Friday, 4 January 2013

NCT–Friends First, Advice Second?

Oh dear, there appears to have been a bit of an upset with NCT, NCT devotees and Kirstie Allsopp. I don’t get involved in many ‘rows’ as I have an aversion to confrontation but it did make me think about my own experience.

I debated for some time about whether it was right for us to do NCT Antenatal classes. I had heard they were very ‘mother earth’, so pro-breastfeeding they made you feel really guilty for considering another option and there was no mention that some women can’t breastfeed for a number of reasons. At the time I was adamant that I was formula feeding from the start, it was only later I changed my mind, so this really didn’t appeal to me.

I had heard a lot of negative press second & third hand from people who had taken the NCT antenatal classes but when I started discussing with friends whether it was the right thing for us or whether, instead, the NHS classes would be better suited to us, they all said go with an open-mind, take a lot of what is being taught with a pinch of salt, make up your own mind but primarily think of it as an opportunity to meet friends who are all starting families at the same time as you so you’ll be going through parenting experiences at a similar time and above all, it will provide a support network for the mums.

We were told that the NHS classes were often very large (around 30 people), impersonal and there was very little opportunity for meeting new people and then forming a support network after (not everyone reported this, 2 of our close friends made several contacts/friends from their NHS class). However, the NCT classes were much smaller – of groups of around 6 couples.

So, we went in for the NCT classes – but did not become members in order to make the classes more affordable. We went with the advised expectations – take on board the advice, but go with the intention of meeting friends.

When the time came for our first session, I was actually very surprised. The teacher made it clear that she was there to give unbiased advice and she was flexible to the group’s needs. She would run the course based on what we wanted to cover, and this she did.

Everyone attending the course was there primarily for the same reason – to meet like-minded friends in the same situation. This was clear when everyone decided to go to the pub after the session for a drink (while enjoying the sunshine in the pub garden) to cement the new friendships.

Unfortunately, Stuart and I only got to attend the first NCT session as Callum decided to make an early appearance that week before the second session took place the following Saturday (we had booked a course that was 2 full Saturdays and one half session that was for women only to cover breastfeeding, but course structures do vary) . However, the lovely teacher agreed we could come in for a ‘show and tell’ to introduce our new little boy to the rest of the group. Apparently, she was going to cover how to change a baby’s nappy but as we gave a live demonstration, she skipped that part (yes I did have an audience as I changed Callum’s very stinky nappy!).

As a group, the women especially stayed close, meeting weekly. As far as I am aware, many of them still meet regularly today although regrettably I am no longer a part of the regular meet-ups as we relocated from Surrey to Bournemouth but I am still in touch with the girls.

You’d have to ask the other ladies (& guys) who attended the other sessions whether the rest of the course was as unbiased and open as the first session but I don’t remember hearing anything to the contrary from them in our discussions after.

I’m pleased to say that not all NCT sessions are biased and focus solely on the natural birth, home birth & breastfeeding is the only way approach but maybe the NCT do need to ensure everyone is getting the same experience from their classes and perhaps they need to be aware of the reputation they have and consider what they can do to change it as, from what I understand, word of mouth is stronger than marketing.

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