Top Tips

Pregnancy: 

  • Everyone will tell you horror stories.  Ignore them.  
  • Be very vague about your due date.  There is nothing worse than your mother phoning every day after your “due date” demanding to know where the baby is.  If you tell everyone a date which is actually two weeks after your due date, you can be fairly confident of having had the baby by then.  
  • Pregnancy related diabetes can be erroneously picked up if you had a very sugary breakfast.  Try to hold off on the Krispy Kremes until on the way home from the hospital.  Avoid fruit juices and sugary drinks, sweetened yoghurts and biccies on the day of your next blood test and see if that makes a difference.
  • Scans can only estimate the size of a baby.  Don’t be terrified by a midwfe or a scanographer telling you your baby is “too big”, no one knows how big your baby is until you have given birth to it.  It is easier to give birth to a ten pound baby in an optimum position than a slender, five pounder with its hands over its face.  Bodies usually grow babies they can deliver.
  • If you have restless leg syndrome during pregnancy it can interfere with your sleep. You can address this by using hypnosis to reframe the symptoms, or you can use a leg stretch taught in yogabirth classes which helps to prevent restless legs when practiced before going to bed. The woman stands facing a wall, hands spread out on the wall at shoulder height with soft elbows and shoulders. one foot in front, a small step away from the wall, knee bent. back leg is more or less a walking stride behind but that leg is straight. her pelvis should stay square to the wall (hips pointing forward). keeping upper body soft but not allowing lower back to cave in she needs to really sink her weight through the back leg and down into the heel. it's a bit like the stretch you see runners doing to warm up. she will feel the work in her calf and can take back leg further back to work more deeply. repeat on other side.
  • It is easier to plan a home birth and change your mind to have a hospital birth than the other way around.
  • Induction:  You do not have to be induced if you don’t want to.  Not ever.  If you are at the hospital and they are putting pressure on you, say you can’t make a decision until you have gone home and discussed it with your partner, your best friend, your fairy godmother.  Tell them you will come back tomorrow.  Then go home and think about it seriously.  Look at the AIMS website and if you have to, phone in the morning and say your car has broken down and you will come the next day.  Buy yourself some time and hopefully the raspberry leaf tea (sounds delish, tastes disgusting) and the curry and the pineapple and the Caulophyllum and the sex will have worked and you won’t have to worry about an induction.  I have heard a story about a woman who was threatened with an induction because the baby was in distress and said she would rather have a Caesar if that was the case.  The midwife backed straight off because a Caesar section is very intensive on the number of staff it requires, and not nearly as easy for them to arrange than an induction which can be nicely managed.  Suddenly the baby was no longer in distress and she was allowed to go home.  Ask yourself:  are you being induced because your baby or you are in distress or because the hospital is worried about understaffing?  Did you know:  induction drugs are pig products.  If you say you are a vegan, you cannot be induced... food for thought.

Group B Strep,  the Facts: It is believed that up to a third of the population carry Group B Strep at any time and normally with no ill effects.  At this time, there is no really reliable test routinely available in the UK. The current tests miss up to 50% of GBS carriers plus GBS can come and go from your body.  If you have tested positive for GBS during your pregnancy, it is well worth getting a follow up test shortly before your baby is due to rule out whether or not you have an active infection.  If you don’t, why have iv antibiotics through labour?  It could be that your local GP will not test you again having had one positive result in which case I would recommend a private test.  It is well worth the money if it turns out the GBS is no longer active and you can have a more active natural labour without an iv if that is what is important to you.  If you want to find out more, click here  where you will find a very informative page from AIMS about Group B Strep.

Comments from a consultant bacteriologist for you to think about:

  • "The fact that a high vaginal swab sample may test positive for strep B does not necessarily reflect vaginal infection, but is more likely to be relatively benign colonisation. This should be assumed unless there is positive evidence of disease, such as cellulitis, vulval inflammation, or Bartolin's abscess.

  • It is unlikely that a woman with a vaginal colonisation of strep B, even if levels are raised, would carry a blood-borne infection of the same organism. 
 This being the case, it is most unlikely that such a woman's baby would be born with congenital strep B infection. 

  • There is no conclusive evidence to suggest one approach more beneficial than another in treating women and babies at higher risk of strep B infection at or after birth. There is not enough evidence to support giving I/V antibiotics to the woman during labour and the baby post-delivery. Oral amoxicillin given to the woman in labour, and one dose of oral (or I/M) antibiotic given to the baby post-delivery is probably as effective. 

  • Most infection of mother and baby in the early postnatal period with strep B is relatively benign, and may be adequately treated with oral antibiotics when symptoms appear. The most reasonable approach is to manage these babies expectantly - waiting to see whether or not symptoms appear. 

  • In the case of pre-labour rupture of membranes, there will be an increased risk of amnionitis and intra-uterine infection, increasing with the length of time between PROM (premature rupture of membranes) and delivery. Although this situation also may be managed expectantly, and no one strategy has been shown to be superior to any other, it could be argued that it is advisable for the woman to be admitted to hospital in this case."

Rupture of Membranes:  During pregnancy your baby develops inside a bag of membranes filled with amniotic fluid. Your waters may "go" ("rupture" - sounds terrible, actually painless) sometime around the start of labour or during labour, although some babies are born with their sac of waters intact. If your waters do go before labour starts, as is the case with about 10% of women, there's usually a small flow of fluid followed by an uncontrollable slight dribble, and most women are in little doubt as to what is going on (although I believed I was suddenly incontinent).  If the fluid is clear, there is no reason to panic, however if the waters are yellow or brown or green, contact your midwife immediately as this "taint" shows the presence of meconium in the waters which itself indicates there is a 10% chance of your baby being in distress.
If your waters go during the night, you may choose to stay in bed and sleep waiting for labour to begin, perhaps choosing to contact the hospital in the morning.  In addition to having a waterproof sheet on your bed, you may use a sanitary towel if you are concerned about the quantity of water, but honestly, as your baby’s head is acting as a plug in your cervix, it is most usual for a very small amount of liquid to escape until you change position and the baby shifts inside you and even then it is rarely the tidal wave gush you see on telly or in films.
Some women I have met have chosen to continue with their pregnancy after their waters have gone and I count myself amongst this number, the most extreme case I have ever come across was a lady who continued with her pregnancy for two weeks with her waters slowly leaking, believing that going to the hospital and being examined internally was the only sure way of contracting an infection.  Your waters are constantly renewed, so there is no chance that your baby will “dry out” and if your waters are clear and you maintain good hygiene there is little chance of your baby becoming infected as you are already used to all the bugs in your own house.  Sadly it is a myth that if your waters go in Waitrose or Marks and Spencer’s they give you a hamper…
In about ten per cent of pregnancies your waters go at least one hour before contractions of the uterus begin and up to 85 per cent of women will go into labour spontaneously within 24 hours. The risk of infection in these cases is very small but don’t have a bath or go swimming or have sex with your partner just in case, and keep an eye on your own temperature as if you develop an infection it can be very detrimental to your baby.  You may consider taking garlic prophylactically until your labour begins. 
By 48 hours after the rupture only about five per cent of women won't have begun established labour. In most hospitals the policy is to keep an eye on the woman and offer induction of labour within 24 hours of waters breaking, especially if signs of infection develop.  Independant midwives tend to treat women on a case by case basis and tend not to have a blanket policy such as this one.  It is always your choice, however, and many women prefer not to labour with an iv in place or to be induced.

Motherhood:

  • Put a message on the answer machine saying that you will phone everyone as soon as there is news.  Leave it on for the first few days after your baby is born so you and your partner and your baby can snuggle up together and be a family before the great onslaught of well meaning visitors and the arrival of flowers to put in water.  
  • Ask people to get you bigger baby clothes than you will need for the very first few months.  Babies grow so fast and there are only so many party frocks you can wear when you are a few weeks old.
  • Never turn away hand-me-downs.
  • Never say you don’t need help.  You do.  Always.  Visitors can do a load of washing or put the dishes in the machine or make you a cup of tea.  Not vice versa.
  • Cranial Osteopathy: I took my girls to the Osteopathy Centre for Children which is a hell of a schlep but well worth it. It is a charity, so they take donations instead of vast payments which makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
  • Colic: If you have a fussy baby and you think they may have colic you can try these following things: Bruise dill seeds and make a big pot of tea with them,let it cool and drink it all day long instead of water. "An ancient Egyptian remedy in the Ebers papyrus (c. 1500 BC) recommends dill as one of the ingredients in a pain-killing mixture. The Romans knew dill as anethum,which latter became "anise". Dill has always been considered a remedy for the stomach, relieving wind and calming the digestion. Dill's essential oil relieves intestinal spasms and griping and helps to settle colic,hence it is often used in gripe water mixtures. Dill increases milk production, and when taken regularly by nursing mothers, helps to prevent colic in their babies." Fennel tea is also good for the same reason. Homeopathy is also an option: Colocynth 30c for when the symptoms are as follows: Pain, baby draws legs up to try and pass wind. Chamomilla 30c for a very distressed and angry baby, baby arches back with the pain. Lycopodium 30c for a baby full of wind, sleeps all day and awake all night.You can get granules for a baby. They are always a hit as babies seem to like the feeling of them in their mouths, so it is a great distraction even if homeopathy doesn't work (and who knows if it does or not...) and at least you feel as if you are doing something.
  • Mother-in-laws and well meaning neighbours:  Once you have had your baby, everyone will become an expert.  Smile. Listen (because every now and again they do say something that makes sense to you).  Thank them and move on.  It doesn’t matter that your partner was breast-fed until he was fourteen, if you have chosen to bottle feed because you had bad mastitis, you don’t need to explain or defend yourself.  That irritating next door neighbour who makes all her own bread may have a baby who sleeps through the night and a husband who completely understands and never wants to have sex, but I doubt it.  She’s probably lying.  Women are pretty evil to each other when all they have to be judged by is their skills as a wife and a mother.  If you had a Caesarian because your baby was in distress and you didn’t want to take any chances (and I would never advise that you muck about with a baby in distress) you do not need to apologise to your NCT teacher who encouraged you to imagine a natural birth in a woodland bower with the fairy sprites singing to you.
  • Those charts in your health visitors little red book are based on a very small sample of American bottle fed babies.  If your child is not “on the chart” and you are breast feeding, don’t panic.  Don’t be bullied in to giving your baby bottles because someone else thinks you should.  Follow your own instinct and trust yourself. 
  • Remember that normal children develop at very different rates; when it is the right time for them not when your health visitor thinks they should.  Because your child is not the first to walk doesn’t mean they will not become an Olympic athlete, they may not get teeth until they are three, or potty train until they are five, but don’t panic, very few people never grow teeth and it is an unusual bride indeed who wets herself on her wedding day because she has yet to grasp the finer details of potty training.  There is no RIGHT AGE for these things, everyone does it as they can.  Your child may still go to Oxford even though he is the last in his class to read fluently and don’t let anyone else's mother tell you any different.

Siblings: 

Some of these tips will sound like down-right  bribery and that is because some of them are.  In all my years of dealing with children, though, when you are welcoming a new baby in to your house, I think perhaps you can resort to anything to keep the peace.  Remember, you will be hormonal and quite mad for the first few days and probably tearing your hair out from lack of sleep in the first six weeks or so, I say if something works for other people, give it a go.  There is time for serious discipline and negotiation later.

  • Bringing a new baby in to your home is a great shock for your first-born.  Imagine if your partner arrived home unexpectedly with a new lady friend.  You went to greet him and all he could do was hold her hand and kiss and cuddle her and ask you to join him in his great appreciation of her.  Isn’t she lovely?  Aren’t you lucky?  Would you like to give her a kiss?  Perhaps she should share your bedroom with you?  Maybe you could find some clothes she could wear, or share your toys with her?  I don’t know about you, but I would be seriously considering boiling the bunny about then.  This is what bringing a new baby in to the house can be for your first born if you don’t try to finesse the situation to your best advantage.
  • While you are still pregnant, talk about the baby in terms of its relationship to your child.  This is your child’s new sibling and a potential playmate.  Stress the positives.  Purchase a large gift for your child (preferably something you know they really want) and wrap it up.  This is a gift from the baby and if you are really on the ball, it can be a gift they can share: a train track or  a set of duplo that both can use together and be given more components to in later years. 
  • When you have delivered your baby, make sure they are tucked up in a cot away from you when your first-born comes to see you for the very first time.  Greet your toddler with as much enthusiasm as you can muster.  Ask them questions and shower them with love and praise.  Allow your first child to ask about the baby, let them bring up the subject if you can.  When this happens, you can introduce the new baby as your existing child’s brother or sister, not as YOUR new baby.  Such a subtle thing, but given right of ownership makes that older child so much less likely to try to put the new baby out with the rubbish the next morning.  Allow your toddler to discover the gift, again make a huge fuss over the first child and try to ignore the baby as much as you can.  My girls are now 8 and 6 and still talk about the gift that the one gave the other and have never suspected that it was manipulation.
  • Buy a selection of small gifts and wrap them.  Put them in a bag by the front door.  This way when your maiden Aunt Dora arrives with a gift for the new baby but nothing for your first born, you can quickly whip a gift out and pass it off as something for the bigger one to open.  Anyone who has had children won’t make this mistake.  Think back to the mistress scenario and imagine how it would be if every visitor wanted to see her and shower her with gifts and not you.  I don't know about you, but weeing on the floor and the subsequent attention suddenly sounds very appealing.
  • Negative attention is just as good as positive attention.  This is so hard to grasp, but to a toddler getting attention is all they care about.  Weeing on the floor may just do the trick.  You screaming until your hair stands on its ends is actually quite a fabulous response for someone under three feet tall to ellicit and is very exciting especially if you have been playing with that horrid stinky baby all day long.  Small people just want to be noticed and bad notice is just as good as good notice, maybe even better if it comes with indoor fireworks.  Try to praise your child as much as you can, identify the bad behaviour ("Fred, weeing on the floor was very naughty" as opposed to "You are naughty, Fred, for weeing on the floor") and try to distract if you can rather than let a situation escalate.   Your toddler is three, not you.  Be a grown up where you can.
  • Try to use positive language with your toddler:  "Don't stand on your chair!" is not as effective as "Can you sit on that chair nicely, darling?".  Brains (especially young ones) focus on the verb, the action word.  If you instruct a child not to do something:  "Don't set your brother's hair on fire" their little brains immediately grasp onto the action: "Set your brother's hair on fire"  which they may not have thought of before, but they are certainly thinking of now.  If you can raise your children using as many positive phrases as you can, you will have a much better chance of communicating with them in a way that gets the results you want.  It doesn't happen overnight though...
  • Let your first-born have some responsibility.  This is only if they show an interest in helping, don’t force the issue, but suggest that they can have a very important job.  They are in charge of the feet (and Shashi, Tabitha's God mother, I thank you for this one).  They can wash the feet and make sure the feet are in little socks and shoes which, when they fall off, must be retrieved.  (and I would seriously recommend putting all babies in tights regardless of gender for this very reason).  Even if your toddler is hideously cack-handed, there will be no lasting damage that can’t be hidden in shoes.
MADDY GRINNING Tolly.JPGSing the praises of your eldest child.  It is hard to imagine that you will ever be able to love someone as much as you love them, but believe me, it does happen.  In fact your toddler will suddenly look obscenely large and grown up and it will be very tempting to treat them as a much older child when probably in all reality they are still babies themselves.  Also remember that bad attention is as attractive to a child with its nose out of joint as the good attention, so try not to go over the edge when the inevitable happens and your first child bashes your brand new, angellic baby over the head with a brick.  You will soon learn just how robust a baby is and look at precious new mothers with their perfect coddled babies with such disdain.
  • Tell your eldest child that if the baby cries, they have no responsibility, mummy knows that they are crying and will take care of it.  My two shared a room from the start and the big one never woke up when the little one cried.  Also, it is the elder who will remember if you ignore them in favour of tending to the new baby and I promise the baby will not have to go through years of therapy because you let them cry when there was a poo on the stairs to clear up.
Beyond:

You've had the little darlings, now what...

Night time tips: 

  • Get into a routine as fast as possible.  And I am talking about a bath-story-bed style routine, not a three hour session of mummy lying next to her little angel waiting for her to fall asleep before tiptoeing out of the bedroom.  Keep it simple and portable. 
  • Getting out of bed: If you have someone who can either vault over a cot side or clamber out of their own bed, and frequently arrives in the sitting room as you collapse on the sofa for the night, this one's for you:  Put your child to bed with the instruction they are to stay in bed.  Set a chair outside the door, get a large glass of wine and your book and sit vigil.  When you hear tiny feet hit the floor you growl:  "Get back in to bed!" and they do.  They can't quite figure out how you knew they were out, but yikes!  Three nights in a row and they give up trying.
  • Magic Light:  This one is for early risers, or those less inclined towards an afternoon nap (and they grow out of those quite quickly sadly).  Put your child to bed with instructions that the magic light fairy has instructed you that they are not to get out of bed until the light is on again.  The light is on a timer (Ikea, very cheap) and so you set it for the appointed waking up time and the child is not to get out of bed until that time when the magic light pings on.  Start with the timer going off at the usual waking time of your child and once this is instituted, you can sneak the time later, a minute or two at a go.  You may even end up having a lie in on the weekend!  Oh, the luxury.
  • Controlled crying:  absolutely ghastly at the time, but so worth it.  This is a programme where you settle your baby with your voice and touch (but no picking up) and slowly extend the time between contact.  It is very hard on the parents, but tends to be a fairly quick fix when all your other options have led nowhere.  Just think, a few nights of hell and then sleep! 

Clothes:  Most kids go through a nudist phase.  You can scream and shout and threaten until your little honey puts clothes on, repeating the fight every day, or you can shrug and say:  "It would be better if you wore clothes..." and let them go out naked/in pjs/dressed as underpantman.  Public response or frostbite will soon cause a change of heart and you have only to wait.  By not making a fuss your little sweetie will not have to climb down and you can just shrug and smile when he reaches for his kecks.  Don't sweat the small stuff, really, and I know that clothes are fairly important in your life, but to a two year old, they are a serious inconvenience until you get the social humiliation or inclement weather argument which sometimes you have to experience first hand before it really sinks in.

Marbles in jars:  A variation on a star chart.  Two large jars, one full of marbles.  Good behaviour (or compliance) means a marble can be moved from one jar to the next.  When all marbles have made the journey and the other jar is full, a prearranged treat is awarded.  The beauty of this one is that marbles can also be removed from the good jar and put back in to the starter jar,  This one has value for a long time, and can be used (off and on) until puberty, and may be worth trying on your partner...

School - it's the law:  Don't forget it is not you who insists they have to go to school.  It is the law and if they don't go, you have to go to jail.  Food for thought for even the most recalcitrant five year old.

Cooking:  by my calculations the average mother has to provide 28 meals a week.  I made a decision early on to enjoy that process as to fight against it struck me as akin to bashing your head against a brick wall 28 times a week.  I enjoy cooking now, because I know it is an integral part of my job, and if I didn’t enjoy it, I am not sure what I would do or how my family would survive.