25 Oct

Book Review: Why Doulas Matter, by Maddie McMahon

I love that near the beginning of Why Doulas Matter, MM points out that “on one level, doulas do not matter.” The invisible but steadfast presence of a doula, and how much difference she can make to the experience of birth, is the most important lesson this book can teach you.

This is a book about what doulas do and how they do it, and it also tells you what they are thinking about while they’re doing it. Maddie’s voice comes through very clearly, and unlike other books in the Why It Matters series, this one is far more personal than political. One exception to this is her mini-rant about the politics of breastfeeding, where the most passionate passion of a very passionate woman is clearly revealed.

Why Doulas Matter contains much useful information about birth and breastfeeding, woven into chapters about labour, meeting your baby, breastfeeding, and the postnatal period. One thing I felt was missing was a little more history of women supporting women during childbirth, setting the question of why doulas matter in the context of the 21st Century western world.

This book would be particularly useful for people thinking about what sort of support they might need during and after birth, whether or not that support comes from a doula. It would also be useful for both new and experienced doulas who want to reflect on their role. It answers all the questions you might have about doulas, and much more.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of Why Doulas Matter by the publishers Pinter & Martin. You can get a copy here, with 10% discount using the offer code SPROGCAST at the checkout].

21 Oct

Book Review: Why Human Rights In Childbirth Matter, by Rebecca Schiller

This is a small book that should have a massive impact. Doula and human rights campaigner Rebecca Schiller is a great advocate for this important subject, bringing to it eloquence, experience, and a deep understanding of the issues faced by women in childbirth. She is almost uniquely positioned to present the case for human rights in childbirth.

The book is presented in two sections, the smaller second section being a clear and useful guide to women’s rights in birth, with a FAQ approach and a comprehensive set of information.

The bulk of the book examines the matter in more detail, starting with an exploration of the context in which women give birth, both in developed and developing parts of the world. She provides a very good explanation of the Human Rights Act and how it applies to birth, with several compelling examples. This is the first book where I have ever read every one of the real life quotations.

I found that the chapter on Feminisms of Birth particularly resonated. Schiller’s discussion of the political dilemma of campaigning to improve women’s experience, without polarising people into different camps, was enlightening and helpful. She concludes, of course, that the ultimate aim must be respectful, compassionate and individualised care based on the best available evidence, but trusting every woman to make decisions about what happens to her own body.

If you have ever pondered the real meaning of consent, or witnessed a non-consented procedure, or been asked to consent to something you did not fully understand, this book will be meaningful to you. Absolutely everyone involved in birth needs to be aware of the contents of this book, above all the women heading into the system, whatever that system is in their part of the world. Human rights in childbirth really do matter, and Rebecca Schiller is a hero in her tireless advocacy.

[Disclaimer: The publisher Pinter & Martin sent me a free review copy of Human Rights In Childbirth. You can get a copy here, with 10% discount using the code SPROGCAST at the checkout.]

19 Oct

Star NCT practitioner nominated for national award

An NCT practitioner from Wokingham has been nominated for a national award for her dedication to supporting new parents in the community.

Breastfeeding Counsellor Karen Hall has been nominated for the ‘Behind The Scenes’ category in the NCT Stars Awards 2016, an event hosted by the UK’s largest charity for parents.
Karen won the regional award and has been shortlisted for the national NCT Stars Awards along with winners from other UK regions.

The national winners will be announced at a special celebration at City Hall, London on 2 November and hosted by NCT’s Chief Executive, Nick Wilkie.

Karen said: Like most NCT practitioners, we do a lot of unpaid work supporting local parents, which largely goes unnoticed, so it’s nice to be recognised.

Head of NCT College, Virginia Campbell said: “The energy and enthusiasm NCT practitioners provide to the many new parents who turn to NCT for support through the First 1,000 Days is remarkable. The NCT Stars Awards are a wonderful opportunity for us to say thank you to these often unsung heroes of NCT.”

If you are interested in becoming an NCT practitioner visit NCT’s website or call NCT’s enquiries line on 0300 330 0770.

02 Oct

Book Review: Baby-Led Parenting, by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett

From start to finish, this book is thoroughly useful. I loved its measured tone and empowering language, and its clear explanations of how babies’ behaviour has evolved to meet their basic survival needs.

It is clearly divided into chapters along the main themes of meeting baby, feeding, sleep etc: those crucial subjects for a new parent. Particular highlights include p65 on the father’s role during a babymoon period, the excellent baby-centred advice around bottle feeding, and the long list of suggestions to soothe a crying baby.

Throughout, and especially in the chapter on communication, Rapley & Murkett encourage new parents to develop empathy with the baby’s point of view, as well as reassuring them that responding promptly and positively to a newborn’s needs will foster independence, security, and a strong bond between parent and child.

If I had to come up with a criticism, it would be that a glossier, more colourful book, might have wider appeal with new parents. But this really is a positive book full of well-evidenced, practical information, from authors who are well-respected authorities in their field.