Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

The Ultimate Checklist – Health Supplies

One of the worst experiences a new parent faces is when their child is ill. You worry that it may be incredibly serious and get so frustrated that you can’t seem to make them feel better. If you are worried about your child’s health, please contact a medical professional as soon as possible. Once you have be reassured by them, you may find the supplies below helpful in managing the symptoms of common colds or other minor ailments in babies.

This post is part of the series based on my Ultimate Baby Equipment Checklist. You can find the original checklist here. The other posts have information on nursery equipment and equipment to help with getting out of the house.

Health Baby First Aid Supplies

Saline drops

Did you know that babies are born without knowing how to sniff? Whilst you and I sniff almost without thinking when our nasal passages are blocked, babies don’t have this option. Because of this, they sneeze more often than we do. While this might be worrying, most of the time it is a normal response to a stuffy nose.

You can make it easier using saline drops. These drops of simple salty water come in a handy squirty pack. You simply squirt it up each nostril and the drops will flush out any gunk that is stuck there.

Nasal Aspirator

Although saline drops can help, the most effective way to get rid of build up in baby’s nose is to use a nasal aspirator.  These little things involve a small tube which you pass gently into the lowest part of the baby’s nostril. Don’t try and force the tube a long way up as that could cause damage. The other end of the tube goes in your mouth and you suck – yes, suck – out any debris that is in there. In years gone by, you only had ordinary tubes but thankfully now you get a filter placed in the middle of the tube. This prevents any mess being sucked out of baby’s nose and getting into your mouth! Certainly a win for technological advances!

Snuffle Babe

If you’ve heard of Vicks Vapour Rub, then you’ll understand when I explain that Snuffle Babe is the same thing, but designed for babies. This makes it safe to use from 3 months. It is a decongestant and includes eucalyptus oil and methol. Consequently, it can be really useful for helping baby breathe more easily when they have a cold. It is a little less powerful than Vicks so that it doesn’t overwhelm little ones.

You can put a small layer onto their chest or back, although lots of parents feel more comfortable putting it on their baby’s feet. Once you cover their feet with a pair of socks, you reduce the risk that your baby will transfer it into their eyes.

Vapouriser / Humidifier

Another great tool for babies with colds is humidity. You can buy fancy vapourisers or humidifiers from many stores. These have a reservoir of water which is gently heated to evaporate and increase the water content of the air. The idea is that the air with an increased water content helps to soften and clear out any nasal secretions and soothe coughs.  The great thing about vapourisers or humidifiers is that some have the option of adding a soothing aroma to the water. Adding lavender oil may be really helpful if your baby is struggling to sleep.

However, as promised there is a much cheaper option for those on a budget, and you already have what you need in your house! Your secret weapon is your bathroom or shower room. Simply take baby into the room and run a really hot bath or shower. It can be really hot, as you aren’t going to be bathing or showering baby. You just need to get the room really steamy. Simply sitting with little one in your arms for a while in that environment will help to clear out any congestion they’ve got. You might also find the kitchen gets steamed up when you are cooking or boiling the kettle. This steam is just as effective, and you might feel you are being more productive in cooking and helping baby at the same time!

Colic Relief

Babies often struggle to bring up any wind after they’ve fed. This wind is extra air they take in while they are swallowing their milk, and can happen no matter how they are feeding. Please don’t listen to anyone who tells you that breastfed babies don’t get wind. They do, especially if they are a quick feeder or your milk supply let down is fast.  Wind can also be cause by poor digestion when baby struggles to break down the milk in their stomach.

This trapped wind causes pain as it gurgles in their tummy. While some babies can burp it out without any problems, others will push it through their digestive system and out into their nappy. Others can’t move it either way very well. These babies are often very unsettled after feeds, and don’t want to be put down flat. Some will pull their legs up towards their tummies, while others will arch their backs with the discomfort.

I’ve written a post about helping babies to burp and the various methods I use to help even the stubbornest bit of wind to escape. You can read that post here. However, sometimes you need a little extra help in the form of colic relief products.

Products that may help

There are various products which all work in slightly different ways. Unfortunately I don’t know which one will work for you and your baby. That’s why it might be sensible to have a couple of options ready in your health supplies kit. Traipsing out to the 24 hour supermarket at 3 am because your baby is in pain isn’t much fun!

There are two main ways that colic relief products work. Some provide an enzyme to break down the milk so that it is easily digested and doesn’t create wind. Others work by releasing bubbles of trapped air in the baby’s stomach so the wind rises to the top and can be burped out.

There are three main options for colic relief drops, and every baby responds differently to them. If you check them out on Amazon, there is always one review which says ‘this didn’t work for my baby’ amongst the hundreds that say ‘this was a lifesaver’, whichever product you look at. Go and have a look yourself and decide what works best for you. You may decide that getting one bottle of each will cover all possibilities. Alternatively, you may go for one you’ve heard of or that your friends or family have recommended.

Pain Relief

A paracetamol based pain killer such as Calpol is a staple ingredient of every parent’s medicine cabinet. It is a liquid form of paracetamol which can be given to babies via a syringe. It also tastes like strawberries or blackcurrant, which makes it easier to give to little ones.Whether you have a child with a cold or a headache or a sore finger, a pain killer is essential for those little discomforts that your medical professional has reassured you about.

Follow dosage instructions carefully and if you see no improvement after the child has had the medicine, seek further guidance from your doctor before trying another dose or different drug.

Ibuprofen also comes in a liquid form and can be used if your child does not have asthma. Don’t use both at the same time unless told to do so by a medical professional.

When giving your baby or child a drug they have never had before, such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol, please be very vigilant for any signs of an allergic reaction. This might include swelling or a rash and in extremely rare cases, difficulty breathing. If you notice any side effects please contact a medical professional immediately.

Also, keep all medicines out of reach of little hands that might be exploring!

Thermometer

Another essential piece of equipment for every parent is a thermometer. Thermometers enable you to accurately check your baby’s temperature and ensure you take the right action. For example, a temperature up to 37.9 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) may be safely treated at home with paracetamol if there are no other concerns. However, any temperature above this needs to be assessed by a doctor, so you should attend your nearest emergency centre.

Please note you may need to seek medical advice if a child is unwell even if their temperature is less than 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Farenheit). Use your own judgement and consider any other symptoms. Above all, trust your instincts! A doctor would rather see you and little one and reassure you than have you stay at home when your baby needs their care.

There are many different ways to measure a baby’s temperature. You can use their ear, their forehead, their underarm, their mouth or their rectum!

I recommend sticking to either their ear or forehead.

Underarm readings can be inconsistent as you have to place the probe in the dip under their arm and hold their arm down whilst it reads, which isn’t as easy as it might sound. Readings from oral thermometers may be altered depending on whether little one has just drunk or eaten something hot or cold. Rectal measurements are not only uncomfortable but also risk injury to the baby if inserted too far or if you slip whilst holding it in place.

Sunscreen

Babies have very sensitive skin and cots and prams should be placed out of direct sunlight if possible. However, sometimes a little sunshine is unavoidable and it is best to have sun screen on hand. Even on less sunny days, your baby’s skin may need a barrier in case the sun pops out as you’re on your way to the park. Keep some sunscreen in your bag to ensure your baby is fully protected.

 

So there you have it, my slimline recommendations for baby’s first aid kit. Do you have any other suggestions or ‘must-have’s’? Leave me a comment below!

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Latest news, Newborn Care

The Newborn Blood Spot Test

One of the first medical tests your newborn baby has is the heel prick test. It is also called the blood spot test and forms part of the UK national screening programme. Further information on the programme can be found here.

You may have heard stories from other parents about how upsetting they and their baby found the test. It does involve a small cut on the baby’s foot but I don’t believe it has to be distressing for parents or baby. In fact, I always aim to cause as little discomfort as possible. I warn parents that the baby is likely to be more upset about getting naked to be weighed that they are about getting the test done.

Baby's foot

What is the Blood Spot Test for?

The blood spot test collects a small amount of blood and checks it for 9 different health conditions.

Some of these conditions are metabolic. This means that the baby may be born unable to digest a certain protein or fat. If the baby’s diet included it, the undigested protein or fat would build up to levels in their body which would cause them harm. However, if we find out that the baby has that condition we can give them a diet without the particular protein or fat and the baby is absolutely fine.

The other conditions we look for are:

  • Cystic Fibrosis, a condition which causes problems in our lungs and digestive systems. The baby may need physiotherapy and medications
  • Sickle Cell or Thalassemia, a condition where blood cells have an unusual shape. It is more common in families with African ancestors.
  • Hypothyroidism, which is where the baby’s thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. The baby may need medication.

How to help reduce baby’s distress

Crying baby

So how can I promise that your baby will be more distressed by the weighing that follows the heel prick test than by the test itself?

Well, in order to collect the right amount of blood, we need the foot to have a good blood supply. Have you noticed that your baby always has cold hands and feet? This is very normal and important as the baby is keeping most of its blood in the important areas of its brain and chest. This means that normally we would have to press quite hard and wait for ages to collect the right amount of blood from the baby’s foot. It’s this drawn out pressure and holding of the foot that causes the most distress.

The key to reducing distress is warm feet.

I always ask parents to put socks on their baby before I visit. Sometimes that means they do it in the middle of the night. I also ask them to put lots (more than 2 or 3) of pairs of socks on the baby, as well as booties, as well as wrapping them in a cosy blanket. No kidding! Sometimes the baby’s feet look twice their size, but I’d rather that for a short time so the baby doesn’t find the test upsetting, than that the baby looks fashionable!

If for some reason the baby’s feet are still cold, or if the parents have forgotten to put on any or enough socks, we still have options to warm the feet up.

My next action is to ask you for a mug or jug or bowl filled with really really warm water. I don’t want lukewarm water. I want the kind of water that turns your fingers red when you put them into it. You should be able to put your fingers into it, though, not find them burning!

The reason your fingers turn red is because the blood flows into them to cool them down. So yes, my plan is to put the baby’s foot into the water until it turns red. Their first experience of paddling! After about a minute of paddling in good warm water, I find that the babies’ feet don’t need lots of pressure to provide enough blood. It also flows quickly so that the test is over quickly too.

Other things you can do to help

Baby being cuddled

Cuddle your baby during the test. They already know you and your scent and your voice. Being held by you is always going to calm them more than if the midwife holds them.

Hold them in an upright position. Gravity will help with the blood flow to their foot. This means that cuddling them across your chest won’t be as effective as holding them over your shoulder or sitting them up in your lap so their feet dangle down over the side of your legs.

Speak gently and soothingly to them. A calm soothing sound such as ‘shush’ or ‘sssshhhh’ can really comfort a baby in distress.

Feed the baby or provide a pacifier for them to suck. Sucking is always a comforting experience for babies. Letting them feed will also keep them close to you which will help keep them calm.

Results of the Blood Spot Test

The results of the test are usually sent out in the post to you if everything is ok. It can take up to eight weeks for these results to arrive. If you still haven’t heard anything, ask your health visitor.

Any abnormal or unexpected results are followed up quickly by professionals. The midwife may return to repeat the test and collect extra blood for further checks. You may be asked to attend the children’s department of your local hospital for further tests. The Health Visitor may come to discuss the results with you or may give you details of a specialist nurse who can talk you through the results in more detail.

The conditions we check for can be found in more detail on the NHS website here, or in the screening booklet your midwife gave you at the beginning of your pregnancy.

Please be reassured that the conditions we are looking for are very rare and entirely manageable. You shouldn’t be overly anxious about the health of your baby if he or she is feeding well and behaving normally. If you do have any concerns about your baby’s health please speak to a health professional as soon as possible.

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