Absolutely Mama meets Anna Whitehouse – AKA Mother Pukka – to chat about colic, campaigns and getting her first-ever gig on the radio
It’s 3am and Mae, Anna Whitehouse’s first-born, is crying relentlessly.
Anna – who is better known as parenting blogger and campaigner, Mother Pukka – can’t stop crying either. “I felt like she was broken; I was broken,” she admits. That’s the night she realised she was dealing with more than just a crying baby.
She was right. Mae actually had intense colic and would cry for up to 90 minutes at a time. “I felt alone, isolated and I was mentally exhausted,” Anna describes. “I thought I was a rubbish mother if I couldn’t fix the issue, and that made me feel incredibly low.” These are all reasons why she teamed up with Tommee Tippee, along with practising midwife Louise Broadbridge, to co-host a Colic Clinic, a new initiative from the baby brand that aims to support parents who are experiencing colic, and to share top tips for soothing babies.
Colic is one of life’s great mysteries – no one is 100% sure why some babies suffer from it and others don’t, and plenty of theories abound. But what is certain is that there’s no need to struggle through it alone. Anna got through it, and so can you. Here, she tells us how…
What made you want to get involved with the Tommee Tippee Colic Clinics?
I want to help people who happen to be parents. I remember clearly how traumatic Mae’s colic was. If I can ease that pain for new parents by sharing my experience and helping them believe it does get easier, I will – so Colic Clinics made sense. I co-hosted the first Colic Clinic with the brand and it was so lovely to be able to help other mums by sharing my own experiences.
If you could turn back time, what do you wish someone had told you about colic before experiencing it yourself?
To seek help and not battle on in silence. That while you might not be able to fix it immediately, there are small things you can do on a daily basis to ease the pain for both of you. And, even though it might feel like it, you are not alone.
What have you found to be the most useful trick?
I was told movement helps, so I walked her around in the carrier a lot and became a master swaddler to support her stomach. I also booked onto a baby massage course so that we had a routine before bedtime that might soothe her pain. It was a little bit of everything in the hope that something would work. Feeding with a bottle that minimised air intake, such as Tommee Tippee’s Advanced Anti-Colic bottle, was a great help, too.
How did you manage to lift yourself up from your lowest point when dealing with Mae’s colic?
It was at 3am one night and she had been crying relentlessly. I remember bursting into tears and crying non-stop. I felt like “my one was broken”; I was broken. I reached out to friends at this point and booked into the doctor as I realised it was more than just a crying baby.
What advice would you give parents?
Getting out of the house is important. Baby massage was the saviour for me because it meant I could talk to mums who were going through the same thing. There was a point where five of us (with colicky babies) were sat in a circle with all the kids crying and we looked into each other’s eyes and laughed instead of cried because we were most definitely not alone.
There are many great campaigns surrounding parenting to get behind. What other causes are close to your heart?
Other than our Flex Appeal campaign – that pushes for flexible working for one and all – I also speak openly about miscarriage. How it may “be common” and how “one in four women will suffer from miscarriage”, but how that doesn’t mean you can’t grieve for a human; a human you may have named, a human you may have dreamed about; a person. If you know what it is to love someone then you know what it is to lose someone and I will never forget the clinical way my losses were dealt with: “The foetus should pass within a week so you need to just go home and wait.” We need more support around baby loss, we need more understanding around the extreme anxiety it ignites when pregnant again. We need to talk and that’s something @tommys_thebabycharity is doing so brilliantly. Please reach out to them if you are unsure which way to turn and feel “it’s common” does not even begin to fill that gaping hole of grief.
You recently achieved a life-long dream of getting a gig in radio broadcast. How’s it going so far?
I never imagined being 37 and getting the job I always wanted. I remember giving up on being a radio presenter around 27, thinking I was too old. You are never too old. Parents should tune in if they are hoping to laugh more than they are crying on those 1am feeding sessions with an eye twitch.
What else are you working on at the moment?
The focus at the moment is on our Flex Appeal campaign. We are looking to roll out our free “Soft Play, Hard Talk” events across the UK to get parents offline and into real life to discuss the issues preventing them from being able to work. It’s about face time and tackling issues head on with others in the same, often leaky, boat.
Visit the Mother Pukka website
Midwife Louise Broadbridge, offers her best advice on how to deal with a colicky baby…
Identify the problem
If your baby is crying excessively, it’s vital you identify the issue. It may be caused by hunger rather than colic.
Check for wind
One of the key ailments that colic is often attributed to is wind. Irrelevant of how you feed your baby, if they are showing symptoms of colic, try winding them.
Playtime can be soothing
Babies like movement, so carrying your baby around in a sling or taking them for long walks in the pram can be comforting. Make sure they have plenty of time to play around and move.
Be careful not to over-stimulate
Lots of people or noises can overload your baby’s senses, which can be stressful. Create a calm environment, especially if you think your baby is distressed by colic.
Try anti-colic bottles
There are lots of bottles out there designed to reduce colic with venting systems that minimise babies’ air intake, such as the Tommee Tippee Advanced Anti-Colic bottle. Try different bottles to find the one that works for you.
Examine your diet
Following a balanced diet is key when breastfeeding. You can eat anything you want but if you think something is upsetting your baby try excluding that food to see if this helps.
Consider baby massage
Colic causes severe pain in the abdomen. Gently massaging your baby’s tummy can help relieve the pressure. Seek guidance from a professional baby masseuse before you try it.
Try anti-colic medicine
There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines that can alleviate symptoms. However, many are not licensed for use under three months so you may need to speak to your GP prior to giving them to your baby.
Speak to your health visitor
Colic does improve over time. However, if symptoms persist ask your health visitor for advice or consult your GP if nothing seems to be working and you’re struggling to cope.
Visit the Let’s Talk Birth and Baby website