…has started a blog. What?!

Never in my life did I imagine I would write a blog, nor did I think I would read one. I thought they were all self indulgent trite, a lonely version of twitter in a hideous virtual world where everyone thinks their thoughts matter. Actually maybe that is exactly what a blog is, but now I enjoy reading them. And I no longer care about being self indulgent.

Mainly because I went and had myself a baby.

In the wee hours, countless breast/bottle feeding sessions spent messaging fellow new mums and trawling the internet for the answers to gestational diabetes, reflux, eczema, latch problems, post natal depression, schools, terrible twos, psychological trauma, parental guilt (and the best latest box set to watch on Netflix)… the list goes on, led me to some hilarious and reassuring parenting blogs and warzone message boards (parenting is SO political!?). It also led me to some terrifying journeys into my own paranoia (but more of that later…). I am definitely not what some would call a natural at this mothering malarky, but I do my best, and I bet you do too.

So here I am, sharing a load of whatever I feel like and moaning about the things I have experienced with my babies, hoping to make sense of it all, and possibly accidentally reassure some others at 1..2..3..5 am along the way.

… who needs suck training

After too many google searches for “baby thrashes and pulls off nipple” “baby fusses during feeds” “baby refuses to feed after burping” etc. I have finally contacted a local breastfeeding consultant. One of the main reasons being that it is impossible to work out what the matter is as so many of the behaviours overlap for almost every problem. Have I got an over supply of milk, or under supply, an over active let down, does baby have reflux, an uncoordinated suck, poor latch, a growth spurt, cows milk protein allergy, tongue tie, ear infection…. the list is endless!!! And totally impossible to dicypher. I definitely need help!

I will report back on what happens when (and if) I see her, but as the only highly experienced volunteer consultant in the area, she is also the busiest. Not too busy to take my call though and advised me to go to a local breastfeeding support group tomorrow until she can get round to seeing me. I have been to said group before when my older daughter was a baby and I hated it, so I might just skip that one. I am all for breastfeeding (or not) and think shared information and support groups are great, and I am pretty unfazed by most things but this group was scary. Half filled with terrified new mums and the other half right-on breastfeeding aficionados aggressively feeding enormous toddlers whilst striding about drinking tea and scowling. I totally think women should breastfeed as long as they like, but when the kids’ feet are almost touching the floor, that’s just showing off.

I think I better not go.

Anyway, after I spoke to the amazing lactation consultant, my oldest bestest friend rang for a catch up. We have babies only a week apart (they were due only a day apart which is amazing and weird). Her baby is a champion feeder or at least was until recently when has become really distracted. It is such a relief to be able to compare notes with someone you know and trust and is in the same boat as you. So from our conversation I managed to entangle which frustrating things my baby was doing that were just because of her age – the annoying yet charming ‘I’m grinning at you mummy instead of eating’ move, the hilarious ‘suck and fart’ and my favourite ‘I’m craning my neck to see what’s over there… with your now stretched nipple still in my mouth’ one. Ouch. And which things were because of her reflux/unidentifiable problem, purely because my baby cries at certain times and hers doesn’t. Good science peoples.

So I decided to pay extra close attention during the next few feeds to the things that don’t seem development stage related. The other thing I did (and I don’t even know what made me think of it) was to let her suck on my little finger to see how she was doing it. And there I had a revelation. She was bunching her tongue up and pushing my finger right to the front of her mouth and just sucking on the very tip. I kinda knew she did this already as my nipples get really compressed and when she was tiny she would fall asleep before satisfied from having to work so hard to get milk out. Ok so maybe I am a total thicko for not checking before, but I had been focussing on the reflux and what all the health professionals were telling me and getting confused by the normal fussiness she was exhibiting. So I googled ‘suck training an older baby’. I may have googled a whole host of things to get to this perfectly crafted search, but you know how it is. And what I found is thus…

Babies born before 39 weeks often have disorganised sucks or tongue problems. Plus there are some very straightforward exercises to help them learn to suck better. Why did no one tell me before?? Every single time I casually remarked to a health professional (and this is countless and includes every midwife, health visitor, doctor, osteopath that I have encountered over the last 4 months) that my baby didn’t open her mouth very wide to latch and if I missed the first and only time she opened her mouth at the start of each feed I would have to let her suck my nipple in like spaghetti, why did they all just joke with me about her being ‘lazy’ or a ‘pickle’ (she is a pickle)? I can only conclude that they didn’t know either. But they should. I reckon showing mothers in hospital a few extra techniques for helping babies to suck rather than just latching and positioning could be a massive game changer. I bet it would reduce the number of mothers who seek further appointments with GPs and Health Visitors. If we have no way of telling what is making our babies fuss at the breast (or bottle), wouldn’t helping babies (who lets face it, are pretty clueless) suck better make a whole heap of sense? I think it would.

I will get back to you on how goes the suck training, and what the breastfeeding consultant says, I am first to admit that I could be completely wrong about all this. But it feels right, and one day when I am getting enough sleep and not up to my ears in nappies and vomit, I may start a campaign.

In the meantime, if your baby is fussy and you are googling latch techniques and positions etc. Why not try googling suck training too.


… will not travel

How many children do you know who scream so loud about getting in the car that your neighbours think they might need to call social services? They don’t say it outright, they say things like,

“Oh hahaha we were happily tucked up in our beds on Sunday morning and could hear YOU were having a hard time. Everything ok? Hahaha” nervous laugh

See what I mean? And I get it, how hard can it be to get a small child to comply? They are small! And you are bigger, and cleverer, supposedly.

I have been held hostage literally for months as we can only go places on foot. It is bloody lucky that her nursery is in walking distance of our house. Now this may mean nothing to Londoners, so I should probably explain that we live in a small village where even though there is a school and pharmacy and butchers and a newsagent, the nearest supermarket is 5 miles away and most of our friends live in other villages. Plus is it really that unreasonable that I might like to go somewhere? It’s not that I couldn’t man handle her into her seat, but she is STRONG and loud (I refer back to earlier mention of social services) and determined. So much so that I think she could really hurt herself from struggling. Plus she has started doing this hideous emotional manipulation, where after I have lost it (a tiny bit) and raised my voice (really not much), and wrangled her into the car seat, managing not to snap off any flailing limbs, and done up the buckle one-handed then swiftly tightened the strap (“NOT TOO TIGHT!”) and she has screamed blue murder and gone red and her eyes popped out of her head, she goes all quiet and sad and wants a hug and does silent crying and then I feel REALLY bad. I literally feel like an abuser. Which is not fair! I have kept calm, I haven’t hurt her, I have given her ample chance (probably too much) to get in by herself and the whole point of the trip would be to take her somewhere fun or to visit friends. But all I can think about is that psychology experiment where they gave baby monkeys wire ‘mothers’ who they clung to despite receiving repeated electric shocks from them. OK, I am probably over reacting, but that is immediately what comes to mind.

When I was heavily pregnant (not long ago) I only had access to a 3 door hatch back. If I managed to get the two year old into the car (or get her Dad to put her in), I would get stranded on the home stretch in the supermarket car park. The first time, we ended up with a seriously dangerous stand off – me sitting in the car, sobbing with frustration, threatening to drive off, having given up on every bribe and threat I could think of. And her standing, sobbing, outside of the car, in a car park, with loads of cars driving around. I can’t even remember how I got her home in the end, but I remember a moment of clarity when I stopped threatening/pleading and saw my child standing terrified, alone in a car park. That felt pretty shit.

The second time, I just stopped trying and sat in the front seat eating a cheese scone and ignoring the two year old. Eventually she got hungry enough that I could bribe her with her own cheese scone. Nailed it.

Sometimes I guess is better not to over think these things.

But I’m still not looking forward to the next time…

… cries all the time

It’s 7.55pm and my 14 week old baby is asleep on my shoulder. I should really put her in her crib and go to bed myself, but after a rough day it is too nice that she is relaxed and warm (yes I use my child as a hot water bottle because it is freezing!) and smells so good.  I so rarely get to cuddle her. I hold her a lot, constantly in fact, but mostly she is crying so it doesn’t count. She was diagnosed with reflux at 6 weeks (and much improved on medication), but today is  the first time I felt like the GP actually acknowledged that there is a problem. She said, I quote, “So she doesn’t just latch on, close her eyes, and settle into a feed [like a normal baby]?”

I think I have been waiting about 3 years for a doctor to say this.

My older daughter (now 3 years old) cried non stop from birth for 12 weeks straight. I will never forget my 3rd/4th/5th(?) visit to the GP who patted me patronisingly on the shoulder and said “I can see you are a bit tired. Babies do cry” before sending me off home feeling like an inept idiot with a still crying baby. I couldn’t understand how I had failed to communicate how bad it was. I knew that babies cry, I had 18 nieces and nephews, not to mention 3 god children. I also knew that this frequency, volume and duration of crying was not normal. There was a running joke with my antenatal pals as to how mine was the baby who always cried through every baby massage class, coffee shop meet up and bounce and rhyme session. My ears were ringing constantly. Yet I could not get a response from my doctor on how to improve things, what might be the problem, was I going mad?

At 12 weeks old I finally took my daughter to a private paediatrician up in London (my mother had nagged and nagged and then offered to pay). Within minutes of entering his office he reeled off all the symptoms my baby had, I said “yes”, he said, “reflux” and wrote a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor. Weirdly, I felt really put out by the speed in which he diagnosed her problem, I had spent so long fighting/begging the doctors at my surgery for help, that I just couldn’t register being listened to. I had convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with her and I was just a bad mother, I thought his diagnosis was an expensive fob off. (I think I really was going mad by this point from self doubt). I stayed with a friend that night and the next day when she went to work I went to visit the wife of another friend with a baby one month older than mine. She helped me mix up the prescription and administer the medicine (which was pretty bloody tricky, involving crushing up slow release beads from a capsule, then sucking the ensuing undisolved solution into a syringe and trying to force a huge volume of bitter liquid down a tiny baby’s throat without drowning it). But whatever hell it was to give her the drugs, she suddenly stopped crying. And she fed. The first feed in her entire life where she latched on, closed her eyes and just fed. No wriggling, writhing or screaming. Now at this moment, you would expect me to jump with joy, I expected me to jump with joy, but instead I started to cry. And I couldn’t stop. I felt guilty for not going to see the private paediatrician before, I felt stupid for not pushing harder with my own GP, I felt my ears ringing from the lack of screaming, and I felt myself collapsing under the weight of the stress I no longer had to hold up. I was a total mess. I felt like an empty broken shell, wide eyed in disbelief. My friend’s amazing wife managed to put me back together that morning before I drove back to Gloucestershire, and I will forever be indebted to her. It takes a certain kind of lady to handle the nervous breakdown of someone you barely know with such compassion and gumption. Serious respect. I did however just cry for the next month. My poor husband, having swapped a crying baby for a weeping wife. Got to hand it to him too (and remember how lucky I am for such amazing support all round). I have no idea if this was post natal depression, I think it was closer to post natal demoralisation or possible post traumatic stress, but after a month I was fine, and after a month we started to wean our baby off the meds. And slowly the horror was forgotten.

Until today,

“That must make it tough for bonding and be quite stressful”. And I thought, yes it was, three years ago, when I really needed you. Now I can handle it, and now you decide to listen.

GPs do a great job, with barely any time and limited resources. And here is the big BUT – I am sure you would agree that first time mothers should not have to beg their GPs for help, I think the policy of sending them away empty handed (of advice, not necessarily a prescription) is wrong, it made me doubt myself to the point of madness and feel like an overreacting novice, and it made me act like one too, when actually my instinct was right. I think it is getting better, health visitors seem to be more proactive in referring problems discussed at home back to the GPs (was th your permission) and even offering their own expertise where the GP may be unfamiliar e.g. On observation of allergy symptoms. What do you think? Is it pot luck, has policy changed for the better, or just second time around we don’t take no for an answer?