Labour and Birth, Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

Best Gifts for New Parents

It’s a very exciting time. Your best friends or favourite relatives have just had a baby and you want to spoil them silly at this special time. A hug from the newborn might be fun too! New parents often find the first few days and weeks with baby difficult. Here are my suggestions for gifts you can offer, to help them at this amazing and sometimes overwhelming time.

Consideration

This might not be something you can buy in a shop but it is definitely the most important gift of all! You need to remember that new parents might have had very little sleep, rarely get a chance to shower and really don’t want to think about housework.

You need to be honest about your relationship with the new parents and your reasons for wanting to visit or help. If they are really close friends and family where you share everyday life and see each other unshowered and in pyjamas regularly, unannounced visits might be fine. If not, your unscheduled visit is likely to cause more hassle than joy.

New parents might need to sleep during the day if baby was awake all night. They might want to spend what awake time they have holding their own baby, rather than cooking or cleaning in preparation for your visit. Alternatively, they might actually really appreciate someone holding the baby for them while they shower or eat or vacuum.

The key is be flexible in your visiting schedule and expectations. A pre-planned visit might not be possible after an unplanned night without sleep! Ask what the parents would appreciate most – someone to clean the toilets, a volunteer to play with older children or a baby being held while they shower and dress.

Books

A new parent has a lot of questions about their new life. Books that might answer some of those questions may be really appreciated. Perhaps try some humorous ones for when they are at the end of their tether, or informational ones that might explain baby development and milestones. One of my favourite books is ‘Your Amazing Newborn’. It explains the vast abilities of babies to recognise shapes, colours, faces and voices. It’s brilliant for new parents who want to learn more about their baby and bond with it through games like pulling faces and singing.

Door signs

Honestly, I think every parent should invest in one of these. Babies often start life thinking that day is night and night is day. As a result, new families often need to catch up on sleep during the day and an unexpected delivery man or neighbour might not realise their visit is poorly timed. One knock which wakes the dog, who wakes mum, dad and the baby can really ruin their rest! Find a pretty sign on pinterest or create your own to stick on the door, politely asking people to come back at another time or leave the parcel with a neighbour.

Food

All new babies take a lot of time, and homemade meals are not always easy to fit in to the schedule. When you are already cooking for your family, can you make an extra couple of portions to freeze? If you take that ready cooked meal to the new parents, it will make their day! For those with enough freezer space and generous friends they may not need to worry about meals for a couple of weeks.

Childcare

If you have a good relationship with the new parents and their children, could you offer to babysit the older children? Perhaps you could take them to the park or just to your house to play with your kids. That might allow the parents to get some rest. Maybe the parents would appreciate it if you offered to hold the baby while they play with their older children. This helps those older siblings who feel confused and upset by the amount of parental time and attention the new baby takes from them.

Housework

Any help in this category definitely enters you into the great friend hall of fame! Whatever you feel able to help with will probably be appreciated. You could clean or vacuum for them. You could even take a load of laundry and ironing home and return it ready to be hung up or folded and put away. For those active animal lovers, there is the opportunity to walk the dog. If you’re already on your way to the shops, send a quick text to ask if they need anything. It would be even more amazing if you were able to do their whole grocery shop for them. Just as long as they give you their list with preferred brands!

Time

Sometimes, especially after the first couple of weeks, a new mum can feel isolated and stuck on the sofa with a cluster feeding baby. Their partner may be back at work. Most visitors have had their baby hug and gone on with their lives. Some mums might really appreciate you spending time with them.  Having an adult conversation, even if their brain isn’t working clearly due to sleep deprivation, can be wonderful. A listening ear and reassurance that they’re doing a great job really helps when they are worried they’re not a perfect parent.

Photos

Have you ever noticed that a first baby has lots of photos taken every day? Unfortunately with the subsequent siblings the number of photos decreases significantly. Those cute cards you can place next to baby declaring their first smile or their 10th week are really only used for baby number one. Intimate family photos are not so easy with more children especially in the midst of life’s commitments.

If you know you have some pretty good photo skills, why not take some natural family photos for them? You could catch them doing normal life things like cooking whilst juggling a newborn and a toddler, or giving the baby a secret smile. These photos will be so precious to the family later on as they might be too busy just keeping up with life to take photos themselves. You can send them on to the parents as soon as you’ve taken them. You could even create a photo album online to give as a present!

Subscriptions

If parents have to spend a lot of time in the middle of the night feeding or changing the baby, they may appreciate some entertainment options to keep themselves amused. Why not buy them a subscription to a video streaming service so that they can watch the latest movies or TV epics while the little one feeds? You could also try an audiobook subscription and add a quality pair of wireless headphones to make it extra special. For the avid readers, what about an ebook subscription and device to read them on?

 

So there we have it. A selection of really useful gifts for new parents. Many of them cost very little but will make a huge difference to the family. Have you got any other suggestions, or ideas you wish someone had done for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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Infant feeding, Labour and Birth, Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

Postnatal Essentials for Mums

So much of the planning and preparation that happens during pregnancy is focused on the baby. This is wonderful and very helpful indeed. However, I’d like to remind you that you have another person to take care of too – you! Here are some of my tips for looking after yourself in the postnatal period.

Postnatal essentials for mums

None of us can see the future so I don’t know what type of labour and birth you’ll have. It might be really long and painful with lots of complications. It might be really quick and intense. You might deliver the baby by pushing him or her out yourself. Perhaps you’ll need a little extra help like a forceps or ventouse delivery (oh, look, another blog post explaining them to be written in my future!). You may have an emergency caesarian or you may know the date already for your planned caesarian.

However this baby arrives, you will be tired and sore and sensitive in various ways and places. In all of the excitement about finally meeting your little one, you need to take some time to take care of yourself. Having a postnatal care kit set up already can make doing this much easier.

Here are my recommendations for your postnatal essentials. Feel free to choose them all or just pick one or two that you know will be helpful for you.

If you are looking for gifts for friends who have had or are about to have a baby, check out my gifts for new parents post here.

**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

1. Maternity Pads

What to expect after birth:

You will bleed after you’ve had the baby. Women are always asking me how long they will bleed for, but unfortunately, that’s one question I don’t know the answer to! Every woman bleeds for a different amount of time and in a different way. There is even a difference in bleeding after each baby a woman has. Some women will bleed red blood for 6 weeks. Others have a really heavy loss for a couple of days then it changes to brown then creamy before disappearing about 10 days after the birth. I know some who bleed heavily for a few days, then the bleeding seems to settle down, only to come back heavier again when the baby is 10-12 days old.

Most of the time the bleeding will be like a heavy period for the first couple of days before settling down. It will probably be a little heavier if you have a busy active day and be lighter if you are resting at home. You might have a gush of blood after feeding your baby or when you first get up in the morning. You will also notice some contraction-like feelings after the birth. These are perfectly normal and are helping your body reduce the size of your uterus so you can fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes!

The time to seek medical advice is if you have a gush of blood unrelated to feeding or getting up after sitting for a long period; if you think the blood smells funny or infected; if you are passing clots of blood over 4cm diameter after the first day or two; or if you have severe abdominal pains.

What to buy:

Anyway, all that information leads me to my first recommendation: Buy some maternity pads. Don’t get too fancy with them. The thick unscented kind are softer for the first couple of days. You may want to wear two of them – one towards the front of your underwear, layered over one towards the back of your underwear – to catch any leaks or gushes. Eventually, you’ll probably want to go for the thinner kind with the fancy coloured lines of super absorbent somethingorother, but not for the first couple of days.

Even if you have a caesarian, you will still bleed after the birth. Having some maternity pads on hand is essential. They can even provide another benefit for you. Your scar will be covered by a dressing for the first 5 – 10 days. After that the dressing is removed, and whilst this is good for healing, it can be nerve-wracking! Put a maternity pad in the front part of your underwear over the area of the scar, and you’ve got some padding. This makes you a little more confident when moving around and prevents clothes rubbing on the area.

2. Big Undies!

Your inspiration for this period should be Bridget Jones, not a Kardashian of some kind. Get the underwear that reaches right up above your bikini line, towards your umbilicus. Honestly, you are not going to be showing it to anyone so no one needs to know, and comfort is essential for the first few days and weeks. Leaks are also inevitable, especially overnight, so it might be worth buying some mesh underwear which you can either wash and re-wear or dispose of after one use. Big undies help to pull in your stomach, which will look a little like jelly for a while. They are also really helpful if you end up with a caesarian as they don’t end right on the scar line like normal underwear tends to do!

3. A jug or glass

Weird recommendation? Maybe, but entirely essential. Keep it in the bathroom, right next to the toilet. When you go in to pass urine, fill it up first with warm water, then pour it down over yourself as you relieve yourself. The warm water will be soothing and help to dilute your urine so that it is less stingy!

4. Pain relief

You’d think having the contractions was the most painful part of the whole giving birth process, right? Although this is true for most women, I must warn you that you’ll find lots of achy painful bits after the birth too. Whether it’s your breasts, your perineum or even after pains, you may well need some pain relief. Stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen before the baby arrives. That way you won’t have to send your partner out to the 24 hour supermarket for urgent supplies in the middle of the night.

Sometimes, ibuprofen and paracetamol won’t be enough to control the pain. This might be because of the type of delivery you had or if you get an infection. If you find the pain is still unbearable, please speak to your doctor or midwife about it as they may recommend taking something stronger. There are other pain killers that are safe to use in the postnatal period and while breastfeeding. Generally, if you need these it is just for a couple of days to get the pain under control before it naturally settles and subsides.

5. Breast pads

Even if you aren’t planning on breastfeeding, it’s worth grabbing a pack or two of these. That’s because your body is going to automatically make milk, and that milk might well automatically flow when your baby cries! Having pads on hand to catch any wayward leaks saves the need for multiple changes of top each day.

6. Nipple cream

If you are breastfeeding, you need to check out my post on Breastfeeding Essentials. If you don’t have time to read another post, then let me encourage you to at least get some nipple cream. Nipples can get sore, even when the baby has a good attachment. Nipple cream will be your best friend for the first few days or weeks.

7. Laxatives

Ok, this one is a big deal! It’s one of the most frightening things you have to do after birth – opening your bowels!

Some women find that they don’t need to open their bowels for a few days after birth. This is very normal, especially as some women have a clear-out as they go into labour (yes, I do mean diarrhoea). Other mums empty their bowels as the baby is born – this is also very very normal and shouldn’t be something you worry about.

The key is to keep eating and drinking, including plenty of fluids, fruit and fibre. It’s also really important to go to the loo when you know there is something there to get rid of. Don’t hold it in out of fear! The longer it stays inside, the more water gets reabsorbed from it, so the harder it is to push out!

When you decide to face the music, make sure you have someone you can leave baby with, so that you can relax and sit on the loo for as long as it takes. Try holding a maternity pad over the front area to give that support as you push. Most importantly, don’t worry! I’ve never seen anyone split apart from opening their bowels. It’s definitely a psychological challenge rather than a physical one.

If you decide that you need to go but it won’t happen naturally, ask your doctor about getting some laxatives. There are some that are safe to use when breastfeeding and can help ease things along.

8. Pregnancy pillow – v or c shaped

Pregnancy pillows must be the world’s best kept secret! I really don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one. They make everything so much comfier! You may well have found a V shaped pillow helpful during pregnancy to get into a good sleeping position. In the postnatal period, that pillow comes in very handy again. You can sit up in bed, or lounge on the sofa. It can be useful to support as you feed. So many uses!

You can also get C shaped pillows, generally described as breastfeeding pillows. They can be really useful for some mums, as they can help support the baby at your breast during a feed, or give some cushioning to a caesarian scar. However, some people find that they are more of a hindrance than a help to good positioning and attachment. They seem to report that the V shaped pillows or ordinary rectangular ones work better. Try it out for yourself and find out what works for you.

9. Notebook

This is a definite essential because ‘Baby Brain’ is real, people! After a night of non-stop feeding and a day without naps because all your friends want to hold the baby, you might not even remember your own name!

Keep a notebook and pen handy wherever you go. You can makes notes on baby’s feeding and nappy habits. You can write down which breast you fed from last and how long for. Keep a record of your gifts so you can write thank you cards later, or simply start your to-do list for the day. Whatever you can think of, a notebook will help. It can be a fancy smart phone app, or an old-fashioned paper one. It doesn’t matter, just as long as it helps you to stay sane and remember bin day! How does a little one fill up the rubbish bin so quickly?! Personally, I think a paper one might be a lovely memento to keep and look back on in the future, but I’m just a sentimental kind of gal. 😉

10. Water bottle and snacks

This one shouldn’t really require too much of an explanation. You are going to be busy being a mum and partner and life coach and cheerleader and friend and comforter and all the other brilliant things that make you you. It can be hard to remember to feed yourself, so make it a little easier by keeping a water bottle close at hand and some pre-packed calorific goodness by your side. That way, even when you don’t manage a proper meal, you’ve got some supplies on board to keep you going.

11. Wine and chocolate

Also an essential that should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Having a baby is hard work. Keeping that baby alive is seriously stressful. Staying kind and welcoming to an endless procession of visitors who want to hold the baby when you can hardly keep your eyes open is a feat of strength! Treating yourself is not only OK, it’s important. One glass of wine at lunch is not going to be the end of the world, and if the only calories you get for a 12 hour period come from a chocolate or two, it doesn’t matter.

I would recommend keeping the wine as a midday treat if you can. That’s because often newborn babies like to co-sleep, and co-sleeping is safest when you don’t have alcohol in your system. A small lunchtime glass will have worn off by bedtime, so it’s less to worry about on that score.

So there we have it – my list of essentials for a smooth and comfy postnatal period. Let me know what you think in the comments. Have I missed something? What helped you most in those early days?

Postnatal essentials for new mums

Items that will help postpartum recovery for new mums
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Latest news, Newborn Care, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Problems

Group B Strep in Pregnancy

You might have heard of it, you might have seen a Facebook post about it or read a poster somewhere. Group B Strep is becoming more widely known about and talked about in pregnancy. So what is it and what impact can it have on your pregnancy, your labour and birth and your baby?

Mum and baby

What is Group B Strep?

Simply put, Group B Strep is a bacteria which is found in about 30% of women. That’s one in three of you and your friends. Most of the time, this bacteria causes no problems whatsoever. It’s like those bacteria in your digestive system which help you to break down your food. Group B Strep bacteria (GBS) are most often found in your vagina or rectum, although occasionally they can transfer to your urine. This can cause a urine infection, which should be treated with antibiotics as soon as it is found.

bacteria in petri dish

How do I know if I’ve got Group B Strep?

Most women discover they have Group B Strep because it appears in their urine during pregnancy.  They may or may not have any symptoms of a urine infection. Your midwife may find it in the urine sample you provide at your booking appointment. Alternatively, you may be aware of a urine infection and Group B Strep is identified as the cause.

With the increase in awareness of Group B Strep and the implications it has on pregnancy, some women ask to be tested. This testing is best done between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. Your own midwife can usually do this at your GP surgery. You will need to sweep a long-handled cotton bud around the inside of your vagina. You put the cotton bud into a tube with a tiny amount of solution in it and the tube and cotton bud are sent to the laboratory. In a day or two, the laboratory can tell you if the sample has grown Group B Strep.

The newest type of test for Group B Strep is the enriched culture medium test which may or may not be available within your local area. Please ask your own midwife for details.

Implications of Group B Strep on Pregnancy

Finding out that you have Group B Strep during your pregnancy does not have a large impact on your care during the pregnancy itself. If the bacteria is found in your vagina or rectum, you will not need any antenatal treatment. If it is found in your urine, we recommend that you have some antibiotics to treat the urine infection.

capsules

Implications of Group B Strep on Labour and Birth

You will be advised to have antibiotics in labour if you have been identified as carrying the Group B Strep bacteria, whether that is during the current pregnancy or at any point in the past. These will be given via a drip in the back of your hand or in your arm. You will get a dose every 4 hours for as long as labour lasts. It’s really important to mention to the hospital that you’ve had Group B Strep when you phone them in labour. The midwife takes into account the time it takes for you to get to the hospital as well as the time it takes to provide the antibiotics when they invite you in to be assessed.

Providing antibiotics in labour has been shown to reduce the risk of the baby getting Group B Strep. It is a pretty simple procedure which can keep your baby safe. That is why it is recommended practice in the UK. Please discuss this further with your midwife or Obstetrician if you have any other concerns.

Implications of Group B Strep on Your Baby

Baby sleeping

Whilst most babies are fine even with exposure to Group B Strep, a small minority can get an infection from it. An even smaller minority can have serious consequences from that infection.

For that reason, if we know that you have carried Group B Strep in the past or in the current pregnancy, we recommend the use of antibiotics in labour. We also recommend that you stay in hospital for at least 12-24 hours after the birth. This enables us to monitor your baby’s heart rate, breathing, temperature and general condition every couple of hours and ensure no infection occurs.

If any signs of infection occur, such as an increase or decrease in temperature, breathing rate or heart rate, your baby will be referred to a neonatal doctor to assess what treatment may be required. Sometimes the baby will need a course of IV antibiotics, which usually lasts between 5 and 7 days. In most cases, you will still be able to care for your baby yourself while the antibiotics are given. A small number of cases may need extra support from a Special Care Baby Unit to help them fight the infection.

Further Reading

Please try not to read every internet story on Group B Strep. There are very heartbreaking cases out there and the internet would have you believe they are the most common kind. The reality as seen in the midwifery, obstetric and neonatal world is that most cases of Group B Strep infection will respond quickly to a course of antibiotics with no long-term effects.

You can read more in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists patient information leaflet, available here.

 

Group B Strep

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12 Essentials for Breastfeeding Mums

Amongst the many many lists of baby equipment strewn across the internet, you’ll find many variations of so-called ‘essentials’.  What is essential for one person is obviously not essential for another! I thought perhaps I could help bring some clarity to the subject by listing my favourite essentials for breastfeeding mums. These are based on my midwifery experience with hundreds and hundreds of new mums dealing with daily breastfeeding challenges.

**This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

Water bottle

Hydrating is essential when you are feeding a baby. As some feeds can take up to an hour, it’s definitely worth having a source of water nearby. A water bottle will definitely come in useful as it can go wherever you go in the house to feed the baby!

I like this sort of bottle, which shows how much you should be drinking by a certain time of day. It helps you make sure you are getting the right amount of fluid, not just a glass or two. Fill it up twice a day – morning and lunchtime – and you know you’ve got the minimum 2 litres needed. Fill it up three times and you’re doing brilliantly!

Nipple Cream

The reality of breastfeeding is not all rose coloured mums and babes smiling in a shaft of sunlight. Sometimes there is soreness, cracks and bleeding. Your nipples have to adjust from being areas treated gently and softly and covered by a protecting bra, to being worked constantly, sucked and stretched and gummed 23.5 hours a day. It is no wonder that they will often get really painful, with cracks or bleeding noticeable.

While you should always get your attachment and positioning checked if you develop sore nipples, sometimes your body just needs to harden them. It’s like a hiker going on a 25-mile walk. If they’ve only walked 800 metres a day before, their feet are going to develop blisters. If they slowly work up to 25 miles each day, the skin on their feet thickens and hardens which makes blisters much rarer.

As a protective and preventative measure, nipple cream can be really useful. I would recommend buying several tubes of it so that you have one in each place you are likely to feed, plus one in your handbag. If you feed downstairs with the cream upstairs, the likelihood is you will forget to head upstairs and apply the cream after the feed. Just one forgotten application can make more difference than you think.

Nipple cream creates a moist barrier which allows the skin to recover and repair any damage. It is great to use because you don’t have to wipe it off before a feed. Lansinoh is one of the more well-known brands, but feel free to try some other brands and compare the results!

Vaseline

Another tip hot off the press from a London mum friend of mine is Vaseline. Apparently, the midwife helping her in the postnatal ward recommended using lashings of the stuff to repair cracked nipples even more quickly than the standard nipple cream does. My friend can testify to the truth of that promise!

There are two things to remember here: first, use a lot of the stuff! Not a thin layer like nipple cream, but a good thick coating is what it takes to work its magic. Also, you will need to remove this before you feed the baby.

So, have a go and let me know what you think! Is this a London secret that I need to start sharing up in the north?!

 

Nipple shells

The wonder of nipple shells is that they work on two fronts. First, they catch all that extra milk that you might find drips from one nipple as you feed from the other. We don’t want to waste such a precious resource, so by catching it we can store it and use it in the future when we need to top baby up or go out for an evening. Try looking at Pinterest for more ideas on uses for breast milk other than feeding babies!

The other wonderful thing about nipple shells is that they lift your shirt or top off your nipple which, as mentioned above, may be a little sore!

You can go even further and use one of these for actively collecting the milk which drips from the free breast during feeding. The vacuum means you are more likely to collect a larger amount of milk, which can be useful for increasing milk supply.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

If you are collecting all that precious breast milk, you are going to need to store it in something. I cannot recommend these storage bags enough. They are strong, just the right size, and enable you to label the date and time the milk was collected! Did you know that the consistency of your milk changes according to the time of day you produced it? It is often thicker in the evenings and overnight, which helps to keep baby settled for longer.

Snuffle Babe

Any breastfeeding mother can tell you the tale of their baby’s first cold. However and whenever it happens, it can have a serious impact on feeding. This is simply because if your baby has a stuffy, blocked nose, he or she struggles to breathe out of their nose as they feed at the breast. Feeds become shorter but almost constant, with lots of breaks and coughing up the precious milk they’ve just managed to drink.

If you are concerned about your baby’s health, please see your GP sooner rather than later. They will be able to reassure you whether it is just a cold which will pass or whether your baby needs more help to recover.

Once your GP has confirmed that the baby has a simple cold, you can help them in ways which are similar to those you would use yourself. You have probably heard of Vicks vapour rub, which can be rubbed onto a child or adult’s back, chest or feet. The unique smell calms coughs and eases congestion.

Snuffle Babe is a similar product made just for babies, so you can be confident using it on your littlest ones.

Saline Drops

Another essential for your baby’s first cold is saline drops. They are simply a small bottle of salty water which you can squirt up your baby’s nose. Although you may wonder why you would want to do this, you will find that this flushes out all the snot blocking their nose and helps them to breathe more easily.

If you want to be ‘Wonder Mum’ you can even try a nasal aspirator, which is apparently even more effective! This simple device enables you to literally suck out all the gunk from your baby’s nose. There is a filter between your mouth and the gunk, so you don’t get a nasty surprise! When my mum first told me she had used one of these on me, many decades ago, I was horrified. However, I now understand the clear and urgent need to resolve blocked noses as soon as possible! My poor mum didn’t have the luxury of a filter protecting her from inhaling all my gunk – which goes to show the depths of love mums go to, to ease baby’s discomfort and get some sleep! Thank goodness for some advances in technology!

Nursing Bras / Nursing Tops

The other very essential thing for feeding baby, especially at night or in public, is a proper nursing top. This allows you to access the feeding area without having to completely strip off. Most nursing tops also provide a low but significant level of support which you don’t find in normal cami-style tops. Try searching on Amazon here.

If you have the time and the pennies, you can search the internet and online retailers for many cleverly styled nursing tops. If you don’t have the time or pennies to do so, Pinterest can still offer suggestions for altering your normal cami-tops to make them nursing tops.

The very important note is to not skimp when you buy a nursing bra or two! I’m not offering online links for this as I think it’s important to be seen face to face by a bra-fitting expert who can guide you to the right fit and style for you. In the UK, most department stores offer a face to face bra fitting service, and Bravissimo are brilliant for those who may have a larger cup size. Shop around for choice but don’t skimp on quality!

Muslin Cloths

After a good feed comes a good burp and occasionally some positing. Muslin cloths are great for catching anything the baby brings up. They are also brilliant for putting over your shoulder or knee or arm etc when winding or just holding babies. Use them as a sheet on a makeshift bed and dry your tears when the baby blues arrive. You can even use them to squeeze or bite at that point of pain at the beginning of the feed when baby is pulling your nipple out. You know the one, where you clench your fists and curl your toes? Don’t go anywhere without two or three of these lifesavers!

Breast Pads

Have you noticed that your milk will flow at the slightest thing? The power of hormones means even someone else’s baby crying can start your breasts dripping! To avoid rather obviously damp circles on every top you own, make sure you have a good supply of breast pads. They absorb the milk and keep you dry.

Snacks

The other essential for breastfeeding mums to have on hand is a snack of some kind. You may have a long feed ahead, and you need to keep your strength up. Having a pre-packed snack within reach makes this really simple. If you are super organised you could try to create your own homemade organic superfood snacks, but this is real life, people! Most of us are impressed when we manage a shower by 3pm. Let someone else make your snacks for you! You can turn into that wonder woman a few months down the line if you have the energy!

Pretty bags for storing it all!

With all these essentials to keep handy, it’s definitely worth investing in a small, pretty bag or two. Makeup bags can be the perfect size to hold a few pads, a nipple shell, snacks, and creams and keep them close to you. You could have one bag that moves around the house with you. You could even create a couple of them and keep them in your favourite feeding spots.

Breastfeeding supplies

Whatever your essentials list holds, just remember you are doing a brilliant job. Be kind to yourself. Have a treat or two. Embrace naps. These early days can be intense but you can do this!

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Infant feeding, Labour and Birth, Latest news, Newborn Care

Feeding tips for slow or sleepy feeders

Feeding your baby is a fierce biological drive which rises in a mother often as soon as the baby is born. It can be extremely worrying when a baby is not making much effort to try and feed or seems more interested in sleeping than feeding.

mother feeding

Let me state at the very beginning that if you have any concerns regarding your baby’s health including feeding you MUST CONSULT A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY! The following suggestions are only suitable for healthy babies born after 37 weeks of pregnancy, who weigh 2.8kg or above (6lbs 3oz). You can use them while you wait for your health professional to see you but do not delay seeking medical advice.

Why does baby seem reluctant to feed?

It can be helpful to consider any possible reasons for the baby being slow to start feeding.

Some mums may have had diamorphine or pethidine during labour to reduce labour pain. These pain-relieving drugs can make labour easier to bear, but they also pass across to the baby. It is not uncommon for babies whose mum had these medications to be more interested in sleeping them off than in feeding for the first 24 hours or so.

Babies can get tired after a long labour. They may also still have quite a lot of mucus and other gunk in their stomach. This is very normal, but it fools the baby into thinking they are full so they don’t look for milk. It’s similar to how you feel after a large Sunday lunch with all the trimmings. You are often keen for an afternoon nap so you can digest everything! The baby thinks the mucus in its stomach is a large meal, so decides to sleep while it digests. Unfortunately, mucus can take time to be digested or coughed up, so babies can delay feeding while they do this.

Getting in the mood for a feed

breastfeeding baby

One of the simplest ways to remind baby that feeding is a good option is to put them close to the breast! Your breasts start producing colostrum or milk as soon as the baby is born, although the amounts may be small to start with. When you cuddle your baby close to your chest they can smell the milk and that may be enough to persuade them to try feeding.

Try some skin to skin contact. Skin to skin contact is brilliant for mums and babies. It helps babies regulate their temperature and breathing. It also calms them down and helps their stress hormones to return to normal levels after rising during labour.

Skin to skin contact is pretty easy to do. Just take off your top and any maternity or nursing bra you might have, and strip your baby down to his or her nappy. Put baby on your chest between your breasts and cover both of you with a blanket or sheet or two to keep warm.

This will often be enough to enable the baby to smell your milk and move across to the breast by themselves! This amazing reflex they have of moving towards the breast can be seen in lots of youtube videos if you are interested. Just try searching for ‘Biological nurturing’.

Secret Midwife’s Tip for Faster Skin to Skin

Skin to skin can be brilliant for getting baby to feed. However, it isn’t always easy or practical when you have guests visiting or have to look after other children. It can also be frustrating to undress a baby every 2-3 hours to get them to feed.

One great tip handed down by generations of midwives working on postnatal wards is to dress baby in a centre fastening babygro without a vest. You might need another layer such as a cardigan or an extra blanket to keep them warm when they are sleeping. When it comes to feeding time, you can just unbutton the cardigan and unfasten the babygro. Keep baby’s arms and legs in the babygro but open the front of the babygro wide. This means there will be a large enough area of the baby’s chest to enable you to do mini skin to skin! It also means baby doesn’t get cold arms and legs and redressing them after the feed is much easier.

Hand Expressing

sleeping baby

One of the most effective techniques for getting a sleepy baby to feed is to remind them what they’re missing. If a baby gets a little milk into their system, they often wake up enough to want to feed. So how do you get milk into a sleeping baby? It’s really very simple.

Hand expression is a key skill for mothers of sleepy babies. I imagine I’ll do a longer blog post with more in-depth technical explanations at some point. At present though, let’s keep it short and simple. After all, there’s a baby to feed!

Make sure you are somewhere that you can relax and not be disturbed. Oxytocin is a key hormone in producing milk and it isn’t going to flow so easily in a room full of friends, family, a screaming toddler and the postie dropping off baby gifts! You need to feel safe and comfortable.

Make a C shape with your thumb and forefinger. It’s a bit like miming a crab’s claw! Using that C shape, put your fingers around the edge of your areola. That’s the pigmented part of the skin that surrounds the nipple. Don’t put your fingers directly on the nipple, as there is no breast tissue there for you to stimulate. Placing your fingers further back towards the area where your areola meets the normal skin tissue will help you find more milk ducts to compress.

With your fingers touching your skin, gently press your fingers towards each other, squeezing your breast in the process. Don’t slide your fingers forwards towards your nipple or backwards towards your chest wall. Just keep them pinching directly towards each other.

Getting Milk into a Closed Mouth

It may take a few seconds or more but you should start to see little droplets of colostrum at your nipple within a minute or two. This is the good stuff! Now, all we need to do is give that to the baby and let its sugary goodness wake them up enough to want to try feeding.

You may be shouting at the screen that it’s no good having the milk if the baby is asleep and won’t open their mouth. Don’t worry, I’ve got a midwife’s tip for that too!

It is true that if a baby doesn’t want to open their mouth, it’s pretty difficult to force them. Parents who give milk via a bottle will have experienced the frustration of a baby crying for milk but refusing to open their gums to allow the teat in! Thankfully, we don’t need to get the milk past their gums.

Have you ever heard the term ‘pet lip’? It’s used to describe a baby or child who has rolled their bottom lip out and down as a sign of unhappiness. It’s actually really useful to practice it yourself so you understand what I mean. Go on. No one is watching! Without opening your teeth, just roll your bottom lip forward and down, almost like it’s inside out. You’ll notice that the lovely pinkish area of tissue that sits between your lips and your teeth is exposed. This is a mucous membrane and it’s all we need to get some calories into a sleeping baby.

Finger Feeding

So, the next step is to transfer those lovely drops of colostrum to the baby. The simplest way to do this is to run your little finger over the droplet so it transfers to the finger. Take this milk covered finger and run it along the inside of the baby’s bottom or top lip. You don’t need to force the finger in between their gums. Simply coating the mucous membrane will be enough.

Once you’ve done it, go back and hand express another drop and repeat the process. Yes, it’s time-consuming but it works miracles! If you do this for 5 – 10 minutes, the baby will have a crusty milky mouth. More importantly, they will have absorbed the milky goodness and their body will normally wake them up as they decide they want more! That is the time to put your baby to the breast so that they can actively feed themselves.

Making Baby Less Comfortable

Crying baby

Okay, this section shows that I’ve got my midwife hat on, rather than that cuddly mummy hat that keeps babies cozy at all times. The truth is that sometimes babies are just too comfortable sleeping to rouse themselves to feed. A few weeks down the line, I would never encourage you to wake a sleeping baby. During the first couple of days, though, it is helpful in stimulating milk production and establishing breastfeeding to wake babies if they sleep too long.

How long is too long? That depends on many factors and you should be guided by your midwife or health professional. I tend to err on the side of caution and encourage waking to feed if they haven’t done so themselves by 4 hours after the end of the last feed. That’s just until we know that baby has figured out feeding and is putting weight back on after their initial weight loss.

For a baby who hasn’t yet started attaching to the breast, who seems full of mucous or very sleepy, I would encourage you to hand express and finger feed every 2 – 3 hours. Although this is a lot of work, it ensures that even if baby only decides to wake and feed at every other finger feed session, they are still getting enough milk to maintain their health. It also ensures that you are stimulating your milk production in those essential first few days whilst the baby is a little too sleepy to do so.

Waking Techniques

My ‘Pick them up and let them hang’ technique is often very effective at waking babies, although it does tug at the heartstrings. Holding the baby securely with both hands under their armpits, lift them up into the air so that their legs are no longer supported by the bed or your lap. Although the baby is perfectly safe, they don’t like the sensation of having their bottom half unsupported, so it usually wakes them up and sometimes even makes them a little upset. I don’t recommend doing it for long periods! Just use it as a 2-second thing to wake them up enough to put them on the breast.

The other surefire way to wake a baby is to change their nappy! You’ll probably have noticed that babies do not like getting naked and having their bottom wiped. This makes it an excellent tool for waking them up if you need to. You may just need to open their babygro to wake them. You may need to go all the way to changing the nappy (or opening it then closing it again if it is clean).

Another good way to wake a baby is to have a bath with them. This ticks lots of boxes for waking baby – they get naked and they get skin to skin! Of course, it only works if your house has a bath and if you don’t have lots of other children, pets and partners needing your attention!

A Suggested Feeding Schedule for Sleepy or Reluctant Babies

Every two hours start off by doing skin to skin for at least 30 minutes. Follow this by hand expressing for 5 to 10 minutes. Use your finger to transfer the drops of milk to the baby’s rolled down lips as described above. After finger feeding like this for 10 minutes, you can settle baby back to sleep. Hopefully, they won’t settle and will insist on having a proper active feed.

If the baby has a good feed of 10-15 minutes of active sucking and swallowing with rhythmic pauses, you can let them sleep for another 3 – 3.5 hours before waking them again.

If the baby decides they don’t want to feed after you’ve hand expressed, or if they only actively feed for less than 10 minutes, repeat the process in another 2 hours.

When to Seek Immediate Assistance

Always, always ask for professional advice if you are at all worried about your baby’s feeding or lack of it. Whilst most babies will wake up and start feeding themselves, a slow or reluctant feeder can be a sign that the baby is unwell. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please take your baby to the nearest Emergency Care Centre immediately.

  • Jitteriness – this is a repetitive unprovoked movement in one or more limbs
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Floppy limbs
  • Poor sucking or refusal of the breast or bottle
  • Any breathing problems or colour changes
  • High pitched crying
  • Problems maintaining body temperature
  • Unresponsive and/or seizures

Sleepy feeders

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Latest news, Newborn Care, Pregnancy

Boosting Your Breast Milk Supply

Are you worried about your supply of breast milk? Are you anxious because your baby doesn’t seem to want to do anything except eat? Does he or she never seem to settle fully between feeds or only settle for short periods? This can all be normal behaviour for very new babies, but no matter how old your baby is, there are some things you can do to increase your milk supply. That way you’ll know that if there is a problem, it doesn’t lie with your breast milk supply.

**This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

Supply and Demand

breastfeeding baby

Your body produces milk on a very simple supply and demand system. If all of your milk is removed, hopefully by a baby, your body produces even more for the next feed. This enables us to strategically increase demand artificially to increase your supply.

  • Pumping

    • You may have thought or heard about expressing or pumping milk. This is an excellent way to increase the amount of milk your body produces and can produce results fast.
    • There are many ways to express milk. Some people like to hand express, others will use a hand pump, others prefer an electric pump. You can even get a double electric pump. Yes, you can feel a bit like a milking machine, but let’s be honest, pregnancy isn’t all that great for dignity or glamour. This is for your baby, right? You’ll do anything to keep them well fed. That includes attaching yourself to an electric pump several times a day. For suggestions of good quality double pumps, trying this search on Amazon.
    • The key to expressing or pumping to bring in more milk is to do it after the baby has fed. That way you know that the baby is getting everything they want before you collect the remainder or put in the order for more.
    • Try expressing or pumping for 10 minutes on each side after every other feed to begin with. Obviously, a double electric pump will be finished in 10 minutes, whereas hand expressing or a single pump will take 20 minutes to do the same. However, some people may get a better let down reflex from hand expressing and end up collecting more milk than they would using a pump. That might be because they feel more comfortable hand expressing – the milking machine analogy can certainly make some women feel uncomfortable enough to slow production. There is no right or wrong way to express and sometimes only trial and error will show you what your body prefers.
    • You may not collect a lot for the first couple of sessions but this is very normal. It simply means your body will be getting clear signals that the supply needs to increase. Just keep going and over the next 24-48 hours you will find the amount you collect increasing.

 

  • Switch feedingbaby feeding

    • If you don’t want to spend extra time expressing after you’ve fed your baby, you can get your baby to make the demand for more milk. Sometimes babies will get so very comfortable and relaxed during a feed that they don’t eat everything they could before they fall off to sleep.
    • If your baby seems to fall asleep after only a short time at the breast, why not try switch feeding?
    • Start feeding the baby on one breast. When you notice the baby slowing down take them off and put them onto the other breast. You need to switch breasts before baby gets sleepy if possible. This means they may only feed for 2 minutes before the sucking and swallowing rhythm slows down. That is the time to switch breasts. Do this 3 times over the feed if possible so that both breasts have been fed from twice. This will definitely remind your body that there is a big demand for milk!
    • When you take the baby off the breast to switch onto the other one, try talking to them before you put them on the second breast. Lift them so that they are facing you vertically and try to catch their attention with soft encouraging words. This may help them wake up a little more.
    • Another classic midwife trick for waking up a rather sleepy baby in order to put them on the breast is letting them hang. Holding the baby securely with both hands under their armpits, lift them up into the air so that their legs are no longer supported by the bed or your lap. Although the baby is perfectly safe, they don’t like the sensation of having their bottom half unsupported, so it may wake them or even make them a little upset. I don’t recommend doing it for long periods! Just use it as a 2-second thing to wake them up enough to put them back on the breast. And tell them it was the nasty midwife’s idea if they complain!

 

  • Passive milk collection

    • Have you noticed that your breasts are leaking milk? Does that feel like a waste of the good stuff? There are ways to collect this leaking milk so that it can be used to feed your little one, rather than getting lost in a muslin cloth or your favourite nursing top.
    • Try using a silicone breast pump. This is a pre-formed silicone cone which is shaped to fit onto your breast and collect the dripping milk without any pumping action, manual or electric, required!
    • I like this one at Amazon:
      •  
    • Nipple shells can also collect the dripping milk if you don’t feel you have such great quantities. Shells are also great for wearing even when you aren’t wanting to collect the milk. If your nipples are really sore, nipple shells can help reduce the pressure on them from your bra or top.
    • Amazon has this twin pack with great reviews:
  • Keep to a schedule

    • The easiest way to boost your milk supply requires no extra money to be spent, which is great news since babies are very expensive little creatures! It’s such a good job they’re so cute!
    • The simplest technique is simply putting the baby to the breast more often. Babies are definitely the most efficient at removing milk from a breast. You may find you get nothing when you use a pump or hand express but your baby is getting plenty of milk when they feed at the breast. That’s absolutely fine!
    • Keep sleep periods short if you want to increase your milk supply. For healthy babies, demand or baby led feeding is recommended. That means as long as the baby gets at least 8 – 10 feeds of 10 minutes or more in 24 hours, we don’t mind how long the gap between feeds is.
    • However, if you think you need to increase your milk supply, try planning for a feed every 2.5 – 3 hours maximum. Gaps of 4 hours or longer might be normal in healthy babies who feed 8 – 10 times in 24 hours, but they won’t stimulate an increase in milk supply.
    • You can be kind to yourself and try waking the baby more frequently for feeds during the day. Let him or her have longer sleeps during the night. Don’t make your sleepless nights even harder by waking yourself and baby every 2.5 hours overnight!

 

  • Keep watching for hunger cues

    Pacifier

    • Sometimes we miss an opportunity to put the baby on the breast because we haven’t noticed that they are hungry.
    • Keep your baby close to you, preferably in the same room. You can then notice the signs of hunger which come before crying, such as licking their licks, searching with their mouths open and sticking out their tongues. If you have left your baby in a safe place in another room you may want to consider bringing them back to your side when the 2.5 hour point comes, as they may already be beginning to stir.
    • Don’t use a pacifier all the time. Pacifiers can be really useful as a baby gets older or if your newborn just seems to be a very sucky baby who wants to suck even though they’ve fed well.
    • However, if you want to increase your milk supply, then the baby needs to be using your breast as its pacifier instead. You can still use the pacifier overnight if you would rather have that help for settling the baby to sleep. Just consider avoiding using it during the day.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

IF YOU THINK YOUR BABY IS UNWELL BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH MILK, SEEK ASSISTANCE FROM YOUR DOCTOR, MIDWIFE OR HEALTH VISITOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. DO NOT WAIT TO TRY THESE TECHNIQUES AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. 

THE TECHNIQUES ON THIS PAGE SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY MUMS WITH HEALTHY BABIES WHO WANT TO INCREASE SUPPLY FOR CONVENIENCE OR PRACTICAL REASONS.

Woman feeding baby

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Newborn Care

Helping Babies to Burp

Babies often need a little help to bring up their wind, or burp. Whether they are fed by bottle or breast, it is definitely useful to know how to encourage this as trapped wind can be very uncomfortable. Here are some of my favourite techniques for helping babies burp.

 

If your baby is reluctant to release their trapped wind, try going through all the suggestions below in a cycle. Every baby is different and what works once may not work another time. Trial and error, along with lots of patience, will help you figure out your baby’s preference.

Mother and Baby

Stroking up their back

Sit baby up on your knee, facing to one side. Lean them slightly forward onto one hand, using your thumb and forefinger to support their head in an upright position. Use a very gentle lift in that supporting hand to keep their back as straight as possible. Whilst their back is straight, use firm pressure to stroke up their back from about the level of their belly button to their shoulders. You can also alternate the strokes with gentle patting, concentrating on the middle area of the back. It can be tempting to pat between their shoulder blades, but you’re trying to move the air bubbles up from their stomachs, so patting that area is more effective.

Rocking

The main way to relieve the pain of trapped wind is to dislodge it so the baby can burp, so rocking can be very helpful. Hold the baby in the same way as when stroking up their back, but hold them with one hand on their front and one on their back. Gently rock them from side to side, then from front to back, again and again. You only need to rock them about 1-2 inches each way. Try to keep their back as straight as you can.

Lie them up over your shoulderBaby looking over shoulder

 

This position really helps keep a baby’s back naturally straight so you can concentrate on the gentle patting of their back. Hold the baby in the same arm as the shoulder you want to put them over. Their chin should be level with the top of your shoulder. Let their hands rest next to their chin, as in the picture above. The hand you are holding them with should be over the nappy area and around their chest. Your free hand will hover over the back of their rib cage. Keep your hand quite close to baby as you pat since newborns can sometimes throw themselves back without warning. With your hand close, you can catch and control this movement very easily.

Put them over your knees

Sit down in a comfy chair and keep your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. It can be helpful to lay a blanket or muslin cloth over your knees in case the baby dribbles or vomits.  Lie baby down over your knees, with his head at the side of one of your thighs and his feet at the other side. This position puts a little pressure on the baby’s stomach. Gentle patting can be combining with stroking and rocking your knees together from side to side.

Bouncing

Babies like bouncing even if they don’t have wind! You can hold them facing towards or away from you with your hands around their torso and under their armpits. Bounce gently up and down, at a rate that suits you and baby. About 120 times a minute, or twice a second is a good place to start. If you just use your forearms, this is an excellent arm workout!

However, if your baby really does like bouncing, your arms are likely to get tired quite quickly. Try resting baby’s bottom on your bent knee whilst sitting. Bring your knee up by raising onto your tiptoes, then gently drop your heel down towards the floor. This gives a gentle bouncing motion without as much effort on your biceps. You can also do this with the baby facing outwards with their legs either side of your thigh and their back resting against your abdomen.

Sleepy baby

Massage

Massage is an excellent way to soothe your baby and can help to stimulate the gut movement needed to help them pass wind. Keep the room nice and warm and strip baby down to their nappy. Give a little gentle pressure to their tummy in a clockwise circular motion. This matches the direction of their intestines so helps move air along to the exit! Some people recommend motioning as if they were writing I L U (for I love you) over the baby’s tummy. There are plenty of images on pinterest showing how to do this, but a simple circular clockwise motion will work just as well.

Knees up

Baby bent knees

Have you noticed how your baby will often poo right in the middle of changing their nappy? That’s because when you lift their knees and hold them bent, it stimulates movement in their intestines, so they can’t help but poo out more! That makes this position a great one to remember if your baby has wind as well as if your baby hasn’t pooed for a while or seems a little constipated. Just as when you change a nappy, gently hold their feet and push their knees up to bend naturally. Hold in that position for a few minutes if baby will tolerate it.

Bath time

A lovely soothing warm bath can often ease the pain of trapped wind for babies. Just make sure that the water is nice and warm and deep enough to cover their tummy. Use a bath thermometer if you are unsure of the right temperature, and please remember to NEVER EVER LEAVE A BABY UNATTENDED IN A BATH, NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND!!! If the phone rings or the doorbell goes, ignore it and look after the baby instead!

Baby in a bath

Extra Considerations

There are a couple of other things to consider if your baby seems to struggle with trapped wind quite frequently.

Feeding techniques

Some babies are just very fast or very hungry feeders. They want to get their food so fast that they don’t care about bringing in all the extra wind that comes with it. Until the extra air causes them pain, of course! With babies who need to slow down a little, it can be useful to split feeds into shorter periods at the breast or with the bottle. Give the baby a couple of minutes to feed to start with, then take them off the breast or remove the bottle. Give them a chance to process that they have got a little something in their tummy, as this may help them to slow the rate of feeding when you put them back on. It can also be useful to split feeds into smaller parts so that you can try and help the baby to burp in the middle of the feed, rather than at the end.

If you are bottle feeding, it may be worth looking at a different sized teat for the bottle, as some will allow the milk to flow more slowly or more quickly.

Over the counter remedies

There are three main over the counter remedies in the UK. All are suitable from birth, but they all work in a different way. It is therefore impossible to know exactly which one will work for your baby. Some will be given via a dropper before a feed, others can be mixed in with artificial milk and others are given on a sterilised spoon before a feed. Do head to Amazon.co.uk and look at the options and reviews for each product and see what you think.

Colief

Infacol

Gripe water

 

A word about Colic

Some babies develop colic from very early on. This is a sustained pattern of distress usually in the early to late evening, which happens every day for several weeks. It can be extremely distressing as you can’t figure out what to do to help soothe your baby. For support when your baby just won’t stop crying or settle, visit the UK charity Cry-sis website.

Further sources of support can be found on the Useful Links page

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Newborn Care

Newborn Jaundice

What it is, why it happens and how to treat it at home

Have you ever noticed how newborn babies often have a really healthy glowing tan? It’s as if they went on holiday to the south of France without you before they arrived. This glowing tan is often a sign of jaundice and whilst jaundice in adults is a sign of ill-health, in newborn babies it is very normal.

Ok. Are you ready for the science?

Cast your mind back to those school day science lessons. While the dreary teacher drones on in the background, you doodle love hearts and flowers in your notebook. (Just me? Oh well, never mind.)

Your teacher probably mentioned that the air that we breathe is made up of lots of gases. Oxygen is the essential one that we all need to provide energy for all our cells and organs. Air has about 21% oxygen in it. This is a perfect amount for our bodies to function well.

So, pregnant women breathe that 21% oxygen and the oxygen is absorbed by their bloodstream which then delivers the oxygen to all their organs. Because of that, by the time the blood reaches the placenta, it has about 16% oxygen in it. The placenta is where the oxygen in the mother’s blood gets passed over to the baby for him or her to use to power their own cells and organs.

Babies handle this lower level of oxygen really well because they have unique red blood cells with fetal haemoglobin molecules. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start an in-depth atom by atom description of haemoglobin. All you need to know is that fetal haemoglobin molecules are extra sticky when it comes to oxygen. That means that although there is only 16% oxygen passing over to the baby, the baby picks up all of it. They can make it work just as well as we do with our 21%.

What happens once a baby is born

As babies are born, they begin to breathe the air around them. They can use the 21% oxygen in that normal air, rather than relying on the oxygen in the bloodstream of their mum. This means they don’t need that extra sticky type of haemoglobin molecule. Because of that, their body starts to change from using fetal haemoglobin to creating adult haemoglobin molecules.

Being excellent at recycling from the start, their bodies break down the fetal haemoglobin into its various parts like iron and lots of proteins. Most of these parts are reused by the baby to create adult haemoglobin molecules. However, there is one part which is not reused, the yellow pigment called Bilirubin.

Bilirubin

Bilirubin is the cause of babies’ yellow skin. As the baby doesn’t need it, it gets rid of it. Some of the bilirubin will come out in the baby’s nappy. You may have noticed the transition in colour of your baby’s poo from sticky black tar, through various mixes of brown and green and on to a chicken korma or mustard-like colour. You can take this change as a very good sign that your baby is feeding well and adapting perfectly to life outside the womb.

The tan on your baby’s face, torso, and even limbs is caused by extra bilirubin that hasn’t exited via their nappy. You can tell if it is jaundice by pressing lightly on their nose. As you release the pressure the skin underneath will show the yellow more clearly.

As I’ve already said, jaundice is a normal reaction to being born, so in the majority of babies, it is nothing to be worried about. However, sometimes bilirubin levels can rise to such an extent that they can cause the baby problems.

When jaundice is a problem

Babies who are struggling to get rid of the bilirubin levels in their body can start to seem extra sleepy or lethargic. They often aren’t pooing or still have dark poos rather than yellow ones. They may not seem all that interested in eating and you may have trouble waking them up enough to feed.

If your baby has any of these symptoms, please contact your midwife or GP as soon as possible

Very few babies need extra treatment to help them reduce their bilirubin levels. The usual treatment is phototherapy, where they get to lie under a mattress which gives out UV light. You may have seen photos of this or noticed babies on the TV having this treatment. They are surrounded by a blue light source and often wear cute little sunglasses! The UV light helps to break down the bilirubin lying under the skin. Once it is broken down, the baby can poo it out.

Treating Jaundice at home

The good news is that just two minor alterations in your baby’s routine can reduce the risk of him or her needing hospital treatment.

First of all, make sure your baby is feeding regularly. As they feed, their body will move the bilirubin out of their system with the waste products. You’ll see it in the nappy!

Secondly, keep your baby in bright rooms during daylight hours. Natural daylight contains UV light, so you have your own free source of phototherapy! If you set the baby’s cot, pram or Moses basket next to a window, the daylight will help break down the bilirubin under the baby’s skin. Please don’t think that it needs to be direct sunlight as too much direct sunlight may cause the baby to overheat. We also live in the UK, where actual sunlight isn’t always available! Don’t worry, just keeping little one near the window will make a difference.

The key is to avoid putting your baby in a dark inner corner of the room far from the windows. You also don’t need to expose lots of the baby’s skin to the daylight. Their face will be enough surface area if it is cold, although if it is warm you can certainly take off their baby grow. Leave them with their vest on and arms out, but put a blanket over their bodies to keep them cosy.

So there you have it. A simple explanation of newborn jaundice and how to treat it yourself so that you don’t need to go back into hospital.

For more information on Jaundice, you can visit the NHS website here

You can also find information on charities and organisations which can help you with feeding problems on my useful links page.

 

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