I first encountered NCT when I signed up for their antenatal classes when I was pregnant with our first child in 2001. Little did I imagine at that point that being involved with this amazing charity would eventually lead to me developing a career that has taken me in directions that I would never have thought possible.
The NCT Antenatal classes provided me with information and support and enabled me to develop confidence in myself and my ability to birth and breastfeed. At a time when none of our friends were having children, our NCT class introduced us to other local parents-to-be and we all formed a close bond through the mutual support that we provided for each other when our babies were born.
By the time I was having our second child, some of my other friends had started families of their own. They turned to me as an ‘experienced mum’, for breastfeeding support. Although I had breastfed my first and second child, I felt I wanted to be able to have the background knowledge and training to offer one to one support to other mothers. I decided to train as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor. I discovered that I loved the NCT style of facilitation, and the course content which covered breastfeeding knowledge, counselling skills and adult learning theory and practice all fuelled my passion for supporting new parents.
I qualified as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor in 2010. Part of my new role was to facilitate the breastfeeding session of an NCT antenatal course. I have to admit I was not looking forward to it – I have never been a particularly confident person, and certainly never relished the thought of standing up in front of a group and talking. However I found I really enjoyed the sessions, and from the feedback that I received it seemed that the parents enjoyed them too.
I live in rural area of Somerset, and felt very aware of the limited services for anyone in my area, but especially new mothers. There was no local breastfeeding support, so when I heard that a new children’s centre was to be built in the next village, I contacted the area manager and requested a meeting (something else that I never imagined I would do!) I put forward my idea of having a local breastfeeding drop-in group, and the manager appointed me – to run one locally and two more in the Bridgwater area. Three years later, the contract had to be terminated due to funding cuts, but I was determined to keep a group going. I applied to Awards for All, and in January 2014 I was able to open the Cannington Baby Cafe. The word spread about what mums could gain from attending such a group – warm, friendly, non-judgemental breastfeeding support and information (all values at the core of NCT). Mums travelled from across Somerset to attend the group where they could meet other mums and importantly, enjoy a hot drink! Sadly the funding ran out a year later, but since then I have secured another group to re-open as an NCT drop-in, and also to fund some training for peer supporters who will be able to help support the group as the attendance has grown.
Today I continue to facilitate the group and breastfeeding classes. Last year I qualified with the NCT to facilitate their new antenatal course, ‘Essentials’ and I have loved being able to work with parents through such an important time in their life. It was a desire to offer more support in the antenatal and early postnatal period that also led me to train as a NCT doula. Today I work as an independent doula, but my training and the support I received whilst attending the NCT course was exemplary.
Supporting people in their journey to parenthood my passion – my training and my work with NCT has led me down many new paths, given me new skills and so much more confidence in myself and working with other professionals.
And the best part of all is how many wonderful parents I have had the privilege to work with, at what is often their most vulnerable, challenging, exhausting, rewarding and exciting time of their life.


Baby Cafe launches in Cannington, Somerset, UK


On the 13th January 2014, local breastfeeding mums gathered at Cannington United Reform Church for the opening of the newest Baby Cafe. We were joined by local health visitors and midwives, the MP for Bridgwater Ian Liddell-Grainger and the councillor for Cannington, Ian Dyer. All enjoyed meeting and chatting over lovely refreshments including a beautiful celebration cake made for the event by my good friend (and one of the mums from my original breastfeeding group) Emma Chillingworth of Rainbow Bakes. Everyone was very impressed and supportive of the new group.

I applied for and received a grant of £5000 from Awards for All to set up the Baby Cafe, and I was delighted to see so many mums attending. I am well aware that support is one of the key factors in enabling mums to establish and keep breastfeeding – new mums gain confidence and support, meeting other mums in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, and I am there each week to offer one to one breastfeeding support or information. We also have a selection of books that are available to borrow, as well as useful leaflets and DVDs covering breastfeeding and related baby topics such as weaning and sleep.

The Baby Cafe charity, established in the UK in 2000, coordinates a network of breastfeeding drop-in centres and other services to support breastfeeding mothers across the UK and other parts of the world – there are now groups as far afield as the Channel Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States!

Baby Cafe drop-ins support 7,800 mums annually – in total mothers make 30,500 visits to Baby cafe drop-ins , with the drop-ins offering  7,500 hours of support annually. Baby Cafes are run by health professionals such as midwives, health visitors, or lactation consultants. They may also be run by healthcare practioners e.g. nursery nurse or maternity support worker, or by breastfeeding counsellors. The most common reason for attending Baby Cafe drop-ins is for the social support gained from being with other breastfeeding mums. Close behind are the specific issues for which mums seek professional  support (sleep issues, starting solids, expressing milk and milk supply issues)

99% of mums surveyed find their Baby Cafe drop-in ‘very helpful’ or ‘helpful’

 All pregnant and breastfeeding mums are welcome to drop in at any time during opening hours. Partners are welcome too. Cannington baby Cafe runs every Monday except bank holidays, 10.30am-12pm at Cannington United Reform Church, high Street Cannington.

Contact me through my website at www.sarahharcombedoula.co.uk or see http://www.thebabycafe.org/ for more details

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