Your practical mum queries answered

From sterilising bottles, to preparing your tot for winter, our health visitor answers your practical questions

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Q. What’s the best way for me to carry around made-up formula milk when I’m out and about with my 7 month old?

A. Prepare the feed in the usual way in the bottle and place it to cool at the back of your fridge for at least one hour before you have to go out. Just before you need to leave the house, take the bottle out, transfer it to a cool bag with an ice pack, and use it up within 4 hours. When you heat it up again, re-warm it for no more than 15 minutes.

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If you’re planning to make up a bottle while you’re on the go, the safest way is to pop your measured formula powder in a clean, dry, airtight container and carry a flask of boiled hot water as well as an empty sterilised feeding bottle. This means you can make up a fresh feed whenever you need it – just make sure your water is still piping hot when you use it so that any bacteria in the milk powder is destroyed. You also need to remember to cool the bottled milk under a cold tap before giving it to your baby.


Q
. I find it difficult to know how many clothes I need to put on my baby when we go out in the cold weather. I worry she’ll either overheat or freeze.

A. It’s harder for young babies to regulate their temperature, so you’re right to be cautious. However, this shouldn’t put you off going out – it’s all about common sense. Layering up is the best way to keep her warmer or cooler. Generally, if it’s very cold and you need extra layers then so will your baby. It’s easier to adjust her temperature with multiple thin layers than a few thick ones. Pop a hat and gloves on her too, and check her temperature regularly by feeling the nape of her neck. Remember, when you go in to a shop or café she may need to have a layer removed or a hat taken off again, especially if she’s in a baby carrier, where she’ll be getting extra heat from you too. You can always keep a lighter or thinner top in your changing bag if it gets warmer.

Q. I feel very irritable and worry about everything since my baby was born 8 months ago. It’s causing problems in my relationship, but I can’t stop. Any advice?

A. It takes time for couples to adjust to the huge impact of having a baby. The first few months are too busy to get your heads around it and this is a common time for parents to find their relationship coming under strain – so rest assured that you’re not alone.

However, irritability and anxiety can be common signs of postnatal depression. Other symptoms include feelings of isolation, loss of confidence, fatigue and changes to your appetite. Are you experiencing any of these? They can all occur any time in the first two years after birth, although they’re more common in the first year.

Have a chat with your doctor and health visitor, who’ll be able to offer help. And remember they can also give support and information to your partner, as it will be a difficult time for him too.

Q: When can I stop sterilising baby equipment and bottles?

A: Once your little one starts putting everything in her mouth and crawling around, she’ll be more exposed to different bacteria, which helps build up her immune system.

From around 6 months when you start weaning your baby and using bowls and spoons, you just need to wash the bits and pieces in clean, hot, soapy water, or in the dishwasher. Also around this age, your little one will start drinking from beakers and cups, which can be cleaned in the same way.

However, if your baby’s still having milk from a bottle you need to stick to a strict hygiene routine as bugs causing diarrhoea and vomiting can thrive in this environment. Up until your tot turns 1, keep sterilising milk bottles and teats.

Q: What’s the best way to brush my baby’s teeth? She hates the toothbrush, so it always ends in tears.

A: It’s a great idea to start caring for your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to appear. If she’s not keen on a toothbrush, try using a clean muslin or a soft cloth instead. This might be more comfortable on her tender gums if she’s teething, too. Sit your baby on your knee with her head on your chest and approach from the back. Smear a pea size smudge of baby toothpaste on the cloth and pass it gently over the tooth. This way, your baby gets used to the taste and the routine, and a little fluoride is absorbed into the gum at the same time. Be quick and playful, giving lots of reassurance and encouragement. Do this twice a day – before bed is the most important time – and she’ll soon get used to the new experience.

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Q: I still don’t feel as if I’ve fallen in love with my 6 week old baby. Please help.

A: If we could be as honest and open as you’re being, these common feelings would be less scary and difficult. For many mums there are disappointments and adjustments to be made as you come to terms with the realities of birth, feeding, relationships, etc. It takes time to process so it’s not unusual for mums to have confusing feelings. The best way to address these emotions is to talk to someone, so speak to your partner, a friend and your health visitor, and work things through day by day.

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