Caroline describes herself as a Mum, wife, sister, daughter, friend and proud house-bunny mum! She is Australian, but has lived in London with her husband for almost 20 years. She runs her own small business West London Babies, in Chiswick
I began my career as a Children and Families Social Worker, and worked in this field for 10 years. This was tough stuff! It was so challenging on many levels; awful to see families suffer, difficult to invoke meaningful change, and tiring trying to engage families who simply didn’t want to move forward. For the last few years of my Social Work career, I moved to the more therapeutic side of the work, which made a difference to how I felt about the work.
When I gave birth, I took time to really consider the direction of my family and my career. A number of signs led me to become an IAIM Infant Massage Instructor. Teaching love, bonding, interaction, and with parents who actually wanted to engage! Well, this was it, an actual, real life LIGHT BULB MOMENT! I am now the Vice President of the International Association of Infant Massage (UK). One thing led to another, and through various opportunities, I trained as a Baby Yoga Instructor. Working with postnatal families seemed to be my calling. I built my business, and during the last 10 years I have been frequently adding to my skill base. I am a Recognised Doula, a Babywearing Consultant (and I run the hugely popular Chiswick Sling Library), a Holistic Sleep Coach, I teach Paediatric First Aid to adults and children, and I am a Birth Trauma Counsellor. I run lots of Workshops for new parents locally, and during Lockdown, I have managed to move much of my business online, which has meant I can support parents further afield. Finding work that was meaningful and heart-centred really has been revolutionary for me personally; and that it means I can work from home, and be present with my family, well, all nails have been hit right on their tiny heads!
Working with new parents and their babies, our hot topics for discussion are usually around sleep, poo, feeding, teething and developmental milestones. All very serious and all-consuming when you are stuck in those hazy newborn weeks and months. One of the most common themes that come from new mums, is that they feel drained, emotionally, physically and mentally. There is no time for themselves and they often can feel low and isolated, especially in 2020.
For this exact reason, I continue to work tirelessly to create a community, a village, so that all new parents feel included, supported and can access advice and sound input from non-judgemental sources. I have a range of other professionals to signpost to, who are just amazing, and who work from the same page as I do. Connecting parents with one another is so valuable and can really make the world of difference during maternity and paternity leave.
Myths to bust:
- Breastfeeding is easy and natural –for some it does become easy, and is natural, but for many it is painful to begin with, and takes a lot of work. In my experience, seeking solid breastfeeding advice really encourages the feeding relationship.
- I can do it alone – I am yet to meet a parent who can do it all alone, with no support from a partner, family, friends, or professionals. With the best of intentions, and to really enjoy pregnancy and beyond, accept support. Some years ago now, I was the Postnatal Doula to a new mum who had decided to fall pregnant and raise the baby as a single parent. This gorgeous mum ended up having an emergency c-section. Her elderly mother lived a few hours away, her sister had 3 kids of her own, and, when we first communicated, her 2 week old baby was in hospital with suspected meningitis. To balance her baby’s health needs, her own recovery, her incredible and overwhelming emotions around all of these events, and even just to have fresh clothes, clean bedding, nutritious food to eat, and guidance about the newborn phase – she couldn’t do it alone.
- My baby is trying to manipulate me – I hear this often. And, it is usually when a parent is sleep deprived and feeling in a rut. No, babies aren’t trying to manipulate their parents, they are trying to express their needs, make sense of the world, and know that their parents are the ones that know them best.
My top five tips for new parents:
1. Take it slow! There is no rush to get out and meet friends, it’s not necessary for everyone to meet the baby in the first few weeks after birth, and fitting in to your pre-pregnancy jeans can wait! Pause!
2. Nourish your body, rest and hydrate. Eat good wholesome food, drink plenty of water and rest. Even sitting instead of standing. What you put into your body needs to be worthy of being consumed! And, using a baby carrier uses far less of your energy than holding your baby all the time.
3. Don’t listen to everyone! Grannies in the supermarket, people in the park or on the bus, everyone will have some advice to give you. Be polite but picky! Take what’s useful for you and discard the rest. This is your journey with your baby.
4. Get some fresh air! When you are ready to, post birth, try to get some fresh air each day. Movement is good for you (gentle! No marathon running straight away?). And your baby will also benefit from the fresh air, natural day light and motion!
5. Enjoy! I won’t lie, parenting isn’t always fun and games. There will be poo in the bath, and you will have razor sharp reflexes to catch wee or vomit. But, try to keep smiling and enjoy the precious moments. They really do fly by.
My favourite ways to Pause?
I find that my mind is still when I go for a walk. I have a route that I enjoy, that I follow on auto-pilot, and here I can really switch off my mind. I also love sitting and looking out the window onto our small garden. My Pause doesn’t have to be in silence, but I am well versed in quietening my mind. Petting my rabbit is also very soothing and a great Pause for our whole family.
My favourite ways to Play?
My PLAY, my movement, well, my work is my PLAY. I love it so much, it rarely feels like work. My PLAY, or my ON switch, is usually with my children. No screens, being ready and present with them. We are big on board games and card games at home, and this gets us all connecting, giggling and being together without distraction.
You can find Caroline through westlondonbabies.com, or find her on FB Caroline Barber, and on Insta @mybabyledlife