The 5-Second Newborn Check All Parents Should Do: A Follow-Up

I was going to post a similar write up about MTHFR and the link to tongue-ties and other midline defects but the Paleo Hygienist has done so very eloquently here! Really interesting stuff.

The Paleo Hygienist

I had debated whether or not I wanted to share my experience of dealing with a tongue and lip-tied baby and the breastfeeding issues my daughter and I dealt with, but I am so glad I did!  I want to thank all of you that have commented, emailed me and shared my blog post with others.  I have received such positive responses and some great information from so many of you!

After receiving some information and links from others out there that have also had experience with tongue/lip-ties or have researched this topic, I wanted to post a follow-up to pass along that information.  I still don’t have any solid answers as to what exactly causes tongue and lip-ties, I’m not sure anyone really knows the exact cause, but I want to share the information I have received so those of you interested in researching more on this issue can have some avenues…

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Toddler vs duck pond

So it’s finally happened. My toddler has fallen into a duck pond.

I used to be a huge ball of anxiety, so even going near the duck pond would once have been a very stressful outing for me. Unbidden would rise images of my children falling in, contracting some rare, hideous disease and consequently dying slowly and painfully. Lovely!

On this occasion, it was a brilliant idea to wander down to the duck pond with two toddlers who had just been strapped into their car seats for the four hour journey back from Nanny and John Pop’s house. They were desperate for some fresh air and exercise and being spring it was likely there’d be ducklings.

On the way there, N couldn’t contain her excitement at the prospect of seeing baby ducks so she ran ahead. Meanwhile A was enjoying forensically examining every blade of grass and snail shell she encountered. It got to a situation where I was standing half way between a toddler near a large body of water and a toddler near a busy road.

At this point the thought briefly crossed my mind, ‘what would I do if…?’ But I barely had time to dismiss the horrifying thought before my eyes beheld one very excited toddler dashing headlong into the duck pond!

I screamed a very loud expletive, checked to make sure that A wasn’t too close to the road, and then literally flew on my terrified mother wings down to the duck pond to save my little girl.

As I was running, I could see that N had turned herself around in the water and had paddled back to the edge to hold on. It was at this point that I realised that months of swimming lessons had paid for themselves.

I hauled one dripping wet, hysterical toddler out (not forgetting to also retrieve all three of her drenched ‘babies’) and then ran back up the path to collect A. She was furious at the change of plans but as I had to get N back home as quickly as possible I couldn’t afford to put her down to dawdle.

I then stoically walked the 500 metres back to our house clutching one furious toddler howling and slapping in utter indignation while the other sobbed hysterically, festooned with pond weed and duck detritus. A fun day out for all.

A life coach completely changed my life

I know it sounds hyperbolic and a little clichéd but I’m putting it out there because I want everyone to know about this wonderful catalyst for growth and change.

My life coach is Jess Lowe. In addition to being a gifted listener and facilitator of amazing life changes, she’s also a fertility and wellness coach and a certified hypnobirthing practitioner.

I linked up with Jess through a very inspiring friend, Anna, who has recently become a life coach herself. As part of the course, students are required to source pro-bono clients (ie guinea pigs) to practise their new found skills on. Anna asked me if I would put my name in the pro-bono pool and I thought, ‘why not? Can’t hurt can it?’

To be honest though, I was pretty sceptical. Sure I was stuck in a rut and feeling totally disempowered at work but I’d managed to overcome depression in the past so I figured I didn’t really need a ‘life coach’, and besides… What exactly is a life coach!? It sounded a little bit too self-helpy. Nevertheless, I’m very open-minded and keen to try new things so I dutifully filled out the form and sent it in.

What happened next was amazing. I set up regular phone dates with Jess and over the course of six sessions she proceeded to completely change my perspective on life. Her gift for listening and interpreting is peerless. Jess helped me to take a series of actions that lifted me out of my rut and energised me in a way I’ve not felt for years. Her power lies in her ability to help you see your true, inner self and form new positive beliefs about your ability to be who you really want to be.

To be honest, Jess was the catalyst I’d been needing for years. It wasn’t so much Jess that changed my life but me. I took all the action. I shifted my perspective. I formed new beliefs. Jess just helped me to see that I could do it.

Postnatal (postpartum) depression

I did not think I was depressed. I thought it was normal to feel incredibly sad all the time – especially since I was having trouble breastfeeding and it was something I really wanted to do. I thought it was normal to feel incredibly anxious all the time – I mean, who doesn’t think that every car driving the other way down the road is about to swerve and crash into you, right?

There was no one I could talk to about how I was feeling apart from my husband, because I barely knew the women in my mother’s group and I felt like if I told my family I would just be unnecessarily whinging and burdening them. I thought I just needed to suck it up and get over it. Everyone else is doing it tough. You’re just facing first world problems. Shut up.

But I couldn’t get over it. On a daily basis I was drowning in the cacophony of inner voices that shouted at me:

you’re a shithouse mother! you don’t deserve to have a baby! stop feeling sorry for yourself! you’re not trying hard enough! you’re useless! no wonder you don’t have any friends! you’re pathetic! nobody loves you!’ and so on and so on…

In addition to this incredibly unpleasant mental peanut gallery I also had an overwhelming sense of foreboding about EVERYTHING. I thought the house was going to burn down at any moment. That I would crash my car. That someone close to me would die of cancer/an aneurysm/a stroke/insert unlikely disease here.

If you’re reading this and thinking it sounds familiar, please rest assured that it is NOT NORMAL.

I went and saw my GP because my husband was getting quite concerned and begged me to go and talk to someone. My GP explained that I was suffering from postnatal depression and generalised anxiety disorder, and referred me to a psychologist. She also recommended a book called The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.

The sessions with the psychologist were transformative. We worked on a number of strategies including mindfulness, making time for myself and defusing the negative thoughts that assailed me. The psychologist also recommended The Happiness Trap – I didn’t read it then, but I have since started it and will write a separate post about its awesomeness.

I was lucky in that I was able to overcome my depression and anxiety, for the most part, after 6 sessions of talk therapy and no medical intervention. Other mamas are not let off so easily. If you’re feeling sad for days on end it’s so important that you go and seek professional help sooner rather than later. The sooner you get on to it the easier it will be to resolve.

Here are some excellent resources for anyone who is feeling like they might have depression or anxiety:

The Black Dog Institute

PANDA Post and Antenatal Depression Association

Beyond Blue

myCompass

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue so please leave a comment below xx

Non-medical strategies for managing infant reflux

We tried everything, man.

We tried everything, man.

There’s plenty of advice out there about how to manage your reflux baby’s symptoms. When I was dealing with the screamy baby from hell I spent hours trawling through them, so for this post I thought I would focus on what strategies we tried and what worked for us (with ratings for usefulness). I’m not going to list the medical strategies here – I’ll do that in a separate post later. Hopefully you find some helpful tips here.

Physical remedies

Elevating the cot/crib/bassinet mattress so that baby’s head is higher than their toes. We just used towels but if you have the funds you can go all out and buy a special ‘reflux wedge’. I would give this strategy a 6/10 for usefulness because A was so wriggly that she would inevitably end up in a less than comfortable position (like all scrunched down the end of the bassinet!) and wake up. And scream. It did help reduce the incidences of her choking on her vomit.

Holding baby upright for 20-30 minutes after a feed. This helped us a fair bit. It ensures that most of baby’s food (ie milk) is digested by the time you lay them down so there is less available to be jettisoned up through the oesophageal sphincter. Unfortunately with a newborn it does mean that throughout the wee hours of the night you’ll need to find a way to keep both yourself and baby vertical. Not so easy when you’re chronically sleep deprived and hallucinating from exhaustion. 7/10 for usefulness.

Feeding baby in an upright position. If you’re bottle feeding this is self-explanatory (ie baby is not lying down). If you’re breastfeeding I would strongly recommend you see a lactation consultant, ideally one who is International Board Certified (AKA an IBCLC), for tips on how to do this. The LC will also assess baby’s latch to see if this is causing or exacerbating baby’s symptoms – see this previous post on aerophagia and the link between tongue-tie/lip-tie and reflux. Another thing they’ll look for is an overactive letdown, which is commonly misdiagnosed as reflux. The justification for the positioning is related to the advice to keep the baby upright after a feed – gravity helps to get more of the milk travelling in a downward trajectory. 7/10 for usefulness (a little challenging when you’re fairly generously endowed and also battling with nipple shields).

Baby (infant) massage can help with infant reflux. In addition it has the benefits of calming baby and enhancing the bond between baby and his/her caregiver. This last part is huge because in my darker moments I used to really resent A for being like she was. It’s so hard to love a baby who does nothing but scream all day, no matter how much you sympathise with them. Especially when you’re chronically sleep-deprived. The time spent massaging baby is so lovely and peaceful and they really do seem to enjoy it a great deal. 9/10 for usefulness. 10/10 for awesomeness.

Bodywork. Babies may be experiencing reflux symptoms because their little bodies are still out of alignment from birth. The process of getting out of our bodies and into the world is actually really hard work! Most lactation consultants recommend craniosacral therapy (CST), which is a very gentle, light-touch massage. If you choose to take your baby to a chiropractor, make sure they are very experienced with babies and also that they do very light adjustments. When adjusting your baby, it should just look like a light massage, nothing like what is done on an adult. We took A to see my chiropractor and saw no difference so I was sceptical about the outcomes from seeing an osteopath who specialises in CST. Nevertheless it did actually make a difference to her symptoms. 9/10 for usefulness (if only they weren’t so freaking expensive!)

Tongue-tie/lip-tie revision. For some babies it’s actually a tongue-tie and/or lip-tie that is exacerbating their reflux. See here for more information on the link between tongue and lip-ties and reflux. 7/10 for usefulness – others have had more success and we are actually planning on having A’s ties reviewed by a dentist who does laser revisions. Stay tuned for an update.

White noise helps some babies because it soothes their nervous systems and provides them with something to focus on besides the pain they are experiencing. It worked quite well for A, especially when we held her next to our excessively loud range hood in the kitchen. We ended up downloading some lovely ‘sounds of the sea’ white noise. 7/10 for usefulness.

Herbal remedies

Slippery elm is recommended by naturopaths to ease reflux symptoms because of its soothing effect on the mucous membranes of the digestive tract.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) is the inner bark derived from the slippery elm tree. Usually found in a powder form, its name comes from its ‘slippery’ consistency when it is mixed with water. 8/10 for usefulness. It’s also helpful for babies with slow gut motility who are having trouble passing stools as it makes everything a lot more… Slippery!

Iberogast is a herbal remedy containing extracts of Iberis amara (Bitter candytuft),  Angelica archangelica (Angelica) root,  Matricaria recuitita (Chamomile) flowers, Carum carvi (Caraway) fruit,  Silybum marianum (St Mary’s thistle),
Melissa officianalis (Lemon balm) leaves, Mentha x piperitae (Peppermint) leaves, Chelidonium majus (Greater celandine), and Glycyrrhiza glabra (Liquorice) root. It was recommended to me by several naturopaths as a reflux remedy.

According to its website, ‘Iberogast has been clinically proven to treat the discomfort experienced with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia.’ We found that Iberogast worked the same or slightly better than Colic Calm. 7/10 for usefulness. Certainly better than Zantac!

Colic calm is a homeopathic remedy containing chamomile, fennel, caraway, ginger, peppermint, lemon balm, aloe, blackthorn and vegetable carbon. Because it’s homeopathic it actually only contains minuscule amounts of these ingredients. The vegetable carbon makes the liquid black and it will give baby a black tongue (not to mention black stools!) I’m personally extremely skeptical about homeopathy, but this stuff honestly seemed to calm her down within seconds. It was an absolute godsend for those times that she was screaming non-stop and all the usual tricks didn’t help. 7/10 for usefulness.

Probiotics. I’m going to stress that these are good for all babies but especially reflux babies, and especially reflux babies with multiple food protein intolerances/allergies. Some researchers have found that reflux is exacerbated by bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines. According to these researchers, successful treatment is based on restoring adequate stomach acid production and eliminating bacterial overgrowth. This can be achieved by taking a combination of slippery elm (see above), probiotics and digestive enzymes (see below). My paediatric gastroenterologist was very pleased that we were giving A probiotics. 8/10 for usefulness.

Digestive enzymes are a good adjunct to taking probiotics, because they both help to break your food down into digestible nutrients that can be better absorbed and utilised by the body. See here for more information on the differences between probiotics and digestive enzymes. We bought a product at great expense from the US because a mama on a forum I frequent was absolutely raving about how much it helped her son’s reflux. I definitely feel like it helped me while I was on the elimination diet but I’m not really sure how much it helped A. 6/10 for usefulness.

Honoring the Emotional Child

This is wonderful and timely, as I just this week picked up an extra day at work (meaning an extra day in care for my girls). I’m currently feeling ALL of the feelings and need to be able to express this in the same way that my girls need to be able to express their sadness at separating from me.

Abundant Life Children

Crying. Screaming. Whining.  Moping.  Melting down.  Pestering.  Throwing a tantrum.  Pitching a fit.  We have many ways to describe a child’s emotional sorrows: the anger, desire, frustration, fury, sadness, and loneliness experienced by the young children in our lives.  As parents and providers, we are not-so-subtly pressured to get these moments under control.  The sideways glances while we are out in public, or the raised eyebrows of judgment imploring a tighter reign over our reckless and disrespectful lot.  And then there is the more powerful internal drive to fix.  We often hold the power to bandage the woes – the desired cookie, the delayed bedtime, the ability to walk instead of ride.  Yet what do children experience when we fix?  And is the fix always truly a fix?

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Let’s talk about sex, baby

I promised my physiotherapist I would write this post because it’s an issue for so many post-partum women but they’re just too embarrassed to talk about it or ask for help. Nevertheless it’s a problem that’s easily solved.

So what’s the issue? Seriously painful intercourse. If you feel uncomfortable even just thinking about getting intimate with your partner because of the anticipation of pain, and it’s been more than 6 weeks since having your baby then you should bring it up with a trusted health professional. It is not normal to feel pain with intercourse more than 6 weeks post-partum and if you ignore it then it can start to have serious ramifications.

The most likely cause of your pain is a build up of scar tissue in your vagina and then a subsequent fear association. Here’s the most common scenario: you have sex for the first time after giving birth and it hurts, a lot, so next time you start to get intimate your body remembers the pain and starts to clench your muscles in anticipation. This is the start of a vicious cycle because of course it’s going to hurt if you’re clenched up like a clam!

Many doctors will tell women either to: a) just be patient, try to relax and not put pressure on yourself, b) use more lubricant, and/or c) prescribe a topical oestrogen ointment to help the body lubricate the area naturally. While these measures are certainly helpful they don’t actually solve the underlying cause of the problem, which is the scar tissue caused by the trauma of pushing a giant baby out through your vagina.

What can you do? Try and get yourself seen by a specialist ‘continence physio’. Many state and territory health departments (in Australia) have a number of public continence physios so you don’t have to pay out of pocket. You might be thinking, ‘oh, but I don’t have a continence problem!’ That’s great! But these physiotherapists are specialists in the gynaecological realm – they are intimately (so to speak) acquainted with your pink bits and how they function best. A continence physio will show you how to massage your internal scar tissue in such a way that it eventually disappears! Only then will you be able to remove the fear association and actually start to enjoy intercourse again.

Please note that breastfeeding may complicate this scenario because your body does not produce as much oestrogen, which is needed to lubricate your vagina. As such it is worth talking to your health professional about options such as the topical oestrogen ointment in addition to seeking treatment for the scar tissue.