It’s National Breastfeeding Week in Ireland. This means it’s time to celebrate all that is good and great about supporting women feeding their babies. It’s not something I feel particularly well-experienced in to write much about. My experience revolved around 9 weeks of supplementing, of panic and of not enough support – not exactly a ringing endorsement. There’s definitely a lot I’ve learned since. There’s lots that will be put into practice if there’s another baby to make it a better experience for everyone. However, this year the slogan for the week is “Every Breastfeed Makes A Difference”. Here is a stash of breastfeeding resources which I have found to be EXCELLENT. In celebration of the boob-tastic women who fuel their kiddies themselves, I hope you find this helpful.
On 20 August 2018, the World Health Organisation released a press release which stated that “Over 41,000 children and adults in the WHO European Region have been infected with measles in the first 6 months of 2018. The total number for this period far exceeds the 12-month totals reported for every other year this decade.” The WHO European Region is made up of 53 countries. 71% of these cases came from 3 countries: Romania, Italy and Ukraine. However, over the past few years, the amount of cases which have been highlighted in Ireland have been increasing and this is a worrying trend. For me as a parent, a chronic worrier and someone who lives with an invisible autoimmune issue, these figures absolutely terrify me.
Measles is an illness which by all accounts SHOULD be extinct. We’ve been vaccinating against it on a worldwide scale since 1971. Doctors have been giving two doses as standard since the late 1980s. By the end of 2017, 85% of children had received one dose of measles vaccine by their second birthday, and 167 countries had included a second dose as part of routine immunisation and 67% of children received two doses of measles vaccine according to national immunisation schedules. So why are we still in a position where not only are children catching this disease but dying from it? It looks like the answer is lying in reduced vaccination rates and in parents choosing to not vaccinate their children.
I do not say this in a sanctimonious way, I do not wish to tell ANYONE that my way of parenting is the best way of parenting, by any stretch of the imagination. However, when it comes to vaccinations against diseases which put not just your child in danger, then it becomes past a conversation about parenting styles and more about protecting the community as well as protecting your own child. I believe that if a child is medically considered fit to be vaccinated (ie not allergic to ingredients or against medical advice), then that child should be vaccinated against these diseases which have potentially life changing and threatening effects.
What Are Measles?
Measles (AKA rubeola) is a highly infectious viral illness. The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This means that you can catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.
Measles symptoms appear around 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. They typically include:
Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek. This is also called Koplik’s spots
A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another
Less common complications of measles are:
pneumonia (lung infection), signs of which are fast, difficult breathing, chest pain and deteriorating condition,
hepatitis (liver infection),
encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can be fatal, so watch for drowsiness, headache and vomiting,
low platelet count, known medically as thrombocytopenia, which affects the blood’s ability to clot,
bronchitis and croup (infection of the airways), characterised by a hacking or barking cough, and
squint, if the virus affects the nerves and muscles of the eye.
These complications are more common in children under the age of five or in adults over the age of twenty.
The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.
Infection and incubation. For the first 10-14 days after you’re infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.
Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days.
Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 40 to 41 degrees celcius. The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.
Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about 8 days, starting 4 days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals. About 90 percent of susceptible people who are exposed to someone with the virus will be infected. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95% immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed every year in every community, as well as efforts to reach children, adolescents and adults who missed routine vaccination in the past.
What is The MMR Vaccine?
MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against 3 separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires 2 doses. No country in the world recommends MMR vaccine to be given as three separate injections.
MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988. In the Irish system, the MMR is given at 12 months of age by a GP, followed by a second dose of the vaccine at age 4-5 years, either through the school system or by a local GP.
How Does the MMR Work?
The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella, as though your body had been infected with them. Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.
This also teaches your immune system how to produce the appropriate antibodies quickly.
This video gives a bit of a rundown on how vaccines in general work and may be much easier than a block of text to understand!
What About Adverse Reactions?
As with any medication or vaccinations, adverse reactions are a possibility with the MMR vaccine.
After getting the vaccine, there may be discomfort, redness or swelling at the injection site. Children may be irritable and have a fever. If this happens, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen as well as plenty of fluids. Keep an eye on their temperature. It might also be a bit uncomfortable if clothes are rubbing against the injection site.
After 6-10 days 1 in 20 children may get “mini measles” with a rash and fever. About 1 child in 100 may get “mini-mumps” with swelling in the jaw area in the third week after vaccination. These are not contagious. Children usually recover from these side effects in 1-2 days.
In rare cases, a child may get a small rash of bruise-like spots about 2 weeks after the injection. This side effect, linked to the rubella vaccine, is known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It has been estimated that ITP develops in less than one in every 22,000 doses of the MMR vaccine. There is a greater risk of developing the condition from the diseases that the vaccine prevents. ITP usually gets better on its own, but, as with any rash, seek advice from your doctor ASAP.
In very rare cases, children can have severe allergic reactions straight after an immunisation. This happens in about one in 100,000 immunisations for MMR. Medical staff who give immunisations are trained to deal with allergic reactions to vaccines.
The table below shows the most common side effects from the vaccine, and the levels of same effects seen caused by the disease itself. (Health Protection Surveillance Centre)
People who have been recently immunised cannot infect others with the viruses contained in the MMR vaccine.
The Andrew Wakefield Scandal And Links To Autism
Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. His initial study appeared to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. However, his research was not carried out correctly and has since been discredited. It used a sample size of just 12 individuals. Later it was discovered to be funded by lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies. This study was far from unbiased or complete.
Isn’t Three Viruses Too Much For Their Little Bodies To Handle? Why Not Separate Them?
Single vaccines in place of MMR put children and their families at increased and unnecessary risk. Generally, it is considered that the mother’s immunity will cover her child for only up to 12 months against measles, mumps and rubella, and some evidence is showing that the timescale for measles is even less than that. In spreading the vaccines, it would increase the risk of a child contracting one of the diseases while waiting for a time period between vaccines. It would also increase the number of vaccines the child needs to six instead of the current two. The combined vaccine is safer as it reduces the risk of the children being infected with the diseases whilst waiting for full immunisation cover.
What About Herd Immunity? Won’t That Keep Kids Safe?
Herd immunity (otherwise known as Community Immunity) keeps a certain level of the community safe. However, to do this, it requires for the vast majority of the community to be vaccinated. Germs can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick, which can lead to an outbreak. When enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person. This means that the entire community is less likely to get the disease.
That means even people who can’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. And if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.
Herd/Community immunity protects everyone. But it’s especially important because some people can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases — such as people with some serious allergies and those with weakened or failing immune systems (like people who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, type 1 diabetes, or other health conditions).
Community immunity is also important for the very small group of people who don’t have a strong immune response from vaccines.
What About Reports That Say The Drug Wasn’t Tested Enough Before Giving It To Kids?
The normal procedure for licensing was used for MMR. The vaccine was thoroughly tested before being introduced into the Irish routine immunisation programme in 1988.
How Widespread is Vaccination against Measles Currently, And What Is The Scale Of The Current Problem?
While immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine increased from 88% of eligible children in the WHO European Region in 2016 to 90% in 2017, large disparities at the local level persist: some communities report over 95% coverage, and others below 70%.
The figures for Irish vaccination at levels can be seen here. In looking at the figures which are broken down by quarter, we can see a national decline from 93% to 92% over the last 6 years, remaining steady for the last 3 years at 92%. In the breakdown by area, Wicklow has the worst average rate of vaccination for the MMR by the age of 24 months, with just 85% of eligible children vaccinated with the MMR in the last two quarters, part of a steadily decreasing trend in the area. On the other hand, areas in the midlands and the west of Ireland seem to be hitting the targets consistently for vaccination. Those, however, are just the current vaccination figures and do not take into account young adults and adolescents who have not been vaccinated in the years since the Wakefield report which caused mass hysteria over reported dangers of the vaccine. The lack of vaccination around the time of that report’s publication and the years that followed has led to an increased number of secondary-school and college-aged people contracting communicable diseases like measles and mumps which had not been seen before at that age in recent years.
In Ireland in the period between July 2017 and June 2018, Ireland saw a total of 95 cases of measles, 20 cases per million of population. During that same time period the year before, July 2016 to June 2017, this figure was just 15, making up 3.2 cases per million of population. In a single year, it has multiplied 533.333%.
The United Kingdom, our closest neighbour, had 947 cases in the July 2017-June 2018 period, making up 14.46 per million of population. In the year before that, it had 413 cases in total, which was 6.3 per million population, in effect increasing by 129% in a 12 month period.
The “target” for disease control as considered by the WHO is less than 1 per million of population. Only 21 out of 53 countries (51 when you discount those who did not report in 2017/18 and 50 when you discount those who did not report in 2016/17) meet that target in 16/17, and only 8 countries meeting it in 17/18.
So, is mandatory vaccination the solution? I don’t believe it is a politically viable option, given the current way that the Irish government functions. There are already policies in place across the Health Service Executive to make vaccinations as easily accessible as possible to patients. Parents are given reminders by text message in some cases, and at checkups with doctors. We do not have a system that allows those doctors to make that choice for the parents, ultimately the choice is up to them. I just hope that in making that choice, they are not making the choice for another child or vulnerable person’s health for them.
Vaccinate your children – give them and the community around them the best chance of good health and avoiding a life-changing or ending disease. Measles is not a childhood illness children should have to get in 2018, and by vaccinating them, it gives them the best possible chance of avoiding its dangers.
Childcare is often declared to be the second mortgage of many homes. Personally, it makes up almost as much as our rent per month, and we only have one child. It’s a major outlay and can really have some families in a bind as to whether both parents working is actually financially worth it. The price of childcare differs dependent on your needs and what form parents use – au pairs, creche, montessori, in house childminders, childminders in their own homes, grandparents and family members. So, how do we ensure we have affordable childcare?
We all have little memory trinkets that we want to keep. Some people keep baby books, others keep shoeboxes full of memories. In the modern era, there are entire apps and computer programmes dedicated to a technological way of keeping your precious memories safe. Sometimes however, old school is the best way. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that theres a book, an album, to rifle through for the nostalgia. As parents, we want to keep the memories safe. We make sure that our children (and theirs) will be able to look back and see their childhood. What is the best way to preserve these memories?
Getting out and about with your baby or toddler can either be a joy or an ordeal, it depends on the day. Some days everything goes great, you’ve got that child who smiles and is happy. Others it’s more like bringing the Spawn Of Satan to Tesco, or worse, a full on trip into town. In the two and a half years I’ve had a tiny posse, we’ve definitely had a mixture of the two. Days can be made or ruined by little things – not having the stuff you need in the bag, people not moving out of the buggy spots on the bus, and one of my pet peeves, lack of appropriate changing areas. I’ve written before about my list of baby friendly places to grab a coffee or some food in Cork City, and have been told others found it helpful. Sudocrem recently ran their Baby Changing Room Awards 2016 and I’m thrilledto see some of my favourites on their list! Here are my top six places to head when baby needs changing and I’m out and about in Cork (city and suburbs).
Choosing childcare is difficult and time-consuming. There is a lot to be thought about; flexibility of employers and of the childcare options, cost, how your child is with strangers, proximity to childcare options and workability of it into your commute to work in the morning… the list goes on and on. There are lots of different options that may be available; childminder (in or out of your home), au pair, Montessori, creche, family friend/family member. There are pros and cons to all of them (particularly when it comes to cost and flexibility; some work out better than others!), but it will be down to your circumstances and wants as to what option you will end up going for. If that option happens to be creche, then welcome to the gang.
It takes a village to raise a child, says the old African proverb. From the first days of becoming a parent, professionals insist that you use the support structures around you; generally, family and close friends, as it can be a tough adjustment, especially while coping with sleep deprivation. What if your support structure isn‘t around if you don‘t live near family or don‘t have friends who understand what it’s like? This has become increasingly common in modern Ireland, as people move away from family for work or college, friends have emigrated or moved on for work or relationships, and you are left home alone with your newborn, wondering where that village has disappeared to.
I don’t know whether this is the same for everyone or not, but during my pregnancy, it was preached to me from my 12-week appointment how important it would be to breastfeed. The midwives were encouraging and full of information, and leaflets outlined the various benefits that breastmilk would give to the newborn babies. That said, I never found them to be overly pushy or preachy, they did leave it up to the individual, but it was not left as something vague just how much breastfeeding was expected of each mother to give the best start to their child in life.
When you’re at home with a toddler, days can get pretty repetitive. Unless you set up different things to do during the week, it can feel like Groundhog Day. Every day involves chasing a football around the living room. My life soundtrack is currently the songs from Baby Genius. It’s worse when it rains – yes, I’ve still not learned to love the rain – because as I don’t drive, there is little to do in the city centre with a toddler and outside of that isn’t much of an option. There are only so many visits to the kiddie library we can do in one week, so I decided one morning that we’d change tack and head to Chuckies Play Zone, the closest soft play centre to us.
It’s done. We’ve managed to complete a whole week without a nighttime co-sleep. While this was indeed helped by the fact that Nanny and Grandad took over for the weekend while Mammy and Daddy got some well-earned party and date time, it’s done. It’s an achievement.
Speaking to a friend of mine the other day over tea, I was informed I’d have to make a list, when her time came to join the mammy-hood, of the essential things she’d need to have. I myself made use of many of these lists, including this one from the lovely Sinead at Bumbles of Rice. There are so many of them all over the internet, that you spend your pregnancy looking at, and worrying that you won’t have enough, or that you have too much (the more likely one). These, however, were my absolute must-haves; the survival kit which made life easier, which is definitely what you want when your world has been turned upside down by a tiny (cute) tyrant.
Ah reading, my old friend, the thing I used to do before my spare time was taken up with blogging, and singing “Ali Baba had a big farm” (to myself, sans child, before cursing myself for singing the bloody thing again). I was one of those children who literally devoured books – under the covers with a torch after bedtime, hiding them in school books to finish a chapter, even my go-to place in a toy shop, if lost, was the book section. I saw myself as a bit of a Matilda, minus the dysfunctional family and the magical powers, though I always envied the magic powers. Though life is now taken up more with watching things, and writing things, and saying I’ll get around to reading things, there is no denying that there is no better relaxation than curling up with a hot cup of tea, a duvet and a book you’re looking forward to reading.
Today is the second day of August, the eighth month of the year. It’s almost a year to the day that I found out I was pregnant last year – that has simply flown. I sit here now with my gorgeous little man in my arms, accustomed to sleep deprivation, able to make up bottles with one hand and no longer disgusted by much of anything that may get on my person – dealing with baby explosions of all types will do that to you. Back then I was pure terrified – 21, not feeling like a grown up at all, much less a responsible one who would be in charge of making sure someone else had a good life. (To be fair, not much has changed there. Mammy guilt is ever present.)
I live in Cork City Centre, so spend the vast majority of my days wandering in and around the shops and side streets, wielding my not-so-tiny buggy with the tiny man inside. Generally we seem to follow the same pattern, occasionally meeting others for lunch, wandering around shops and looking at more things to clutter up the already overly-populated house with. (Homewares are my kryptonite. Especially the tiny tiny dishes). Some shops make it easier than others for people with buggies, or children in general to come in. There are a few clothes shops in particular inaccessible due to the lack of a lift, or awkwardly narrow aisles – and yes, I have been that Mammy trying to balance the display I’ve just hit with the buggy, hoping and praying that it won’t come crashing down. Dorothy Perkins, I’m looking at you.
Where I’ve found it most awkward however is actually going for lunch, or for coffee, with tiny humans attached. Pre-baby, I could text around and organise a coffee without a thought for where we should go – sure, all we needed was two chairs, they didn’t need to be comfortable or easily accessible, and a lot of the time my shortness was the only obstacle holding me back from the high stools. These days, the priorities are a tad different. As bad as pulling a display in a shop down is, places with hot food and beverages become ultimately dangerous if there isn’t enough room or they aren’t properly accessible, and so planning a coffee date with friends becomes something of military precision – especially if you’re looking for somewhere with decent coffee. However, over the last few months I’ve found a few places which have been absolutely fantastic and baby/ buggy friendly.
When I was in college, this was a sports bar. In its current form, it is still a bar but during the day serves a rather interesting menu – their sweet potato chips are to die for – and are extremely buggy friendly. There are two small steps (not the worst for the buggy steering by far) upon entrance, and they’ve always been quick to offer help with this. Theres a choice of different seating arrangements, we’ve always found an area down the back perfect for lunch with the buggy, or if its a nice day, which it has been quite a bit this summer, the outdoor area is absolutely lovely and is complete with a shaded area perfect for hiding away small eyes from the sun. They also serve Cork Coffee Roasters as their coffee, which is fantastic, as Cork Coffee Roasters themselves have the most anti-buggy set up I’ve ever seen (narrow, narrow cafe always overcrowded – its tough to manoeuvre even without a buggy) but have rather nice coffee. Quite a nice find.
If you’re down that end of the city on a weekday before 4pm, Cafe Gusto is a lovely little pit stop. While having more reduced opening hours than its Washington St sister, it is infinitely easier to get around with a buggy and it is possible to sit on the high stools and have room for the buggy behind you. Alternatively, as with the last choice, if it is a sunny day there is a gorgeous outdoor area looking out onto the River Lee where you can sit and while the hours away. Their pastries are also lovely (Pre-diet me recommends the carrot cake with one of their lattes for a super happy experience).
It’s in the dead centre of town, serves a brunch until 4pm with the nicest sausages I’ve ever found in Cork, and you can browse baby clothes and makeup downstairs to your hearts content. I’ve been a fan of this place long before tiny tyrant came along, but it was only when I became one of the buggy wielders than I realised how good it was. There are lovely wide aisles, room to place buggies beside tables without getting in anybody’s way, and if you’ve got older kids as well as having a kids lunch special, they’ve got a somewhat play area corner. Do watch out for the predatory Pixi Foto reps who will tell you your child is gorgeous and ploy for your money (unless this is something you’re interested in).
Another place perfect for tea and cake. I have also seen staff members being called to assist customers with their trays if they have a buggy with them – its not happened to me as I tend to leave the buggy with the other person while I go up and grab, but its good to note. My only downside to this place is that it taught me the fast way how to precisely steer the buggy – their lift exits off into the homewares department, into the many breakable crockery sets – I really do wonder about the thought behind that, putting narrow aisles with lots of expensive breakables in a place thats meant to be more accessible.. but apart from that, its a fab find.
Dunnes Stores Cafe
Another department store cafe, this one is on the top floor of the shop. It’s easily accessible via lift (or at a push those flat escalators). They’re absolutely lovely here and I’ve always found them really helpful. This one is definitely dependant on time of day as around lunch time it is packed, and can be difficult to find a place to sit with the buggy. However, when its not bursting at the seams full there is plenty of room. They drop food to the table if they see you with a buggy, which is fab and means no trying to wrestle tray and buggy.
Having used this as a pit stop many a time to feed tiny man, I’ve also been approached and asked if I’d like a top up on my tea or the food re-heated once I’d finished feeding, absolutely no rush on anyone to move on out as well which I found with some other places. Sandwiches, tea or cake readily available for reasonable prices as well.
Perry St Market Cafe
I’d never actually come across this place before another Mammy recommended it to me, it opened late last year in what is apparently a former night club, but is now serving as a rather lovely cafe. Big wide aisles mean this place is a hit with the buggy brigade as seen on any of my visits in there, as well as friendly staff and massive portions. Their main menu varies from day to day, but the real crown in their jewel is their dessert counter – absolutely unreal. Food is a bit more expensive than in other places mentioned, but I’ve not been disappointed yet.
Bodega has been a brilliant haunt of ours with a buggy in tow. As well as being accessible and having a changing table, they’re also really accomodating and kid friendly. Whether you’re looking for brunch, a scone and some tea or just a place to sip a coffee while baby naps, it’s got it. Make sure to get one of the comfy sofa-style seats and you’ll happily spend the afternoon!
This is one of our newest discoveries but I absolutely love it. The Good Day Deli is in the grounds of the gorgeous Nano Nagle Place and serves delicious food and coffee, while also being completely buggy accessible. It’s also in great grounds where older kids can roam about safely, allowing you to have your coffee in peace!
Those would be the top few places I’m likely to be found, buggy parked, coffee in hand. Have you got any suggestions? Leave a comment and share the wealth of knowledge!