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Mum skills: Doctors and nurses

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It seems that medical dramas relating to babies usually come in forms resembling Pantones 576C through to 617C. The dirty greens. For the last few weeks our lives have revolved around this palette. The official measurement for eye goo is a Pantone reference, while poo also needs a textural reference, so curry is the official gauge. It's not unusual to hear the sentance "Looks like tarka dahl, darl!" hailed over the baby monitor. Poor little Elliot has been in the wars a bit but seems to be just fine now, as his chicken korma nappy this morning would attest and through my many calls to NHS Direct I've learned some essential mum skills along the way...

This came from nowhere, the poor little chap woke up in the middle of the night with his eyes literally glued shut with slimey green goo like a stray kitten. It would be scary enough to wake up and not be able to open your eyes, but imagine how terrifying it would be if you were 8 weeks old and had no concept that this was ever going to end.

Conjunctivitis comes in three versions, irritant, allergic and infective. Irritant and allergic conjunctivitis make your eyes pink, itchy and sore from things like chlorine and pollen. Infective conjunctivitis is much more gross and includes green snotty mucas as a symptom. It's caused by a bacterial infection of the tear ducts, kids often get it from cats and dogs. I have a feeling our little monster must have rubbed his eyes with dirty little fingers from his change mat. In adults it usually clears up in 2 weeks but in newborn babies it can cause permanent eye damage if it isn't treated.

The remedy: Firstly the eyes need to be cleaned with sterile liquid, so water that has been freshly boiled and cooled down or breast milk! (thanks Georgia for that tip). If you're breast feeding, breast milk is the easiest sterile liquid you can get your hands on, it also contains millions of infection-fighting white blood cells and natural antibacterial substances. And, it's kinder to sensitive little eyes than prescription drugs.

Because he's so young Elliot also got some antibiotic eye-drops from the doctor which had to be applied 4 times a day. After applying those for a week, we had worked our way to a creamy yellow colour (Pantone 615C) but he still had sticky eyes. The doctor thought the infection had gone but he now just had blocked tear ducts. He suggested 'lid cleaning'. This is where you take the boiled, cooled down water and add some 'no more tears' baby shampoo. Dip in a cotton ear-bud and clean along the rim of the eyelid. After a few days he was back to normal.

It's really difficult to discern whether a breast-fed baby has a tummy bug because their poo is always so runny. The main give away is the colour, but even when Elliot had gone from reasonably normal tarka dahl, to bright green palaak paneer, the doctor didn't seem phased. The conversation went something like this;
Me: "My baby's poo has gone bright green" (Pantone 576C for those following at home)
Dr: "Sometimes their poo goes a bit green, I wouldn't worry"
Me: "Here's a sample" I pull out a nappy to show him
Dr: "Oh wow, that's really green, I've never seen baby poo like that before, I'm going to look it up on the internet"
Me: ...concerned look, particularly regarding the second half of that sentance.
Dr: "Oh I should tell you, this isn't my office," (points to the pictures of babies on the wall behind him) "those aren't my kids, I don't know much about babies"
Me: ...concerned look continues
Dr: "How 'bout I call one of my colleagues?"
Turns out the colleagues weren't bothered either, although they weren't given the Pantone reference.

A week of green poo later and the little man is grumpy, really grumpy. Like, still crying after walking back and forth humming TV theme tunes for 2 hours grumpy. His poo was more watery and more explosive than ever. The crowning moment was when Tom was changing his nappy and got caught off guard by an explosion which reached Tom,  Les The Rabbit, the baby wipes, the monitor and the wall 1 meter away where it created a sort of tribal hand print / atomic shadow effect.

Les The Rabbit, unimpressed
 Then just as Tom walked out the door for his 'Dad night out' came the vomit... and boy, was there vomit. And that's when I thought, surely there's a difference between a baby with green poo who occasionally has a spew and a baby with a sore tummy. I spoke to a midwife on NHS Direct who told me how to tell the difference;
What's normal:
Up to 5 runny poos each day
Slightly green poo (Pantone 605C)
Big bum explosions
Possets - small amounts of milk coming back up gently after feeding, sometimes with a slightly cheesey texture. (Noice!) Not to be confused with this posset which sounds like a medieval version of baby vomit for adult consumption.

What's not normal:
More than 5 runny poos in a day (Elliot had 10)
Poo that is watery
Poo that is very green like pesto (Pantone 576C)
Projectile vomit where his whole body spasms to throw up
Vomit in clearly digested chunks that smells like regular vomit (Surprisingly I found this hard to distinguish because up until now my experience of vomit has mainly been vodka infused).

The remedy: Babies with upset tummies don't need any medical assistance unless it lasts for a long time and they become dehydrated. The main thing to look out for is if the fontanel - the soft spot on the top of his head - becomes sunken in. If this is the case, he may need to go on a drip.

After the exorcist episode and a good night's sleep Elliot seemed fine and we're back up the other end of the curry menu. The main thing I've learned is always go to a midwife first.

This is an ailment I wasn't expecting. He got bitten on his little head by some bug! There we were having a lying down feed in bed with his head against the sheets when he suddenly shrieked and cried uncontrollably for about 5 minutes. After he calmed down I pulled him away from my chest and noticed a bloody great bite on his head. The creature must have been under our sheets. I have no idea what it was that bit him. Perhaps a spider? A bee? An earwig? Do earwigs bite? Aren't they from the olden days? I don't know, but once again, NHS Direct assured me that if he stopped crying and the bite went away he was ok. I took all our sheets to be boiled at the laundromat just in case.


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