serving.

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