Friday, 19 November 2010

Green poo, the importance of a good latch and other musings

We've been very lucky with Baby Badger. After our early difficulties with feeding in the first few weeks, she's been a good little feeder: hungry (although thankfully not constantly so), hardly ever sick and nothing beyond the expected amount of trapped wind. We completely escaped the colic that two of my NCT friends were plagued with for months. That was until we went on holiday.

Here I divert slightly... Other than spending a week travelling round the north of England to visit relatives, my grand plan for our week away was to wean myself off co-sleeping. Baby Badger was 5 months old and soon to outgrow her crib so she would need to move into her own room: if I couldn't get her out of our bed how on earth would I get her out of our room? I decided the best time to try this was while we were away: I wouldn't want to co-sleep in a strange bed, and Father Badger would be able to help me with the night shift as he wouldn't have to work the following day.

The first night was mainly spent treading the boards with a screaming baby. The second night was much the same. The third and fourth nights were better but still not much sleep was had. And so the week went. Unsurprisingly, we thought it was down to the change in sleeping arrangements. Then came the raging farts and consistently green poo!

We arrived home from our holiday rather tired, and Father Badger went back to work. A couple of days later I was at the local Children's Centre and mentioned the wind issues and green poo to the breast feeding advisor. She watched while I was feeding Baby Badger and said immediately: "she's grown out of that latch position". I had been sitting Baby Badger on my knee and leaning her over to the opposite breast - it meant that I didn't have to support her entire weight on my arms. It had worked for a couple of months, but she was absolutely right: Baby Badger's head was no longer tipping back and she was taking in air because the latch was bad.

It simply hadn't occurred to me that a good latch could become a bad latch.

A week later and we're back to good again. The wind has gone, as has the green poo (after a spell of being spectacularly green, in fact the greenest my health visitor had ever seen!), and Baby Badger is even spending the majority of the night in her own bed. Hurrah!

Image: nuttakit /

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Totally in love

I'm not usually soppy, in fact Father Badger would say in no uncertain terms that he was the romantic half of the relationship. I am, however, totally in love again, this time with a little creature that screams at me, nips at me and covers me with snot and milk (and other more noxious substances). Funny, huh?

Baby Badger is now four and a half months old, and it's fascinating to watch how she is changing, it seems at an ever increasing rate. She is more alert and interested in the world around her: although she is not yet crawling, she loves to hear and watch other more mobile babies. She has developed an amusing but possibly unhealthy interest in Strictly Come Dancing. I'm assuming it's the brightly coloured and sequined frocks, but maybe she's simply destined for the quick step.

She knows who I am! She smiles when she sees me, her eyes light up, and Father Badger swears she even recognises my footsteps in the hall. I appreciate it's probably because she knows where dinner comes from, but it still brings the love flooding out of me, even if she kept me up all the previous night. For the record, she definitely does know where dinner comes from: when hungry she fixes her gaze firmly on my shirt and if in reach tries to pull my clothes out of the way.

She is becoming quite cheeky. Yesterday evening she finished feeding, clamped her gums down on my nipple and shook her head a la Jack Russell! Needless to say, I yelled "Ouch!" and she detached then looked directy at me and grinned. Twice she latched back on and did it again! I think this is a game I won't be encouraging...

Image: graur razvan ionut /

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Almost as bad as semolina

I've been attending a New Parents session at my local Sure Start centre. Three lunchtime slots covering topics as varied as benefits, childcare options and minor illnesses. I think a lot of it boils down to common sense, but I'm all up for information: bring it on and I'll sift through and file what's useful. I have what I think of as a mental filter. A piece of information arrives at my ears, perhaps briefly amuses or arouses interest, then the filter kicks in: is this piece of information going to be useful for future occasions? Yes - file it. No - ditch it. I'm rubbish at pub quizzes.

This week I discovered that we may be eligible for child tax credits, which astounded me. The current threshold for household income is surprisingly high: £66k. As a bonus, the first £100 of your SMP (statutory maternity pay) doesn't count. This means we could be £90 better off (can't remember if it's per week or per month). It's not going to buy that Porsche but it's still £90, which buys a lot of nappies (or icecream). Possibly not the most thrilling bit of blogging I've done, but maybe it'll help make someone's life a little more comfortable.

I've blogged before about motherhood being about liquids, and inevitably this topic arose. If you'd asked me a year ago, I'd never have guessed I could be part of a ten minute conversation about the methods of removing snot from the nose of a three month old child. For the record, going into the bathroom and turning the shower on was a popular solution (the baby equivalent of sticking your head over a bowl of boiling water), closely followed by saline drops (which make baby sneeze, seems a bit harsh to me). We all admitted to simply pulling them out on occasion - gross but true.

Still on the topic of liquids, we covered what to do about diarrhoea, vomiting and constipation (yummy...). The first question that sprung to mind is how on earth do you tell if your little one has the runs?! I guess it's all relative. The solution for the first two is to keep fluids going in: for formula fed babies introduce a little cooled boiled water; for breastfed babies increase the number of feeds. As for constipation, it's not an issue if they're going several days in between as long as it's soft coming out. If not, it's more boiled water for formula fed babies, and for breastfed babies? Prunes for mum. Nightmare memories of school dinners come flooding back...

Image: riganmc /

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Importance of Icecream

I've struggled with my weight most of my life. I started secondary school overweight and put on extra since university. I've never been huge but certainly slipped into the obese category on the BMI charts. I say "struggled" but, truth be known, I put very little effort into dealing with it until recently.

The big push came last year: I decided that it was soon going to be time to start a family and if I couldn't lose the weight before having a baby I certainly wasn't going to lose it afterwards. I also wanted to make sure I was as healthy as possible in pregnancy. I lost just over two stone from late January to September; nothing meteoric, but a good steady, maintainable pace. I came off the pill, waited for my first real period and then we started trying. Father Badger was rather disappointed: we'd told ourselves that it could take months of trying and he was looking forward to the process, but I was pregnant within a few weeks!

Morning sickness kicked off the weight gain: I was never sick, but required regular doses of "absorbant" food (such as Marmite on toast) to suppress the nausea. By month four the nausea had been replaced by permanent hunger and by the time Baby Badger arrived I was three stone heavier. I told myself that pregnancy was not the time to worry about it, nor were the first few months after the birth.

My period of grace is over... I've lost a stone and a half of the weight through the birth and retained fluid gradually leaving my system. Breastfeeding has no doubt also played a huge part in controlling my weight as I feed my continuingly large appetite. I have, unfortunately, developed a passion for Ben and Jerry's icecream, and I'm just not willing to go cold turkey so I've had to resort to exercise!

This evening I managed my fourth post-baby jog around the village (a mile and a half), this time without slowing to a walk, and I've signed up for a 10km road race in December. I fully expect to be last across the line but if I am it doesn't matter - it's something to aim for, something I'm doing purely for me.

Image: Idea go /

Monday, 13 September 2010

Just an innocent murmur

Baby Badger's eight-week check went almost without incident. (This was, of course, several weeks ago.) Feeding and weight gain were coming along nicely; hips were fine (although it was a little disconcerting to be told by the doctor that she was "trying to dislocate them to prove that they wouldn't"); the fontanelle (soft spot on the head) was the expected size. The only slight concern was a heart murmur.

Unsurprisingly, my own pulse raised a little when I heard this. The doctor told me that Baby Badger would be referred for a further examination at the local children's hospital. She went on to reassure me that one in four babies have a slight heart murmur at this age and she'd probably be made to look an idiot when the murmur had disappeared by the time the referral came through. As promised, a few weeks later a letter arrived and I was given a choice of hospitals I could attend for the examination together with a number to ring to arrange the appointment.

That appointment was today. Father Badger was working so my mum came along for some company. To be honest, I wasn't particularly worried - I make it a policy to assume the best case scenario until proven otherwise, as it leads to a much happier experience of life - but it was nice to have some company in the waiting room. Although we weren't kept waiting too long, Baby Badger was starting to get a bit hungry (and therefore cranky) - it had been a couple of hours since the last feed due to the time it takes me to get from our rural area to the hospital via the park and ride. I prepared myself for the inevitable screaming when the sleepsuit was removed and cleaned my hands in order to provide my little finger for sucking!

The doctor arrived and I made to hand Baby Badger over only to be told to keep hold of her as she'd be nuch happier. I cradled her in one arm while the poppers [a.k.a. press studs to the Americans reading this] over her torso were opened and braced myself for the scream and... nothing. The doctor was cooing and wiggling her eyebrows and Baby Badger was smiling beaming back at her! The whole appointment went smoothly as the stethoscope was applied across her chest and back and her pulse was taken at wrist and hips.

The outcome? Baby Badger has an "innocent murmur": the heart is fine and it's actually the blood flow that's being heard. As she puts on weight, there will be more body mass between the heart and the stethoscope and eventually the murmur will not be heard. Phew!

Image: jscreationzs /

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Baby vs The World

I've always tried to do my bit for the environment. I recycle as much of our household waste as possible. I give away things I no longer need on Freecycle rather than send them to landfill. I do my best to switch off appliances and lights, and I try to buy items with minimal packaging. I'm hardly an eco-warrior, but I probably fit in the "above average" category for environmentally sound gestures.

Baby Badger, on the other hand, is definitely a consumer to challenge my (pale) green principles.

Father Badger and I decided before Baby Badger arrived that we would use disposables at first, while the sleep deprivation and ineptitude was at its worst (and while the daily turnover of nappies was likely to be at its highest), but aim to move to a more eco-friendly alternative as soon as possible. Baby Badger is now three months old, so we're overdue. We've bought a handful of different modern washable nappies (Itti Bitti D'Lish, Bumgenius Flip and v4, Bambooty EasyDry and FuzziBunz OneSize) and tested them with similar results: they absorb wee for a good few hours, but Baby Badger has yet to test the leg holes to capacity, if you get what I mean...

It seems logical that reusable nappies must be more eco-friendly than disposables, but there are so many factors such as the energy used to produce the nappies and the energy and detergent used to clean them. There are lots of sites online where people trade and sell pre-loved nappies, which goes some way towards dealing with this; Cloth Nappy Tree is one such site. You can wash the nappies on half or quarter dose of detergent, and most are fine at 40 degrees, but use of a tumble dryer makes them almost as bad as disposables [although I honestly can't remember where I read this]. Experience of our trial nappies tells me, however, that even with a decent day for the washing line these nappies take a while to dry, so over winter we can expect soggy nappies on indoor airers.

Cue knight in shining armour: the Nappy Laundry Service. The county council website reliably informs me that our area is covered by a Nappy Laundry Service. They deliver a week's worth of nappies and take away the previous week's soiled nappies and wash them to suitably high standards. I'm telling myself that the fuel used to shift the nappies around must be offset by the ability to bulk wash the nappies in an industrial washer because the idea of being green without the ick factor of having to wash them myself is, quite frankly, highly attractive.

We've also trialled some "eco-disposables". These are nappies that are produced in a supposedly more eco-friendly manner (bleach-free, etc.) and also decompose in a more timely manner. Some, I've heard, may even be compostable, but I've yet to find the evidence. I'm hoping that we can end up combining the magic Nappy Laundry Service washables with eco-disposables for emergencies. Watch this space...

Baby wipes, the chief weapon in any mother's armoury, are equally onerous in landfill. There are brands that claim to have a lesser impact, and then there are the reusable, washable variety. I bumped into a mother at a Nappuccino (I kid you not) that uses flannels and a spray bottle containing water, tea tree and lavender oil to clean up. I'm not sure I'm quite at the stage of being able to cope with that when a poo-nami strikes.

There are, of course, many other ways in which to lighten your little one's impact on the environment. Gratefully accept second hand baby clothes; after all, what is the point of brand new clothes that last a month? Pass on clothes that no longer fit to other mothers - NCT nearly new sales are one way to do this. Minimise the number of toys that require batteries. Try public transport rather than drive everywhere with your little one: I managed a trip to London single handed on the bus, train and tube with only a baby carrier and rucksack and it actually wasn't that bad!

So... my plan of attack? Firstly get Baby Badger cloth bummed, then give the flannel a go (once I've worked my way through the baby wipe mountain in the cupboard*). After that? Who knows.

* The baby wipe mountain is courtesy of Father Badger, who became slightly over-enthusiastic when he spotted an offer at the supermarket and ordered packets totalling in excess of 1,400 wipes. Seriously.

Post inspired by imperfectpages:

Image: Phiseksit /

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Breast is Best: the backlash

You're probably aware of the NHS slogan "Breast is Best", and perhaps also the recent media attention suggesting that it's actually having the opposite effect on new mums by suggesting that breast is not the norm. I've been experiencing another unwanted side effect...

I've written before about Baby Cafe, a lunchtime session at my local Sure Start centre where mums can chat and get support while feeding. From the start I've noticed that the formula feeding mums tended to stick together and reassure each other that it is OK not to be breastfeeding. I'm guessing this has something to do with the way that "Breast is Best" is pushed by the NHS during pregnancy, and also that much of the feeding support offered to new mums is focussed on breastfeeding. It's obviously very easy to end up feeling like a failure when being told "at least you tried" and no new mum needs that on top of the other anxieties.

There's always been a mixture of breastfeeding and formula feeding, but I'm finding myself increasingly in the minority as mums are switching over to formula. I'm actually beginning to feel ostracised, as if the fact that I am breastfeeding is somehow an unwelcome reminder that there is an option other than formula. This week I was chatting to another breastfeeding mum (the only other one in the room) about the rights she had when returning to work as a breastfeeding mum. Someone commented "surely you won't still be feeding her when you go back?" to which I answered without thinking: the more I think and read about formula, the less I want to give it to my daughter. You could almost hear the tumbleweed. I heard myself reassure the rest of the group that I respected every mother's decision to decide how to feed their child, but formula just wasn't for me.

I resent this. I'm actually going to retract that statement. I respect all the mothers who have been unable to breastfeed for medical reasons: milk not coming in; medication making their milk unsuitable; babies or mothers too unwell to feed. I sympathise with all the mothers that were not given the necessary support to make breastfeeding work; also those who were pressured into using formula by well meaning relatives. I really don't respect those that simply decided not to give breastfeeding a go; those that did it for a month but decided it was only fair that they got their lives back. When I made the decision to have a child, I committed myself to bringing that child up as best I could, and part of that commitment was to keep that child as healthy as possible: fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet. Why on earth would I choose to use a commercially synthesised version of the perfect food provided by mother nature? Why would any mother? I simply don't understand, I'm done with pretending to agree that it doesn't matter and I don't apologise for it.

Image: healingdream /

Friday, 20 August 2010

Oh, the Guilt...

It's amazing how little sleep you learn to deal with. I browse the Baby Centre forums quite often, and find myself jealously cursing the mums with babies (mainly formula fed as far as I can see) that sleep through the night. The question in my mind is this: do you do whatever it takes to get enough sleep to function or do you follow all the rules and make like the walking dead the next day?

Left to her own devices, Baby Badger wakes roughly every two hours to feed during the night. Take away the 20-30 minutes required to move to a chair, feed and burp her and I'm left with 90 minutes until the cycle restarts. That's if, of course, I've managed to get her into her crib without waking her. It doesn't take a genius to work out that I'm not really getting enough sleep.

Obviously, over the last few months I have found ways to get additional sleep, or else I wouldn't be capable of typing right now! Father Badger, or perhaps a grandparent, takes her for an hour or so while I sleep, but I'm not really one for daytime naps - I'd much rather tick off a few tasks on the list so I have "achieved" each day. I've found a fairly reliable way of getting more sleep at night, but it comes loaded with guilt: co-sleeping.

The term "co-sleeping" is applied to more than one scenario. Sometimes it simply means having baby in the same room as parents, which is advised for the first six months to reduce the risk of cot death. Sometimes it refers to having the cot or crib next to the parents' bed. And other times it means having baby in bed with mum. In my case it's the last of these: I've found that if I feed Baby Badger lying on my side, I can drift off and she simply falls asleep once she's finished. She sleeps much longer, presumably because she feels full, warm and protected snuggled at my side. Strangely, she also seems not to need burping (I've not seen any evidence of spit-up).

The problem is this: co-sleeping my way is contraversial. There are risks associated with it: duvets or pillows can smother, baby could fall out of bed, or a parent could roll on to baby. Parents who smoke should not co-sleep, nor should you if you are a heavy sleeper or have been drinking or taking drugs. On the other hand, co-sleeping is in many cultures the natural way of keeping your infant at night, and there are ways to reduce the risks. I honestly believe she is safe this way. I keep the covers off her, my body surrounds hers with a hand on her bum, and I wake up in exactly the same position, as if I instinctively stay in the protective position. I awake when she stirs to feed, usually well before she feels the need to cry out of hunger. Surely these are all positive reasons for co-sleeping?

Last night we introduced an additional dose of guilt; something I swore I would never do. After the midnight feed I gave Baby Badger a dummy (usually referred to nowadays as a soother, but that makes me think of throat sweets). She slept until 4:40, giving me four hours of sleep in one lovely stretch, at which point I brought her into bed, fed her and fell asleep for another couple of hours (back to source of guilt number one). We'll try the same again tonight and if it works I'm just going to have to admit that a dummy has its uses.

Further information on co-sleeping:

Image: winnond /

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Volcanic Eruptions

It seems to me that early motherhood is about liquids of various sorts.

The obvious one is milk, in my case breastmilk. It's already become second nature to latch her on and I'm becoming a dab hand at multi-tasking: one-handed typing; propping Baby Badger on a pillow so I can eat my cereal; and this morning even found myself walking round, one arm supporting her, while I filled my handbag ready to go out. A month ago I wouldn't have thought it possible, but although I've become accustomed to breastfeeding, it doesn't mean that a break wouldn't be nice. Last night was actually the best so far - after her last evening feed at around 11:30, Baby Badger woke up at 4:30 and again at 7:30 - hurrah! One night, however, has not made up for the last two months of sleep deprivation so tonight Father Badger is giving me a break of sorts: he's doing the night feeding. I've spent a few sessions over the last day or so pumping and feel strangely proud of having produced over 200ml (about 8oz), which should do two feeds. I will of course have to wake up some time in the early hours to feed her otherwise I'll end up rather uncomfortable and leaky (!), but two lots of four hours sleep in one night will be heaven...

As they say, what goes in must come out. Wet nappies are hardly a trauma, although I guess if Baby Badger had been born a boy it might have been more hazardous [or perhaps the stories of dodging arcs of pee are merely urban myth - can anyone confirm?]. It's the other stuff... Another thing that I wouldn't have believed a few months ago - it's actually not that bad dealing with baby poo, and I'm told that's at least partially because breastfed baby poo is much nicer (or should that be less smelly) than formula-fed baby poo. It's only bad when it comes out in quantities that shouldn't be able to emerge from such a small body! Father Badger stumbled upon the perfect term for this: poo-nami, like a tsunami but made of... you get the picture. Baby Badger seems to store up several days worth, then let rip in one go! If we're lucky, we notice the first batch, and during the nappy change the rest comes out like lava erupting from a volcano. The scientist/child in me is fascinated by the volume (whilst yelling "eurgh" very loudly). If we're unlucky, we don't notice until the sheer volume starts to force open the leg holes on the nappy. Fortunately that's not happened too often and usually results in one of us holding a wriggly baby while the other hoses her down with the shower. Quite effective but it does take a tag team effort.

The last type is tears. Occasionally Baby Badger's if she's crying inconsolably, but more often mine. Don't get me wrong. Life is not bad, and I'm pretty sure I'm not depressed as I can laugh at the ridiculous and still have the drive to get out and about. The tears come after a few nights of particularly voracious feeding (the 90 minute feeding cycle a few weeks ago was particularly hard). I can wake up in the morning exhausted, but a quick hot shower sorts me out so well that I forget about napping during the day and when it gets to 9 o'clock at night I realise, too late, just how shattered I am.

Did I say the last type of liquid was tears? I was wrong. The last type is tea. How typically British of me, but it's true: the tears are more often than not sorted by a nice cuppa.

Image: Idea go /

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Party Line

On tuesdays I go to Baby Cafe. All the babies three months old and younger go to one room, older babies to another, accompanied by mums of course. It's a drop in session where you can chat to other mums, babies get to meet on the mat, and for a couple of quid you get a spud or sandwich that you've not had to juggle baby in order to make (in the early weeks that was a godsend to me). More importantly for those that are just getting used to breastfeeding, it's a friendly environment for your first public feed, and there's always a health visitor around to advise.

Which brings me to the point of this post...

Today the health visitor did her usual thing: she had an informal chat to each of us, checking we're were happy, no questions, feeding (breast or formula) going well. The conversation went along these lines:

"How are you today? How's the feeding going?"
"Fine thank you. A bit tired but that's to be expected."
"Why? How often is she feeding overnight?"
"About every two to three hours."
"Hmm... you really ought to be trying to stretch that to four hourly, day and night. Are you sure you've got enough milk for her? Can you tell whether your breasts are becoming full again?"

I've got several problems with that last bit:
  1. A nine week old formula fed baby may well be able to go to four hourly feeds, but it's much less likely that a breast fed baby can do so: breast milk is more easily (i.e. quickly) digested than formula, and they are more likely to take just as much as they need to feel full (as opposed to bottle fed where they may end up taking more than they need). When I checked with health visitor number two at baby clinic this afternoon she told me this: demand feeding (i.e. feed whenever the baby wants milk) is the NHS breast-feeding strategy and all health visitors should be advising as such.
  2. Rather than ask me if my milk supply is good (something that's rather difficult to work out), how about ask me about Baby Badger's weight gain and number of nappies (something that's easy to quantify and gives a good indication of if she's getting enough)?
  3. A mother less inquisitive/confident/bolshy than myself may not have asked for a second opinion regards the four hourly feeding, and could have had the seeds of doubt planted regarding her milk supply. Health visitors are meant to be supportive!

This is not a post abusing the NHS. I can't fault the care I've received during pregnancy, birth and beyond. I perhaps haven't received as much attention as some, but that's fine as I've had a pretty easy ride of it. What I do expect from the NHS is that the staff should have the same up to date information and provide consistent and good advice. That isn't always happening (I experienced similarly conflicting advice while in hospital with Baby Badger).

Image: photostock /

Friday, 6 August 2010

Escape from the Mad House

Tonight was a milestone in two ways. Firstly, it is mine and Father Badger's fifth wedding anniversary: the years have flown yet at the same time it feels as though we've always been together. Secondly, we left Baby Badger with my parents for a whole evening for the first time and went out to dinner.

We actually only went to a pub a couple of villages away, and had comforting pub food with a pint, but it was still an evening out and a stroll in the evening air to refresh ourselves, and it was great. We were very tempted to do what I'm guessing a lot of new parents feel like doing: go sleep, baby-free, for a couple of hours!


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Breast is Best

As you've probably worked out from my previous posts, I'm exclusively breastfeeding. I do it because I believe it's best for Baby Badger: breastmilk is designed for babies, and babies are designed so that breastmilk is the optimum nutrition. It should help me get back in shape, protects me and Baby Badger from a list of ailments, and best of all is convenient (once over the embarrassment of getting your baps out in public).

I've come across a couple of interesting articles today so I thought I'd share...

Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat, from The New York Times, gives some fascinating insight into the composition of breastmilk, including the great work it does for baby other than providing nutrition.

101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child is a little dry in its content (and rather a long read), but give it a chance: it's actually a great list of the positives together with citations of clinical studies that back up each statement. You'll definitely know some of the reasons given (especially if you already breastfeed), but there will definitely be a few you hadn't heard of (such as "Breastfeeding enhances vaccine effectiveness").

This post is in no way meant to be a dig at mothers who choose to formula feed. I respect their right to choose. I also appreciate that for some mothers breastfeeding simply doesn't work out, whether it be to do with milk coming in too late, separation from their newborns at the critical time or lack of support.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Birth Story

I've been reading a few different blogs this evening and a few have featured birth plans and how the real thing did or didn't go to plan. I thought maybe I'd share mine - don't worry, there'll be no grizzly details!

My birth plan went along these lines... Father Badger should not be excluded whatever happens. Stay mobile and upright for as long as possible and maybe use the birthing pool. TENS machine and perhaps gas and air as pain relief and avoid pethidine or an epidural. Avoid episiotomy [who doesn't want to?!] and intervention, and immediate skin to skin contact.

Something that struck me about these other posts is the feeling of surprise from the writers that their birth didn't go to plan. I was at least realistic enough to title mine "Birth Preferences" and accept that there were bound to be surprises that would need me to be flexible. I saw it as a starting point: it felt much better to me to have a baseline idea of what was going to happen and allow for variation than to go in without any kind of plan, but I didn't want to go in with a closed mind and then be disappointed about some changed details in what was otherwise a perfectly satisfactory experience.

As it happens, Baby Badger blew the plan out of the water, namely in that she made an appearance before I had time to print it out!

If I believed in intuition, I'd say I knew she was on her way. The afternoon before she arrived I had my hair cut. I worked overtime until gone midnight and finished off a bunch of tasks I had planned for the following week - I still had five days left before going on maternity leave. I woke early the next morning and discovered my waters had broken - not in the TV style of floods, but a trickle. For some reason, perhaps denial, I headed back to bed for another hour but the verdict was the same when I awoke at 7.

I called the local midwifery centre, where I was hoping to give birth, and they confirmed my suspicions but said that because I hadn't made it to 37 weeks I couldn't come there and had to ring the hospital, which I did. I was told that they wanted to check me over but since it was my first I had time to pack my bag. At this point I was perhaps a little too relaxed! I packed my bag, watered the greenhouse, fed the dog, did the dishes, you get the picture... We got in the car, popped to see my parents and stopped off to buy some sandwiches in case we had a long day. It was now almost ten o'clock. It was at this point that I realised that things were moving a little quicker than I'd thought.

By the time we arrived at the hospital my contractions were about five minutes apart and feeling pretty strong, although I told myself not to be a wuss - surely this was still early stage! Once in the maternity ward I was quickly checked and told I was already 9cm dilated! I was taken straight to a delivery room, the TENS machine was attached, I took a couple of puffs of gas and air and it all kicked off! Baby Badger was born at 12:39 and the whole thing was over by lunchtime! No medication, no tearing and honestly a great experience.

The moral of this story? Just because it's your first baby it doesn't mean it'll be late or a long/difficult delivery.

Image: nuttakit /

Friday, 30 July 2010


Believe it or not, I've just been to a beer festival! Admittedly, I only had half a pint of mild, but it still feels quite liberating to be able to have a social life when you have an eight week old baby. How is this possible? My Moby sling.

The Moby is a type of wrap: a six metre long piece of material that you tie around yourself to create a baby carrier. It's slightly stretchy, which allows you to tie it first then slot the baby in, and although it looks complicated it's actually very straight forward - I can tie it and get Baby Badger in place inside 90 seconds!

I can't sing its praises enough. Baby Badger was born three weeks early and was underweight, so she couldn't be carried in a conventional carrier (and has only just become big enough to go in my husband's Baby Bjorn), but she was fine in the Moby. Putting her in the Moby is an almost guaranteed way of calming her and putting her to sleep; I guess it's almost like being back in the womb.

To find out more about slings and other types of carriers, look for your local slingmeet - they do demos of the different carriers and for a small deposit lend out slings so you can try before you buy.


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Alien Baby

While Baby Badger and I were in hospital for the second time, she received treatment for jaundice. She was only borderline for requiring treatment, but since we had been admitted for the weight problems the pediatrician thought she may as well deal with both issues at the same time.

Actually, it's all really one issue: here's my understanding of the whole thing (no guarantee of accuracy in the medical detail)... While in the womb your baby has extra red blood cells and once she's born these extra blood cells are broken down into bilirubin which is then processed by the liver. Jaundice occurs when the liver can't keep up with the bilirubin and it presents as a yellowing of the skin and eyes. It's quite common in newborn babies, and they generally sort themselves out in the first few weeks, but if they aren't feeding well it can be difficult for them to flush out the bilirubin. That was the case for Baby Badger.

The treatment was phototherapy using a biliblanket, pictured above. The biliblanket emits a particular frequency of ultra-violet light, which helps break down the bilirubin. That shows that there is some truth to the rumour that putting a jaundiced baby near a sunny window helps clear the jaundice; in fact that's what the community midwife had recommended I did to Baby Badger when we first came home, but it wasn't enough to keep up with her bilirubin levels. If you do use daylight in this way please take care not to let your baby overheat or burn

The biliblanket was put up the back of Baby Badger's vest with the tube coming out between her knees, over the end of the bassinet and into the box of electrical tricks. The effect was to give her the appearance of a blue aura, which at night looked more like something out of Alien! The treatment ran for a day or so while they monitored her bilirubin levels via heel prick tests (poor little mite), then she was monitored for a further eight hours to check that the levels didn't rebound, which thankfully they didn't.


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Just call me Clover

Baby Badger was born 24 days early and was more interested in sleeping than feeding. Who can blame her - she was robbed of three lovely weeks' slumber in the womb. She was a good weight for her age - 5lb 14oz - but lost 12oz in the first four days. That was 12% of her initial body weight, which is more than the expected 5-10% that breastfed babies often lose.

The community midwife gave me two options: either try to get her to feed more and monitor it myself; or take her to the special baby unit at the hospital and get her checked over, with the expectation that we would have to stay the night. I was reluctant to go back into hospital, but didn't feel confident that I knew what I was doing in terms of feeding, so the midwife made the hospital appointment and in we went. A pediatrician took some bloods and checked her over, and we were admitted for the night with a written feeding plan: feed three hourly and top up with a bottle, then express, the top up being the expressed milk from the previous feed.

Once up on the ward I was introduced to Clover. Clover is a hospital-grade double breast pump, looking like something left over from world war two (at this point I was very glad I was in my own room). The nurse showed me how to assemble the pump and how to sterilise the pieces and left me to it. What followed was three days and nights of almost constant feeding, pumping and boredom, interspersed with visits from family, but I would do it all over again: Baby Badger put on a couple of ounces and, just a importantly, latching on improved, I learnt how to pump and I came away much more confident that I was providing for my daughter.

Baby Badger is now seven weeks old and 8lb 1oz, so it was all worth the effort! I no longer have to pump to top up, but at least know that it's an option if I want an evening off.

I'll leave you with some top tips from my experience:
  • If you want to exclusively breastfeed and the staff suggest topping up with formula, tell them you'd rather top up with breastmilk and ask for a pump.
  • If you're struggling to get much milk when you express try a different pump. The first one I was given in the hospital seemed to be all about ferocious sucking, but I was swapped to one that had a two stage action to mimic baby's sucking and my milk yield improved.
  • Once home I used a Medela Swing Electric Breastpump
    electric breast pump. It's not the cheapest option (manual pumps are far cheaper, and your local midwifery or Sure Start centre may be able to lend you one), but it was worth the money.
  • Milk yield is much better in the morning when you're less tired.

Image: graur razvan ionut /

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


I'm sitting on the sofa, typing one handed (because the other is holding a feeding Badger in place) thinking "why am I starting this blog?". Because the hubby suggested it? I guess partly yes, but that can't be it; after all I rarely do as I'm told. It's because I've already experienced so much in the first few weeks of Baby Badger's life and maybe by sharing I can shed light for another new mum. At the very least it's a harmless way of venting after another sleepless night!

I never saw myself as a mum, but here I am, mother of a six week old little girl. Planned, of course, and very much wanted, but surreal nonetheless. Over the last six weeks it's mainly been about feeding (initially not enough, now seemingly endless) and the challenge of not enough sleep. I'll fill you in on the details next time...

Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /
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