Feeding a baby born with tongue tie

Before I had even held or seen my little boy after he had been born by C-section, the nurse came over and told me that he had a tongue tie. My groggy and foggy memory recalls me asking if they could cut it there and then (as there were at least 10 medical professionals in the room and he was crying anyway!) yet I was told that they couldn’t without having a referral. We were told the tongue tie might not hinder him at all so to go about my chosen feeding method as I was planning. He was a huge baby weighing in at 10 pounds 6 and I suspected, like his brother, would have the appetite to match so I planned to breastfeed if I could until I weaned over to the bottle at three or four months in.

Little one was placed on me for the first feed shortly after I left theatre and he took to it and happily had a half hour feed. Like his brother, who had also gone on first time, I suspected it wouldn’t always be this easy. And I was right.

Over the next few days, breast feeding became trickier. My newborn was clearly taking in a lot of air as he fed and this led to him being really uncomfortable after a feed. To try and compensate, I was relatching him numerous times to try and work around the tongue tie and pockets of air but to little avail. The midwife watched me feed, confirmed it was probably because of the tongue tie and advised me to try with bottles with expressed milk whilst she processed the referral. Little one found a bottle easier to latch onto and took down less air resulting in a more comfortable session both before and after. I decided to express whilst waiting for the referral to come through.

I knew from the midwife that the current turnaround time was roughly two weeks from referral to consulting and the snip but this was a lifetime in newborn feeding time. I phoned a private hospital to find out if they could do the procedure. They could. The next day. For £400. By the same doctor we were waiting to hear from at the hospital. Exasperated was the word!

Expressing was becoming a pain in the arse. It was easier when I had just one child as I could express whilst he slept, fed or had downtime but my eldest was 16 months and whenever I started to express, he became hell bent on finding the one remotely dangerous thing in the room and falling on it / eating it / poking it in his eye etc.  Trying to express up to 30oz a day (my prediction of the huge appetite was right) took careful planning of meals and water intake. I expressed the most milk when I had just had a meal, my water intake had been good and was in a calm atmosphere – try as I might, it was hard to align these with two under 18 months.

I was frustrated. Really frustrated and had these thoughts swimming around:

1.His brother exclusively breast fed throughout the first two months of his life and I wanted the littlest man to get the same.

2.Interestingly, it was during these five weeks when the advice came in to stop pushing breast feeding as much to promote mental well-being more in new mums. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5832733/Midwives-ordered-not-judge-new-mothers-choose-bottle-feed.html

3.With more expressed feeding, I was getting decent chunks of sleep and hubby was doing a night time bottle feeding and this was lovely for them (and for me!)

A friend came to visit us one weekend and stay for a couple of days. It coincided with me feeling at my lowest about the feeding / expressing situation. I remember something very clearly -I was upstairs expressing alone in the bedroom getting a successful amount of milk out with no interruptions. Laughter, talking and shrieks of delight drifted up the stairs and I realised something…I was aiming to spend more quality alone time with my breast pump than my newborn and eldest.

Yes, breast milk was a good start in life but I was missing out and so were my children – we were missing out on each other. I should be cuddling my little one all I want and building my relationship with him, instead I was spending increasingly more one to one time with my breast pump. Mid flow, I switched off the pump, decanted the milk into a collection bag, went and popped it in the fridge before joining my husband and friend where I discovered them trying to teach my eldest to jump. I didn’t miss his first jump, but I could have very easily.

From this day, I decided to combination feed and I’ve never looked back. Parenthood is all about getting the balance.

Since then, my youngest had his tongue tie cut and we had to learn to feed and latch to bottles and to me all over again. The procedure was so quick. The doctor made a very small cut and how far little one lifted his tongue determined how far the tongue tie split. Only when it was done did I realise how odd it was that I hadn’t ever seen the tip of my son’s tongue! For the first week he took down milk quicker than his little system could deal with and we entered the ‘yak’ phase where more came out than went down and with many an outfit change – both him and me! But we made it. My little one is now feeding successfully, keeping it down, gaining weight and smiling. I’ve accepted my boys had different starts in life, I sometimes feel the need to defend and explain myself but one look at my little boy who is wonderful ball of squishy cuddles and smiles (and teething at three months!) and there is no regret. He will grow up surrounded by love and nurture no matter whether he has a nipple or a teat shoved in his mouth for the first few months.

Choosing a childminder

I’m able to sit here and write this post at the moment because my eldest is with my childminder and my youngest had a bottle before we left so is currently snoozing in the pram next to me whilst I sip on a relished coffee. Even though I am on maternity leave at the moment and money is more than a little bit tight, I have decided to keep my eldest with my childminder for two mornings for a few hours. I did this for a few reasons: so I can attend baby sensory with my youngest; to give myself a small break; to not disrupt the close bond he has formed with his childminder and her assistant; but most importantly of all because they know him and the time he has with them allows him to continue to thrive, develop, gain independence and build on his social skills.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you might have picked up that I am a Head of School and have been a teacher for 13 years.Whilst I am not flashing phonics cards and starting on the Oxford Reading Tree series yet (you can decide if that is a joke or not), I believe I can set up stimulating activities and go on outings which allows my little boy to thrive yet I learn heaps from my childminder who has been doing the job for only a few years. Experience counts for a lot in education but the continuous learning and pinching ideas from those around you, mean you will continue to develop to be an excellent practitioner.

When my eldest was 5 months old and I was thinking about returning to work part-time, I started the hunt for a childminder. I briefly considered a nursery but I knew they tended to have less flexibility, a higher staff turn-over and there was the possibility my child could have an 18 year old key worker who might not be sticking around as their situations changed or they decided not to stay in childcare. Plus, as this being the first time I entrusted someone other than grandparents to spend quality time with my son, I wanted it to be someone I could build an understanding relationship with so thought that would be easier with a childminder.

I used childcare.co.uk to find childminders near me and spent an hour or so reading all their profiles. By 5 months, my eldest had indicated to me the sort of things he really enjoyed – being outdoors, noise and he was really enjoying our baby sensory classes and the elements of that I had copied and made a part of his play area. This is what formed the basis of which profiles resonated with me. After 45 minutes or so of reading, I came across some key words which got me reading deeper ” I am a Forest Childcare Provider and I believe that spending time outdoors contributes to a healthy lifestyle. The children go outdoors here every day, at least once a day, no matter what the weather”.  The long list of qualifications mattered but not as much as this one sentence to me. I booked an initial meeting with this childminder and a week later, set off in trepidation for her house.

She greeted me warmly and invited me into her home to see the play room and outdoor area. I could see how well resourced she was, could tell she loved her job and noted the summer term plan on the wall for the topic she intended to weave into each day. But the biggest test for me was still to come, how she interacted with my son. Halfway through a cup of tea, he woke up in the buggy which was in the hallway. I remained on the sofa wanting to see what she would do. She asked if she could go and get him. She returned with him in her arms and settled on the sofa with him. Soothing hushes and gentle talking interactions followed whilst she held him in a cradle pose  but what she did next sealed the deal. She got up and got a soft bristled paintbrush from a nearby chest and started to gently run it over his arm. He settled immediately. She hadn’t enveloped him in a massive cuddle, not thrust her face into his, not covered him in kisses instead she had chosen a gentle way to interact with him and start building the close bond they have now. My son had his first full morning the week later.

I do nickname my childminder ‘Mary Poppins’ as she seems pretty perfect. My husband and I get photos in our whatsapp group when our son is with her, we get a thorough breakdown in the daily log, a monthly journal filled with photos, observations and creations and we also get email newsletters as well as charting his progress and reporting using the Early Years framework. Judging by some of the meals he has, I think she might also be vegan which means my son eats things like okra and chickpea curry with wild black rice….who knew! I certainly wouldn’t. My one year old has tried vegetables which I haven’t in his time with her!

I was lucky and the first childminder I viewed, seemed like the right fit for us. If I had had any doubts, I would have kept visiting others until I found the right outlet for my son and his interests. My parenting skills have improved because of ideas I’ve nicked from my childminder and her assistant and it’s another cog in the support network around my son and he is thriving as a result. You know your child best and whether a nursery or childminder setting would be best for them. But you must consider what the needs of your child are and find the setting which best reflects them – not what an Ofsted report says or the reviews on a website. My chosen childminder had one glowing review. Saying that, my childminder has her Ofsted visit today and I know she is going to get the judgement she deserves!

Mind the gap – a 16 month age difference

Well, this is an interesting way to bookend the last 16 months or so. I am sitting in my local coffee house at a table next to the one where I started this blog. Rewind and you would have seen a more-than-slightly tired new mummy, relishing fully caffeinated coffee again with a sleeping baby in the carseat next to her. Now, skip to this moment in time and you have a slightly-tired still-inexperienced mummy, slurping decaf one again with a 40 week + 4 day bump made up mainly of baby but also of sugar free treats thanks to the perils of gestational diabetes.

“You’re going to have your hands full” is without doubt the phrase I have heard most over the last couple of weeks. Last time it was all cooing and asking whether I knew the gender, the name and sharing my due date. This time there is a three-way split of reactions – the parents who are in the throes of currently having a baby within a similar age gap (sharp inhale of breath followed by smiles through gritted teeth), the parents who have been there done that (really positive and affirming) and those who would not consider having two close together (alarmed and relieved it is not them).

I’d always wanted to be a Mum to two children close together. My brother and I have a 5 and bit years age gap and I adore him to bits and relish that I can remember a few fleeting memories before he came along but ultimately we grew up in slightly different times. My husband is an only child and having only one child for him wasn’t an option; I’m sure he would have pushed for other avenues if it had not been possible to have another naturally. From the day I saw that “pregnant 2-3weeks” flash up on the stick, I have been subconsciously listing reasons why this is the best age gap. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to get pregnant again so quickly and I am aware of just how lucky we are so the idea took a bit of adjusting to.

Reasons to celebrate the small gap:

  • when the two boys are old enough, they will always have a play mate with each other;
  • days out with two boys of similar ages should be easier to cater for;
  • I’d like to think I am not ‘rusty’ at the newborn thing yet;
  • I can use everything again before a) it breaks or stops working b) it goes out of pregnancy ‘fashion’ c) The Daily Mail deem it as something that will break my child;
  • we both wanted a small age gap between our children;
  • my husband believes that a brother is the best present we could ever get for our eldest.

Reason to feel the menagerie of feelings I have about the gap:

  • our eldest is still so young and needs us so much. He has just figured out walking (a bum shuffler for many a month) and we need eyes everywhere at the moment. I am unsure how this is going to work when I am tethered to a breast pump!

Six versus one…surely a no brainer? It’s just that only reason to fear the gap seems loaded. I am sure that any child of any age needs their parents but obviously the younger ones need the parents to be a bit of a lookout as they figure out risk assessment!

One of the lovely NCT mummies is also pregnant with a relatively imminent due date and when we met up the other week, she floored me with a question of “so, have you thought how you are going to cope?”. And I must admit, I spluttered my way through an answer. I hadn’t. You can’t plan for how you are going to cope, can you? You just hope they sync up as best they can? I remembered a key comment from the Mums who were working through the gap with a baby currently who had said that at least the eldest still has nap time so you can plan it so they are both asleep at the same time in the day. I must admit, I had heard this tip and hinged a lot of the survival on that. When I thought about the answer I had given her afterwards, it really unnerved me that I hadn’t mentally prepared for the second baby possibly as well as I did for the first. I returned to work as a Headteacher after 6 months of having my first, had had a pretty gruelling Ofsted with the outcome we hoped for, professionally I felt a bit invincible and when I thought about putting that persona on the back burner for a bit, I suddenly realised that I needed to devote time to gearing up Mummy mental strength before the new one is here. Physical strength will come when I tag team in my husband, accept support from loved ones and get respite from the childminder when the eldest has his social buddy time for a few hours weekly.

Where am I at now? Well, I think often of those six reasons why this will be the best age gap possible. I started nesting earlier with this one compared to my first born and something I did last week has really really helped and it might seem strange. I wrote a letter to my eldest. I wrote him a letter detailing everything that I have loved about the last 16 months, my hopes for his future, my hopes for us a family as we are older, recounting some of our favourite moments together so far and at the end of the 10 page letter, I exhaled deeply like I had been holding my breath for an inordinate amount of time. I needed to write that letter. I don’t know when I will give it to him but that ‘mind dump’ prepared me more than organising any nursery, washing clothes, starting maternity leave. Anything.

Time for player 2 to enter the arena.

Is NCT worth doing? Are you just paying for friends?

“You’re just paying for friends.”

“I only want to do it for the support network.”

Entering the last trimester of pregnancy and the ‘shit becoming real’ phase. I was relatively late compared with my school friends into the realm of motherhood and many of them were on their second children. I knew they would be so supportive and at the end of a phone call or pleading message whenever I needed them but it was nagging me that they were relatively old hats at the game. Having been through it before, the second time, they had informed me, was much easier as you knew what to expect more. Well, I wanted my expected barrage of questions to be answered with options and things to try rather than potentially – it’s just a phase or oh-my-one-did-that-don’t worry. Time to find another support network because one is never enough, is it?

I asked my husband about NCT and he had the typically blase opinion that we would just get on with it together and effectively make it up as we went along and that we didn’t need to pay money to do that. There was no denying that that was what my parenting choices was primarily going to based upon, but I did want those choices to be informed a little bit more if possible as the fear that I was going to screw the little one up was tinkering in the back of my mind as I suspect it is with all first time parents. I asked a couple of friends their points of views and they either fitted into two camps…1) wouldn’t have been able to do the first year without them  2) was pretty pointless and a waste of money. My gut told me that the friends in the second camp were lumped with numpties at their NCT group.

My womb; my choice was my attitude at the end of that chat and I booked myself onto the next suitable group roughly 6 weeks before I was due.

Five other slightly nervous ladies gathered with varying degrees of knowledge, massive tummies, popping Rennie like there was no tomorrow. I suspect they were thinking the same as me….please don’t let any of these people be idiots…I might be relying on them for the next few months! The awkwardness of the first day of desperately trying to remember names, grimacing at some of the vocabulary and trying to get comfy on the seats passed quickly and I left knowing that I had been blessed with some good people.

The course finished, the whatsapp group started and then the countdown was really on. We knew who was roughly due when and what order we should be popping in, but obviously that went out of the window. Messages came through of pelvises feeling like they are being shattered, pineapple eating and potential waters breaking and then within a few weeks – we all had given birth to our healthy babies. Our babies had been born between the 1st and the 30th of December so the ones that had a head start were the gurus and forging the path for the rest of us. I gave birth towards the end and one of my clearest memories of the first few days is reading through the hundreds of messages from the girls who had given birth first and suddenly understanding and being able to take on board what they were saying and experiencing before. Of the 6 of us, 5 of us had C-sections (3 unplanned, 2 planned). Just the C-section advice and reassurance was worth the NCT fee alone.

And now, where are we at 7 months down the line? Well, the chat has quietened a bit but only because we are more comfortable with our every day choices about what we are doing and our tried and tested methods based on advice from all the mums mean we know a bit more about what to do with rashes, disappointing empty nappies, worthwhile baby classes, switching to proper food and the everyday questions. We meet up roughly once a month and have done a First Aid course together and some of us did a weaning course together.

These girls have been one of my rocks. Although some of us share mutual friends and very similar postcodes, I doubt I would have met any of these girls without the NCT connection. I wouldn’t have been as comfortable, confident or dare I even say it, enjoy it as much with this network. Like I said, giving birth towards the end of the pack, meant that I had a clear insight into what I might be faced with in the next few weeks.

We’ve got our summer BBQ together this weekend and my phone has buzzed just now with a weight update from the ‘Mitchell Brother’ to my boy with their shared decision to not sport hair quickly. One of our crew has moved away for a bit, but the connection we’ve built over a few months means that whether we are still friends in 10 years or not, these ladies have been a crucial part of this year and whenever I think back to the beginning months of motherhood, they form part of the picture of happiness and fondness of my new life. Thank you girls.

Please say I’m doing “a good job”

Work is a cycle of performance management reviews, targets and catch up meetings. Simply setting three or four targets for an employee to structure their year around and if at the end, the targets are met or even partially met, they could be in line for a reward.

What’s the equivalent for a new parent? That the baby meets the milestones suggested by Apps or best-selling books? Communication seems to confirm the baby is satisfied? The parent feels like they can function adequately? New Mum’s don’t trigger alarm bells with the points-scoring questions asked by their Health Visitor? There isn’t a clear cut answer.

It’s the little daily triumphs. Myself and one of my closest friends had babies within 11 weeks of each other. We live in different parts of the country but made efforts to see each other before we dropped and when our little ones were about one month old. In the blur of the first few weeks of me being a Mum, the comments from other Mums were what I clung onto when I was feeling fragile – “You’re a natural”, “You’re doing so well”, “He’s a happy baby”, “I’m so impressed” were said by friends and my Mum. I’m sure they meant these but, deep down, I’m sure all of these comments were said by Mums as they know the power of these little nuggets.

When I went to visit my friend with her little one, we had a wonderful time. Harking back to how light my son must have been at the same point as I was having a cuddle, sharing gems of what to look forward to, enjoying listening to the sounds little newborns make and when the time came to leave, I gave my friend a huge hug and made sure I looked her in the eye as I said my little praise nugget. She didn’t need me to say this, she was trying to be a Mummy for unfairly too long and I like to think I would have said something if I was a Mum or not.

Whatsapping later on, and I echoed the sentiments. My friend replied that she was delighted I thought so. She didn’t need any verification but if she was anything like me, I understood the vital necessity to hear it from anyone in particular other parents. .

I wonder if all new parents feel like this?