Meet the founder of Bump and Baby Club on upping the ante for antenatal classes
Interview by Helen Baron
How did you get into this line of work?
I used to work in the TV industry, producing and directing documentaries. I loved it, but the job often required me to be away from home for long-periods of time. When I became pregnant with my first baby, I dreamt of finding a career that would fit better around family life and allow me to work from home.
During my first pregnancy (we now have three children) my husband and I took antenatal classes, which we really enjoyed, but I saw lots of ways that the overall experience could be modernised and improved. Once my baby had arrived, the group of friends I’d made through the classes became invaluable to me – and I wanted to create that for others, as well as deliver a fantastic experience. I launched Bump & Baby Club to do all this, but with a more modern approach to antenatal classes, which was heavy on the social element. I also wanted to create a concept that really included the partners and Dads as well.
At the outset, I managed to find a brilliant antenatal instructor and, together with lots of input from new parents, we created what we hoped was an ideal antenatal course. I found a great venue, created a website and went about trying to let expectant parents know that we existed! At the time it was a really exciting project, but I never imagined that we’d be where we are today – 45 instructors, 35 locations and waiting lists. I’m extremely grateful! We’re keen to meet demand, so where there are waiting lists we’re offering more classes and opening new venues.
What are the things that every expectant parent needs to do/know to prepare themselves for pregnancy, birth and beyond?
In my (totally biased) opinion, it’s really important to take an antenatal course! I am also a big fan of hypnobirthing too.
If you’re not taking a course, you should research your options and choices surrounding labour and birth and discuss them with your partner. If you are passionate about having a natural birth, it’s still important to learn about pain-relief, c-sections and other interventions, and what your options are surrounding those. It is best to be as prepared as possible for every birth possibility as the more informed you are, the calmer and more confident you’ll feel during labour, especially if things aren’t going to plan.
I think it’s also really important to learn some basic baby care skills, such as how to feed your baby, how to soothe a crying baby and how to ensure your baby is sleeping safely. Spotting the signs that your baby is unwell is also high up on my suggested priority list, alongside baby first aid. That is why we offer baby first aid as part of our antenatal course package. It is so important, and all parents should have access to this life-saving knowledge.Being prepared for the changes that your body and will go through and knowing there are some steep emotional curves ahead is super important too. Perhaps above all, I think it’s crucial to know that the transition to parenthood can, at times, be really tough – make sure to be gentle on yourself and don’t hesitate to seek support if you’re struggling at any point.
What are the benefits of joining an antenatal class?
The friendships you make are truly invaluable. Having a group of friends who are going through the same life-changing journey as you, at the same time as you, is incredibly special. We try to facilitate friendships by targeting couples who live in a specific local area (such Notting Hill, Fulham, Hampstead, Chiswick etc) and whose babies are due within one month of each other. That way you can help navigate each other though the rollercoaster of pregnancy and early parenthood – sharing the joys, supporting each other through the lows, and alleviating the mundane and boring times in between (there are plenty of those!).
High quality antenatal classes cut through the overwhelming amount of information on the internet and deliver the important messages in an easily digestible and enjoyable way. Our sessions are very interactive and tailored to the interests of the group, and our friendly experts try to create an environment where people feel relaxed enough to ask them anything and everything.
I have always been really honest about the fact that antenatal classes can’t prepare you for absolutely everything that birth and parenthood will throw your way, and a lot of the learning will take place ‘on the job’. Our role is to make the journey as smooth as it can possibly be and give people the confidence to relax, read their baby’s cues and go with their instincts. Whilst helping create lifelong friendships along the way.
What makes your approach different?
Our classes are unbiased, non-judgemental and the information is all evidence based. By the time a client walks through our doors, they’ve already heard the message ‘Breast is Best’ loud and clear and have been exposed to all the health promotion via their hospital. We don’t believe it’s our role to promote breastfeeding, natural birth, or a particular type of parenting style – we’re here to educate people so they’re as prepared as possible for whatever path they choose.
We run our courses in warm, welcoming venues and place an emphasis on the social side of things. We provide an afternoon tea as part of the package, supplied by our partner Gail’s Bakery and, alongside our courses, we’ve run some really cool pregnancy popup events – sunset rooftop yoga, supper clubs in funky venues, cooking demos and more. We never stand still, we are always seeking out new opportunities and brand partners to create memorable experiences for our clients.
Today’s parents-to-be really care about the quality of the instructor. We put a huge effort into finding experts that people love, and their support doesn’t end when the course finishes.
We have also shaken up the class concept by including baby first aid as part of the course package – it’s one of the most important things you can learn, and a few of our clients have been able to use the techniques successfully to save their baby from traumatic situations. Their stories send chills down my spine but are wonderful to hear at the same time as we know we have been instrumental in helping them through a difficult time.
Ultimately, what I have set out to do with Bump & Baby Club is to change the face and reputation of antenatal and hypnobirthing classes. I want to shift the perception and negative propaganda and show everyone how fun, sociable but also hugely valuable antenatal classes can be.
What’s next? Have you thought about connecting mums who missed out on ‘new wave’ services the first time round?
For the moment we’re focused on expanding our antenatal and hypnobirthing courses into new areas. We already have plans to spread into Surrey and Sussex this year. The demand for our services is a hugely encouraging sign and we want to be able to provide as many people as we can we access to Bump & Baby Club classes. Whilst also maintaining our commitment to only working with the very best instructors.
It would also be lovely to bring together parents with toddlers and we receive enquiries every day from people looking to take a course for their baby number two – we definitely plan on creating that at some point so watch this space!