Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world. I meet parents-to-be at the most exciting time, towards the end of pregnancy, and help them to think about what they want for the first days and weeks of their babies’ lives. I find the subject of breastfeeding endlessly fascinating, and could easily fill twice as much time as I usually get to spend with parents antenatally. Since I qualified 3.5 years ago, I have learned so much from the people I work with, and I like to think that my approach constantly evolves and improves to take account of the different decision-making processes used in different families. I have grown to be more accepting of different styles of parenting, and to value parenting in itself, in all its different facets.
At the moment I am very busy facilitating breastfeeding sessions on antenatal courses in Wokingham, Twyford, Reading, Bracknell, Crowthorne and Camberley, and sometimes as far afield as Marlow and Slough.
For the last four years, we have had a weekly drop-in breastfeeding support group at Brambles Children’s Centre. This started slowly but has gone from strength to strength. We see around 350 new parents a year at the group, and have a great working relationship with the Health Visiting Team, who work across the corridor from us at the baby clinic. Unfortunately the Children’s Centre management has decided to close down the group, choosing to direct their funding towards more targeted and measurable working. We are not yet sure if this will involve NCT, but it’s certainly very sad not to be working from Brambles anymore.
I also host the Bumps and Babies group that meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month at the Bradbury Centre in Wokingham. Every other meeting has a speaker or an activity, but the group mainly has a social support function, giving new mums the opportunity to get out of the house and meet people. I’m there to provide breastfeeding support if it’s needed.
Breastfeeding Counsellors can work on the NCT’s national Breastfeeding Line (0300 3300 0700) listening to and supporting mothers and fathers across the country. I usually do three hours a week on the line. I also get local calls from parents I have met on antenatal courses; most days there is at least one call, text or email, and sometimes these turn into home visits. All of this part of my work is voluntary. You may also have seen me on Facebook on the NCT page and Wokingham Gossip Girls, just reminding people that support with breastfeeding is available.
When I started my training, my son was eight months old and not taking well to solid food, so introducing solids has always been a subject of great interest to me. I run Introducing Solids Workshops locally, and I’m part of NCT’s Introducing Solids Team, developing our policy, working on the website and information centre to communicate about the subject, and delivering study days for other Breastfeeding Counsellors to be able to run workshops.
People ask me if this is a full time job, and I can honestly say that there isn’t time for much else, although it isn’t full time paid work. I’m very lucky to have a supportive and understanding partner, as well as support from the local team of antenatal teachers within NCT. Sometimes my job is hard work, frustrating and draining, and it feels like you’re carrying the weight of parents’ disappointment and anxiety; sometimes you don’t do anything at all and not doing anything works for that family; and sometimes it’s the most satisfying and interesting work I could ever imagine doing.
[This post is a description of one working week. These are my views and my words, and I do not speak for or represent NCT]