I have often felt frustrated visiting new mums struggling with the whole deal – a baby who has difficulty breastfeeding, an unsettled baby and sleepless days and nights. My frustration isn’t that I couldn’t help these women but that they need ongoing support – from other mums. They needed community – they needed to feel they weren’t ‘the only one’ who was finding this transition to being a mum really tough going.
One week I visited three mothers within a block of each other , all with babies the same age. All of these mums were struggling with various new baby issues – feeding, sleep (lack of it) and feeling completely isolated. I asked, ‘have you talked about this in your mums’ group?’ Each mother answered, “Oh, no – they are all so together!”
The thing is, because of client confidentiality, I couldn’t ask, “do you know ‘xxx’ around the corner? Is she in your mums group?” Although I was certain these mums were all actually in the same group. And I certainly couldn’t say, “she is having a hard time too.”
This was when I started organizing ‘mummy meetups’ – casually, as it suited me. We met at a child-friendly café with a lovely fenced in outdoor play area. Mothers were able to relax and chat, enjoy a cuppa together and feel supported against the pressure to train babies or wean or punish their toddlers for exploring as little ones naturally do. They were able to talk about moving babies out of their beds, baby led weaning and healthy food ideas, solutions to babies who bite, toddlers who push, and all the best places to take babies and small children.
Then I became busy, the meetups hadn’t happened for a while and a lovely mum asked if I would like her to organize one. The rest, as they say, is history!
We set up a facebook group for the mums at this meetup to connect easily and soon we were inundated with requests to start more. We now have Parenting by Heart groups far and wide –there are around 14 around Melbourne alone! These groups are all organized by volunteer coordinators who post details on the various facebook group pages.
There is no fee for meet-ups. The only cost is whatever cost individual meet-up venues may charge – eg for your own tea and coffee or perhaps an entry fee if you decide to meet at a facility such as a pool (venues are agreed on within the groups). Mostly though, meet-ups are held in no cost venues such as parks. The only rules are that everyone is respectful, accepting and supportive, that there is no advice to train babies using practices such as controlled crying or CIO(cry it out). We advocate a gentle approach to baby and toddler care and that only books and websites that support these gentle parenting options are recommended. These groups are a safe place to meet up with other families who are exploring gentle nurturing options – with respect that this encompasses a spectrum of care (but excludes controlled crying/ CIO or physical punishment). You may be breastfeeding or bottle feeding, bed sharing, cosleeping or have your child in a cot, you may be puree-ing baby food or following baby led weaning , you may be using cloth nappies or disposables, you might ‘wear’ your baby or use a pram, you might wear birkenstocks or high heels – or you may be doing a mixture of all of these things. If you want to share love, laughs, honesty and fun, you are welcome!
Here is a list of links to the facebook groups in Australia and New Zealand – check them out and request to join up.
If there isn’t a Parenting By Heart Mummy Meetup group in your area and you would like to start one please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about yourself. We have a special gift and ongoing support for all co-ordinators.
Parenting By Heart Mummy Meet Up Groups (as at March 2015)
Sydney Eastern Suburbs:
Sydney, North Shore:
Sydney, Inner West:
Melbourne and Surrounds: (all meet up groups across Melbourne are on this page)