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Karen Hall

Podcaster, breastfeeding counsellor, mother and parenting support specialist.

Nearly ten years ago I had a baby and my life changed in ways I could never have predicted. Most new parents would say that. Becoming a parent is a profound transformation; for me it created a whole new career, a passion, and a network of amazing people.

First I got involved with a large UK parenting charity, and trained as a Breastfeeding Counsellor, which took me until my son was nearly 3. Once I was qualified, I discovered how much I love working with groups, so as well as running antenatal sessions I now run postnatal groups (introducing solids, sleep workshops etc), and also study days for colleagues, and I train breastfeeding peer supporters. My passion is not just to support new parents but to be part of the movement that changes the world of birth and parenting, through evidence-based, parent-centred care.

Five years ago I was able to give up doing a real job and threw myself into this new world completely. I trained as a postnatal doula, but I find I have less time for doula work lately as I constantly diversify! I'm now vice-chair of the local MSLC and spending a lot more time on Sprogcast, a monthly podcast about pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.

Sprogcast came about just over a year ago, when Mark Harris and I chatted on twitter about the need for a radio-style programme covering the subjects we're both passionate about. We aim to cover a range of pregnancy, birth and postnatal topics; and chat about anything relevant that has been in the news. Talking to Mark always makes me smile, and we work well together; we may have different philosophies, but we share the passion for supporting parents. The majority of our audience at the moment consists of midwives and other birth workers, but this could have appeal for new parents as well. It's been a really interesting challenge and hopefully we're getting better with each episode.

In my spare time I tidy up after my nearly-ten year old son, run, knit, and watch too much telly.

Welcome To The Motherland

Please don't imagine that my point of reference for motherhood is limited to floating around in a cloud of organic breastfeeding loveliness. In fact, I think that might be the core of the dilemma: this question of whether to use the word "mother" is just terribly reductionist, as though motherhood can be only one thing.
07/02/2017 17:05 GMT

Do Our Children Want To Be On Social Media?

Social media can offer sanity-saving connectedness and support, particularly during the isolated early days of parenthood, but I implore parents to consider carefully what information they make public.
22/01/2017 17:22 GMT

Breastfeeding Support Matters, But It's Not All About The Individual

Minchin accurately predicted a backlash against honesty about the risks of not breastfeeding, and cites the huge vested interests of the baby milk industry, which has successfully divided mothers for decades, co-opting the phrase "breast is best" to create an aspirational ideal, and undermining breastmilk as the normal infant food for our species.
17/06/2016 15:50 BST

Date Night

Ten years ago, heavily pregnant, I said goodbye to a regular monthly social group that I knew I wouldn't be coming back to for a little while. 'Make sure you get out as a couple as soon as you can,' was their parting advice. Looking forward to meeting my baby, and anticipating the tired and intense times to come, the advice fell on stony ground.
25/05/2016 12:28 BST

Modern Living and Mucky Kids

According to Antonella Gambotto-Burke, mothers are damaging their children by existing in a society that doesn't value motherhood. She longs for a time when children were healthier and happier, but doesn't pinpoint exactly when that might have been.
22/04/2016 14:33 BST

If Only Someone Had Told Me

As an antenatal educator, I am often advised of the many ways in which I failed to prepare people for what it's really like to have a baby, and find yourself relentlessly on call to a tyrannical but adored bundle of cute, who speaks no language that you know, and for whose health and well-being you are entirely responsible.
20/04/2016 12:22 BST

Media Manages to Shut Jamie Oliver Up Over Breastfeeding. Nice One.

As soon as Jamie Oliver opened his mouth, it was open season for bashing the breastfeeding supporters once again. To be fair, his choice of words was poor. 'It's easy, it's more convenient, it's more nutritious, it's better, it's free,' he said. Well, it's certainly free.
21/03/2016 13:45 GMT

Maternity Review: Informed Choice and Personalised Care

Mainstream media were quick to focus on the proposal that women should have a £3000 budget and a choice of birth places and carers. The Times describes this as women being "handed £3000 by the NHS," a scenario which seems as unlikely as its tone seems dismissive of women's abilities to think straight if presented with such quantities of money.
25/02/2016 10:46 GMT

Why Are Twins Double Trouble?

From conception onwards, having twins seems to raise the bar. Through pregnancy and birth, mothers having twins are viewed as twice as delicate, with their precious double burden, placing a pressure on babies and parents that impacts on the birth as well as the early days and weeks of the babies' lives.
23/02/2016 11:22 GMT

Being in the Smug Set

In my role as fully paid-up member of the smug set, I like to empower parents and share information and strategies that they can use to make decisions that feel right for them at the time. I don't believe that having a good birth is the luck of the draw, but nor do I believe that your baby's mode of exit is really cause for smugness of any kind.
01/02/2016 10:31 GMT