Monday, 23 April 2018

How To Pop Your Playgroup Cherry

I love a baby group. There, I said it. Do I enjoy endless renditions of twinkle twinkle little star? Of course not but the camaraderie and companionship of other mums who are in the trenches too is a lifesaver in that first year, not to mention that the baby goes wild for some singing and a broken toy. But it's not always easy to pop your baby group cherry, here are my top tips for a nervous first-timer. I think I should just add, I wrote this some time ago but never found the right time to post, so, without further ado:

Think footwear: Wear something easy to slip on and off, lots of these groups are a shoes-off affair and you may have to leave your buggy at the door, leaving you without a receptacle in which to place your baby while you re-dress your feet. Oh and you might just feel more comfortable wearing socks, especially if the last pedicure was in that blissful preparing-for-birth phase and you've just legged it because the baby dropped a bomb just as you were leaving the house.

Take a small bag: And a big one. Leaving your baby bag at the back of the room is the done thing but it's handy to have those few essentials (phone, small muslin, dummy) at hand too incase of emergencies. Pop goes the weasel has a habit of expelling the last milk feed from a baby. Usually your baby is "world facing" at these moments and you don't realise until it's either seeped through your jeans or someone else points it out. And that's ok. We've all been there. Just use your muslin to wipe most off and rub the rest in.

Dress for comfort: You'll more than likely be sitting on the floor so think about what you'll feel comfortable wearing for a legs-crossed situation. The rooms are also often unbearably hot or pretty cold so layers are your friend, my friend. The same goes for the baby. Oh and this is a contentious one but I always make G's gender clear by how I dress her at baby groups. This is not essential, obvs, and no judgement here, my baby is often mistaken for a boy in the supermarket, they look entirely unisex for blooming ages, but I just like to save the awkwardness with other mums.

Buy a buggy lock: Lots of venues don't have space for buggies inside, it's easier to really get into a rendition of the wheels on the bus when your mind isn't focusing on your (outrageously expensive) pride and joy, parked, un-tethered at the front of the venue in full view of the road. It's pretty sad that anyone would pinch a pram but it's a crime that's on the rise. If you forget yours, no worries, take a wheel in with you. I'm not joking, you might look mad but what's a little loopiness between new parents. I've never had to do this but it was always my plan if I forgot the lock.

It's fine to feed: This might seem obvious and usually the group leaders will make it known that you're welcome to feed your baby wherever is comfortable and however you feed them. You don't need to leave the circle but it's totally fine if you'd rather sit away from the group too.

Babies don't play ball: When G was much younger she'd often sleep through the hello song and
feed through the goodbye, if she got ten minutes entertainment we'd won but I had got out of the house, conquered a public breastfeed and spoken to another adult human. And those ten minutes in the sensory room knocked her out so that she slept really well in the afternoon.

Choose your group: I use the app Hoop to find baby groups in my area, it means that I don't have to plan too far ahead and it keeps a lid on the amount of paper piling up around the house. It lists all the groups and child friendly things-to-do locally, filtered by distance and whether it's free too. I usually opt for the free, council run activities and the low-cost church run groups, I find both friendlier than the expensive option (the baby has no idea) and every penny counts on statutory mat leave, right? It's worth looking for groups that cater specifically for the newborn age group, this means that you're all in the same boat and nobody is trailing off mid conversation to shout "Ethan, we don't punch!".

Don't be disheartened: On the whole, mums at these groups are really friendly, we're all there for the same reason; baby amusement and grown-up chat. I've only had one 'bad' experience, I went along to a group that G was probably a bit young for, the mums had already clicked with each other and weren't too welcoming. I felt a bit lost and nervous to try another but I took a deep breath and went somewhere different the following week. We're back in the game.

Smile: Even if you're dying inside, know that other people are too, take a deep breath and say 'how old's your little one', fake the confidence and it will come. My friends laugh at me because pre-baby I had quite a lot of social anxiety but babies are the best conversation starters. Have fun.

I hope you found this useful, I'd love to hear your experiences, come chat to me on Instagram or Twitter!


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