Healing from a difficult birth for baby

After a difficult vacuum extraction birth for our son Oisín, we were relieved that he was okay. We brought him home only 9 hours after he was born, and the hospital treated the birth like a routine birth. We were told to have the regular check ups like everybody else. We had some issues due to the unnaturally fast birth and the vacuum extraction and I’d like to share what helped Oisín to get back to full health!

Newborn baby Oisín

Oisín slept a lot at the very beginning and the midwives warned us that he was a bit too yellow (jaundiced). They said it was very important he got enough milk and vitamin D to help with that (so while I was still in bed a lot, dad sat with him in the garden outside often as well as giving him a supplement). It wasn’t until later that I found out that babies delivered by vacuum extraction are more likely to develop jaundice. Luckily in my La Leche League book they had some tips on how to get a sleepy jaundiced newborn to nurse. I couldn’t wake him up because he was so sleepy but I managed to express some milk onto a teaspoon and get some into him that way. It seemed to perk him up pretty well and after a day of this he was nursing better, and gained weight steadily.

For the next 2 months Oisín was nursing a lot, and I thought it was even more than a normal baby would (at least once an hour). I was nursing on demand anyway and no regrets about that – if a baby wants comfort, they need comfort! He also kept making grunting noises and would cry a lot. There’s a term for babies who “cry a lot” and that’s a “high needs baby”. People think high needs babies are normal and that it is just a personality trait, but I didn’t buy that. Something felt wrong.

Nursing very frequently in the early days

My physiotherapist suggested I bring Oisín for Craniosacral therapy, which is an unproven yet popular therapy for babies who have had a traumatic birth. Our therapist also agreed with me that the “high needs baby” is usually an excuse for something else that is wrong. Even a normal birth without complications can cause issues with the skull/spine. The therapist asked if Oisín was spitting up milk much to which I replied yes, he did have quite a bit of reflux. He was also hitting himself in the head frequently and often arching his back. According to therapist this isn’t actually the natural behaviour for a baby. I found that after four sessions Oisín had stopped spitting up and was a much happier baby. Although the therapy did make the baby cry a lot, his mood improved after each session. He also worked with the baby psychologically and I found that his situation was actually similar to symptoms that babies can have following a caesarean birth, although the therapist said that often c-section births are the most traumatic for a baby.

The therapist also found that his top few vertebrae were out of sorts, probably from how he was pulled out. I wasn’t surprised to hear this as he was only turning his head in one direction most of the time (he was around 2-3 months at that time). We brought the baby to an osteopath to get a second opinion and he said that the baby’s vagus nerve had been over stimulated due to birth trauma. I read a lot of interesting information about the vagus nerve after this – it’s very important for social interaction and digestion. It’s therefore very important to be empathic with your baby if they have this problem. The baby’s nervous system will actually respond to empathy when you express it, and it will help baby to heal!

A happy baby at five months

Simultaneous to this Oisín was having very frequent tummy pains. We found an amazing pediatrician who used Applied Kinesiology to determine a few food intolerances: tomato, strawberry, paprika, orange, soy and cow’s milk. I had already cut out dairy as I had heard from La Leche League that it is common for small babies to be intolerant. Often when this happens the baby is also intolerant to soya, as the protein is similar. The other intolerances may actually be hereditary! I found out later that on my dad’s side of the family they had problems with strawberry, tomato and soya. It would do well to find out if your family members avoid any particular foods if possible! I have already been able to reintroduce soya and tomato, usually the intolerances are temporary as baby’s immune system develops.

Our pediatrician also prescribed probiotic drops for baby which he is still taking (although a lower dose than initially after the issues settled). I have heard that probiotic drops can work wonders for babies with colic, just make sure you find the right one for you. We found the drops worked very fast (a remarkable change in poo colour within 2 days – mustard yellow is the goal for a breastfed baby usually). At the time we finally found our doctor Oisín was 3 months old. He had still been nursing almost every hour because he was still being upset with his tummy. The doctor said this was likely because he was trying to move the cramps along through his tummy.

After 4-5 months baby’s tummy problems were settled, although I’m sure it would have been sooner had we seen the Craniosacral therapist and doctor sooner!

During this time we took baby outside for walks as often as possible, and the baby carriers I liked were:

  • A regular sling for when baby is super little.
  • A ring sling for nursing baby when he was very little and nursing very frequently.
  • The Ergobaby as he got bigger was very comfortable – he was too heavy for me but my partner was able to carry him easily in this.

Please consider buying organic cotton if you’re buying a sling!

Newborn baby in fabric sling

Other things which helped baby to settle as the issues were ongoing:

  • I took a baby massage class and we used some baby massage techniques for colic from YouTube.
  • We practiced elimination communication. We didn’t get as far as we would have liked in the first 6 months, but Oisín does continue to let us know when he needs to pee, and is actually very loud about it when he does. The reason I mention this here is because it’s actually a very good way to show your baby that you are listening to them, and exercise those empathic abilities, especially in the early days!
  • We limited the use of a pacifier. It was important for me that baby was able to communicate. I’m not saying you have to eliminate pacifier use, but I see many babies who almost constantly have one in their mouths and it is not always needed. I don’t believe this is conducive to communication development. Oisín is a very outspoken child and he has a lot to say!
  • I sometimes drank chamomile tea. You’d be surprised how easily baby can react to things even in small quantities in your breast milk. One day he had tummy cramps after I tried some vegan cheese! The moral of the story is to be careful of what you eat/drink, especially looking out for additives, if your baby is as sensitive as Oisín was.
  • The doctor prescribed this remedy which really got the baby to calm down after about 20 minutes. They also come in suppository form.
  • The doctor recommended we spread out our vaccines for Oisín to give him more time to recover. We found this worked really well, as he had very little reaction once we did this. We had done the first rota vaccine but chose not to do the second as he has such a bad reaction to this with his tummy. Also we were not planning on going to a country where this disease was common and he was not going to day care as early as many children. Other than that he is fully vaccinated now.
  • We co-sleep with Oisín and I think it helped him to feel more secure. Who doesn’t want to wake up to a smiley baby every morning?

The most important thing to do is trust your own motherly intuition. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is. You know your baby better than anyone else! Oisín is now an extremely happy baby, and very friendly.

Wishing you much fun and baby giggles!

Oisín at 6 months with his dad and fully recovered!

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