Top 5 Parenting Hacks

Rainbow Cheeky Wipes

My top 5 hacks, tips and products to make your life as a parent of wee ones a little bit easier…

No. 1: Peanut butter

Okay, not so good if you hate PB or have PB allergies in the house, but if not, then peanut butter (preferably without added sugars or unsustainable palm oil) can be a temper saver for rushed-off-your-feet parents. Grab a spoonful straight from the jar in the morning when you don’t have time for YOUR breakfast, and the low GI, cheap alternative to cereal bars and the like will keep you going for hours without crashing blood sugar.

No. 2: Cheeky Wipes/Reusable cloth wipes

Rainbow Cheeky Wipes disposable wipes, these are the best thing going for cleaning mucky bums! In our house, we have had 2 sets, one for bums on the changing table and one for sticky hands and faces in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

They work better, cost less in the long run (count up how much you spend each year on wipes then think you could be using them for 2-3 years PER CHILD even without considering that even 6 year olds get sticky hands) and are way better for the environment – when you’re finally finished with them, either gift them on to another parent or send them (washed and dry) to your local charity shop marked as rags for recycling.

I’m a fan of Cheeky Wipes as they make using reusable wipes oh so easy with their kits and tubs, but you could save more money by going DIY – cut up 10cm squares of fleece or towelling can work and a large Tupperware-type tub will work to keep them in. Our dirty ones usually go in a nappy bucket anyway.

No.3: Toy tub

The idea is that this is a tub that is NOT the ‘proper’ home for any (or many) toys. You want space in it! Have one in the bedroom, one in the lounge (or wherever your kids play most) and if you have company coming round or you just want to be able to ignore the mess in the evening, whizz round and throw all loose toys into the tub.

The key with this is being strict with yourself. If the toys stay there for days, you’ll have no where to put the next lot! You have to put them away properly at some point. Any tub or basket will do, as long as it’s not too big and not too small. Handles do help though, both when filling it up and emptying later. I use small tubtrugs, which can be carried in one hand (if not too full).

No. 4: Dummy ‘clips’

dummy-clipsIf you’re using a dummy (pacifier to the Americans!) with your baby, then you’ll know the frustration of the frequently dropped dummy/pacifier. Especially if you’re out and about and babywearing. And the specially made clips can get expensive when you need one everywhere you go.

You can of course make your own dummy clips if you’re at all crafty, but why bother if you have a scarf? Any old grown up scarf with tassels or thin enough to knot a corner does the trick. Tie some tassels to the dummy, wrap the scarf around YOUR neck and go. Plus point is staying warm too!

Any stretchy headband also works on carseat straps – see photo – or baby carrier hood straps.

As tassels are not generally safe for babies to eat/tie round their fingers, only do this with supervision!

No. 5: Wear again tub

Wear again clothes tubOnce you get past the baby stage of going through multiple outfits a day, you’ll eventually get to the point where your kids can wear clothes again on another day. Especially true if you end up with a child who thinks wardrobe changes are required for every activity! To avoid washing not-really-dirty clothes, putting back not-quite-clean clothes or having them all round the room, give your kids a ‘wear again tub’ in their bedroom.

Any robust tub or basket will do. We use a small tubtrug again. It’s such a simple thing, but it can make such a difference!

So that’s my top 5! Do you have parenting hacks to share?

Thanks to all the mamas who shared their own tricks and helped me with these and this article!

The Rules (of establishing breastfeeding

The Rules (of establishing breastfeeding)

I learnt ‘The Rules’ from the marvellous Maddie McMahon at Developing Doulas.

Breastfeeding sometimes seems so complicated, especially when it’s not going well. Like Maddie, I deal with a lot of tongue-tied babies, and so a situation where either baby can’t latch, or won’t because of trauma, or mum cannot latch baby on because of pain or nipple trauma, is sadly not all that uncommon for me.

‘The Rules’ make life simple.

If a mum wants to breastfeed, the rules are:

1. Feed the damn baby*. However is necessary.

2. Protect mum’s supply. If baby is not latching or is not feeding effectively, this means regular expressing. Getting supply back later or even relactating is possible, but that’s a lot harder than establishing and maintaining supply in the early weeks when hormone levels are high.

3. Keep the dyad together as much as possible. If baby is in SCBU/NICU, that means mum staying with baby as much as possible. Wherever mum and baby are, it means as much skin2skin as possible. Don’t have helpful visitors cuddle baby all day. Baby and mum NEED to be together.

That’s it. Feed the damn baby. Protect mum’s supply. Keep the dyad together.

If baby isn’t feeding well and attempting to breastfeed is causing major stress, it isn’t an essential if ‘The Rules’ are followed. Babies who have never latched or breastfed successfully have been known to do so around 4-8 weeks if ‘The Rules’ have been followed. Babies grow, they recover from initial traumas, mothers recover strength and confidence and it’s a whole new world.

So if you’re struggling with breastfeeding in the early weeks, or are supporting someone who is, remember ‘The Rules’.

L xx

*Explaining the “damn” because Maddie thinks I should :).  Breastfeeding support and advice can get so complicated and conflicted, that in the chaos and confusion, people can forget the most important thing about infant feeding. Feeding the baby! The “damn” is an expression of frustration at those who unintentionally undermine breastfeeding and highlights the vital point. Babies are, of course, never damned. They’re all just perfect.

Could your baby be tongue-tied? Check yourself

I come across a lot of babies with tongue-tie. In my area, we don’t have any local private lactation consultants and NHS services leave a lot to be desired, so there have been quite a few mums who learn that their babies symptoms tally with tongue-tie for the first time from me.

As a doula and breastfeeding supporter, it is not a part of my role to diagnose (or rule out) tongue tie and I always signpost to specialist services. However, many mums want to know if it’s a real possibility before either paying out or travelling to get a full assessment.

A tongue-tie is a frenulum that restricts the function of the tongue. Assessing the function of the tongue is really something for an experienced lactation consultant. Currently only International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and hospital clinic staff are usually trained in carrying out a Hazelbaker Assessment of Tongue Function.

Fortunately, checking for a lingual frenulum that protrudes from the tongue (the physical bit of a tongue-tie) is simple for a parent to do.

Checking for a frenulum

The easy check is to sweep your finger (obviously make sure it’s clean and short-nailed first!) from side to side under baby’s tongue. You should not feel a barrier, whether this feels like a “guitar string” you could almost twang (a sign of an anterior frenulum), a speed bump or a tree trunk (signs of a restrictive posterior frenulum).

If your baby has an anterior frenulum, these are generally visible if you can see under the tongue. But if the tongue tie is severe, baby may not be able to move their tongue out of the way for you to look!

A posterior frenulum is further back on the tongue and cannot be diagnosed (or ruled out) by appearances. You can make a posterior frenulum visible by applying gentle pressure either side with your fingers. First, lie baby on your lap with their head towards you. Then slide your index fingers into baby’s mouth and under the tongue. Apply gentle pressure either side of the midline. A posterior frenulum can then “pop up” between your fingers.

Dr Kotlow (a American paediatric dentist who treats tongue-tie) has demonstrated this in the video below.

What’s next?

To find someone who can help you with full assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a tongue tie, see:

Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners (UK)

Lactation Consultants of Great Britain

NHS locations for tongue tie division

10 things I wish NICE would say [or Co-sleeping, bed sharing, SIDS and the need for balanced info]

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is updating its guidance on the prevention of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It has published new, draft recommendations for consultation that say midwives, GPs and health visitors should ensure parents and carers are told of the link between co-sleeping (falling asleep with a baby in a bed, or on a sofa or armchair) and SIDS.

It’s great that NICE wants to reduce the number of baby deaths from SIDS. However, once again, guidance does not seem to be taking reality into account and may actually lead to increased risky behaviours.

Fellow doula and blogger Rebecca talks about this eloquently from the point of view of her own personal experience on her Hackney Doula blog.

Here are 10 things I wish all new parents could be told about infant sleep:

1, it is NORMAL and HEALTHY for your baby to wake at night, and this means frequently (think every 2-3 hours at least) in the very early weeks. Any plans you make for caring for your baby at night should take this into account. Don’t have a plan that only works if the baby sleeps through.

2, it is NORMAL for babies to want to only fall asleep or stay asleep with someone. Does it seem like your baby thinks being left in a Moses basket will kill them? Well, the evolutionary and biological imperative is that an infant being left alone will die. You know that is a fancy-pants moses basket with a specially chosen hypoallergenic mattress in a temperature controlled and monitored bedroom in a safe part of town. Your baby does not.

3, it is NORMAL for parents of a baby to be tired. And that’s true whether the baby is 2 days old, 2 months old or even older. Any plans you make for caring for your baby at night should take this into account. Don’t have a plan that works only if you aren’t tired yourself.

4, Having your baby sleep in a separate room significantly raises the risks of SIDS. Babies need to be sleeping in the same room as a carer. So do what you need to do to make this possible, at least until baby is 6-8 months old, when the risk of SIDS drops.

5, If either parent, or any night-time carer smoke, this significantly increases the risks of SIDS. Smoking only outside the home and even washing before bed does NOT negate this risk. If at all possible, all potential carers of a baby (so anyone that might babysit, such as grandparents too) should quit smoking before baby is born. Midwives, GPs and health visitors will be delighted to help you do this and you’ll be helping keep your baby safe in doing so.

6, Co-sleeping is a term that encompasses all forms of a carer sleeping alongside a baby, from the recommended safe option of baby in a separate cot with you in the room, to a drunk babysitter passing out on the sofa. So if you see a headline that says “Co-sleeping is…” know that the author does not understand what they’re talking about, as co-sleeping is not ONE thing.

7, Sofa/Couch/Chair sleeping with a baby is particularly dangerous. The risk is NOT that baby might fall on the floor. Realistically, a fall or slither of less than a metre onto a carpeted floor is not likely to hurt your baby. The risks are to do with the baby getting wedged between sections of the furniture, between the adult and the furniture or just ending up sleeping on or facing a soft surface.

8, In a bed, the risks for baby are primarily soft things. Falling out of bed onto the floor is not likely to seriously hurt your baby (though falling out of bed and getting stuck could). And newborn babies cannot really move and, if they do, will instinctively move towards their mother. The risky things are soft mattresses (e.g. waterbeds), pillows and duvets. A soft surface increases the risks of SIDS as well as the risks of accidental smothering. Do NOT think that wedging your baby up with pillows will keep them safe. It won’t and you’ll be putting them at greater risk.

9, Breastfeeding, especially exclusively breastfeeding, reduces the risk of SIDS. Mothers who bedshare are more likely to exclusively breastfeed for longer.

10, There is not yet good evidence either way on whether a baby sleeping next to non-smoking mother, who has not consumed alcohol or drugs, and has provided a relatively safe sleeping area (i.e. firm mattress, pillows/duvet well out of the way) increases, reduces or has no effect on SIDS rates. The review that the change in NICE recommendations is based on is full of issues (and that’s the opinion of Dr Charlotte Russell PhD, of the Infant Sleep Informtation Source – as outlined at the 2014 Doula UK Conference – not just me). Studies in other countries and of specific minority groups in the UK have demonstrated that in these populations, a high rate of bed-sharing is associated with extremely LOW rates of SIDS. Perhaps we could learn from them?

We do not know what causes SIDS. There is no way to completely eradicate the risk of SIDS. As with everything as parents, the ultimate responsibility is yours. So you have the make the best decisions you can for your baby and your family.

For evidence based, balanced information on infant sleep, see ISISonline or the UNICEF leaflet ‘Caring for Your Baby at Night’.