How to lose your baby weight.

how to lose your baby weight‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?

When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.

Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…

At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.

But did I? Do you? 

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.

But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.

And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.

Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.

The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’

I’m just asking.

Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.

And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.

(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)

Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?

Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.

Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!

So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you? 

If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!

  

Weaning: To purée or not to purée, that is the (tedious) question.

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puree

How old was your baby when someone of a previous generation said something along the lines of ‘he could probably do with some food now’. 3 months? 4? And what was your response? Did you look at them, aghast at their out-of-date information, and make it quite clear that the guidelines say no food before 6 months, thank you very much? Perhaps you smiled and made that non-committal ‘hmm’ sound we all have in reserve for when we don’t agree with older relatives but wish to avoid a pointless confrontation. But maybe you did agree. Your baby had been staring at up as you munched on your cornflakes that morning, with a look of strained longing on their face that very morning. Oh God, maybe there are right, maybe I’m starving her!!

When I was little, the recommendations were to wean babies on soft, mashed food at 3 months. Soon after that the guidance changed to 4 months. But now the NHS has assessed the research and decided baby-led weaning is the thing to do. And for that you have to wait until your baby is six months old.

But what is this baby-led weaning you speak of? Well, it basically means no purees, no mush, just straight onto normal grown-up solids. Not oven chips or a tikka masala, obvs, but normal fruit and veg and pasta and bread and all that good shit. In fact, in a video I was shown at a ‘weaning workshop’ a six-month old chows down a chicken leg. An actual chicken legs. Obvs the little thing has hardly any teeth, so it’s more a chicken lolly-pop (*gag*) than anything else, but you get the picture.

To be honest my first thought was ‘6 months?’ Six. Whole. Months? 26 weeks?? That is approximately 180 days of constant boob or bottle. So either your baby is attached to your body all day long (exaggeration alert) or you’re stuck in the tedious cycle of bottle washing, sterilising, formula buying and all that expensive nonsense. And that wasn’t my only objection. From pretty much the moment he exited my womb Bubs was hungry. Like, HUNGRY. And he let us know. Oh boy, he let us know. That scream. *shudder* Even when he was guzzling formula he still very often wanted copious amounts every two hours. Any hoo, as you may have guessed I didn’t make it to 6 months, alert social services immediately

But whatever my uninformed objections are, at least the guidance on weaning is pretty straight forward, you know, no mixed messages or anything…

Um, hold on a minute, I may be incorrect on that point.

When Bubs was about 4 months old I went to a weaning workshop put on at my local sure start centre (free at the point of delivery guys; you gotta love the NHS). The lovely and well informed nurse began by saying “NO FOOD BEFORE SIX MONTHS and, basically, then you can give them anything.” She gave us info about the ‘signs’ that your baby is ready for food and we watched that video. She answered our questions and it was all quite helpful. But as the session went on she started to say things like “ABSOLUTELY NO food before 17 weeks.” Wait, what? That’s a lot less than 26, right? I mean I only have a B in maths GCSE but even I know that’s, like, well different. Then she started to add “and if you do it should be SAFE WEANING, which is just pureed fruit and veg”. Purees? What? Confusion strikes!

I understand really. The nurse was aware that not all of us (me) would wait that long and she wanted to give a bit of information about what was safe for our babies. Fair dos. But then the books get involved too. Those darned books.

Enter, Annabel Karmel.

Karmel is the Gina Ford of weaning. By that I don’t mean that she recommends that you impose an anally retentive, unrealistic regime on yourself and your baby (sozzers Gina, truth hurts), but that hers is the go-to book for weaning. And good for her, I say! (Except not good for you for putting your name to a food range that includes E numbers; not cool Annabel, not cool) This was the book half of my friends bought and found very helpful. Though I think they pretty much just read the middle bit that gave them a little plan of which solids gradually. ‘At 6 months they can have everything’ is a bit vague, to be fair, so it’s not surprising that they wanted some guidance.

But here’s where it get’s tricky. After all the baby-led stuff we’ve been told about, Karmel’s book tells you to introduce totally smooth food first. That’s right folks: purees are a-go-go. Yes, with this method it’s all mushy pears and baby rice. But you’ve still got to wait until the baby is six months old.  Worst of both worlds, anyone?

May I interject at this point and just ask WHAT THE EFF IS BABY RICE? ISN’T IT JUST GROUND RICE? WHY IS IT A THING???

Needed to get that off my chest. I’ll continue.

It’s not just Annabel Karmel who still insists on basically making smoothies for your baby in the first month. Lots of books do. Including the one pictured below, which I was given whilst pregnant. Under the heading How to Wean Your Baby we are told that ‘first foods should be more like thick milk’ (#babyrice) and weaning is a “process” from liquid to solid. One could forgive a new parent for feeling like they’re getting mixed messages at this point!

pure ebba

I think you’ll agree that both the level of glamour and expression of joy seen in this picture accurately represent the average mother-of-four at tea time on a Tuesday evening.

 
To complete the muddled mixture of over-bearing instructions, throw in the advice of umpteen friends and family members (wewere told to feed them as soon as they hit 16 lbs; oh baby-led is the perfect way to do it; can’t you just give her a bit of banana??; oh, don’t give them ANYTHING sweet, it leads to obesity).

I was (sort of) lucky with weaning in that a) I had a pragmatic and supportive Health Visitor and b) I didn’t really give a shit. Early in my parenting ‘journey’ I had gone right into the middle of crazy town, oft to be found on Worry-about-every-tiny-decision Street and I-can’t-do-this Avenue, but by the time Bubs was five months I was out onto the open road heading towards How-Wrong-Can-it-Really-Go’sville.

Because here’s my assessment: Pretty much everyone who is now old enough to have a child was weaned at 3 or 4 months on mush. But also LOADS of babies have been in situations and times when pureeing wasn’t an option, ergo baby-led happened. In my current circle of friends some went hard on the baby rice, whilst others committed solely to finger food. And now? Well, all of our babies are healthy and they all eat food. And they are all, at times, fuss pots. Because they are toddlers, and that’s what happens when a human begins to discover it has free will (more on that in a later post).

Knowing that there are plenty of healthy babies who are Strictly-Karmel and another swathe who chomped on chicken legs before they could crawl made me think “Well, they both must be fine then!” Rebel that I am, I gave Bubs solids at 5 months (which he loved, btw) in both finger food and puree form. At the same time. What can I say? I’m just crazy like that.

So, whilst I should add the disclaimer that I have literally no expertise in weaning, or child nutrition, or really anything TBH, I want you to know that if your decisions about what to give your baby when are based on the welfare of that child then they are probably fine. Aren’t they?

 

What do you think? Maybe I’m being too blase and should get my facts straight? Or perhaps making decisions about weaning drove you up the wall. Did you have lots of unwelcome advice? Or would you have liked a bit more? Get involved by commenting below, tweeting me @aafew or heading over to my facebook page

This post is part of my ‘welcome to weaning’ series. Get the rest delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing above. (Yep, up there on the right, you know, where it says ‘subscribe’).

 

 

Welcome to Weaning.

The inclusion of this photo serves no purpose. But I have an intensely cute son and like to show off about it now and then.

The inclusion of this photo serves no purpose. But I have an intensely cute son and like to show him off now and then.

For a while now I’ve been trying to write a post about weaning. Where to start is the hardest part. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal. From the age 4/5/6 months (the controversy begins) you will have to feed your child actual food. No more milky one-stop-shop for you, good folk. Oh no, now you have to think about stuff like balanced diets and how to persuade a 9-month old to eat something that a) doesn’t taste like banana and b) isn’t covered in yoghurt. Some find this process quite fun; a new sensory adventure with their little one. Others see it as the next in a long line of ‘what-the-eff-am-I-doing?’ parenting moments.

Well aren’t we lucky, then, that there is such a clear, reasonable consensus on how to wean a baby. I mean, it would be a nightmare if, say, there was massive disagreement as to when you should start, how you should start etc. Oh wait, there is? Bums.

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Yes, that’s right folks, here’s yet another ‘issue’ to add to the long list of things-there-seem-to-be-a-thousand-experts-in-who-all-have-different-opinions. What have we had so far? Sleeping, breast/bottle feeding, routines (or not), discipline, going back to work, crying… Sigh.

But fear not! For I am here to tell you the secret of successful weaning. Are you ready? Because it may just blow your mind… *drum roll*

Just feed your baby, with food!

It’s crazy but it’s true. It could be baby food, it could be ‘adult’ food. As long as it’s real, actual food and not something developed in a lab using mostly E numbers, transfats and monosodium glutamate, then you’re probably fine.

This theory of mine is based purely on anecdotal evidence and the knowledge that every grown-up alive today was weaned at some stage, many of them in very haphazard ways that followed no guidelines or ‘expert’ advice. All of these people are, as afore mentioned, alive today.

My mum basically did baby-led weaning accidentally in the 80s because, well, she just did. I was chowing down a sausage as finger-food well before my first birthday. Meanwhile, some people’s parents were reluctant to give them anything that had the slightest hint of a lump in it until they had a full set of molars. And guess what? We all lived to tell the tale. Huzzah!

So, that’s the short version. But I realised recently that the reason I can’t seem to compose a bloody post on weaning is because there’s too much to say. So, the next few posts on here will all be weaning-related. A theme to start the new. I know, right, how thought through is that??? Ranting and hilarity will inevitably ensue.

Hold onto your highchairs!

What are your thoughts on weaning? Are you a regimented puree-er? An ardent baby-led believer? Or a bit laisse faire about the whole thing? Let me know by commenting below, tweeting me @aafew or going over to my facebook page.

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Making a Millstone Out of Milestone.

millstone

If you have never read a piece of information that said your baby “should” be doing something that it isn’t yet then I’m pretty sure you’re in the minority. (But congrats to you, you have the mythical unicorn child).

For me it was sleep. When my son was tiny he woke pretty much every 2ish hours. This was for the first, maybe, ten weeks, so pretty normal but still exhausting. As you may imagine I spent rather too much time googling and looking up baby sleep solutions. We all do it – even though basically it’s up to our babies when they decide to sleep and wake- we cling to the hope that there must be some sure-fire technique to give us a stretch of sleep more than 3 hours long (or even one hour long for some of us, solidarity sisters!). So, any way, I’m reading this stuff and I find some helpful hints, but mostly unhelpful ones. For example, this helpful little factoid:

“By about six weeks your baby could be sleeping for at least one stretch of up to 6 hours.”

Well really? Could he? He bloody isn’t! The problem with telling us that ‘some babies’ do X at X weeks is that if our baby isn’t one we either feel cheated or, worse, that we’ve failed in some way (there goes that guilt again!)

Currently, I am sick of reading that by six months “your baby shouldn’t need to be fed in the night-time”. Shouldn’t he? What if he is hungry in the night time? Bubs is now 11 months old and each night is different. Some glorious, wondrous nights he sleeps through. Aaah, bliss. But on others wakes up when he is hungry and he doesn’t go back to sleep until you give him food. You can cuddle him, you can give him a dummy, you can leave him to cry, but nothing will soothe him because, guess what? He’s hungry! The books (gggrrr, the books!) say he shouldn’t be because he’s almost one. But he is, so there. Also, to be honest, sometimes it’s just bloody easier to feed him. Every now and then I muster up the energy to so half-an-hour’s soothing in the dead of night, but I usually have to feed him eventually any way. So why waste time? Whatever gets you through the night, that’s what I say!

I write that last paragraph as if I don’t worry that I’m doing something wrong in feeding my boy in the night. As I don’t get that “oh, are we doing it wrong?” pang on a regular basis. Of course I do. Because when you’re a first-time mum it’s hard not to doubt yourself, especially when the “experts” dole out their shoulds and shouldn’ts so liberally. But I don’t think the sleep stuff is half as harmful as the other developmental ‘milestones’ we’re told about.

We parents can drive ourselves mad with movement and speech milestones. That’s one of the reasons the Ages and Stages Questionnaire winds me up so bloody much. If you believe your child ‘should’ have been doing something months ago that they still aren’t then it is difficult not to let the anxiety fairy in. Mothers may feel themselves become self-conscious in groups of children of a similar age, as if their child’s stage of development reflects on them. We seem to have created a timetable for rolling and crawling and standing and using words. This timetable can become a tyranny. Because ‘milestone’ timings are just averages. That’s all. Instead these milestones become millstones around our necks (thanks, I’m pretty proud of that one), weighing us down with worry.

Now, before you scroll down and type furiously into the comments section, I am not saying that if an 18-month old can’t sit up or make noise we should just ‘you know, give the kid some space man!’ But we all know loads of kids who took longer than average to roll-over, start speaking, pick up a bloody Cheerio between their thumb and forefinger or what ever. In the end they got there and it just wasn’t a big deal!

Next time I see a ‘at X months your baby should…’ sentence anywhere I am going to give myself two challenges. The first will be not to panic, or at least not to respond to my panic, if Bubs isn’t doing whatever he ‘should’ be. But the second is not to feel any pride if he is. A healthy, happy baby is an achievement to be proud of but beyond that if we start congratulating ourselves on the milestones then we will inevitably berate ourselves when our babies don’t meet these approximated deadlines. Worse, we will promote a culture in which mothers with babies who walk at 15 months rather than 12 will feel ashamed.

So many of us were professionals before we were mums and this skews our vision sometimes. We see milestones as targets to be met, rather than just stuff that will happen for our babies at some point.

There are very few concrete shoulds or shouldn’ts when it comes these little humans; they just do what they do, and we can trust them.

How do you feel about milestones? Have you been unduly worried about your child? Or maybe they flagged up something you’re glad you know? Comment below or Tweet me @aafew

Getting Deja Vu? Back in the annals of time (well, actually, in July), when my blog about 3 followers, I wrote a post called ‘Ssshh to the Shoulds’. And seeing as a) it is apparently #archivesaturday b) a few more people might read it this time round and c) I just really really hate the word ‘should’ being applied to children, I thought I’d rejig, rename and reblog it. So, there you go.

Pincer Grips and Cheerios #2: Test or guide? You decide!

“It’s not a test, it’s just a guide.”

These were the first words of the lovely staff nurse who was about to go through my son’s 9 month health check. I had sat down mumbling something about not knowing what to put for some questions in the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (which I rant about here) . I was supposed to be able to say if Bubs did the random things listed such as poke for a Cheerio in a clear bottle (again, see previous rant). The options are ‘yes’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘not yet’. But the thing is my son hadn’t fancied playing with the blocks I wanted him too in order to make it all into a game “that is fun for you and your baby”. I surround him with stimulating and creative baby activities and he decides whether or not he’s up for them. He can sniff out a remote control/phone/ipad at 20 metres so something like that usually distracts him. That or climbing around the furniture.

Well, it didn’t matter any way, because it’s not a test. Not a test, not a test, not a test. Aaaaaand breathe…

As she went through the form, all of the ‘yeses’ I’d ticked were passed over quite quickly. One section she read over herself and said, almost to herself,  “that’s perfect”, which is obviously good, except that I didn’t really know what she was referring to. However, any time she got to a question for which I’d ticked ‘no’ or even ‘sometimes’ she’d stop and say something like “so, we’ve not got 3 words yet?” and I’d confirm that we hadn’t. Obvs. She always responded to this with the phrase “that will come”, which was lovely and I am sure meant to be reassuring. But the thing is I didn’t think I needed reassuring, because there’s nothing wrong! Of course immediately the irrational anxiety fairy pops up on my right shoulder and starts to whisper “are you sure there’s nothing wrong? I mean you’re not exactly a baby expert are you?”. Shut up anxiety fairy! Shut the F up! 

Then we came to the ‘problem-solving’ section of the guide-not-a-test. I hadn’t ticked ‘not yet’ at all, I don’t think, but I had ticked ‘sometimes’ a lot. Mostly because my son doesn’t often hold two toys simultaneously for a minute or poke at crumb inside a clear bottle. ‘Sometimes’ seemed the most accurate. He’s actually a pretty good problem solver. For example the other day my mum brought round some figs in a plastic box for him to try. She put them on the ground in the garden whilst I went inside to cut up a fig up nicely for little Bubs. Meanwhile, had got into the box and bitten and squeezed the fig until he got at the fruit himself. Pretty nifty I thought. But still, that was not such a ‘perfect’ area according the ‘guide’.

 

Problem Solved

Problem solved, biatches.*

 

I am open to the possibility that there are some really good medical and psychological reasons to test ‘problem-solving’ at this age, but I am not sure I like it. They can say ‘it’s not a test’ til the cows come home but it feels like we’re already assessing children’s ability/intelligence against each other before their first birthday. I’m a bit like, can you not?? Okay, I know comparison is not the objective here, it’s more about catching any developmental problems as early as possible, but some of the stuff it’s looking at is quite advanced (in my humble opinion) so a mum does start to fret. I mean, does the fact that my son only ‘sometimes’ plays ‘pat-a-cake’ with by banging two toys together really point to any significant developmental issue? I don’t think so. O do I? I said SHUT UP, anxiety fairy!

Any way, I think all would have been fine in this “not a test” scenario, except that when we’d gone through the questionnaire the nurse went to get the scoring sheet, and totted up all of my baby’s totals for the different categories. Right…

Sorry if I’m being a bit dense but I thought ‘questionnaires’ that are scored and assessed were, well, you know, tests. The score sheet looked like a bit like this…

 

Yes, you get the idea. I've cropped this image so that my fellow obsessive mothers can't start doing self-assessments on their children.

Yes, you get the idea. I’ve cropped this image so that my fellow obsessive parents can’t start doing weekly self-assessments on their children.

So she adds up it all up and then she says that, yeah, everything’s great and he’s doing really well. All of his scores are ‘in the white’, it’s just problem-solving that is in the ‘grey area’, so can she get in touch about that in a month or so? ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ I reply meekly, despite the fact that I actually think it’s over the top and will just worry me. I then tell her about some other ‘problem-solvingish’ tasks that he does regularly and she agrees that that’s great and says that the questions are specific so there are other examples you can use. But she’s still going to call me to check up. I don’t feel particularly listened to at this point. Breathe, Aileen, breathe.

Does anyone else get this weird thing when they’re with health professionals that they become meek and mild and eager to please? It happens to me all of the time. I mean, I am gobby to put it mildy. I can rant on with the best of them (oh, you’d noticed that?) but when there’s a nurse or a doctor there I lose my nerve. What if I’d said ‘I don’t really see the point of you chasing this up, I’m sure you’re really busy and we are very attentive to our son’s development so I’ll call you if I need to.’? It would have been perfectly polite and within my rights. But I am inexplicably drawn to agree with whatever the person who has the ticklist and the medical training says. Now, yes, this is partly because they have the medical training, fair dos. But these professionals will be the first to say that you’re the best ‘expert’ on your own child.

No, I think I’m afraid. Not quite sure of what. Of being told off I suppose. Of being seen as something less that a perfect, attentive, give-my-all sort of mum. I don’t think I’m the only one with this feeling. There are thousands of mothers out there who can talk the talk of relaxed parenting but, ultimately, can’t bear the thought of not being seen as Supermum. We really do need to chill out, guys, like, seriously. Or even, God forbid, have enough confidence in our own parenting to be open to a bit of criticism without it destroying our very being.

I don’t think the anxiety I experienced was the fault of any of the health professionals I encountered. I am quite capable of whipping myself up, not to mention what happens when that pesky anxiety fairy gets involved! But I do think it was partly the fault of that bloody questionnaire. It is sent out so long in advance you have plenty of time to ruminate over any ‘not yet’ you may have ticked, wondering what the answers to these questions, which are frankly bizarre at times, all mean. Someone may well be screaming at their computer screen right now, saying ‘Well pull yourself together woman, the checks are for your child, it’s not up to them to look after your precious little feelings’. Fair point, except that it sort of is. Especially as this particular centre were key in supporting me through PND. Healthy mother, healthy baby, right? In the dream scenario all parents would look at the questionnaire objectively and not fret on any level about their own child’s strengths and (more pertinently) weaknesses. But that ain’t gonna happen any time soon, so let’s work within the a-lot-of-parents-are-easily-worried parameters.

So, I have two suggestions:

1) Don’t send the questionnaire out in the post. I know it saves time, but you go through it all any way and Health Visitors et al have a MUCH better idea the real issues that the questions are actually getting at any way. (Dear Mr Stupidface Health Minister, this will involve actually funding preventative children’s services, grr).

2) Don’t show the parents the bloody score sheet! The nurse I saw (who was lovely and good at her job, just to say again) pointed at the grey area she had marked next the problem-solving section. This was not the mental image I needed. Then I got to thinking that, actually, what if all of his scores were in grey? Or a few were in black? There are a lot of 10 month olds that don’t do all the crazy malarky on those lists. I know people who didn’t crawl before they were one, or speak before they were two. Guess what? They are very clever and can stand up on their own and everything! So, yeah, we just don’t need to see that. Tot it up after we’ve gone on our merry ways. Because, let’s give credit where credit’s due, these people have trained for 3+ years, they will know if they need to follow anything up with having to look at a score sheet.

Actually, on second thoughts, I just have one suggestion:

1) Scrap the questionnaire! Bin it! It’s a stupidface!

The nurse we saw made a few jokes like ‘who wrote this questionnaire, hey?’ with the accompanying comedy eye roll. She also said this check used to be a more informal chat but that now it’s more ‘thorough’. I have worked in the public sector, ‘more thorough’ may well have been code for ‘a crapload of extra paper work’.

The thing is that when you put a list of questions between two human beings it automatically shuts down any natural conversation. You’re both focussed on the piece of paper and not so much as each other. It can leave parents feeling like they haven’t been listened to, though this is often not the fault of the Health Visitor.

Apparently the Ages and Stages Questionnaire is now being rolled out UK wide. I’d like to read the evidence that says it picks up things better than the previous system of letting trained health professionals talk to and spend time with families. I haven’t had any luck googling it so far (please comment if you know about these things). But I have a horrible suspicion that has more to do with the governmental obsession with standardisation and stats. Oh no, we can’t just trust professionals to do their jobs well and their managers and colleagues to flag up any problems, no no, what they need in more forms! 

And then of course, there’s the fact that sending that getting parents (who are more likely to over- or under-estimate their children’s abilities for varying reasons) to fill in the form and having a more ‘ticklist’ approach in the meeting saves time. Which saves money. Which means you need less health professionals. Which means you can make more cuts. Bleurgh. Boo. Naughty naughty Tories. Etc.

So, parents of Britain. Don’t worry too much about the ‘not yets’. You and your Health Visitor will know pretty quickly if there is a glaring issue. And maybe think about raising the ‘what the F is this ASQ business about???’ issue with your MP. People power and all that.

But, most of all, just bloody chill! It is possible you have produced a child that will not be ‘top of the class’ in every arena at every stage. That is OK. They will still love you. And it takes a lot more than the lack of a pincer grip for social services to be called. 

 

Just to drive the point home, I think Sure Start centres are, like, well good.

Just to drive the point home, I think Sure Start centres and Health Visitors are, like, well good.

 

 

 

*I feel both heartily amused and slightly ashamed that I have captioned my 10-month-old son using a swear. Ah well…