I have many thoughts on the NCT. So does Linda Geddes, author of new myth bashing pregnancy book Bumpology. Geddes recently wrote this blog piece asking whether the NCT tell women the truth about birth, after some bright spark at the Today program paired her up with someone from the NCT to talk ‘truth vs myth’. The piece is worth a read (and the interview a listen) but to over-simplify her point here and now, Geddes calls them on the fact that many of their courses give information that is not always evidence based or is confusing for participants. That their strict emphasis on natural birth and breastfeeding can lead to course participants feeling they ‘failed’ at childbirth, or making ill informed decisions that may not have a good outcome.
After Geddes piece went online, Kirsty Allsop RT’d it on Twitter and a bit of a shit storm kicked off, the likes of which got pretty dirty. It led to a pointless ‘somebody expressed an opinion and somebody else didn’t like it’ piece on the Daily Mail website, of course. But I hope it doesn’t end there. Because Linda is asking good questions about the NCT, and it will be a shame if it ends in merely a Twitter spat.
Geddes claim that there is a disconnect between some NCT tutor’s advice and the actual evidence is part of a bigger disconnect between the NCTs own image of its self and the reality. Its perception of itself seems to be as a charity ‘supporting all parents’. I’d beg to differ on that based on my experience alone. How can it support ‘all parents’ when it focuses with such commitment to its natural birth brief, and bias towards certain parenting styles? While we are lucky the NCT exist and I have no doubt it is supportive to many, it’s claim to be ‘for all’ is laughable.
Its website resources are very obviously biased towards water births and breastfeeding. Try and find any information on bottlefeeding safety, choosing a formula or the challenges of feeding with a bottle and you will come away empty handed. Now this would be fine if the NCT were the La Leche League, but it’s not. If the NCT described itself as a charity designed to support mums have a natural birth and succeed with breastfeeding then I’d have much less of a problem. They’d still need to offer more on the alternatives but at least the brief would be closer to the truth.
Beyond the politics of birth and breastfeeding, I’d also like to know what they do to reach out to ‘all parents’ and not just the ones who have £150 to do the course. Have you ever seen an NCT poster in a health centre waiting room? Or met an NCT volunteer at a Sure Start centre looking to help out new mums? I’m not saying those things don’t happen (maybe they do outside of London) but their focus on course running, flogging you baby gear at inflated prices and making labour look like a fucking surprise party with free rum punch doesn’t really jive with their ‘all parents’ motto.
This whole debate led me to extreme measures: I agreed with Kirsty Allsopp. Shocking, I know. Why? She said that they are dogmatic, and that this alienates parents and leaves them disillusioned. Too right they’re dogmatic, and it’s this that stops them from helping new parents connect with their experience of childbirth and early parenting, which is a huge shame. So, NCT over to you… perhaps its time to make some new years resolutions?
Picture under Creative Commons License and taken by Matt Preston and on Flickr