Hip Hip Hooray!

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A year has passed since that momentous day when Lucy was put into her luminous pink spica and I spent a long night in the hospital, sleep deprived and wondering how we were all going to cope with the challenges of the three months to follow.

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Having a cuddle on the couch

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My little purple frog legs in her second cast

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Feeding time! No small challenge keeping the cast clean while teaching a baby to eat solids…

There have been twists and turns and surprises (seldom pleasant) along this DDH journey but our most recent check up at Princess Margaret Hospital has given us some reassurance that the worst is behind us.

When the doctor pulled up her X-ray on the screen to review her progress he started out by saying that the projection is slightly different to the last one. My heart sank. Did this mean that the angle had widened, in other words, regressed again?

What he meant, though, was that the angle of the image was slightly different to the last one – PHEW! He measured the angle of the acetabula and confirmed that Lucy’s right hip was still absolutely fine (which has always been the case) and her left hip was now a perfectly healthy 21 degrees (20 +or-3 being normal for her age) – HOORAY!

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Beautiful hips! January 2015

Our check-up appointments will now be every six months rather than every three. This will probably continue until she’s about three years-old at which point they will be able to tell whether her hips have stabilised or need further intervention.

But for now – NO MORE PAVLIK HARNESS/RHINO BRACE/SPICA/SLEEPLESS NIGHTS/SKIN TRAUMA/ETC!

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Walking like a little champion!

I like to think that I have fully earned the right to a very cheesy title for this post 🙂

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Guest Post: Lynette’s Story

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My story starts just like most others in the world of developmental hip dysplasia – I didn’t know it existed.  I had heard of clicky hips vaguely but that was about it.  Little did I know that “clicky hips” meant a whole new world – a new world of parenting, of loving , of learning.

Hi, my name is Lynette.  I have three gorgeous children – Elissa (Miss 6), Harrison (Mr 3) and Jackson (Mr 1.5).  My venture into the world of DDH began with Mr 1.5 – Jack.  My unexpected miracle baby.  After fertility issues and ICSI IVF procedures with my first two children, Jack was a little surprise that was granted to our lives.  My pregnancy was normal, his growth was normal and his birth was easy.  I was smiling!  Before we left the hospital our Doctor noticed that both of his hips were “clicky” and that he would require an ultrasound at 6 weeks of age, and we were told that “he would probably be OK by then”.  No other tips or information was given to us.  Off home we went, happy, and we didn’t change anything from how we had done it with our previous children – tight swaddles, disposable nappies, narrow based Baby Bjorn carrier for occasions.

Oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!

At our 6 week ultra-sound it was discovered that Jack’s right hip had rectified itself, but his left hip was “borderline” and that he would require immediate bracing.  This needed to be done in Perth.  Did I mention that we are a 7 hour drive or $250 each plane flight from Perth?  We were admitted through Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, and they were so lovely.  A country girl in the big city however is a complete other story – LOL!!

I don’t think I was really ready for my journey that was about to begin.  Jack was fitted with a Correctio brace that he had to wear 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he cried and cried and cried.  His clothes wouldn’t fit on over the top.  He didn’t fit in the car seat of the hire car and he cried and cried and cried.  I tried to breastfeed him and it was so awkward and he cried and cried and cried.  We got home to Kalgoorlie and I fed him and put him to bed.  He looked so awkward, laying on his back with his legs up and splayed out.  That night he didn’t sleep.  Not in his bed anyway.  I sat up in the arm chair and he slept on my chest.  I cried.  I was tired and my neck stiff.  My other two children didn’t understand why I was so tired and cranky and had such a short fuse.

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Fitted with the brace at PMH

It was winter.  The Orthotics specialist who had fitted the brace said that the brace needed to go on under his clothes.  I had nothing that would fit over the brace.  In an attempt to make pants I cut up a pair of Elissa’s tights.  He looked like such a sweet angel – dressed in rags.  I was sad because he wasn’t handsome anymore.  That morning a friend looked after Elissa and Harrison while Jack and I popped off to the shops for a new car seat that he would fit in and some new clothes.  Two hours later and I had a small measure of sanity!!  A new car seat meant we could go places, and some clothes that fit meant he was handsome again!  That small accomplishment – even though it sounds so vain – was enough to make me stand tall and accept to get on with this and make it work.  So what worked for us?  Long sleeved clip crotch onesies and BabyLegs legwarmers!

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Dressed in Elissa’s tights on day 1

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More user friendly attire!  BabyLegs and Snappy Crotches!

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How did we get sleeping and breastfeeding under control? Pillows!  My Mum was the one who said, “Of course he will cry on his back. Lay on your back and spread your legs up like that.  Can you feel your hip joints and how they over-extend with no support under your knees?” WOW.  YES. Yes I can.  So I popped a pillow along so that his little legs were supported and – YES! No crying!  We have sleep!

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

Life plodded along for 6 weeks.  We were all happy.  And I was excited that Jack and I were headed back to Perth for our next Ultrasounds.  I was excited because I thought the brace might come off today.  Little did I know that no-one had explained to me that a DDH plan was NOT a short-term thing.  Our ultrasounds showed good news – his left hip had acceptable angles.  I was ecstatic. But the brace had to stay on for another 6 weeks in case of regression.  I am sure my face fell then and there.  Our Doctor then explained that the following 6 weeks wouldn’t see the end of bracing either.  If after this 6 weeks his hips were still fine, the brace would then only need to be worn at night time and naps for another few months.  All up our treatment plan would see Jack braced until he was 7 months old.

When I got home from that appointment I made some key life decisions:

  • I needed to see an infant physiotherapist – to aid with tummy time and the flat spot he was starting to get on his head.
  • I needed a different baby carrier as the Baby Bjorn was just not cutting it – it was so uncomfortable and its narrow base was hurting Jack.
  • I needed to carry Jack in a carrier more often to make it a) easier than trying to stuff him in the pram, b) stop people staring at the brace and asking about it, and c) stop his head getting flat.

Seeing the physiotherapist was GREAT!  I recommend this to ALL DDH families.  Simon came up with some really great and helpful exercises and plans to help Jack develop motor skills normally whilst being in the brace.  His core strength came along in leaps and bounds, as did his head and neck control.  Our infant health clinic kept Jack admitted right through until he was walking and without the brace.  They were simply amazing.

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Towels on the floor used for support during Tummy Time

Tummy time

Tummy time

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A session with Simon the physiotherapist

I researched Baby Carriers and was thoroughly BLOWN AWAY by a world of carriers I never knew existed.  I had only ever known of the Baby Bjorn as that is what is portrayed in media, and what our only baby store sold.  Little did I know how sub-optimal Baby Bjorn carriers are due to their narrow base that does not support the infant’s hips in a healthy position.

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(International Hip Dysplasia Institute)

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Optimal baby carrying positions – legs held in the M position for healthy hip and spine development

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Along with this realisation and research came the knowledge of swaddling and disposable nappies, and how babies’ hips work. “Improper swaddling may lead to hip dysplasia or developmental dysplasia of the hip. When in the womb the baby’s legs are in a foetal position with the legs bent up and across each other. Sudden straightening of the legs to a standing position can loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket.” – International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

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(International Hip Dysplasia.org)

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Using our Ergo baby ergonomic carrier on holidays.

As I said – oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!

I WISH that I had used cloth nappies to bulk out his crotch area, or even used a Modern Cloth Nappy over the top of his disposables.

I WISH that I had not swaddled him tightly in a wrap but had used hip friendly swaddles.

I WISH that I had a Babywearing wrap,  ring sling or soft structured carrier rather than the narrow based carrier.

I WISH I had discovered “babywearing” and had worn Jack LOTS to keep his legs up into the optimal M position.

Jack was only “borderline” and after 6 weeks of bracing his hips were fine.  If ONLY someone had told me to do the things above I am sure that we would have completely avoided bracing and he would have formed his own stable hips by 6 weeks of age.

There are a lot of “I wishes” and “if only’s” there, but you know, life is a journey and fate has its plan for all of us.  If I had never been led down the DDH path I would probably still have the Baby Bjorn carrier that is ridiculously uncomfortable and I definitely would not be a public infancy advocate educating new mothers about healthy hips; I would not have created Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers (our local sling group) and certainly I would not be the proud owner of Gold Dust Baby, one of Australia’s Baby Wearing Retailers.

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Fast forward to beyond a year.  We have had our last lot of X-rays when Jack started walking at 1 year.  We have been given a full clearance with no more x-rays needed until he is 2.  He is a HAPPY baby who is in no way developmentally delayed – if anything he is making up for those 7 months and is a complete nut job on legs!  And I have discovered a way of life that would not have presented itself to me if life had taken me down the other path.

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Many people (including pre-DDH me) lump “Babywearing” in with attachment parenting, something seen as an all-or-nothing lifestyle, but that’s just not it.  Finding these great carriers outside of popular media has let me, Jack and my family lead an active and inclusive lifestyle.  Nothing holds us back!

Gold Dust Baby was born and this has become one of the things in my life that makes me so happy and fills me with a purpose.  I am now an educator, not only through Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers, but through parenting groups and Obstetrician-held baby showers.  I wish I had been around to tell me to wear my baby in the crucial early months when stable hips are forming, to tell me to keep those legs in the optimal M position as much as possible.

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So to all of you out there who are beginning their DDH journey – yes, life gives you lemons – you just need to make some life decisions that will turn those lemons into lemonade, baked citrus tart and maybe a Corona or two!  In the end you have been led down this path for a reason.  Your job is to get yourself there and if you can take a couple of helpful hints from me to make that easier, then I am so happy that I have been able to share.

Love and BabyLegs and Babywearing!

Lyn

Gold Dust Baby

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Flying alone with a baby: survival tips and tricks

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The idea of flying solo with my busy fourteen-month-old from Perth, Australia to Durban, South Africa terrified me! I sought counsel from friends and family who’d ever traveled with a baby and filled in the gaps using blog posts and forums for any and every piece of advice that would increase my chances of a pleasant journey.

We are now back from our fantastic three weeks visiting my family and the flights went as well as they possibly could have. Below are the tips and tricks that helped me and I hope they can be useful to others about to embark on long-haul flights alone with a baby!

WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE:

  • Try keep your carry-on luggage to just one bag. A back-pack is the most practical rather than a handbag or nappy bag. This way you can sling it over both shoulders and carry it comfortably, leaving both hands free to carry baby, sort out passports etc. It also has useful compartments for storing the various bits and pieces you’ll have with you.
  • Place nappies, wipes & nappy disposal bags in a smaller bag within the backpack. When you need to change your baby’s nappy on the plane, you can just take this along with you to the tiny toilet cubicle rather than lugging a bulky bag and having to rummage through it to find your supplies. (For nappy disposal, the air hostess I spoke to said I should just place dirty nappies in the normal waste disposal bin in the toilet cubicle)
  • The same principal applies to the snacks you’re planning on taking with you: gather them up in a snack bag to make them easy to locate when your bub is tired and grumpy and you need a distraction fast! (I bought a Nude Food Movers coolskin from Woolworths, Australia and it was the perfect size with flexible material for fitting into a backpack)
  • Dummies are very useful for take-off and landing so that your baby’s ears don’t get sore. If your baby doesn’t usually have a dummy, you can either breastfeed him during these times or give him a bottle to suck. It’s a good idea to use a dummy strap to prevent it falling down and getting dirty or lost on the plane.
  • Take books to read to your baby for long waits at the airport terminal or in-flight. Don’t take too many as your baby will probably be more taken with the in-flight magazine anyway!
  • A small torch is handy for locating lost items under aeroplane seats.
  • If you have a phone with the flight mode function, you will be able to use it for entertainment for your baby while in the air. There are loads of baby-specific apps that you can download ahead of time.
  • If you are planning on using your phone as entertainment, there is the risk of running your battery down and not being able to use it when you arrive at your destination. You can solve this problem with a portable power bank, such as the ones from Juice Up. I bought mine from Dick Smith for $25.
  • Buy one or two small and inexpensive gifts to wrap up for your baby and give them to her on the trip. My baby loves necklaces and accessories so I bought bead necklaces from a kids’ accessory shop. They were an absolute hit! She wore and played with them not just on the plane but every day of the holiday too! Best three bucks I’ve ever spent…
  • A lightweight blanket is handy to have with you, not so much for on the plane – the air-hostesses will provide you with blankets – but it can be used to shield a sleeping baby from glaring lights or keep them snug while you’re walking about airports.
  • Pack a change of clothes for your baby in case of a spill or leaky nappy or a messy meal.
  • Antibacterial wipes can be used for cleaning your baby’s hands or wiping down trays before a meal. Airports and aeroplanes harbour germs from around the world and the last thing you want is your baby picking up some nasty virus to spoil your holiday.
  • Pack some snacks for you, too. You will find it very difficult to enjoy a proper meal on the plane so take snacks along for yourself to avoid running low on energy in transit.
  • To help your baby sleep comfortably while on your lap, you could purchase a travel mattress from SkyBaby. You may find, though, that trying to assemble it and get your baby into it all on your own may be too much of a challenge. They can be quite fiddly with only one set of hands. I went without one and my baby was able to sleep just fine.
  • You’re unlikely to get a chance to brush your teeth so pack some good quality gum to chew on when you need to freshen up.
  • Have a pen with you for filling in the arrival and departure cards.
  • Place all passports and travel documents in one folder or plastic sleeve for easy access. It is advisable to get your partner to write a letter giving permission for you to travel alone with your baby, and take along copies of your baby’s full, unabridged birth certificate and your marriage certificate if applicable.
  • Pack pain medication for both you and your baby in case of a pesky headache or fever en route. Dymadon for babies is a good option as it is pleasant tasting so shouldn’t be met with much resistance.
  • If you are worried that your baby will become anxious and inconsolable, take along some Rescue Remedy for kids to help soothe them naturally rather than use harsher drugs.

OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS:

  • Night flights will be easiest for you as there’s a better chance that your baby will sleep for much of the journey. Trying to keep your baby entertained for hours during a day flight will be exhausting for you and your fellow passengers.
  • If you can afford to buy a seat for your baby, there is the option of taking your car seat along and strapping your baby into it on the plane. This could help settle your baby and get them to sleep comfortably for longer. Confirm with your airline that they allow this.
  • An overtired baby is never a good thing: make sure your baby has kept to his usual nap times before you fly and is as well rested as possible. For my midnight flight, I put Lucy down to sleep at her usual bedtime then woke her up after two hours to head to the airport. This meant she was rested enough to stay reasonably cheerful during the check in and boarding process.
  • When you book your flight, be sure to request a meal for your baby. Don’t assume the airline will provide one unless you’ve asked for it.
  • Eating your own meal on the flight may prove impossible as your baby will probably want to make a grab at everything on the tray. It might be less stressful for you to just decline the meals and eat at the airport before you fly and survive on snacks during the flight.
  • Consider checking yourself in to one of the airport lounges while you wait for your flight. They are quieter, more comfortable spaces to try settle your baby and get them to nap if needed before the trip. They have nicer baby changing facilities and should have snacks available for you. You’ll have to do your research beforehand to see if the airports you’ll be in have such a service available. At Perth airport, the lounges are only available to members or passengers of certain airlines but at Johannesburg airport they allow any passengers to use the lounges for a fee.
  • Once you have finally boarded the plane, you will probably have at least two more hours of bright lights, noise and activity before your baby can drift off to sleep in a dark cabin. Even on midnight flights you will be served supper and drinks. This is another good reason to make sure your baby isn’t over-tired before you fly.
  • The chances of you getting any sleep while in the air are slim to none. Try to have a nap yourself before you leave for the airport.
  • When you check in, ask if it’s possible to book a seat with a spare seat next to it. At least this will allow you some extra space either to have your bag right next to you or for your wriggly baby to crawl and stand a bit on the flight.
  • If you have requested a bassinet, there is no guarantee that you will get one. They are assigned to the youngest babies plus there are weight and height restrictions and your baby may prove too big for it.
  • When you board, ask one of the hostesses to show you which toilet cubicle is equipped with a change table as not all of them are.
  • Some airlines do not allow breastfeeding on takeoff and landing. If you’re willing to risk it, you can probably still sneak it in once the cabin staff are seated and no longer walking around checking. (If you look at the brace position they advise you to adopt when holding a baby, it’s actually very similar to the breastfeeding cradle hold.
  • If you are planning on breastfeeding during the flight, you may want to request a bigger pillow from business class to help you support your baby comfortably. Be aware that the seats are very narrow, which make breastfeeding a challenge unless you’ve got a spare seat next to you.
  • Anticipate that you will be very uncomfortable on the flight. When you baby falls asleep on your lap, you won’t want to move in case you wake her.
  • The hours of discomfort while your baby sleeps on you can be made more bearable by watching movies or listening to music. Plan ahead for this by getting the headsets plugged in and ready for use so that you can get them on without moving around too much and waking up your baby.
  • Going to the toilet is going to be a challenge for you at all stages of the journey! At airports, look for the disabled toilets as they are bigger and can accommodate a pram. If there is no sweet person who offers to hold your baby so you can go to the loo during the flight, I can confirm that it is possible to seat your baby on your knee while in the toilet cubicle!! It’s not ideal but if you are desperate, it can be done!
  • Some airports will have loan prams available for use but you may prefer to take along your own pram rather than risk having to carry your baby around for long periods of time. It also means that you will have it with you to use on your holiday. You should be able to take the pram right up to the door of the plane but check with the airline you’re using whether this is the case.
  • If you’d rather not take a pram, consider taking a sling for carrying your baby around the airport, if your baby is not too heavy.
  • If you are going through passport control, there may be quite a long wait before you can collect your pram and other luggage. Try to find a loan pram to use in the interim so you’re not having to carry your baby all this time.
  • When you collect your luggage off the carousel, you may find that your pram is not with it. Have a look at the collection point for unusual or outsize items which will be located in the vicinity of the baggage carousels and you should find it there.
  • You won’t be able to push a pram and a trolley. Neither will you be able to put your baby in the trolley – they’re not equipped for babies like the shopping trolleys you’re used to. I used a suitcase with wheels for my luggage then a duffle bag for Lucy. At the airport, I placed the duffle bag on top of the suitcase and secured it by putting the straps over the suitcase handle so I could wheel it around with one hand while pushing the pram with the other hand. It’s not easy going but I have proved it is possible! If this sounds too difficult, there are probably ways of getting assistance or a porter at the airport.
  • If you have crossed time zones, both you and your baby are likely to suffer from jet lag and the resulting disrupted sleep. The rough guideline is one night of disrupted sleep per time zone crossed. There is a six hour time difference between Perth and South Africa and Lucy had exactly six nights of poor sleep on arrival and return!

20 Spica(and brace)-friendly Ideas for Keeping Babies Happy

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Lucy went into a spica when she was seven months old, which is around the time many babies start to crawl and get more mobile. I found it quite a challenge to keep her engaged and stimulated for three months and tried to find spica-friendly activities to do together. Some great ideas came from these sources:

* the various babycentre sites (.com, .au and .uk)

* www.thestay-at-home-momsurvivalguide.com

* www.babble.com

I’ve tried to keep the activities simple, cost-effective and do-able for non-creative types like me!  If you can get hold of/make a spica table, don’t hesitate. I think it is essential for keeping our bubs happy when they’re all plastered up.

I hope that you can find something here to try with your little one and would love to hear from you if you have activities to add to this list.

1. Visit a dog exercise area

1397618631559This is something Lucy and I do regularly because we have a dog – Stella – a Staffordshire Terrier (awesome family dogs if you’re thinking about getting one!) Lucy absolutely loves watching the dogs run around and play with each other and it keeps her entertained for ages. She doesn’t mind at all when they get boisterous and bump into the pram – it just adds to the fun!

 

 

2. Tear up a catalogue

Those annoying advertising spreads that clog up your postbox can become your New Best Friends when you realise their potential! I prop Lucy on the couch next to me and she rips up catalogues while I read the paper/have a cup of tea/check emails/whatever for a few minutes. The delight it gives her makes the tidy-up afterwards completely worthwhile.

 

3. Goodie box

1397615186394Gather a few items from around the house that you think may be of interest to your little one. Put them in a box and present it to them to open and explore the contents. I like to put a ribbon around the box for an added challenge. This can be done endlessly, as the most random thing can hold her attention more than any of her usual toys. This is one of my favourite activities!

 

 

4. Sign language

Now is as good a time as any to introduce your bub to sign language while they are forced to sit still and pay attention! Hop onto YouTube for little video clips to watch and then put the signs into practice during your daily routine. There’s a lovely Baby Einstein one that Lucy and I watch.

 

5. Go for a ride

1398057253824We have a little device called a Corn Popper which was given to us for when Lucy is older but she loves it when I pop her on the seat and hold her hands on the handlebars while whizzing her around the house or yard. The added bonus is that it provides an intense workout for your rear end and hamstrings 🙂 There are lots of different contraptions out there so it doesn’t have to be a Corn Popper that you use.

 

6. Rhyme Time

Our local libraries in Australia run a fabulous, free program for babies and toddlers called Rhyme Time. Unfortunately we’ve only made it to one so far due to nap times clashing with the sessions. I know rhymes are important for language development so we’ve come up with a Plan B: the libraries give out Rhyme Time dvd’s in a little goodie bag when the babies are a few weeks old. I pop it into the dvd player and we have our own private session of Rhyme Time, following along and enjoying singing and doing actions together. This way we get to do it when Lucy is fresh and cheerful and can stop it at any time when she’s had enough. When she’s a bit older we’ll get to the proper sessions but this is a good alternative for now.

 

7. Play dates at the park

1398058669395I’m sure you do this already as it’s a pretty obvious way of keeping mums and bubs socialised and happy. One thing I do to encourage social interaction for a spica-clad, immobile baby is to take along Lucy’s modified Bumbo for her to sit in. The other babies are inevitably drawn to this strange contraption and crawl over to investigate! Lucy has more interaction this way than if I am holding her.

 

 

8. Play with food

1397569580531Lucy is now starting to understand that things fit into different categories. I use lunch time to play around with this concept by chopping up finger foods and putting them into little tupperwares with different coloured lids. I sit her at her spica table and give her the tupperwares to explore, talking about what is in each one. We then open the lids and tip out the contents. Eventually she’ll be able to sort the foods back into the tupperwares but that’s a bit advanced for now. When I tidy up the scraps at the end of lunch, I put them back into their allocated containers and talk about what I’m doing. A lunch sitting can last nearly an hour – that’s how engaging she finds all this!

9. Play with scarves

1397615407203Colourful scarves lend themselves to all sorts of games for babies. The original idea was to tie them together and put them in a box for Lucy to pull out. It didn’t quite go to plan so I improvised and dressed up our dog instead 🙂 She was very accommodating – any attention is better than no attention!  Pull your scarves out the cupboard and see how your baby responds and go with the flow…

 

 

 

10. Wrap up toys

Unwrapping one of her 'presents'

Unwrapping one of her ‘presents’

Gather a few toys that haven’t been played with for a while and wrap them in gift paper. Put them in a bag and let your baby rummage through the bag and unwrap the ‘presents’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Read books

My little book worm

My little book worm

One of our favourite regular outings is to the local library to take out books for Lucy. The library has a huge selection of books for babies and a lovely play area too. I started reading to Lucy very early on and at one stage I nearly gave up because all she wanted to do was grab the book out of my hands. Thankfully I persevered but now stick to just the board books which can sustain rough handling and I allow Lucy to turn the pages while I’m reading. She has become an avid little reader and I often walk into her room when she’s woken from a nap and find her lying there with an open book in her hands and one on her lap. As an English teacher, I couldn’t be more thrilled 🙂

 

12. iPad games

talking-tomI confess I’m a bit old-fashioned in terms of not wanting Lucy too device-savvy at a young age. I don’t let her play with my phone or iPad even though there are lots of apps that have been developed for babies. There is, however, one app that I have used with Lucy and she absolutely loves it: Talking Tom! I figure it’s good for aiding her speech development since the cat repeats everything she says.There is a free version available but I recommend buying the app so that you’re not inundated with annoying adverts. It’s a great one to have on your phone for when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and need to keep bub entertained.

 

13. Two-handed clacking

Future drummer?

Future drummer?

This is handy for when you need to keep your bub busy while you’re cooking. I move Lucy’s spica table into the kitchen and give her wooden spoons and spatulas etc to make some noise with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Videos on on your phone

Like most parents I can’t resist taking lots of videos of Lucy being cute. I often play them back to her and she is absolutely captivated by them! When I get videos of my nephew doing cute things I show them to her too. Babies love watching babies!

 

15. Play with bubbles

There is a gorgeous video clip of a baby in hysterics watching her dog eat bubbles. If you haven’t seen it before, please pause and give it a watch – her giggles are contagious! I haven’t quite had that reaction yet from Lucy and our dog hasn’t quite eaten the bubbles that enthusiastically but I am going to persevere because, well, it’s fun.

 

16. Paint swatch sorter

Playing with paint swatches

Playing with paint swatches

Visit a paint shop and gather up a selection of free colour swatches. At home, get a yoghurt or icecream tub and cut a slot in the lid. Play with the swatches together with your baby, discussing the different colours, then show her how to put them into the container through the slot. It doesn’t matter if she chews or bends them because you can just get a fresh batch when they get tired.

 

 

17. Aeroplane

Lucy hates – I mean hates – tummy time but I know it’s especially good for her in the spica to help prevent pressure sores. One fun way of getting her onto her tummy is to do the old favourite aeroplane trick (lying on your back with your baby resting on your shins). She gets to see the world from a different angle and I sneak in tummy time without her even realising it.

 

18. Join a toy library

1400075732813This has been a lifesaver for us. After a few months of playing with the same old toys, Lucy was so bored of them but buying new ones can get very expensive. We have joined a toy library and pay $60 for a year’s membership. It is worth every cent for the amount of toys we now have at our disposal and I can experiment with different toys to see which ones she likes without having to buy them first and potentially waste a lot of money on things she has little interest in.

 

 

19. Visit the zoo or a farm – without driving anywhere!

A visit to the farm!

A visit to the farm!

A friend of ours kindly passed on a box full of toy animals when her girls grew too old for them. We’ve been having a lot of fun with them – some days we visit the farm and learn the names and noises of all the farm animals. On other days we visit the African plains where lions and zebra and giraffe roam (what noise does a giraffe make, anyone?!)

 

 

 

20. Make a collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

When you go for a walk, take a bag with you and collect little bits and pieces of interest as you go. When you get home, create a collage on paper or card and talk about all the things you saw on your walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to expand this list so please let me know what else you’ve been doing to keep your babies happy!

Skin and the Spica

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In the words of one of the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital: “Spica’s are notoriously hard to work with.” This was in response to the state of Lucy’s skin when her spica was removed last week – two weeks before it was scheduled to come off.

While we are doing everything we can to get Lucy’s hips better, Lucy’s body seems to be sabotaging our efforts. It refused to be shackled by the Pavlik Harness (read about that story here) and it reacted very badly to being in a cast for what should have been three months.

RASHY BUM

About a week and a half into the spica, Jon and I discovered that Lucy’s skin on her lower back/top of bottom was looking badly chafed. We weren’t sure how to treat it because we’d been told that no creams or powders were allowed. We decided the best thing would be to create a barrier between her skin and the cast so we placed a cloth nappy insert to line that area. Fortunately there was enough space to do so. I know a lot of casts fit too snugly for this method to work.

The skin was looking terrible and started peeling and then Lucy developed a temperature. On the second day of her temperature reading above 38 degrees celcius I decided to take her in to the hospital to be seen to in case she had developed an infection. Typically, it happened to be a Saturday which meant I could only take her to the Emergency wing rather than Orthopaedics.

The staff on duty weren’t too familiar with spicas and we were due to take Lucy for a 3-week check-up with her specialist in a few days’ time. After examining Lucy, they concluded that her temperature was unlikely to be linked to the condition of her skin and advised me to give her Panadol to keep her fever down. They also took a skin scraping to send to the lab to check for a fungal infection, and said I should discuss it further with the specialist on Wednesday.

Fortunately her fever came down on the third day and by the time we went for her check-up the skin was looking a lot better. (The cloth nappy insert proved to be a very effective addition to our nappy system and we used it for the duration of the spica, changing it at least twice a day. Lucy never had another skin problem in that area.) When I raised the issue with the specialist he wasn’t remotely concerned about it and said that he had seen some pretty ghastly skin conditions in his dealings with spicas but that it was worth it for the good achieved by the spica. He didn’t even take a look at her skin! The lab results showed that the skin didn’t have a fungal infection.  Interestingly, he said we should go ahead and use the usual Sudocrem or similar to treat any rashes (even though all the info I’ve read from various sources advises against doing so!)

WEEPING SKIN

I must say I was a bit taken aback by the callous manner of the specialist and the way he told me- basically – to suck it up and let the spica do its job. So when we encountered our next skin-woes we felt that we should try and manage it as best we could rather than take her back to the hospital. This time, after about a month of being in the cast, we noticed that Lucy’s skin on her upper thighs were starting to weep a bit. It was tricky to see exactly what was happening inside the cast but a yellowy-fluid was making its way out the cast and onto the edges of her nappy. We used a damp cloth to try clean the skin then dried the area before placing sanitary liners on the inside edges of the cast to soak up the fluid and create a barrier between the cast and the skin. We noticed an improvement after a few days of doing this.

Less than a week before she was due for her 6-week spica change, her skin took a turn for the worse and this time, not only was it weeping but it started to smell rotten. Again, it was on the weekend when this happened so I called the plaster room at the hospital to ask them what I should do. They said to wait until her cast change on Wednesday and the doctors would decide whether to put the new cast on or let the skin heal for a few days before fitting the new cast.

Cast change day was a long ordeal (more details here) and when Lucy came out of theatre she had on a new cast. I assumed that either her skin wasn’t too badly affected or they had doctored it in some way so that they could still put the new cast on.

The first two weeks of the new cast went by incident-free and fresh-smelling but week three brought a return of the weeping skin. Again we tried to manage it ourselves and this time used diluted dettol to clean the skin and prevent infection. We used bamboo nappy liners on the inside edges of the cast and changed them morning and night. The dettol seemed to work and when we went for Lucy’s three week check-up the staff at the plaster room had a look under the cast when I raised my concerns with them. Firstly they told me off for putting the liners inside the cast, then they said that all they could see was dead skin and that that was perfectly normal. When I explained the weeping skin to them they said they had never seen that before. I was told to bring her back in if it happened again.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

This is what was oozing out of Lucy's cast

This is what was oozing out of Lucy’s cast

 

Well, it did happen again. And with a vengeance. We tried our usual cleaning and disinfecting and drying and bamboo-lining but it got worse. One morning the smell had become so bad and the colour of the liquid oozing from her cast had turned a brown colour and I knew that the spica had to come off. I took her to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for over three hours before we finally made it into the plaster room. The staff took one look (and smell) of the liner I pulled out and they agreed with my verdict.

 

 

THE CAST COMES OFF EARLY

Lucy's thigh a day after the cast came off

Lucy’s thigh a day after the cast came off

The sight of Lucy’s skin under the cast was not a pretty one. Her left thigh was bright red and oozing and angry. One of the nurses asked me if no one had told us not to put anything down the cast, implying that we had caused this breakdown of skin. At the time I was trying to console my screaming baby and didn’t have the strength to defend myself against her accusation masked as concern. Later on at home when I had a chance to properly examine Lucy’s skin, I could see that the areas we’d been able to reach to clean and disinfect were a lot better off than the unreachable areas so I don’t think we did too badly in nursing her at home. Unfortunately you just can’t see what is happening under most of the cast so you’re pretty powerless to fix it all.

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

The hospital gave us some loose dressing to place on her skin under the Rhino brace and advised that the best thing for the skin was air, rather than something like Sudocrem which forms a barrier on the skin. For the first few days we didn’t put any leggings on Lucy so that as much air as possible could reach her skin and promote healing.

 

 

MY HYPOTHESIS

I’m not a doctor therefore not qualified to explain why Lucy’s skin reacted the way it did to being in the spica. I know that when she first went into the cast she had a fungal nappy rash. Perhaps this had something to do with it? With the second cast, the left side was a much tighter fit than the right side so less air was able to get in there and dry up the inevitable urine that sneaks in no matter how careful you are. I also suspect that on the day her spica was changed the doctors should have opted to leave it off for a few days to give it a chance to heal. It was late in the day and her procedure had almost been cancelled but the anaesthetist had pushed for them to go ahead with it. They probably just hoped for the best rather than delay her treatment.

THE ROAD AHEAD

One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

I have been amazed by how quickly her skin has healed. It looked dreadful the first few days as the skin dried and peeled but after just a week it is almost completely better.

We are having an x-ray this week on the day that her spica was supposed to come off. In the meantime we have been told to keep her in the Rhino brace for two weeks on top of the six weeks full-time and six weeks nights only that was originally prescribed.

Hannah’s Story

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This is my friend Megan’s account of her daughter’s journey with DDH. I hope you will find it encouraging to read a Pavlik Harness success story!

HELLO BABY!

Until I became a parent I had always been a firm believer that if you are determined, and you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.  Then I had a baby.   The loss of control started while I was pregnant when Hannah remained in the breech position and was so firmly wedged into my rib cage and pelvis it was deemed pointless to try and turn her (via the ECV procedure described by Jen in her earlier posts).  In the UK there is no option of attempting a breech natural birth (although in New Zealand they seem to think that is an excellent option :-0), so months of hypnobirth training in preparation for what I imagined being a tranquil, earth mother labour with dreamy music and hallmark card endings was shelved for an elective Caesarian at 39 weeks.  It ended up a  fairly harrowing day of waiting while emergency after emergency shunted me to the end of the day WITH NO FOOD (the worst part!).  It was a less than ideal start from my perfectionist viewpoint.

Being a first born, female, breech baby with genetic predisposition ticked all the boxes for potential hip problems.  Luckily in the UK, and in New Zealand where we now live, there are screening programs to check all newborn babies hips.  If you have a breech baby you are additionally sent for an ultrasound screening of the hips at six weeks.  Hannah’s hips were checked at birth and no problems were found.  I didn’t think much more about it.  The six week check-up came and I had been totally focused on trying to establish breastfeeding, which was still not going particularly well. My ‘work hard, achieve anything’ ethic led me to doggedly persevere and it was taking all the energy I had to cope with the discomfort and the worry that a lack of milk was the reason our darling Hannah was a ‘non-sleeper’.

THE APPOINTMENT

Jared didn’t come with me to The Appointment because I didn’t think much was going to happen.   As anyone with a young baby will know, trips out with a baby are a mission.  Timing is everything – naps, feeding and nappy changes have to be planned with military precision.  Bags are prepared well in advance.  Of course I know all that now, but back in those days it was just chaos, and stress levels were high whenever I had to get to any appointment.  Both this visit, and what became many subsequent visits involved long periods of waiting in the waiting room. I was trying to breastfeed using nipple shields that would fall off during the feeds.  Milk would spray everywhere and Hannah would scream.  I was a very long way from the happy hippy mummy I had envisioned in my head!

With that stage set, we finally went into our appointment and the consultant, who was remarkably lacking in empathy and compassion for a paediatric doctor, soon let me know there was a problem. She made a comment along the lines of “oooh that’s not good” when looking at Hannah’s hip socket, whipped out her ruler and spent an age drawing angles on the print out of her ultrasound.  We had to return a couple of weeks later and have a Pavlik Harness fitted.  I battled to take it all in, and the reality only really hit me when I got home and started googling ‘Pavlik Harness’.  The nightmare that is Google also provided me with a lot of information as to what could happen if the Pavlik Harness treatment did not work.  I was officially freaking out.

SOCKS?  WHAT SOCKS?

The UK is fortunate to have a wonderful, if controversial, public health system that allows potentially debilitating problems like hip dysplasia be diagnosed and treated for free, but it also means resources are stretched and one very quickly becomes a cog in a wheel.  Beside Google, I had very little preparation for what was to come.  Arriving the following week to have the Pavlik fitted (slightly better prepared for the trip, but not much!) I was asked where Hannah’s socks were.  Socks?  Apparently one was supposed to bring long socks that reached up to her mid-thigh to protect her very delicate skin from chafing, especially behind the knee’s where sweat can cause a nasty rash.  So we had no socks, and I was already feeling like I had failed to look after my baby.  **Disclaimer – I can’t totally confirm I did not receive sock advice during our first visit.  I was in a daze – they could have told me anything.

Buddha baby (no long socks) but still smiling

Buddha baby (no long socks) but still smiling

The harness was to remain on 24 hours a day and we were to bring Hannah in once a week to ‘bath’ and have the harness adjusted.  That meant that besides the socks, the harness was on her naked skin, and clothes worn on top of it.  Nappies had to be woven through the harness straps.  Not everyone has this treatment method.  Often one is allowed to remove the harness daily to give your baby a quick wash, which means the harness can be worn over clothes.  Our consultant was fairly hard core though, saying that if we wanted the best for our baby, we should not remove it.  I know she meant well, and was doing her job, but I confess I did not have warm fuzzy feelings for her at this stage.  I needed someone to blame for how dreadful I was feeling, and she fit the bill nicely.  If I got tearful, which happened pretty much every week in the early days when Hannah would scream through the entire appointment, she would basically tell me to man up, as we were doing what needed to be done.

A SOLID LITTLE BUDDHA

Hair washing

Hair washing

Picking Hannah up for the first time in her harness almost broke my heart.  My floppy cuddly baby was a solid little Buddha baby!  I was sorely lacking in perspective, but I felt like my baby was broken.  I could barely look at her without tears on that first day, and yet I needed to cuddle her close constantly to assuage the guilt I felt for putting her through this treatment.  It must be said that she seemed absolutely fine.  Smiling, happy enough, and overall not too bothered at all.  The first few nights we were told to give her some paracetamol as she would be suffering from some stiffness from her legs being held in the lateral position.  Her sleep was still pretty dreadful, but not necessarily worse than before.  I got the hang of breastfeeding her pretty quickly with the help of some gymnastics and pillows to find a good position.  Nappy changes quickly became a doddle, and perhaps easier than before since her legs were trapped in position instead of waving about with poo going everywhere.  The worst thing we had to deal with was the rubbing of the harness on her skin.  We wrapped surgical tape around the hard velcro bits, and I tried wrapping fabric around some of it, but she still suffered from rub marks on her delicate skin throughout the treatment.

Vital!  Our GAP snow suit that could fit Hannah’s legs in the harness position

Vital! Our GAP snow suit that could fit Hannah’s legs in the harness position

Not being able to bath her led to some nasty rashes and peeling skin  behind her knees in particular.  We did do the odd hair wash at home (see picture) and did a ‘top ‘n tail’ every night to keep things fresh and stick to a night time routine I was trying to implement to improve our bedtimes, which were long and arduous.  Finding clothes that fit was also a problem, as it was mid-winter in the UK.  All the onesies I had bought or been given were useless as we couldn’t take the harness off to change them, so she had a couple of pairs of baggy trousers and tops as a standard uniform during the Pavlik Period.  I also bought an awesome snow suit that had a sleeping bag like bottom for venturing out in.  We also had to buy a proper cot, as she had previous been in a hammock which didn’t work at all with her legs in the froggie position.  Luckily the car seat was not a problem – we used a Maxi Cosi Cabriolet and the Pavlik fit fine within it.  A life saver in terms of containing Hannah so I had my hands free on the odd occasion was the Baby Bjorn seat.

Baby Bjorn seat - a lifesaver!

Baby Bjorn seat – a lifesaver!

The following week I took Hannah in for her first ‘bath’ at the hospital. Truly I was expecting to be able to bath her – but it turned out the harness came off, I wiped her down with a cloth and the harness would go back on.  I had been so excited about this first bath I had taken a rubber ducky with me for her to play with.  I felt a bit foolish, and once again VERY sorry for myself and my baby.  When I look back at it, I have to laugh though.  What would an 8-week-old do with a rubber ducky?  This time I had brought socks, and we had to apply a drying cream behind her knees as the skin was already inflamed and peeling off in places.  This became our routine for the next six weeks that we were initially told Hannah was going to be in the harness.  Six weeks became eight weeks and then after nine weeks and we were given the joyous news that the harness could come off as her hip socket angles were within normal range.

THE END IN SIGHT

My happy girl in her uniform

My happy girl in her uniform

At the beginning of this journey I felt such sorrow – that my baby had physical problems, along with guilt -I blamed myself for her being breech, a bit of anger  – that we were going through this when everyone else in my post-natal group had had perfect pain-relief free natural births and babies with no issues.  Looking back though, with the perspective that time gives, I can see that this experience was an important part of the crash course that came with becoming a parent after a decade of being career-driven, footloose and fancy free.  Nothing had prepared me for how helpless and vulnerable an ailing child can make you feel, and the total loss of control you experience when a little person comes into your life.  I feel quite embarrassed now at how much I battled with our hip dysplasia problems in my early months of being a mum, despite being aware that many people had far bigger challenges to deal with.  Hip dysplasia is a relatively common, potentially debilitating, but extremely treatable problem, and the treatment that babies receive these days prevent a number of problems in later life.  The most important lesson I learnt was that stuff happens, whether you deserve it or not, no matter how hard you work to prevent it, but the legacy it leaves is a direct result of how you view the experience.

THE OUTCOME

Harness off but can't shake the frog position!

Harness off but can’t shake the frog position!

I am happy to say that Hannah had six monthly check ups until she was two years old, and then was released from the hip program.  She started crawling at around seven months, and although she was a late walker, finally walking at around 15 months, it was late but not that late.  These days, at three and a half, she seems to think walking is a waste of time, and is usually found running.  She is an absolute delight and I am so proud of her.  My darling girl has taught me a huge amount in her three and a half years.  I can’t wait to see where the next few take us.

My pride and joy aged 3

My pride and joy aged 3

 

My Contribution to the Parenting Lexicon

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Becoming a parent means familiarising yourself with a bewildering number of new terms to do with babies. Your first few visits to the midwife or obstetrician may feel like you’re having to learn a new language altogether but by the time you have safely delivered your precious bundle of joy, you bandy these words about like a medical professional while chatting over cups of coffee at mothers’ group. 

Sometimes, despite your greatly expanded post-bub vocabulary, you just can’t seem to find the perfect word to fit your experience and you have to make one up to do the job. There are three that I have coined since having a baby:

You get a thermometer. You get a spedometer. And then you get an

  • f-bombeter

noun

1. a system of measuring and indicating mental health or stress based on the frequency of thought or uttered f-bombs.

Now, I hate the f-word. Hate. Hate. Hate. It never featured in our house growing up. Hearing it makes me cringe. And I have never been able to say it out loud. It is a deplorable word. So when I find myself thinking the word or – gasp – muttering it under my breath (never with any volume or vehemence – just muttered)  then little warning bells go off in my brain. This is a signal that perhaps I need to slow down a bit, get some rest or ask someone for help because if I have stooped to such a level as to use that word, then I can’t be doing too well. 

My second new term is:

  • mockingbird night

idiom

1. a difficult night for a parent during which their child resists going to bed and repeated verses of the lullaby ‘Hush Little Baby’ are sung in an attempt to get the child to sleep.

The beauty of this particular lullaby is that you can just keep making up verses as you go, coming up with all sorts of wild and wonderful items to buy your little cherub (though they totally don’t deserve these gifts at this point!) I have tried a few times to learn the original lyrics but I just can’t seem to get them right. So instead, Lucy has been promised golden larks that turn brown, bales of hay that get burnt, diamond rings that are fake, and other such things that get increasingly silly the tireder I get. The plus side of these silly verses is that they often make me giggle and this makes me feel better despite the fact that my child just WILL NOT SLEEP!

And thirdly:

  • napalysis

noun

1. the moment of paralysing indecision faced by a parent when their child has gone down for a nap and they have to choose how they will spend their free time.

One day I was particularly flummoxed by my many options and actually wrote them down to use as raw material for this post. This was my list – in no particular order:

  1. Unpack the groceries from the car
  2. Finish washing the dishes I’d started hours earlier
  3. Make a new batch of food to freeze for Lucy
  4. Take the washing off the line
  5. Sort the groceries should I choose to fetch them from the car
  6. Have a nap
  7. Have a cup of tea
  8. Unpack the dishwasher
  9. Gather tiling ideas for the bathrooms in our new house
  10. Wrap a present and write in a card for a friend’s birthday
  11. Read the magazine that my husband bought on subscription for me for Christmas and which I never seem to get to
  12. Remove the chipped, month-old nail polish from my toenails
  13. Read my Bible
  14. Catch up on the tv episode I had missed the night before because Lucy took hours to go to bed
  15. Play with my dog
  16. Catch up on months of filing since the dining room table was barely visible under the piles of paperwork
  17. Check the postbox

What makes the decision-making that much harder is that you just don’t know how long you’ve got. It may be that your baby usually sleeps for one hour but there’s no guarantee that’s how long she’ll sleep today. This means that you tend to choose the most urgent options – usually the chores – and plan on doing the more relaxing, nice things second. So that lovely, hot cup of tea that you put off until you’ve unpacked the groceries etc etc usually gets poured the same moment that the baby wakes up and the poor dog simply never gets played with other than her daily walk and the magazines stack up next to your bed, gathering dust. 

So let’s put these new terms into a sentence:

After a few successive mockingbird nights, my f-bombeter was indicating dangerous levels; there was no room for napalysis: I had to sleep. 

I’m quite sure I’m not the only parent making up new words and phrases as I go. Anyone else got some to share?