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Oxford ‘Toddles and Waddles’ Birthlight Walking group

Free Birthlight Pregnancy and Family Walking Group Ideas

“It’s helped connect people and build a really caring and supportive community with a shared ethos of friendship and kindness.” Victoria

In the depths of one of those particularly long and dark stretches of gloom we had last winter, an unexpectedly bright and beautiful day arrived, the kind that lifts your soul and makes you want to go outside. I was sitting in our sun filled loft room and reading a wonderful article on how being outside with others is particularly beneficial for our mental and physical well-being. The merits of community walking for our health and happiness are well documented. Plus in the context of widespread antenatal and postnatal mood disorders and loneliness, I felt this was something I needed to think about carefully and act upon.

I wondered if there was a family walking group in Oxford? And how wonderful it would be if we could get women and their families together for free weekly walks, as an extension of our Birthlight pregnancy and post-natal circles.

I asked around, but no such walk existed. There were groups of various descriptions, but none which brought together prenatal and postnatal families. So the challenge was set to bring it about.

It took a few months of planning and getting the right team together, but finally last May, with the incredible help and hard work of a group of women from the Oxford Birthlight circle, we started our weekly free walk.

We’ve called it ‘Toddles and Waddles’, because it’s a fun name, and highlights the gentle nature of the walk, for pregnant, post-natal and little feet. Our walk ethos is to welcome all pregnant women, families with babies and children, and all their associated family members, including doggy ones! We also support inclusivity, and all methods of baby friendly and responsive parenting and feeding. The walk is there to encourage each other, make friends and get outside, rain or shine, all year around. Of course after a bit of fresh air and exercise, there is always an opportunity for picnics, cafes and chat. The walks have been incredibly popular and have grown quickly. We have expanded to two weekday walks in various locations around Oxford. Dozens come each week, and the Birthlight name is getting better known around the city.

We also have a monthly weekend walk, which is a bit more adventurous, for confident walkers and little ones in slings or carriers. At our first  weekend walk, which was particularly blessed with beautiful weather, I counted over 50 individuals - babies, children, dogs and parents, an amazing turn out!

Now that we have been running for a while, and have refined some of the ways we do things, I thought it would be amazing to spread the word to other Birthlight teachers in the hope that you will set up your own local walks. Over the months we have developed a set of guidelines and ideas, which I am happy to share with you. I’ve adapted our guidelines to create a template you could use as a spring board for your own group. While we continue to fine-tune what we do, this is a pretty good starting point.

I really hope you are able to use this for inspiration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of these walks going on all around the UK and beyond every week.

If you have any questions please do get in touch at [email protected] I would also be happy to set up a facebook group and other central resources for Birthlight Walk admins if you are interested.

View Birthlight Pregnancy & Family Walk Leader Information>

Happy walking.

Sara Barker
Birthlight Teacher and Osteopath

Quotes from Mums

“Toddles and Waddles walks are lovely chance to get to meet other mums and have a chat about all things baby, make connections and learn from more experienced mums. Especially a lifeline if you’re “mumming” on your own like me.” Kate

“I love Toddles as its a more tempting way of getting exercise whilst meeting lots of lovely people. The concept is great & long may it continue!” Hasina

“Toddles and Waddles has meant I have met lots of lovely people to discuss the ups and downs of parenting with while discovering some of Oxford's beautiful green spaces.” Joanne

“Toddles and Waddles is a really lovely group, welcoming and relaxed, a great way to get some exercise, fresh air and to meet other mums. Thank you to the organisers for thinking up such a great idea!” Naomi

“Toddles and Waddles has been a great way for me to get back into exercise following the (difficult) birth of my son and make new friends in the process while also getting both of us some fresh air!” Jane

“Aside from helping me get out of the house and into the fresh air to explore lovely new parks, it's been such a confidence boost to get to know these ladies. The supportive atmosphere is enriched by how knowledgeable so many of these mums are, and how nonjudgementally they support each other together, we seek to learn what the research says about caring for our babies naturally, thanks to people like Sara, and the Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Service and LLL consultants. This isn't a place to compete about whose baby sleeps through soonest, naps the best, has ticked off the milestones fastest. It's a place to admit struggle and insecurity and doubt, and to get reassurance that you are doing your best, and babies progress differently to the same results. For example, I didn't understand what BLW was and was nervous about starting solids, until the first week another mum shared her baby's finger foods with mine. Now I have the confidence to share and help others in the same way.” Rosie

“It’s helped connect people and build a really caring and supportive community with a shared ethos of friendship and kindness.” Victoria

“I love toddles because you can ask questions of other mothers. And because I have seen it help a very new mother at her lowest ebb.” Josie

“I love toddles because it’s free, there’s always a friendly face and it gets you out of the house (and outside) in all weathers!” Lizzie