Why is treating tongue tie in breastfed babies an underground movement in Ireland?

It is not news to anyone I’m sure that Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. Public health campaigns and two active Government policies to improve rates in recent years have failed to have any impact at all. A slight increase has been attributed directly to the increase of foreign nationals in the country and the fact that our population of older mothers is growing. Research indicates that older mothers are more likely to breastfeed their children. Continue reading Why is treating tongue tie in breastfed babies an underground movement in Ireland?

There’s an App for that!

I don’t know about you but I always have my iPhone within arm’s reach. It’s a desperate state of affairs really. On the rare occasions that I’ve managed to leave the house without it, it’s like I’m missing a limb. I sat on the bus the other day wondering what I should do to pass the time when the 3G network went down! And to think only a few short years ago, I used to threaten my husband that his love for his smartphone could be the end of us. His solution of course was to buy me one. I shut up fairly lively then. He’s like my crack dealer 🙂

Of course an iPhone is nothing without its Apps and I thought I’d share a few of my favourite parenting-related ones.

Blogpost: There's an App for That! www.mindthebaby.ie Mind the Baby Blog What To Expect Pregnancy and Baby Apps

Okay, I am not the biggest fan of the What To Expect series of books. The pregnancy manual is useful for a quick reference guide to explaining aches and pains etc but the advice is very medicalised and weighs heavily on the side of interventionalist birth. The baby’s first year book is just a fright from start to finish. It gives appalling breastfeeding advice, questionable sleep training tips and tells you what your baby should be doing by each month.

ALL THAT SAID, they make good Apps!

The pregnancy one lets you pop in your estimated due date and gives you that whole cute fruit size thing as your baby grows. Personally, I loved the daily countdown – particularly when it got down to double digits and then single ones.  It also gives you a weekly and daily update on your body and your baby which is lovely to read. A few of the daily entries about diet and exercise are just ludicrous but you can overlook those.

Blogpost: There's An App For That! www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
Screenshot of the breastfeeding tracker on the What To Expect App

I found the WTE Baby App absolutely fantastic in the first few weeks when Pip was born. It helps you track breastfeeding (and bottle) feeds – which boob, for how many minutes, the gap between feeds – dirty/wet nappies and naps. When you’re just getting the hang of things, it’s great to just tap in the details and have it all recorded there for you, particularly if you have a midwife or public health nurse looking for specific details about nappy content and how many minutes the baby fed on each boob. It’s also handy to keep track of late night feeds. After a month or so when things have settled down and you’re not driving yourself crazy counting and measuring things, you won’t need it any more but it’s a handy little thing at the start. (Although a friend of mine was telling me that she witnessed a nurse manager on the post-natal ward shouting at a new mum for paying more attention to her texting than to her new baby when in fact the poor woman was just tracking her feeds! Madness! But that’s a post for another day…)

Both What to Expect Apps are available free for iPhone and Android.

Labor Mate contraction timer

Blogpost: There's An App For That! www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog
Screenshot of contraction log on Labor Mate

I am very, very fond of this App. It’s just a simple stopwatch really where you tap the screen as a contraction starts and tap it again when it ends. As your labour progresses it tells you how long each contraction is and how far apart they are so there’s nobody messing around with a pencil and paper trying to subtract minutes and seconds. It also records the time, lets you add notes to each contraction if you wish and you can switch to other applications on your phone while it keeps going in the background. What I really liked about it was that there was no precision required on my part. In the height of my labour before the midwife arrived, I could just wave my hand in the general direction of the phone to start the timer and the same to stop it. I have a memory of me hanging off the kitchen counter doing exactly that. It does other freaky social media things like email your contraction log to people or posts updates to Twitter and Facebook. I couldn’t imagine anything more horrific but to each their own! It was lovely too a few weeks later to be able to look back and review the progression of my labour.

Labor Mate is only available for iPhone and iPod Touch and costs €0.79 or $0.99

The wonder weeks

Blogpost: There's An App For That! www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
Screenshot of wonder weeks growth spurt calendar

I haven’t used this App myself but it was recommended to me recently and I kind of wish I had it at the time! Basically, this one gives you the heads up on when growth spurts and developmental leaps are due to happen. I”m fairly sure knowing this in advance and being prepared for the manic feeding sessions and broken nights might have helped to keep me sane when I thought I was losing my mind. Have you used this one?

The wonder weeks is available on both iPhone and Android for €1.79 or $1.99

Are there any parenting Apps that you’d recommend? I’m not a fan of the trying to conceive ones because I think they’d add to the anxiety of all for me but maybe they worked for you?

Parent Enemy No 1: The Automobile

The car is indeed one of the world’s greatest inventions. It transformed life as we knew it. Suddenly we could go further and faster than our feet, bicycles and horse and carts could carry us. It made the world smaller, more accessible and gave us untold freedom, ungoverned and untethered from the restrictive timetables of public transport. Cars are truly a wonderful addition and in many ways a fundamental part of modern living.

Blogpost: Parental Enemy Number 1: The Automobile www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
Will I kick off or will I take a nap?
photo credit: NoVa Hokie via photopin cc

They are, however, the enemy of parents – or more specifically parents who find themselves alone in a moving vehicle with a baby or small child. Before you rush to point out that they are an excellent tool for getting tired babies to sleep, I certainly give you that. Many’s the time I’ve driven longer than I needed to to keep a sleeping baby purring blissfully away or timed a journey to coincide with a much-needed nap. In that sense, they serve a wonderful purpose.

But sweet mother of the divine, is there anything more torturous or upsetting than being trapped in a moving car or in a stationery car caught up in traffic with a screaming baby in the back while you’re strapped firmly in the front seat? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been on the motorway with no way of stopping when the baby has lost his tiny mind with distress and I’ve had to drive on helpless while he cried and called out for me to soothe and calm him. He even vomited once which was truly awful. I actually had a pain in my heart when that happened.

On one occasion, when Pip was a couple of months old, I even found myself in an industrial estate in the dark, sitting in the backseat of the locked car trying to feed him back to sleep while shaking with fear and berating myself at my stupidity for pulling over in such a desolate place. But he was so terribly upset and I didn’t know what else to do. That didn’t even work and the second he was back in the car seat it started all over again and I arrived home covered in my own tears and snot, clutching him to my chest and apologising over and over again to him for being such a cruel mama. You really tie yourself up in knots about these things in the early days, don’t you?

His general dislike of cars seemed to disappear when the clocks changed in the Spring so the evenings were brighter and he could see me in his mirror, and once he was big enough to have a front facing seat. I was never so delighted than when my low level anxiety humming along with the car engine finally dissipated. I was only reminded of it last week when Pip was very upset in the car when we were stuck in traffic on the way to creche. It’s really very stressful and then of course the mega-guilts kicked in when I realised later that morning that he was sick.

There’s something about babies strapped in car seats that seems so counter-intuitive to me. Of course they’re an absolute necessity for health and safety reasons but they’re also just one more item of modern paraphernalia that seems to be a barrier to holding our children. When you’re driving and they’re crying but you can’t stop and all you want to do it reach back and scoop them up and heal their woes. There’s a lot to be said for public transport I think! But that has its disadvantages too. Thank God for lovely walks, slings and holding little hands…

That village for raising children in is getting further and further away…

I am sitting here on the couch cuddling a feverish little boy in a deep, healing sleep. He sleeps soundly in the knowledge that he’s wrapped in the arms of his mama, cocooned in her boundless endless love. There is nowhere else I want to be. There’s somewhere else I should be though.

An hour and twenty five minutes after arriving at my desk – already seventeen minutes late – I had to stand up and leave to tend to my little boy who couldn’t stay in crèche with a rocketing temperature. No one minded and as usual they were more than understanding and downright supportive.

These are the realities of working when you’ve a small child. The work will still be here when you get back. He needs you.”

Others aren’t so lucky to have such an understanding employer or a flexible working arrangement. But every time this happens, I feel a little sad. Not because I have to go home and look after my son – I will ALWAYS choose this first. And not because I’m missing work or fear that I might be creating a bad impression. It’s because there’s no other option. There’s no one else who can help us out.

I live in Dublin, my family come from Dublin, my husband’s family come from Dublin and with the exception of my sister, everyone in our families lives here. They all dote on Pip and lament how little they get to see him. We also have plenty of friends in the city. We are not without people to reach out to, unlike many people who live in another part of the country or the world from their family and friends. There’s one massive problem though.

Everyone works. Everyone.*

Most of them work a lot. So people can lament away about how little they get to see Pip but the reality is, that’s on their terms. I’m not complaining about this. I’m just stating the facts. This is the world that we live in and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. We might as well be living in another part of the country for all the difference it makes. Don’t get me wrong, our families are hugely supportive and jump at the chance to help us out when they can. Unfortunately work commitments mean that they can’t help at short notice, plans have to be made sometimes several weeks in advance or we’re looking at weekends. But there’s more people than weekends to go around and you know, sometimes I want to selfishly keep my little man all to myself.

Unless things change drastically, I will be working for the foreseeable future, where the foreseeable future extends to my likely retirement in my 70s, the retirement age by the time our generation gets there. My husband and all our peers will probably be the same. Even Pip’s grandparents are all working manically, late into their sixties, with no sign of slowing up and I believe the day they stop is the day that they can’t work any more and probably won’t be able to look after high energy and active children without support themselves.

I have absolutely no expectation or wish for them to abandon their career and life goals to mind my child. That would be selfish and arrogant – and I’m not looking for a babysitter. But echoing around my head I hear the phrase

it takes a village to raise a child”

and I realise society is getting further and further away from this wonderful, holistic ideology of bringing children up in a world rich with the influence and love of many adults in their extended family and beyond on a daily basis. We’re losing that sense of family that really used to be very strong in Ireland where sisters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and neighbours would all row in to help with the care of the family’s children. Of course, that was a very different Ireland with many dark and unspeakable attributes also and things needed to change, but maybe we should have kept hold of some of the good stuff.

We’ve inadvertently set ourselves up in a situation where the individual is king, capitalism and meritocracy rule and community is slowly eroding. We’ve lost that wisdom of shared childrearing that was passed down through generations and I mourn it now. Which is a strange thing to say because I’m mourning something I’ve never experienced. The girl and idealistic young woman in me would scoff at this concept and call it medieval. If you suggested to her that maybe not everyone should be working or at least not working full time and that the concept of mothering and child rearing was a life pursuit and passion itself, she’d have walked away from you. She was a naive fool though. She also grew up without witnessing it or even knowing you were allowed to think like that. With a lot more life experience, I feel very differently now and I’m sorry I didn’t have this perspective before.

photo credit: Vít Hassan via photopin cc
photo credit: Vít Hassan via photopin cc

These days I dream of a world where I can pursue my own career goals (whatever they may be…) without the constraints of an office and someone else’s timetable, the demands of 40+ hours a week and the pressure to financially provide. Where my primary energy and time is spent raising my children and my secondary energy is humming with passion for my work. Where grandparents drop by or take the kids off in a casual, spur of the moment way or we all hang out together doing something spontaneous. Where the neighbours can pop in for a cuppa during the day and maybe leave their kids for an hour or two and vice versa.** Where my brothers and sisters pop over for an impromptu dinner and chats, without the panic of trying to find the time to buy groceries or realising there’s nothing in the fridge or it turning into an “event” to plan and overspend. Where my son has proper, strong, meaningful relationships with his aunts, his uncles, his grandparents and our friends that are completely independent of me and self-sustaining.

All of this takes time though and no one has time.

*I’m aware that my family and friends are extremely lucky to be in employment at the moment when times are so tough. What I’m talking about here is over a longer period of time and where people have made choices that see their work/life balance weighing heavily in favour of work.

**I know many families across Ireland have this experience but honestly I think as time passes, it’s happening less and less, particularly for people living in cities