How to survive sleep deprivation as a parent

Ahh sleep deprivation! Something all parents know far too well. My first experience was in pregnancy, especially during my last trimester. I was SO uncomfortable, with a mixture of heartburn and restless leg syndrome making it almost impossible to get sleep, not to mention it taking hours just to get comfortable. Of course I still had silly comments like… “Get the most of sleep, it’ll be gone before you know it” – incorrect! At 35 weeks pregnant I felt like I had already said farewell to sleep.

After my beautiful boy was born, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Oliver slept through, that’s right… SLEPT THROUGH! He would maybe wake for a breastfeed at around 5am, but would sleep back through until around 9am, and boy did I brag about it. Obviously karma got the better of me because at around 4 weeks old his colic kicked in and it was “Adios, sleep!” and “Hola, sleep deprivation”. To put it bluntly: The. Child. Would. Not. Sleep. Yet, still I had people making stupid comments like “You look tired, you should sleep when baby sleeps” – assuming that said baby even slept? I remember thinking to myself “f*****g idiots”

Now at 2.5 years Oliver is slightly better with his sleep, I say slightly because last Sunday he had me up at 4am (ON MY ONE DAY OFF). I think all parents have experienced sleep deprivation at some point, and it’s a whole new level of tired because, although you’re exhausted, you still have this little human to care for (and I’m convinced Oliver has this way of sensing when I am shattered).

So here are some of my tips for surviving sleep deprivation with a little one:

  1. Forget the house work, if you have had a bad night with your little bundle of joy IF they nap, you nap too.
  2. Lazy days are a MUST. If both you and baby have had a rough night, a day with blankets, snacks and films are essential.
  3. know your limits, say no to people ” popping round ” Unless of course it’s a close friend or relative who is prepared to help said sleep deprivation
  4. IGNORE any comments on how tired you look. There is categorically no such thing as a perfect-looking sleep deprived parent – they’re a myth.
  5. Caffeine (unless you’re breastfeeding) – I have had and still have many a day where I can be seen clutching onto a coffee first thing in the morning, followed by an energy drink at lunch time to stop me crashing. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and a 7 hour shift with 3.5 hours sleep is no walk in the park, let me tell you!
  6. Accept any help. I’m fortunate that my sister is studying to be a SEN teacher, so she often offers to watch Oliver for an hour if I have had a bad night so that I can get some much needed shut eye (especially if I am having an endometriosis flare up/PCOS flare up)!

My final piece of advice is remember that sleep deprivation isn’t permanent. It does get better, and although you may feel like a complete Zombie right now, it will pass, and to put it bluntly (because I never have and never will sugar-coat parenting), you are not the only parent going through this. Anyone who says their child has always slept through the night is lying, all children go through a phase of not sleeping!

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Tips and tricks for tummy bug troubles

Unfortunately, it’s the time of year where stomach bugs are rife. I was recently in the hospital twice in the space of two days, as my little one had a severe case of gastroenteritis. While I was there, I had many in depth conversations with paediatricians, nurses and the matron, who gave me many materials and ideas about the prevention and management of gastroenteritis, and how to recognise the signs of dehydration.

Gastroenteritis (or more commonly known as the ‘tummy bug’) is an infection of the intestines and stomach which causes vomiting and diarrhoea (D&V). It is often caused by infections like the norovirus, or rotavirus, though it can also be bacterial.
D&V caused by tummy bugs is common in children younger than 5, however lots of diarrhoea and vomiting can cause dehydration, which is a serious complication. This is unusual, and most children can be cared for at home following advice from a qualified healthcare provider.  In most cases, diarrhoea usually lasts 5-7 days and has come to an end by 2 weeks, while vomiting usually only lasts between 1-3 days.
While we were at the hospital, the paediatrician told me that parents should avoid taking their children to the GP if they suspect gastroenteritis, as it is spread so quickly and easily. Instead, parents should call 111 (UK) or their GP if they are concerned. Just to recap, the symptoms of gastroenteritis are:
  • feeling sick
  • sudden, watery diarrhoea,
  • mild fever
  • vomiting, which can be projectile
  • abdominal craps
  • poor appetite

When to seek medical advice for your child

As gastroenteritis is spread so quickly, it is best to care for your child at home to avoid infecting others. However, you should seek medical assistance if your child:
  • has blood in their poo, or green vomit
  • has been vomiting for three days or more
  • has had diarrhoea for more than a week
  • has a serious underlying condition and also has D&V
  • has symptoms of dehydration –
    • sunken eyes
    • cold extremities
    • mouth and lips appear dry
    • seems to be getting worse, will not take fluids or vomits immediately after drinking
    • are floppy, unresponsive or lethargic
    • skin appears to be more baggy than usual
    • much higher pulse rate than usual
    • they have had more than 8 loose nappies per day
    • they do not have more than 2 wet nappies per day
    • no tears when crying
    • sunken fontanelle in babies

Preventing the spread

  1. Children should not attend any kind of childcare or school while they have vomiting or diarrhoea, and should not return until at least 48 hours have passed since the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea.
  2. Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis. This includes the obvious times, like after using the toilet, changing nappies, or touching food. Do not rely on alcohol hand gels.
  3. Towels and other personal items should not be shared between children or other members of the family while someone is suffering with gastroenteritis.
  4. Children should not use a swimming pool for 14 days after their last episode of diarrhoea.
  5. Disinfect any surfaces and items that could be contaminated.

Treatment

Most cases of gastroenteritis can be treated at home, with supervision from medical professionals in more severe cases.
Children should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids, even if it is only small sips at a time. Breastfed babies should continue to be breastfed as long as they are tolerating the breast milk.
Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) such as dioralyte may be used, which is available without prescription from a pharmacy or supermarket.
A note on liquids – liquids are absorbed by the body very quickly, so if your child vomits ten minutes after drinking, it is highly likely that most of the fluids have already been absorbed by the body, and fluids should continue to be given.

Children who are vomiting

Small sips of liquid should be given to begin with, and if this is not vomited, the amount can be increased. Generally the amount of liquid a child should aim for in this phase is 1.5 to 2.5 oz per lb of body weight in a 24 hour period – for example we were told to aim for 1oz per hour for my little one. Once the vomiting lessens, a more normal diet may be trialed the next day. We found it easiest to start giving 5-10mls every 5 minutes, and did so using a bottle we would have usually used for milk – ORS can be kept in the fridge for 24 hours after mixing it from a sachet, and it is both easier to monitor intake, and less messy on your child’s part!

Children who have diarrhoea but little vomiting

These children should be given more liquid to combat the liquid lost through loose stools. However, this liquid can be given in larger, less frequent amounts, and children can attempt to continue their normal diet. If your child has significant diarrhoea, it is advisable to stop dairy products during this time as these foods can make diarrhoea worse.
 
While it can seem really daunting to care for your child while they’re unwell, rest assured that gastroenteritis is very common. There are around 5 billion cases of it every year worldwide, so you’re not alone.
What have your experiences of the tummy bug been like?
 
Sources:
Cochran, W. (2018). Gastroenteritis in Children – Children’s Health Issues – MSD Manual Consumer Version. [online] MSD Manual Consumer Version. Available at: https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/home/children-s-health-issues/digestive-disorders-in-children/gastroenteritis-in-children [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
 
Nhsinform.scot. (2018). Gastroenteritis. [online] Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/gastroenteritis [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
 
Nice.org.uk. (2009). Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis in under 5s: diagnosis and management | Guidance and guidelines | NICE. [online] Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg84 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
Technology, H. (2018). Home. [online] East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. Available at: http://www.esht.nhs.uk/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
 
With thanks to helpful conversations for the staff on Kippling ward, ESHT.

Colic, Reflux and Wind… Oh my!

Ah colic, every parent’s worst nightmare. I still have flashbacks to this day. I was a super lucky parent with Oliver getting both reflux and colic – lush, huh? I remember at around 5pm every night we would all look at each other and give each other a mutual nod; that was the time his colic and reflux would start to pipe up, and we would almost start preparing in advance. Cooled boiled water, muslins and infacol at the ready. Right on cue at 5pm my baby boy would start getting upset, we all took turns trying to comfort him and help him.

So the NHS describes colic as: the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It’s a common problem that affects up to one in five babies…

As a new parent I had no idea what colic was, I was out of my depth. All I knew was that my little pumpkin wasn’t happy and I didn’t know why. Fortunately  at the time, we lived with Oliver’s grandparents (his dad’s mum and dad) who were amazing with colic. We called them the baby whisperers because all his grandad would have to do was place Oliver on his shoulder and he would settle, despite the many minutes I had spent bouncing, rocking and shhh-ing Oliver, meanwhile during this time Oliver’s Nonna would make me a cup of tea and we would prepare to tag in…and honestly I don’t know how we would have made it through the colic phase without their help. As time went on his colic got more severe, resulting in 111 sending an emergency ambulance at 4am one night because his screaming was so intense.

The paramedic was so lovely, understanding and empathetic as soon as he came in the atmosphere changed, the first words he said was, “oooh that sounds like a grumpy baby, let’s see what’s going on” he examined Oliver and comforted us; “you did the right thing calling, I do think it is colic, maybe a bit of reflux, prehaps take him to his GP tomorrow and see what they advise.”

From that moment on I was a woman on a mission. We started baby massage, cranial osteopathy and took him to the GP. Baby massage was perfect, I felt so close to Oliver at the class and it was fascinating to see him learning the cues for massage and it was something everyone could do at home with Oliver. Cranial osteopathy was an interesting one, I was intrigued as my mother in-law at the time said it helped for Oliver’s dad. At the first appointment, we talked about Oliver’s birth and the osteopath had a theory that his traumatic birth could have been a big contribution to his colic/reflux now. He taught us some things we could do at home to help with his colic spells, and one thing which seemed most effective was the “tiger in the tree” holding pose which was a godsend! We just simply laid Oliver across our arm face down and rubbed and patted his back which helped massively.

However, a few months in and Oliver’s colic was back with a vengeance – none of the normal tricks were working, so the health visitor advised we went to the doctor. The doctor prescribed him infant gaviscon which did work, however it also caused some constipation for my little boy so
we were advised to give him more cooled boiled water to help.

I remember Oliver was such a “pukey” baby. I’ve said previously in a post how much Oliver would throw up over Sarah, her carpet and her sofas, though it wasn’t just Sarah! We pre-warned anyone who would hold Oliver and insisted they used a muslin, I almost felt like I needed to do a terms and conditions speech “we will not be liable for any puke-age on your clothes or personal belongings as you are holding the said infant at your own risk.”

All in all, I 100% think colic/reflux/wind is the most terrifying thing any new parent will experience… after all surely it can’t be normal for an innocent baby to scream so damn much?! Well, turns out in a warped kind of way it is. If, however, you find yourself awake at 4am at breaking point, praying your child will settle there are a few things that helped me:

  1. Message your mummy-friends; chances are they’ve been there or are currently there, and even if they don’t read it until the morning you’ll feel better for getting it off your chest.
  2. Skin to Skin with your baby – Oliver took a lot of comfort from being on my chest and it really helped calm him.
  3. Infacol/colic granules – ABSOLUTE HEROS, the granules are what Sarah actually recommended to me when I was at breaking point one night.
  4. Cranial osteopathy/Baby massage – Even if you are unable to get to a baby massage class there are tutorials on the internet.
  5. Look at cry-sis who are an amazing support line for any parents who have a crying and sleepless baby, offering support and advice for any exhausted parent.
But, lastly, parents around the world, know this when you’re awake at any unholy hour questioning everything in the world. Your baby loves you, you are doing all you can and…this will pass.

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Mental Health Monday: 5 ways to cope with stress!

Stress!

The one thing we parents seem to have in abundance! Unfortunately, I haven’t yet discovered how to live a completely stress-free life, so instead, here are my top 5 tricks on how to cope with stress!

1. Copious amounts of tea

Ever heard the saying that none of the world’s problems cannot be solved with tea? Well, I am a firm believer! Particularly if your problems are stress-related. I know it can be hard to drink a hot drink while it’s still hot these days, but make sure you grab the opportunity when it presents itself! There’s not much else that’s better than enjoying a hot, caffeinated drink and putting your feet up for a minute while you do!

2. Play dough

This may sound daft, but this is ridiculously stress-relieving. Come on, mummies, whose kiddies do not have play dough lying around somewhere? (If not, you can check out the way to make your own here!)

If they do, and if the colours aren’t all mushed up together in some form of absolute ANARCHY, then I seriously recommend just twiddling it for a while and feeling all of your stress leaving your body as you do!

3. Yoga

Again, I know that finding time is difficult, but it could actually be the best thing you do that day to get out of the house and going to a yoga class! If not, you could easily pull up a youtube tutorial for some yoga breathing exercises. It’s incredibly calming and whenever I’ve done it, I LITERALLY feel lighter having done so. You can physically feel the tension being lifted and the positivity seeping back into where it used to be, once upon a time.

4. Classical music

I know what you’re thinking. “She’s gone mad”, “how old is she?” etc. etc.

But I am serious! Music defines our emotions so much more than we think. If all you listen to is high tempo, upbeat pop music, you might feel happier but it’s still energetic and active. I’m not suggesting you listen to Bach, Mozart or Beethoven (I mean, you can if you want to), but just go onto Spotify, pop your headphones in, and stick on a classical playlist.

My favourite contemporary classical composer is Yiruma – a Japanese artist. His music is just hauntingly beautiful, and I always feel calm and relaxed when I listen to it.

This tip could probably apply to any music you find relaxes you, but if you haven’t tried it, I definitely recommend listening to a bit of pure piano magic.

5. Scream into a pillow

You really do think I’m mad now, don’t you? But I’m serious… In the same way that sometimes you need a good old cry to just get it out of your system, sometimes releasing all of that pent-up anger, upset and frustration is best done by burying your face in a pillow, and screaming loudly. You’d be surprised how much better you can feel afterwards!

So there you have it, my 5 TOP TIPS to cope with stress, and make life just a little bit more manageable!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips that you swear by to keep your cool!

Mummies Waiting

A Reflection: My first year as a mum

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So as my little boy’s first birthday approaches (5 days to go to be precise ) I’ve found myself overwhelmed with different emotions…Where has the year gone? Am I a good mum? I’m asking myself so many questions and the truth is…I don’t know the answer to any of them. It seems like yesterday I was sat in the corner of the bathroom on the floor with a positive test in my hands shaking and freaking out (little did I know about all of the complications I was due to face with my pregnancy).

I blinked and my pregnancy was over, one minute I was being prepped for an emergency C section at 27 weeks…the next I was having a healthy 8lb 11 due date baby, and now he’s turning 1?! Where has the time gone? There is so much I’ve learned over the past year and I feel there is so much I’m yet to learn because nothing prepares you to be a parent, I read all the books, took all the advice I was given but yet I was still sat at the end of my hospital bed scared with not a single clue what I was doing, which leads me to what I’m about to say next…I’ve decided to share the best 5 things I’ve learnt over the past year.

1. There is NO such thing as “the perfect parent” – I can’t even begin to stress how important that one is. I was so determined to be this super Disney princess-like mother when I was pregnant, but the reality is that I’m sat here in my pyjamas after giving my little boy nuggets for lunch (and yes I did steal a few) and looking back, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to be like other mums. The truth is, I’m still learning…I still find myself messaging the other mummykind mums at 23:45 practically begging for advice to get Oliver to sleep (I have the youngest baby of the group so I always go to them for advice).

2. Things change physically, emotionally and mentally – this one is the biggest thing I’m still coming to terms with. My world has changed, and speaking as someone who hates change…it’s a big deal (even though Oliver is the best thing that has happened to me). I still find myself staring at my body wondering when my mummy tummy will go… I still think it’s pretty unfair that the only thing that has got smaller since having Oliver is my boobs, but there you go! Plus, nobody explains how tiring motherhood is, how you lay awake at night either worrying about your child/children or sit up trying to get them to sleep, making you emotional and mentally drained the next day…I’m admitting now, I’ve been that tired before that I’ve called a customer munchkin at work and found myself humming the peppa pig theme tune. Despite the exhaustion, with parenting comes the overwhelming sense of pride you get when you look at your child, and that moment when you just look at them and you can physically feel your heart bursting with love and pride.

3. Colic. Need I say anymore? The one word that will send shivers down any parent’s spine… I say colic, Oliver had reflux and colic so I’m not sure which one is the lesser of two evils. I remember being a new mum, scared senseless at 4 in the morning convinced something was wrong with my baby, why was he screaming? He was fed, changed, cuddled…the works. Frantically flicking through the pages of the parenting bible then a family member casually said one day “it’s probably just colic, it’s pretty normal”…I remember sat there thinking normal? NORMAL? Nothing about that is normal…but after taking him to doctors and an osteopath (who surprisingly actually helped with his colic) it was just colic and reflux, and it started to fade away once Oliver was about 4 months with the help of infant Gaviscon and ranitidine both prescribed by a GP. Just a tip for any parent with a colicy/reflux baby…Look up the tiger in the tree baby holding pose also carry lots of muslins. I remember having to apologise countless times to Sarah (one of the mummykind mums who is Oliver’s godmother) for the amount he would throw up on her, her sofa and her carpet. 

4. Tongue ties. Ah this takes me back, It all started one day when I was round for a play date with Sarah and Olivia (Sarah is my go to for 99.9% of my baby problems…well all of my problems actually). I remember getting a bit flustered as Oliver kept unlatching while I was trying to breast feed and Sarah mentioned tongue tie, I saw a breast feeding advisor who confirmed it was a tongue tie, but this was at nearly 4 months and I was starting to give up on breast feeding and was put in “boobie bootcamp” as it was called, to get my supply back up in hope to get his tie snipped, but I was so exhausted from post-partum psychosis and other stresses that I found myself giving up the fight and reluctantly accepting the fact it wouldn’t get snipped…so my tip here is never give up that fight.

5. It isn’t all doom, gloom and stress. The past year with Oliver has been packed full of smiles, hugs and laughter. Every day I look at him and feel so proud…especially when I think that at 27 weeks he was given a 50% survival rate with a weight of 2lb 2oz. I look at him and know I’m going to have so many happy memories with him…of course, there are more tears and tantrums to come but for now in light of how fast this year has gone, I’m going to cherish every second I have with him and I now know what they mean when they say a mother’s love is unconditional.

I get called many things but Mum is by far my favourite.