You’ve read the books, done the antenatal classes and booked your birthing pool – but what about after the big day? Our essential guide to all postnatal specialists and experts will help you with everything from tackling tongue-tie to weaning with ease.
It’s probably the toughest (and the most rewarding) job you’ll ever do, yet no one actually trains you to be a parent. Luckily there are classes and workshops out there to help prepare you, inspire you and fill you with confidence about the wonderful, exhausting and exhilarating adventure ahead.
Founded by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with the idea of creating calmer babies and happier parents, Baby Calm offers classes and workshops for new parents (including Michelle Heaton, Strictly’s Brendan Cole, and Ray Quinn). The Mother and Baby Class is a four-week course for new mums that covers colic, baby massage, feeding, fussiness and crying, sleep and parental confidence. Other short workshops include sleep, calming and weaning. Classes across the UK. www.Babycalm.co.uk
In London, Surrey and Sussex, The Parent Practice offers confidence-boosting classes on positive parenting, fostering independence in your children, how to be in charge without being over-controlling, and how to keep calm. www.Theparentpractice.com
After realising how many courses focus on preparing the birth but not beyond, BabyNatal started up the Practical Care workshop covering all the basics of baby care, safety, what to buy from buggies to reusable nappies, and how to calm your little one, that can be taken after or before birth. They also run dedicated classes for dealing with twins. And for those that didn’t take antenatal classes, the New Parents Group is a four-week course exploring sleeping, feeding, calming and anything else you need to know. Classes nationwide: 01780 479183, www.babynatal.co.uk.
The NCT Postnatal Early Days courses give you the chance to explore different approaches to parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other local mums and dads. You’ll gain parenting skills, feel confident about the decisions you make for your baby, and gain support and encouragement from others. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk
Sore, cracked nipples, mastitis, thrush and trouble latching on – breastfeeding isn’t always as ‘natural’ or straightforward as you might like. Not all babies are born ‘naturals’ at feeding and mums have to learn how to feed too.
Seek out help and support – it will help you get feeding established and dispense any worries you might have about, how much, how often, and how long you should be feeding.
Your first port of call should be your midwife and your local health centre and health visitor – they will run weekly baby clinics where you can weigh your baby but also ask any feeding questions.
For something more social that also offers expert advice, try a Baby Café. There are Baby Café drop-in centres in most regions of the UK that are open to all pregnant and breastfeeding mums, and you can take your partner or mum along with you if you want, too. Run by midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants, most are open once a week and offer coffee tables, comfy sofas and play areas for accompanying toddlers and inquisitive crawlers. Locations range from children’s centres to church halls and community centres and they are great places to pick up tips and advice from experts and support and reassurance from other new mums. www.thebabycafe.org
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk, 0300 330 5453) also has a list of local breastfeeding support groups across the country.
If you’d rather look online, the La Leche League has stacks of free info and advice (www.laleche.org.uk), as does the National Childbirth Trust (www.nct.org.uk). Lastly, the website www.breastfeeding.co.uk also has a breastfeeding helpline 0300 100 0212.
If you’d like a private consultation with a lactation consultant – after all, not every new mum wants to practice breastfeeding at a semi-public Baby Café or in the rushed environs of an NHS baby clinic – then you can find one through the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (www.lcgb.org), where NHS, private and voluntary consultants across the country are listed. Most will come to your own home to provide support and advice to help get feeding established.
Often referred to as baby whisperers, cranial osteopaths are trained to feel very subtle, rhythmical shape changes in body tissues and to release stress and tension throughout the body and head in an extremely gentle way.
And while you might not think a baby could be stressed, the process of birth can both physically and mentally take its toll on babies’ bodies.
Sometimes the way that a baby is born might make it harder for that baby to turn its neck and feed well; their heads can get squished into odd shapes, especially if forceps or a ventouse are used; other babies may be traumatised by a very quick birth that causes them to be extra sensitive. Even problems like colic, trapped wind and sleeping difficulties can be soothed by the healing hands of these experts.
Visit www.cranial.co.uk to find out more about how cranial osteopaths can help babies and young children and to find a list of local cranial osteopaths.
The British Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathy.org) also has a directory of osteopaths – look for ones that specialise in infants and babies.
Best Tongue-tie treatments
At least one in ten babies are born with a tongue-tie, where the piece of skin that connects the underneath of the tongue to the base of the mouth is too tight, causing some babies problems with breastfeeding or to take in too much air when bottle feeding.
The sooner it is diagnosed the less discomfort you, and your baby, will suffer. Getting the tight skin un-tied is a quick, simple procedure, called a frenectomy. Most hospitals will want you to be referred by a midwife, health visitor or GP, which can take a week or two and some will only treat breastfed babies, while private clinics can see your baby and treat them instantly for between £100 and £200.
The Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners was set up last year to increase awareness about the condition and to support parents of babies with tongue-tie. Their website, www.Tongue-tie.org.uk, has a directory of private and NHS clinics that offer tongue-tie division.
Dr Peter Reynolds is a Neonatal Consultant at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals in Surrey who specialises in tongue-tie (01932 722678). Babies can be referred by a health professional, or you can also see him privately by contacting his PA on 01932 723499. His own website www.tonguetie.co.uk is a mine of information on the subject and can help you to decide whether your baby has the symptoms associated with tongue-tie.
Marion Copeland and Kate Battersby are Infant Feeding Specialist Midwives and lactation consultants at Southmead Hospital in Bristol (0117 323 3527), who accept NHS referrals for breastfeeding babies up to 12 weeks old. They will also see clients privately.
Mr Shailesh Patel, a Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Kings College Hospital, Camberwell, London (020 3299 3350) now runs three clinics a week due to demand, referral is for breastfed babies only, through your health visitor, GP or midwife. Meanwhile St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London, has a rapid-access tongue-tie clinic every Monday – contact Catherine Milroy, Consultant Plastic Surgeon (020 8725 0007).
In Manchester, Mr Patrick Sheehan, Consultant Paediatric ENT Surgeon sees breastfed and bottle-fed babies with no age limit at the New Royal Manchester General Hospital and Manchester General Hospital Children’s Unit (0161 701 5039). Parents can go through their local healthcare provider or they also ask for a private patient appointment.
You can learn more about the condition and find a full list NHS tongue-tie division providers at www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie
Baby massage and yoga
Helping with bonding, relaxation and better sleep, improving digestion and colic, and relieving pain from teething, baby massage is good for babies and for mums, while baby yoga moves can also calm and reduce colic.
In London and Wiltshire, the girls behind the Calm Birth Calm Baby collective offer a range of baby massage courses from mums who are registered with the Association of Infant Massage. 07949 764105, www.calmbirthcalmbaby.com.
You can also find baby massage classes in your local area on the International Association of Infant Massage’s own website: iaimbabymassage.co.uk (020 8989 9597).
Hands On Babies are baby massage and baby yoga courses accredited by the Royal College of Midwives – find a class in your area on their website. 0845 017 6029, www.handsonbabies.co.uk.
YogaBellies offers baby yoga and baby massage courses in Glasgow, Northern Ireland and London. www.yogabaellies.co.uk
Baby sleep experts
Oh, what you’d do for a full night’s sleep right now? But should you try controlled crying, the pick up/put down method, gradual retreat, patting and shushing, the 90-minute rule or the no cry sleep solution?
The options are baffling and many tired parents give in to try and get at least a few hours of rest. If you’re at the end of your tether, there are experts out there who can help you to start a routine and get your baby through the night, while you get some well-earned kip.
The Sleep Nanny, based in Bath (though she will travel up to 100 miles or more to see clients), has helped everyone from celebrities to GPs and can offer phone or home consultations to help advise you on how to get your little ones through the night from £60. For closer to £1300 she will come and stay with you for two nights to establish a routine and advise you at home. It may be the price of a holiday, but she promises lasting results within a week – priceless. 0844 357 9913, www.sleepnannies.co.uk.
In London, Chris the Nanny, Chris Wandrag and Vanessa Crane, offer similar sleep training for babies and twins. A consultation and two nights assisting parents in sleep training their child costs £500 (twins £600), while night nannying – where you get to sleep through or go out for the night and leave all the baby stuff to them – costs £140 a night from 9pm to 7am. 020 8444 6316, www.christhenanny.com.
In the Manchester and Cheshire area, qualified paediatric nurse, health visitor and baby sleep expert with 20 years experience, Dawn Kelly has helped babies from four months old to children of 12 to get through their sleeping problems. Her consultations start from £180 and are tailored to your family’s needs and lifestyle – which means there’ll be no controlled crying if that’s not what you believe in. 07957 357324, www.sleepthroughdawn.co.uk.
For a tailored consultation and sleep programme to help train your baby or toddler (or older child) to sleep through the night, Millpond can help. They have seen everything from children that still wake to feed at night or that need rocking to sleep to those who will only sleep with a parent in bed or who struggle to go to bed on their own. Packages start from £75 and include free email support for the duration of the programme. 020 8444 0040, www.mill-pond.co.uk.
Lastly, if you have the budget, you could consider a night nanny to come and stay with you to deal with night waking and night feeds for as long as it takes. Night Nannies is the UK’s leading overnight maternity nanny service, ensuring you get a good night’s rest and your baby gets expert care and is gently trained to sleep better. 020 7731 6168, www.nightnannies.com.
When, how often and how much… starting solids can be a daunting prospect. But there are experts out there to make it easier.
The NCT Introducing Solids course covers when to start weaning, purees and baby-led weaning, allergies and foods to avoid, as well as what to do about milk feeds. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk
Combining cookery classes and weaning advice, Yummy Baby Group offers three different classes, in which you’ll prepare and cook meals for your little one, get all the advice you need, and come away with recipes and menu plans. Courses cover Stage 1 Weaning, Stage 2 Weaning, and Baby-led Weaning. In Berkshire, Surrey, London and the South East: 07872 030206, www.yummybabygroup.co.uk
Want to know more about baby-led weaning? The Baby Calm Baby-led Weaning workshop will give you the lowdown on the science behind it, ideas and options for foods when you’re at home and out and about, and how to make weaning as easy as possible. Across the UK: www.babycalm.co.uk
For a crash course in all things food-related, from equipment needed to vegetarian weaning, Parentskool in Brighton, Lewes and Haywards Heath, this one-day course comes with free online help for a month afterwards. 01273 620401, www.parentskool.co.uk.
The Baby Blues and PND
One in ten mums suffer from PND. While a degree of the baby blues and feeling tearful after birth is normal, a prolonged sense (more than two weeks) of feeling low, not wanting to go out, having a lack of interest or enjoyment in your baby, or feeling unable to cope and without motivation to do anything, could be signs of postnatal depression.
Talk to your GP or health visitor, they can help. Treatment can range from counselling, to anti-depressants, to Cognitive behavioural Therapy, but for many mums, just being able to tell someone can help to ease the burden.
The Association for Post Natal Illness is another good place to start if you want more information: 020 7386 0868, www.apni.org.
The National Childbirth Trust also has a postnatal helpline: 0300 330 0773.
To read about other real mum’s stories and share and seek support from other mums who have been through it, www.pni.org.uk is a must-visit site, set up by women who are current and past sufferers of PND. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.
This article appeared in Gurgle magazine.