“A baby has a right to be loved, but not be the centre of attention” – The wisdom of WaddiloveMarch 23, 2016
She has helped everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to… me. I sat down with childcare expert Rachel Waddilove for several cups of tea and here we share her advice, from breastfeeding to the problems facing modern mums
I did my training at St Thomas’ hospital in London as a maternity nurse in the days before the pill and the abortion act came in, so when I did my training at college there were lots and lots of new babies. When I was there women stayed in for up to two weeks after having a baby, so by the time mum went home she’d had a nice rest, the milk had come in and they were in a routine.
I recommend getting into a routine as soon as possible, introducing a three hourly routine in the early weeks for feeding. If they’re breastfed you’ll often find that the baby will naturally slip into it.
At home it’s now six hours in the hospital after giving birth, and it has had a huge impact on mums’ ability to breastfeed. And then the world asks why women and aren’t breastfeeding, and it’s obvious. Open your eyes. They go home, and there’s nobody to help. We have health visitors, but they’re not there all the time and there’s no doubt in my mind that’s why mums struggle, and they get depressed, baby doesn’t sleep, and mum is exhausted, especially if she had a traumatic delivery.
Social media has put so much pressure on women who think ‘I ought to be able to do it’ and many, many women just can’t.
ON SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT
As they get older, if you have a baby that’s waking in the night, it’s often because of food. You have to make sure they’re well-fed and there’s no other way. You have to be firm.
When they’re young, they don’t need to be carried around for hours. They need to be fed well, and put down. Feed from both sides if you’re breastfeeding, or if it’s bottle feeding then you know how much they’re having, wind them, swaddle them and put them down.
If a toddler is waking in the night, they won’t be hungry if they’re eating plenty during the day, so don’t get into the habit of a bottle. I’d do some controlled crying. The baby will be standing up in their cot, shouting, hands on the bars. The normal thing that they all do.
So you go in – don’t go straight away you don’t want to reward for this behaviour – but if the baby isn’t going to settle, go in and say that it’s night night time, and that you love them, unpeel their hands from the cot and lie them down in their favourite sleeping position, rubbing the head and back.
If that doesn’t work, leave the room. Leave it longer the next time, so if it was three or four minutes the first time, then five or six the second time.
If they’re teething, rub in some granules or give some Calpol, and of course if the baby is sick then you need to comfort them and offer some water.
It’s very common for them to suddenly wake up early, after doing a good night’s sleep for months. Just try to leave them. At one they’re too young for Gro-Clocks so it’s an absolute ‘no, you’re not coming out’. And they’ll shout. But you need to be persist and persevere. Just keep on keeping on. They’ll get it after a few days or a week, but there might be the odd bad night, but if the baby has been a good sleeper before, you know they can do it again.
Babies need to come out of their parents’ bedroom as soon as you’re happy and ready. Husbands are ready a bit earlier! The mum needs to feel comfortable, and it’s perfectly okay for the baby go into their own room early on. If you’re in a smaller house and it’s just across the landing then leave the bedroom doors open, you don’t even need a monitor. Sometimes an en-suite bathroom does the trick! And it’s great when you’re on holiday too.
It’s much easier for a baby to sleep, and for you to leave that baby, when it’s making little noises (which they do all night, of course) when they’re in their own room. They’ll learn to settle themselves more easily.
If women choose to demand feed, co-sleep, attachment parenting, that’s their choice and who am I to say that they shouldn’t? But it is much more difficult to teach a baby to sleep.
ON A BABY’S PLACE IN THE FAMILY
A baby has a right to be loved, but not be the centre of attention. A baby has a right to be cherished, cared for, and nurtured but not be the kingpin of the family. Because I have come across so many families where EVERYTHING revolves around the baby, and it’s not good for the child because life isn’t like that. It’s not good for husband and wife, either. It’s a huge problem in this part of the world.
A child has a place in the family, and it’s not at the top. And when you have another baby, then it can cause problems, because the firstborn who was the kingpin then suddenly everything goes out of kilter.
ON HAVING A SECOND CHILD
When a second baby comes along, the most importance thing is keeping the first one’s routine as normal as possible. It’s a balance, because you want to get the newborn into a routine, but you don’t want to jeopardise everything else. It’s important that the first baby continues to feel loved and nurtured, and you might find that everything is all right for the first few months, and it’s only when the new baby is starting to take people’s attention that the jealousy sets in.
You have to be firm, and you can’t have the older one bashing the baby. Watch out for that, as toddlers can be a bit vicious from time to time. Balance the love and the care, but these things happen in family life – and it passes. Hold onto that!
ON GETTING OFF THE BOTTLE (AND DUMMY)
By the time they’re a year, you can start weaning off the bottle to a sippy cup. They don’t need the sucking in the second year, as it can hamper speech. It’s a good idea to wind it down, offering the cup during the day, and maybe a bottle at bedtime.
As for weaning off the dummy, if it’s being used for settling, and the baby won’t do anything without the dummy – and is waking continually in the night for it – then take it away. Go cold turkey. If it was me, I’d get rid of them, but that’s quite tough.
There are some very good nurseries, but there isn’t a right age for a child to go. And there’s no real difference between girls and boys. If you can be home with your little one for the first year, then that’s brilliant. But there are lots of mums who want to go back to work, or who have to.
Some mums love being at home with their little one, but others just don’t. I was lucky that I could be at home with ours, and I was a farmer’s wife, so we had plenty of space, but if that wasn’t the case I might have been climbing the walls!
When choosing a nursery visit a lot, take your child, spend some time there and talk to the mums who send their children there. Here you don’t get those toddler groups run by church and you pay a few pounds for the morning. That’s what young mums need. It’s hard for mums out here.
ON MODERN PARENTING PROBLEMS
Sleep problems are much more of a modern thing. Years and years ago babies were in a routine, and most babies were pretty good sleepers. What has changed is the lack of care in hospital at the beginning, and too much knowledge. The internet. Now mothers look on the internet, thinking there’s something wrong with their babies, when there’s nothing wrong at all. They’re most likely overtired and need a sleep, but are showing all sorts of other symptoms and mums get worried.
In the UK, women are having children much later. When women have children in their twenties, they tend to just get on with it. When they’re older they’re more likely to have heard more and read more, they know far too much and can get in a muddle.