Is It Time For The Monopoly Of NCT to End?

'I was conscious of being the only non-white person in the group and as time went on I felt more and more like an outsider,' says Chloe Lovell who suggests some NCT alternatives.

NCT alternatives

by Chloe Lovell |
Updated on

Attending NCT classes was cemented in my mind as something you just do when you’re expecting a baby. So much so that when I became pregnant it was one of the only things I felt truly confident about, until I actually started attending the classes.

"Do you have any recommendations for which formula milk we could use?” I asked during an NCT session on ‘feeding’. The pause before answering was noticeable and I wish I could retract my question after feeling the mood in the room change. “Breastfeeding has the most benefits for baby but you can buy formula from supermarkets,” the class leader informed me bluntly.

As the course progressed I discovered more and more about the unofficially approved NCT ways of being a parent, from having the ‘it’ pushchair to being a ‘breast is best’ champion. My confidence in starting my motherhood journey was rapidly disappearing with every class I attended.

Why were these classes so popular when all they seem to do was encourage one version of motherhood and judged anything that came outside of that?

Chloe Lovell
©Chloe Lovell

My critique here is not of the individuals in my personal NCT class, the ladies I met in my group were lovely and we shared some very intimate details early on. I was however conscious of being the only non-white person in the group and as time went on I felt more and more like an outsider.

Over the years I’ve had conversations with other mums who have also experienced a discomfort with the NCT culture and course. Many shared feelings of competitiveness, a pressure to make friends, and a preference to all things related to the natural birth movement — which I’m all for if that is your wish, but shouldn’t such a renowned ‘parenting charity’ be championing and representing all types of mothers and all ways to parent?

I simply wasn’t aware of any alternatives to NCT at the time.

Flash forward six years (and now with a second baby in tow), the landscape of mum and baby groups looks very different to me. I’ve found many more groups that provide virtual support for new mums, greater representation of black and mixed-race parents (like myself) and support for all versions of motherhood. Many of these support networks pride themselves on talking about the real nitty-gritty details of parenting, something that the NCT framework seems to lack.

Meet Orbit

The growing community of Orbit, created by Brenda Kola and Shanice Tomlinson, can be found predominately on Twitter, where they do not shy away from discussing the realities of parenting.

“Orbit is a safe space where you grow as a woman, connect as a community and meet as friends. Motherhood is often glorified online, part of what we do is shed light on the true realities of motherhood whilst offering support to all women.”

From leaky boobs to sex after birth, you can find the members of Orbit discussing and sharing it all. They are experts in hosting live audio events to help connect expectant and new mothers to one another, and have recently partnered with the mummy app Peanut to provide a special live chat on mum guilt and maternal mental health on Peanut’s new Pod platform.

Meet The LGBT Mummies Tribe

When Laura-Rose and Stacey Thorogood decided to have children, they had people stop them in the street to ask how they grew their beautiful family. It happened so much that they decided to launch The LGBT Mummies Tribeorganisation, as a way to provide support and guidance that was not available to LGBT+ parents-to-be.

Nowadays, this organisation provides a global community, and provides education and support to the NHS, government and healthcare organisations.

“There’s multiple areas of policy change that we're working on implementing such as data collection, education for healthcare professionals, and inclusive language/pronouns on forms. We encourage you to ask awkward questions and make the mistakes with us. Help us ‘educate, share, celebrate our families.”

Meet The Stepmums Club

Through her own experiences navigating motherhood as a step mum, Priscilla Appeaning, the founder of The Stepmums club, wanted to create a private and safe space where step-mums can seek guidance on how to create harmony within their blended family. The Stepmums Club also provides step-mum coaching to help solve the challenges that can arise in blended families.

“We focus on how we can have progressive conversations to bridge the gap between birth mum and step mum, and dispel the wicked step mum narrative in the media and in some pockets of society.”

Priscilla is also host of the ‘Stepmums Uncut’ podcast, which raises awareness on the issues that blended families can face, as well as diversifying a space that seems to offer little to no representation of black step-mums.

Meet Dope Black Mums

This digital sisterhood founded by Nina Malone provides a number of private support groups online, while offering meet-ups, a podcast, presence on social media and safe space webinars.

Members of Dope Black Mums can expect chats and advice on what to make for yet another round of toddler lunches, to big questions like how do you support your five-year-old who has just experienced racism for the first time at school.

“Dope Black Mums would not be the community it is without the willingness to share from the amazing women who are Dope Black Mums,” shares Nina, who also believes that traditional parenting groups like NCT are not doing enough to support all parents and children holistically.

“Everything needs to be more diverse and inclusive from the bottom up; from their literature, images, topics — such as miscarriage — and staff. Now with the greater awareness of racism in our society and with Black Lives Matter movement, there’s really no excuse and they need to do better. It's their due diligence to do so.”

Is it time for the monopoly of NCT to end?

With so many alternative support groups available and within easy access, I encourage expectant mothers and people looking for a support group to shop around and find a group you really connect with. Parent support should lift you up, not drag you down.

Do not let this stop you heading to an NCT group if you like the sound of your local group, but if the ‘creme de la creme’ of parenting groups doesn’t pan out the way you had hoped for, please remember that is not a reflection on your future parenting abilities and there are many other fantastic support networks out there.

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