Early days of motherhood brought ‘anxiety and uncertainty’

WHEN I became a mother little over four months ago, it became apparent quite quickly that the world is full of parenting “experts”.

There are so many books, magazines and websites devoted to the subject that it is almost impossible to decipher what is what.

Then of course there are the friends, family members, colleagues and even complete strangers who freely offer their opinions.

The early days of new motherhood are fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. For most, dirty nappies and sleepless nights are just the tip of the iceberg.

The bigger challenge is adjusting to the enormous responsibility of looking after a tiny baby, while dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions at the same time.

So it is hugely difficult during those weeks to be faced with such conflicting words of advice – no matter who it is from.

BabyCalm is an organisation that, among other things, offers post-natal courses which support and guide new mums through this challenging period.

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We hear a lot in life about a ‘mother’s instinct’ and it is this that BabyCalm seeks to champion. It also aims to challenge widely-accepted views on parenting, which in many cases, are not supported with scientific fact.

Corinne Rooney, a course leader in Harpenden and St Albans and a mum herself, says: “The BabyCalm ethos is to help stressed-out parents and crying babies become happier parents and calmer babies; a focus on intuition, feelings, love and trust.”

The postnatal course is held over four two-hour sessions and focuses on the mothers as much as the babies.

Most of the sessions are discussion-based, and women are encouraged to share their experiences and raise issues in a confidential and non-judgmental environment.

Corinne, born in New Zealand and with a scientific working background, is one of over 120 leaders in the UK. She explains how BabyCalm is unique in its aims and could change the course of parenting in the future.

“BabyCalm is changing how we perceive parenting,” she says. “We want to empower women – and men – so that they can enjoy parenthood at its fullest while making sure baby is happy too.

“Everything we talk about is based on extensive scientific research, yet people rarely know much about it.

“It seems that people are stuck in ways of thinking that no longer fit with current knowledge and we are challenging those perceptions.

“We provide the information and prompt the discussion – and parents can make up their own minds.”

That information is gently filtered through to the mums during the sessions to avoid overwhelming them.

On reflection, much of it is fairly straightforward – so much so that you almost feel silly for not making the connection before. For instance, much is made of the baby’s ‘womb to world’ transition and how we as mothers can make that adjustment easier.

There are discussions on ways to calm your baby, while the pros and cons of some of the more controversial methods are also raised.

Everything is backed up by scientific research and Corinne dishes out facts and figures relating to most discussion topics – from co-sleeping to controlled crying, and breastfeeding to sleep deprivation.

Surprisingly we learn that many strongly-held views on parenting – such as the importance of early “routines” and ensuring your baby is not “clingy”– are not based on scientific fact whatsoever and that these methods can in fact have a negative impact on babies and parents.

Even where BabyCalm is a strong advocate for something – the skin-to-skin method of bonding for mums and dads being one – it is not rammed down people’s throats.

Interestingly, this entirely sensible method – where parents are encouraged to hold babies close to their naked skin – was recently given a high-profile boost when demonstrated by new dad Robbie Williams in a photograph published on his Twitter page.

There are some practical lessons too during the sessions, including detailed demonstrations in baby massage and wearing slings and the benefits they bring to the bonding process.

Looking ahead, there are discussions on returning to work and weaning your baby onto solids.

But it is through the discussions that the group members can perhaps learn most.

To hear the shared experiences of other people in the same position is instantly empowering and are a timely reminder that you are far from alone.

Meanwhile for Corinne, being a teacher has been a hugely satisfying experience, not least because of the positive feedback the courses have received.

She says: “It’s so lovely. It’s very touching to feel I’ve helped make a positive difference to life with their new baby – something that will have a lasting effect on the whole family.”

BabyCalm was founded by child psychologist Sarah Ockwell-Smith in 2007; its sister organisation ToddlerCalm was founded in 2012.

There are numerous BabyCalm classes available in St Albans and Harpenden including a colic and crying baby calming workshop, antenatal baby calming workshop, babywearing workshop and baby led weaning workshop.

The cost of the eight-hour post-natal course is �75 while other, shorter classes cost �35.

All of the class teachers are rigorously trained.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith has recently written a BabyCalm book – BabyCalm: A Guide for Calmer Babies and Happier Parents – which is available to buy from this month.

The BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm forums were launched recently, providing a support network accessible online.

For more information on BabyCalm and where to find classes, visit www.babycalm.co.uk