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elcome to the second edition of our fantastic NCT Bristol Newsletter! The summer is a busy time for us in the Bristol Branch as we support huge festivals and local events with our great baby changing and feeding facilities. Why not head over to the balloon fiesta, LoveLockleaze festival or the Southmead Community Festival and say hello! 2016 is going to be an exciting year for the NCT as we celebrate our 60th birthday and as a branch as we continue to support local parents with new meet ups and social events, we look forward to seeing you along the way.

Sarah Norman

Becca Sewell




babber in this issue...

Bristol - page 5

06 Bristol Balloon Fiesta: We'll see you there! 08 Wednesday Meetup 09 5 things to do in Bristol with a newborn 12 Sun, sea, sand - Sale! 13 Volunteer vacancies 14 NCT turns 60!

Photo courtesy of: Destination Bristol



Wellbeing - page 16

17 Let's talk about the white stuff. 9 page feeding special 26 VBAC Support Group 27 Three homeopathic remedies to lift your spirits 28 Musical Notes: Music & wellbeing 31 Swimming for newborns & in pregnancy 36 Yoga tips for pregnancy & birth


Photo courtesy of: NCT


Lifestyle - page 39 40 Stimulating your babies senses 44 Messy play for parents50 who don't like mess 48 Can babies really learn sign language? 53 Thank you & credits


Photo courtesy of: Baby Sensory Bristol North


www.nct.org.uk branches bristol facebook.com bristolnct /






BRISTOL parenting in

images courtesy of Destination Bristol, John Grindle, NCT 


iImages courtesy of Destination Bristol

See you there! Bristol NCT return to run the family tent at this years Balloon Fiesta 11-14 August We are so excited to be returning to Bristol Balloon Fiesta in 2016 for our sixth year running the baby change and feed tent. Each year Bristol NCT provides the fiesta's family tent, providing changing and feeding

facilities to the thousands of young families who attend the Balloon Fiesta. Tent provisions include change mats, plenty of spare nappies and wipes, highchairs, private breastfeeding areas and bottle warming and BRISTOL NCT





feeding equipment. Tea coffee & water is available for parents in need of a break and there will be free craft activities for kids. The tent relies on volunteers

who get free Fiesta parking in return!) (

If you'd like more information about volunteering, please email


Psst! We're also running baby tents at Southmead Community Festival, 9th July, and Love Lockleaze Festival, 23 July See you there! BRISTOL NCT




WEEKLY meetup Every Wednesday 11-12.30pm Gymboree Cafe, WOT BS9 4BE.







DAYS IN BRISTOL WITH A NEWBORN Eleanor Wilcox, The Bristol Parent


those of you with a new firstborn, don’t be cross with me, because I know it’s really hard a lot of the time. However, time, time, time. You’ll never have so much time on your own hands as you do in those

first few months. There’s lots to keep you busy of course, but once you reach that magical ‘yes, I can frickin’ do this!’ stage, of being able to get out and about, then you have time to adventure.






So here’s five things to entertain and stimulate you, and keep the baby happy, fed, safe and at your side.

Cinema Go to Cinebabies at Watershed. Everything you need is provided – buggy parking, a safe, dark place to practice feeding your baby, surrounded by a (water)shed load of people trying to do the same. Babies cry, nobody cares. You feel ok to cry out loud and pretend it’s because the film’s sad. It’s the only time, ever, that people want to sit at the front of the cinema, principally so they can demonstrate that their baby can roll over, usually to a small round of NCT-group applause.

Baby groups Go to a new mum and baby group at a proper cafe, on Park Street! You’ll probably

spend a lot of time in our amazing baby cafes (for which Bristol is the absolute daddy of places). So, take your adult environs when you can and try the new Baby Birds Playgroup at The Tea Birds vintage tea rooms.

Art Exhibitions Go and see one of the many art or photography exhibitions in Bristol. I just tried doing it with a toddler and it was rubbish, I wanted to stay for hours, her for five minutes. Go after 3pm so the school trips are gone, and wallow in the beauty of art. BRISTOL NCT





all the way up Gloucester Road, and look in every shop you’ve never been in, Take your baby swimming. I especially the tiny ones with know it seems like a huge hassle, but, holding them close steps and no space to swing an Uppababy. in the warm water, watching them marvel at the colours and Maybe stop again for some texture, it’s very special. food (Bakers and Co, you know you want to). Plus, as soon as they can move on dry land, the changing Sometimes, my best relaxing room scenario you’re was when it was just me and imagining gets a lot more her, alone with our thoughts tricky! Plus, it knackers them in some cafe somewhere. out. It’s worth it for the twoAnd when you’re tired, get hour nap of the Gods. the bus back. Or maybe, do it in the afternoon, and time it Find a swimming pool that’s with your partner finishing work if they are in town, and near a decent pub for your go and meet them. lunch, and you’re bi-winning. The Jubilee Pool in Knowle and the Knowle pub spring to Maybe have a quick bite, or a glass of something. Go home mind as two ideally located establishments for testing the together. Make it still feel a bit like a Friday night. (top food theory. tip – do you use Wriggle? I’ve got it on my phone but have Windowshopping never actually got round to Stick your sling or carrier on, if using it, but the daily deals are amazing – good mat leave you have one, get the bus to budget options!) the Bearpit. Get a coffee. Walk up, through Stokes Croft (get maybe a snack at Cafe Kino, Read more from Eleanor at why not?), thebristolparent.com









11.30-1pm (11am member entry) ÂŁ1 entry in aid of the NCT Over 8000 items for sale

Thank you Bristol NCT BHCC would very much like to thank the NCT for their support of our Charity. The unsold clothes and other items were a huge boost to our Christmas Fayre which in turn generates income for our charity. Some of the items for example stair gates were passed directly

to deprived families, directly benefitting some of our communities most vulnerable children. We look forward to maintaining this relationship with NCT. Dave Jones, Director Brentry and Henbury Children's Centre BRISTOL NCT



Nearly New Sale Volunteers 8-10 hrs 2ce / year

Social Media support 1-2 hrs / wk

Post natal support

NNS Treasurer

Marketing & Design

2-3 hrs per week

8-10 hrs 2ce / year

4-5 hrs per month

We're rercruiting! Could you join our team of volunteers? Email coordinator.bristol@nct.org.uk and find out how you can get involved

Parent Meetup Hosts

Balloon Fiesta Volunteers

2-3 hrs / wk

8-10 hrs 1ce / year

Volunteer coordinator 4-5 hrs per month

Member secretary 4-5 hrs per month

We're 60! NCT celebrates its 60th anniversary by looking back at its key achievements and forward to its future direction.

It all started on 4th May 1956 with an advert in The Times calling for women to join an association to support them through childbirth¹. This group aimed to provide antenatal education so women would feel better prepared for birth and parenthood. Today NCT is a charity for both women and men that aims to support parents through the First 1,000 Days of parenthood.² It not only provides antenatal and postnatal courses but also information through its website and helpline, and practical support through its 300 local volunteer-led branches.³ Seána Talbot, NCT President, said: “NCT was created in 1956 with the aim that all new and expectant parents should feel supported, informed and confident and this remains at the heart of what we do today.

We are extremely grateful to our volunteers and practitioners from all corners of the UK for their commitment and dedication over the years to supporting new mothers and fathers. We’re proud of our achievements but we’re also looking to the future, determined to expand our reach to support even more parents as we move forward.” “

PARTY INVITE! Bristol NCT will be celebrating the 60th anniversary with a B ig Push Walk & Picnic in September. Follow us on Facebook for news and updates facebook.com/bristolnct BB RR II SS TT O O LL N NC C TT

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our key achievements Helping parents give birth confidently NCT introduced the first antenatal classes in the UK in 1959. Last year, the charity’s courses helped prepare over 100,000 new parents for birth and parenthood. Breastfeeding in public NCT had a strong influence on The Equality Act 2010, which gives women the right to breastfeed in public places without being discriminated against. Working with socially disadvantaged groups. NCT has developed specialist support services for pregnant refugee and asylum seeking women, and also runs antenatal sessions for women in prison. Improving maternity services. NCT has been involved with national reviews of maternity services since the 1990s, represented users on the recent English and Scottish

National Maternity Reviews and its volunteers work on multiple local committees.

Bringing partners into the delivery room Today it’s the norm for women to have their partner with them during labour but for previous generations the philosophy was that fathers had no place at the birth. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that it became widely accepted largely thanks to NCT’s campaigning. Improving services for perinatal mental health Last year, NCT launched its #BeyondBabyBlues campaign, which called for improved mental health support for parents. In January, the Prime Minister announced an additional £290 million for mental health services for new and expectant mothers. NCT has recently launched a Department of Health funded peer support project4 and also campaigns to raise awareness of men’s perinatal mental health. BRISTOL NCT



WELLBEING pregnancy, baby and you




LET'S TALK ABOUT THE WHITE STUFF Breast, bottle, expressing, formula - there are lots of different ways to feed your baby. In this issue we meet our Amber Dennis, our Breastfeeding counsellor, hear how one group of Bristol mums are providing support if breastfeeding doesn't work it and look at combination feeding. NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk.

Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions.




Meet Amber We catch up with Amber Gamlin, Bristol NCT's Breastfeeding Counsellor Tell us a bit about yourself I live in Horfield with my husband, two children (aged 10 and 6), two rabbits and a hamster. I work part-time in a finance/admin role, and am nearing the end of the NCT’s two year training to become a voluntary breastfeeding counsellor.

What attracted you to becoming a BF counsellor When my youngest was due to start school I decided I would like to do some voluntary work. Whilst in the doctor’s waiting room

"I breastfed both my children, though not without some problems" one day saw a poster for a local breastfeeding support group and it got me thinking about whether I could help with something like that. I had breastfed both my children, though not without some problems in the early weeks, especially first time round. Eventually I found breastfeeding to be extremely rewarding and convenient and it saddens me that so many women want to breastfeed, and yet so few find the support they need to be BRISTOL NCT



able to. I then came across the NCT’s advert looking for mums who had breastfed for six months or more to apply to train in the new role of voluntary BFC.

"mother centered approach" I was attracted by the model the NCT BFCs use – a mothercentred approach aimed at enabling women to make their own decisions and solve any problems in their own way by offering information and the chance to be heard.

What sort of support can you provide? I am available to chat with over email, on the phone, and occasionally I can do a home visit. My aim is to support women to achieve their feeding goals by providing emotional support,

information, counselling and suggestions to mums struggling with their breastfeeding relationship.

What if I want to combine breast feeding with formula or expressed milk. Can you still help me? Yes, the support available covers all aspects of breastfeeding, both before and after baby is born, and including mixed feeding and also stopping altogether.

How do I access support? Please contact me by email or leave a message on my dedicated phone . I may not answer immediately if I am at work or busy with my children, but I do try and respond as quickly as I can.

ambergamlin.nct.vbfc@gmail.com 07951290670







Finding support if breastfeeding isn't working

Abigail Jones of Bristol Feeding Friends shares her experiences. Before my first daughter was born, I fully intended to breastfeed her. I hadn't purchased bottles or a steriliser, so strong was my intention to EBF. By the time we left hospital, I had asked family members to buy both. Once home, I saw a succession of breastfeeding professionals, but nothing worked. I grieved for the breastfeeding relationship that was never going to happen. I had been told that almost all babies could breastfeed, so I felt I was at fault and blamed myself.

I began to see other women struggling with the feelings of grief and loss when they were unable to exclusively breastfeed their babies. I volunteered to help start ‘Bristol Feeding Friends’, a Facebook peer support group, with a small group of South Bristol mums. We had struggled with various problems, including complex tongue and lip ties, lack of supply, postnatal depression and intolerable pain. And we all experienced the acute lack of support available to women who had wanted to breastfeed; but couldn't.




We have monthly social meetings to get to know each other face to face. We discuss the relative merits of the most recent research on breastfeeding, such as

"women who want to breastfeed but can't are 2.5x more likely to develop PND" findings that women who want to breastfeed their babies, but can't, are up to 2.5 more likely to develop postnatal depression*. We signpost women to breastfeeding support groups, lactation consultants and medical practitioners. We care deeply about breastfeeding, and

would never encourage someone to stop before they were ready. But we also offer a nonjudgemental community for when exclusive breastfeeding isn't the best way for people to feed their babies Feeding your baby is only one part of parenting and sometimes we have to take a more holistic approach to our new lives. Breastfeeding 'at all costs' can compromise one's physical and mental health. We should all be able to enjoy our beautiful children, irrespective of how they are fed... *Borra C, Iacovou M, Sevilla A, 2014 Search for Bristol Feeding Friends on Facebook for more information BRISTOL NCT





MIX IT UP Here we look at mixed feeding your baby, which is combining breastfeeding and formula feeding When it comes to feeding your baby, it’s not always a question of only breastfeeding or only formula feeding; many women do a combination of both, often called combination feeding, combined feeding, mixed feeding, or partial breastfeeding. You may want to try mixed feeding because you want to breastfeed for some of your baby’s feeds, but give infant

formula for one or more feeds, or because you’re bottle feeding your baby and want to start or resume breastfeeding. It can be helpful to talk to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor about your options when it comes to combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding, as well as find out about the potential impact of mixed feeding.





What effect will combining breastfeeding & formula feeding have?

One thing to consider is that breastmilk supply is generally driven by frequent, effective breastfeeding. This means feeding your baby as often as they show they need to by responding to their feeding cues. You can tell a feed is effective if your baby is well attached to the breast, you are both comfortable and your baby often starts with rapid sucks then slows to a more rhythmic suck, swallow pattern and comes off the breast looking full. Giving your baby formula can affect the frequent feeds needed to ensure you're making the right amount of milk, especially when you first start breastfeeding. It usually means your baby breastfeeds less often, and therefore you make less milk.


However, if your baby is older, beyond the newborn stage, you can usually maintain your breastmilk supply alongside formula feeding, as long as you breastfeed every day.

after or instead of a breastfeed. Do talk to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor about this as different options will suit different circumstances.

Much older babies – from eight or nine months – can breastfeed just a handful of times a day, and there is still a supply. Very well-established breastfeeding, with a baby of a year or so or more, can continue with as few as one or two feeds in 24 hours.

There are some cases when formula might be given before a breastfeed (for example, with sick or vulnerable babies who are not breastfeeding well). In other cases, the formula feed might be given instead of a breastfeed. This might happen if you’re separated from your baby and can’t be there to breastfeed.

Your baby will enjoy the benefits of breastmilk, even if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding. For instance, they will still gain some of the antibodies that will protect them against infection.

"Gradually cutting down breastfeeds reduces the chance of becoming How do I combine engorged and formula & leaky" breastfeeding? If you want to cut down on breastfeeds to introduce formula milk, you and your baby will adjust more easily if you reduce the number of feeds gradually. You can offer formula feeds before, during,

Sometimes, formula given in the middle of a breastfeed is an option, if the baby needs the comfort and closeness of a breastfeed to settle. BRISTOL NCT




Gradually cutting down breastfeeding reduces the chance of your breasts becoming uncomfortably engorged and leaky. It will also reduce your risk of developing mastitis. If you substitute a breastfeed with a formula feed, it will take around three to seven days for your breasts to adjust to missing that one feed. If you ‘top up’ with formula at one or more feeding sessions, rather than replacing an entire feed, this is likely to extend the gap between breastfeeds, which will signal to your breasts to make less milk. You can then drop the breastfeeds you want to drop, replacing them with formula. On the other hand, if you are advised to ‘top up’ as a temporary measure and want to return to exclusive breastfeeding, you can express milk between feeds to increase the amount of milk you make.


Introducing a bottle to a breastfeed baby

If you have breastfed your baby so far, they may be reluctant to take a bottle at first. The different sucking actions needed may confuse them and they may not take it from you. There are lots of different things you can try to help your baby. To begin with, maybe ask someone else to offer a bottle and you could also try softening the teat with warm, boiled water. Another tip is to hold your baby in a different position from your usual breastfeeding one. It may help your baby get used to the new way of feeding. If this doesn't work, there are a variety of bottle teats which may make a difference. For more suggestions, read our article about introducing bottles. You could also ask your midwife, health visitor or

breastfeeding counsellor about using a nursing supplementer, as an alternative to bottles. This is a gadget which you use at the same time as your baby is at the breast – the supplementer delivers formula, through a tube attached at one end to the teat on a bottle, and at the other end, it’s taped to your nipple. The baby gets formula (or expressed breastmilk) through the supplementer, at the same time as breastfeeding.

More information

NCT breastfeeding helpline 0300 330 0700, NCT.org.uk Healthtalkonline.org BestBeginnings.org.uk




Considering a vaginal or home birth after a caesarean? Our VBAC/ HBAC peer support group meets in Windmill Hill on the second Monday of every month. Email Jenny on bristolvbac@gmail.com for details


homeopathic remedies to lift your spirits

Natalie Weekes, The Bristol Homeopath, offers three remedies to help you rebalance during pregnancy and post partum.

Being pregnant and giving birth can be enormously emotional and physically draining. Homeopathy can make a real difference to your rebalancing from conception through to old age. It is when our minds and bodies are out of balance - whether through hormones, lifestyle or illness - that we experience symptoms.

Should you be feeling anxious and restless, mentally and emotionally sensitive, burnt out with no more to give, try Phosphorus. Remedies exist for a myriad of conditions - and are effective in many situations including colic, ear infections, colds, croup and separation anxiety to name but a few.

With over 3000 remedies at our Post birth and feeling mentally and disposal, homeopathy can be tailor physically exhausted, emotional and made to prescribe to your particular weepy? Turned off sex and irritable circumstances. It was through with your loved ones? Sepia is the top pregnancy that I found homeopathy. remedy for this state. A common state Experiencing it as not only efficient in the first weeks and months after but kind to my body, I used it with my birth. children and studied and qualified to become a practitioner. If however your mood is changing by Interested in knowing more? the hour and you want a consoling Recommended reading includes: arm around you as you move from Castro, Homeopathy For Mother & Child craving sympathy to feeling forsaken, Miranda Mo Morrish, Medicine Flows Pulsatilla would suit you much better Findahomeopath.org.uk and work wonders. Or visit: www.thebristolhomeopath.co.uk BRISTOL NCT



Musical notes Jenna Brown from Lilliput Concerts writes about music for families. We have all heard of the socalled ‘Mozart effect’, which asserts that playing classical music to your unborn baby in utero can significantly increase their IQ. And while it is unlikely that holding a speaker to your bump and blasting out a symphony will produce a genius, the latest neuromusic research seems to suggest that early

exposure to music does play some role in shaping brain development. In ‘Music and Your Brain – The Science of Change’, Professor Nina Kraus has demonstrated that “a person’s childhood exposure to meaningful sound appears literally to wire his or her nerves for sound perception”. BRISTOL NCT



Meaning that engaging with your child through music, whether it be through voice or instruments, helps them to recognise wide ranging sound and rhythms and has been proven to have a significant effect on language development as well as other areas of academic and social life. However, perhaps more importantly participation in and enjoyment of music can have a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing. You don’t need to be a trained musician to recognise the deep impact music can have on a person. For many of us in our daily lives it is music that evokes memories and stirs our emotions.

"Music has a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing" As parents you may have experience of using music to prepare for (and during) birth

and hospitals are also seeing benefits when using music to care for premature babies and women at risk of PND. The Royal College of Music project ‘Music and Motherhood’, explores the use of voice to help women recover after birth and many of the positive effects of music in this study can apply to the whole family. If you’re not sure where to start then look to your community. There are so many wonderful opportunities in Bristol that can open up the world of music to your children. There are many classes you can try, where a trained musician will guide you through making music together as a family.




But if joining in is not something you feel able or confident doing then don’t forget that even just listening to music has been shown to have a lasting impact on developing key skills and promoting wellbeing. Listen to the radio when at home, listen to the different sounds nature makes when you take a walk, take CDs in the car

for your journeys, enjoy live performance at a family Lilliput concert with your babies, toddlers and children and relax in a world of glorious sounds, dance to the beat and maybe even have a go on an instrument! Most of all enjoy music as another way of bonding together, wherever and however you make it.




Interested in knowing more?

Recommended reading includes: Miranda Castro, Homeopathy For Mother & Child Mo Morrish, Medicine Flows Findahomeopath.org.uk Or visit: www.thebristolhomeopath.co.uk BRISTOL NCT



Looking after Bristol's babies. Bristol NCT, WaterBumps and Water Babies announce exciting new partnership for 2016

Bristol’s babies are going to be well and truly nurtured both before and after birth, thanks to an exciting new partnership between Bristol’s National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which offers support to parents and parents-to-be from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday ; WaterBumps, which offers pre and post-natal aquanatal classes for mums-to-be, new mums (and even not-so-new mums) in and around Bristol; and Water Babies, Bristol’s leading baby and toddler swim school. Bryony Johnstone, director of Water Babies, explains: “We’re delighted to be sponsoring Bristol’s branch of the NCT alongside our sister company, WaterBumps. Our joint ethos of nurturing and supporting parents and their babies from pregnancy makes us

perfect partners for the NCT Post-natal mental health is one good example of where we can all help new mums,” Bryony adds. “

"a fantastic way for dads to spend precious one-toone time with their babies." As well as being great for babies’ mental, physical and emotional development, the skin-to-skin contact in Water Babies classes is a wonderful way to help with bonding. This can help with the post-natal blues for mums, as well as being a fantastic way for dads to spend some precious one-to-one time with their babies.” “

Ali Burlingham, who founded WaterBumps in 2014, continues: “When you take part in any sort of physical activity, your body produces endorphins which can make you feel more positive and less anxious, and this, in turn, can help improve your mental, physical and emotional energy.

"Post-natal mental health is one example of where we can all help new mums" WaterBumps classes are a great way for mums to bond with their bumps, as well as a chance to

really relax – both physically and mentally! And both Water Babies and WaterBumps classes are a time to meet other like-minded mums and share the ups and downs of pregnancy and life with a new baby.” We're looking forward to working with Water Babies and WaterBumps this year under this exciting new partnership" comments Sarah Norman, Joint Branch Coordinator Bristol NCT Branch. "

The ongoing collaboration with our sponsors will help us provide better support for parents and families across Bristol." "

Want to find out more? Water Babies www.waterbabies.co.uk or call 0117 946 6919 WaterBumps www.waterbumps.co.uk or call 01275 400800




Get down on it NCT yoga teacher, Mitch, shares her top tip for pregnancy & birth

top yoga tip for pregnancy Mandybirth is to get down on your hands and knees.

breath and body fall into a natural rhythm.

Avoid movements that cause Hug your tummy in towards your discomfort and check with your spine and move your body midwife if you are not sure if this about, circling the hips, lifting the exercise will be right for you. middle of the back towards the ceiling, swaying or circling the These movements ease backhips, even crawling around the ache and help to move babies house (toddlers love this and into a good position for easier invariably end up on your back!). birthing; during labour many women naturally want to move Find out which movements feel onto their hands and knees so good, loosening any this practice will help prepare tightness and noticing how your you in many ways - just put some music on and go with the flow! BRISTOL NCT



3 tips to help you


As parents we are often our own worst critics. Relax Stretch & Breath instructor, Helen, gives advice on being kind to yourself.


Surround yourself with people who are positive and make you feel good about birth and parenting.

Relax Stretch & Breathe classes run


Just a few yoga sessions will make a difference. You will gently stretch, practice different breathing techniques and spend some relaxation time with your baby. Even if you are 30 something weeks pregnant give it a go!

Mondays 6-7.30pm, Redland with Helen - Tuesdays 7.30-9pm, Westbury on Trym with Peta - Wednesdays 6.15-7.45pm, Bishopston with Mitch -

Visit nct.org.uk/rsb for details


Be nice to yourself. It is all too easy to start feeling guilty about what you haven't done or feel you should do. This is especially true of second time mums who say they have not had the time to think about baby number two as they are so busy looking after their first baby. BRISTOL NCT





games to stimulate your baby's senses

Vicky Oliver of Baby Sensory Bristol North suggests how to stimulate your baby ' s senses through play. When parents come to a Baby Sensory class, they discover a myriad of ways in which they can interact and have fun with their babies. They also gain a much deeper understanding of how their babies learn and develop. Babies are remarkably clever and everything that they see, touch, hear, taste or smell increases the number of connections

between the brain cells. By the end of the first year, the baby’s brain has doubled in volume as result of the learning experiences provided to them. Baby Sensory introduces a wealth of things that parents can do to enrich their baby’s development. Although it is impossible to list them all, here are a few essentials that really do make a difference!




Hide and seek Time honoured games such as ‘Peek-a-boo’ reinforce the idea that surprises can be fun. What a wonderful way to stimulate smiles and giggles! Hide and seek games stimulate curiosity and teach babies that objects disappear and reappear again. Research shows that having fun with babies improves confidence and socialisation skills. It also gives them a far greater chance of growing up to be optimistic and motivated adults.

Signing There is no better way to understand what your baby wants than to ‘talk’ through signing. Signing involves the use of voice, facial expressions and large gestures which babies love. Signing reduces stress and frustration, which makes for a happier, calmer baby and parent.


Movement activities are very important to relieve tension on the joints and muscles during growth spurts. Exercise also builds new brain cells, which drives learning forwards. This is incredible since it was previously thought that brain cell development was complete before birth. Everyone enjoys the exhilarating interactions which also develop the parent-baby bond and make for a healthier, happier baby. At an age when the brain is developing more than it will ever again in life, exercise is definitely to be encouraged.

Creative play Baby Sensory introduces simple ideas to extend play using inexpensive, easy to obtain or make objects and natural materials Babies delight in exploring the different properties of natural objects, which increases hand-eye coordination and drives learning forwards at a rapid pace. Parents find the ideas invaluable in extending play at home.




Visual activities At birth, sight is the least developed sense. The ability to see objects and colours clearly depends on the development of the visual cortex, the maturity of the retina, coordination of the eye muscles and focusing ability. Until these complex systems have matured, images, shapes and colours will appear blurry. By eight months of age, the ability to see clearly has nearly reached normal adult levels. This rapid pace of development is highly dependent on the amount of visual stimulation that the baby receives. This is why visual activities are high on the list of priorities in a Baby Sensory class. Parents who want to find out how to stimulate their baby from birth can attend a Baby Sensory class. All activities are accompanied by developmental theory to illustrate perfectly the stage at which their baby is functioning. This helps parents understand what to expect from their baby and how best to facilitate happy play and learning. For details of Baby Sensory classes in Bristol, please contact Vicky Oliver: bristolnorth@babysensory.co.uk or visit www.babysensory.com. BRISTOL NCT



Messy play for parents who don't like mess! Messy play at home? Gulp! Jenny Clarke from Happymess gives us her top tips I run preschool art, craft and messy play classes, which I love doing, but I have to admit at home I don't really like mess. With two young children I have to embrace it, but I'm the kind of person who has a dust buster at arms reach at all times. That said, we do a LOT of art and messy activities at home and I have learned strategies to contain and cope with the mess. The thought of doing messy play at home can be a bit intimidating, especially if you have limited space or lots of light coloured carpet.

"only do this if you want to " My first bit of advice would be to only do this if you really

want to, otherwise you won't enjoy it. Your child will be just as happy if you sit down and do a puzzle with them, and there are playgroups you can go to make a mess – Children's Centres are a good bet for affordable messy play classes (or come along to Happymess!) However if you do want to have a go at home, you are likely to find it rewarding, I definitely have. Here are some tips on how to go about it;

1. Prepare ahead Prepare everything in advance, so that you can supervise and join in the fun the whole time your child is playing. Then you'll have more of chance of intervening before the sofa gets a new pattern handprinted onto it! BRISTOL NCT



2. Pick a good time Pick a good time, when your child has enough energy. There's nothing worse than setting up an activity up and dealing with all the cleaning up afterwards if they only play for a few minutes. Also it has to be a time when you have enough time and energy to enjoy the activity too!

3. Start simple Start really simple so you can get an idea of what interests your child the most. For example my eldest loved mixing, stirring and making, and every messy play activity we did involved me being made to drink pretend tea. She liked sand, cloud dough, foam – anything she could mix up, pour and mould. My youngest likes exploring mechanisms more than materials, and can play with a single playdough extruder for twenty minutes at a time. Once you get a feel for what interested them you can set up activities you know they will enjoy.

4. The perfect spot Choose the best space available, i.e. the easiest to clean up, or most contained. Outdoors is good but if you don't have any outdoor space

we didn't when my eldest was a toddler) or it's winter, the kitchen is the often best. Hard, wipeable floors and surfaces are useful! Then make sure they stay in that space until they have finished the activity and it's time to clean up – unless you are outdoors or somewhere it doesn't matter so much if they spread the mess around a bit. (

5. Cover up

Cover the floor with something you can pop in the washing machine – washable shower curtains are good, but an old sheet would work too. If you are at a table you can cover it with newspaper but I don't find that works on the floor, it doesn't stay put. Cover your child up with a long sleeved apron, or just clothes you

don't mind getting messy. Or if it's warm enough strip them off – you can always pop them in the bath afterwards to extend the fun

6. equipment Think about the equipment and containers you use – sometimes this depends on the materials they are playing with. For messy play plastic underbed storage boxes or tuff trays on the floor are good, but I tend to find children sit in these to play, which in turn spreads the mess around more. A less messy option can be sitting or standing at a low table, or a tuff tray on a stand, which generally means they only get their top half messy. Same goes with painting. Painting on the floor is really fun and definitely worth doing, but often results in full body painting – whereas at a table or easel it is more often restricted to fingers and hands, perhaps extending up the arms! Easels also take up less space if that's an issue.

7. HAVE A PLAN B Have a second activity ready that will hold their attention (i.e. Cbeebies) and put them somewhere out of the way of the mess while you clean it up – prioritising anything they could reach and get messy with again.

8. messy toys Build up a collection of toys you can use for messy play that are easy to clean and don't get water stuck in them (and then go mouldy). Many of mine have come from charity shops, which are particularly good for playdough tools and plastic animals or dinosaurs. Ikea are good for sand and water toys, and their some of their kitchen tools are suitable for children to play with too – such as ice cube trays and plastic cookie cutters. In Bristol, Artragous, the art shop at the Children's Scrapstore is good for tools, equipment and materials such as glue, paper and paint. Use your recycling – plastic containers such as yogurt and ice cream pots and bottles are great for using in most messy play activities, and kitchen roll and toilet tubes are very versatile too! Most importantly, have fun! And try not to worry about the mess – once you have done messy play at home once or twice you'll see how much your children get out of it and know how worthwhile it is to do! For more tips on messy play at home & information on Happymess sessions visit www.happymess.info




Can you really teach


a baby to sign

Verity Jowett of Sing & Sign tells us why the answer is YES.

When can I start baby sign?

You can start signing with your baby at any time - you'll probably do it instinctively by waving when you say hello or goodbye. Babies learn by repetition and need to hear a word or see a sign around 50 times to take it in, so building it in to your routine early on can really help. Structured classes tend to start around six months, when babies are most receptive.

"Babies can understand - and sign - long before they can talk"

When can I expect my baby to start signing back to me?

Every baby is different and it will depend on when you start using baby sign and how consistently you use it. If you only sign for 45 minutes a week then your baby may never sign back. Some of our babies sign from as early as seven months. My twins both signed at 10 months and by 12 months seemed to learn new signs every day.

How do you go about teaching baby sign language? Babies learn to sign in the same way that they learn to speak through repetition.




The best way to teach baby signing is to use it throughout your day, as part of your routine and in songs or perhaps while reading books. For example, at Sing and Sign, we have a song for changing your nappy. If you use it every time you change your baby's nappy it helps them learn what to expect and to associate the signs with what is about to happen. Songs are a great way for you to learn baby signing too. We teach over 150 signs in a ten week course and you will pick them up through repetition.

What are the benefits of baby sign?

The biggest benefit of baby signing is what your baby can tell you. Babies can understand and sign - long before they can talk. A lot of frustration is caused when they move from just wanting milk or cuddles, to wanting more of a specific verse of a song, or to ask where daddy has gone. Signing gives them a

much greater range of communication and helps reduce frustration - although when you are singing about the wipers on the bus for the twentieth time, you might not appreciate it that much. More than that, it allows your baby to tell you things about their world. I will never forget my 11 month old telling me that there was a dog walking past, or watching my husband have a full conversation with our 15 month old about where the food had gone. The insight you get into your baby's world - and the joy they get when they realise you've understood what they are trying to tell you - is amazing.

"The joy they get when they realise you've understood, is amazing" Could sign delay my child learning to talk?

The short answer to this is no. At Sing and Sign we always say the BRISTOL NCT



word with the sign so we are not replacing speech and baby will learn the word alongside the sign. Once baby starts signing, they will also get lots of verbal feedback from you - I found whenever my boys learned a new sign, I'd say the word every time they signed it and once they were talking they would learn the word within a couple of days of learning a new sign.

Do I have to go to classes to learn baby sign?

No. Baby signing classes can be great fun for you and your baby - and they are a great way for you to learn a large number of signs easily - but they are not the only way of learning. You can use a DVD, or a TV programme like Something Special, look up signs on the Internet or even make signs up. Baby signing is just using specific gestures with words to help your baby communicate. It's about your communication with your baby, so as long as you are consistent it doesn't matter what signs you use. Sing and Sign classes are available across Bristol. Visit www.singandsign.co.uk for more information

5 tips for successful sign Start with a few signs that you can easily introduce into your daily routine. 'More' is a great sign, as it can be used throughout the day - more milk, more cuddles, more story - and it's great fun for baby to sign back. Be consistent with your signing and use them as much as possible Always say the word with the sign As your baby develops, choose signs that interest your baby. For example, animal signs like dog, cow or even crocodile or vehicle signs like car and plane. Talk to them about what you see while out on walks. Have fun with it.





Thank you


A huge thank you to our contributors and especially to our wonderful sponsors; Water Babies, WaterBumps, Sing & Sign Bristol & South Glos, Lilliput Concerts & Baby Sensory Bristol North whose input has made this magazine possible. We are extremely grateful for your support.


Contributors The Bristol Parent WaterBumps Happymess Bristol Feeding Friends The Bristol Homeopath Sing & Sign

Baby Sensory Bristol North Lilliputs Concerts Water Babies NCT.org.uk Amber Gamlin DestinationBristol ( photos )

interested in writing or advertising next time? Our next newsletter will be January 2016. If you would like to write an article, or would like to advertise email your ideas to web.bristol@nct.org.uk

Our Team Branch Coordinators Rebecca Sewell Sarah Norman

Webmaster & newsletter editor Gemma Screen Treasurer Sarah Brent Events Coordinator Clare Norman Nearly New Sale Coordinator Laura Corry VBAC / HBAC Support Group Jenny Clarke Breast Feeding Support Amber Gamlin

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Babber. NCT magazine for Bristol. Jun16  

News and advice on parenting in Bristol from Bristol NCT.

Babber. NCT magazine for Bristol. Jun16  

News and advice on parenting in Bristol from Bristol NCT.