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It Takes A Village, Crystal Palace

Thanks for stopping by. Your time is precious, believe me – I know! I'm Emily, mum to a toddler whirlwind and founder of this little community enterprise It Takes A Village, Crystal Palace offering new parents connection, wellbeing meet-ups and breast/chestfeeding support. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but who nurtures the new parents? And after becoming a parent myself, it was a question that got me thinking… I truly believe every mum has their own story to tell. Whether it’s one you want to shout from the rooftops or WhatsApp to your bestie during the 3am feed, your experiences matter and deserve to be heard. My own early experience of motherhood was bumpy to say the least with recurrent miscarriage, postpartum sepsis and separation, prolonged breastfeeding difficulties and then a pandemic all taking a physical and mental toll. The care I received during my son’s birth and the first 12 months of his life was very much, shall we say, a mixed bag. Without a few key pieces of support from my family, two wonderful doulas and a handful of healthcare professionals, my journey into motherhood may have felt far more insurmountable. So how did this project come about? Having been a professional Actress for over 15 years, much of my industry came to an abrupt halt with the COVID-19 outbreak. Suddenly I was unemployed at home with a six-month-old baby, and as was the case for so many, times were tough. In order to stay positive and proactive, I decided to use some of my time at home to train online with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers as a Mother Supporter, with a view to volunteering within the NHS or postnatal health services. Following my training, I came to understand the sad reality for new mums – it was going to take quite a while for in-person breastfeeding support groups to start again. And postnatal wards were all but closed to anyone other than one birth partner (sometimes, unbelievably, not even that.) Knowing how hard those early days/weeks/months can be I wondered how on earth I would have coped with just the odd Zoom drop-in and lack of a supportive social network. I felt a real pang to reach out to isolated mums during this horrible time. I took the plunge and applied to the local branch of the charity MIND for some Seed Funding. My vision was to set up my own peer support group in my local park: an outdoor, socially distanced picnic rug meet up (screw you Covid!) to focus on building new mum’s breastfeeding confidence outdoors, and to help them foster new friendships. My application was successful and the rest is…well…baby steps. I’ve loved collaborating with other local mums on the branding/design/marketing element of the group and with their help launched via Instagram during Maternal Mental Health Awareness week in May 2021. Within just a few months we have grown a diverse community of around 50 mums (and counting!) who attend these free weekly sessions for connection and and breastfeeding support from myself and another volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor. I’m about to qualify as a Mindful Breastfeeding Practitioner (training paid for with thanks to the ABM development fund) and can’t wait to introduce more of the practical tools I’ve learnt to the group. In addition to the weekly meet-ups, we have a very active ‘Village’ what’s app group where new mums who've attended the sessions can ask questions, share their thoughts or struggles with their peers. I’ve convinced perinatal specialists to come and talk to the group for free on a range of topics such as life coaching, baby wearing and yoga therapy for birth trauma. I’m also organising a monthly social event where parents can relax and talk about something other than boobs! My aim is to always keep these community meet-ups free, inclusive (we are open to all, no matter who you are or how your baby is fed), and accessible for all. And this is where YOU come in! You can now 'buy me a cuppa' or sign up for a community champion membership: all proceeds raised here will support my ongoing work to help families keep connected and supported in these challenging times, to house us at an indoor venue for the winter months, and to help facilitate workshops to help improve the perinatal mental health and wellbeing of our community. Please do donate if you possibly can. The ripples of your support will be felt amongst so many families. It is much appreciated. Thank you x

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