Q & A with Natalie Herman- Baby Consultant & Sleep Specialist

 

QandA Natalie Herman

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Natalie Herman is a former HR Manager who passionately pursued a career change after giving birth to her daughter. In an attempt to find a more work life balance and enjoy her new role as Mum, Natalie trained to become a certified child sleep consultant.  She runs her consultancy business ‘Natalie Herman Baby Consultant & Sleep Specialist’ from her home in Israel and since its creation, has successfully worked with clients all over the world including: Israel, Australia, Spain, Germany and the UK. Many who know her personally, refer to her as the resident ‘sleep lady’.  Natalie has a 2.5 year old daughter Liele.

Pharmamum: Natalie, what inspired you to become a sleep consultant and where did it all start?

Natalie: Prior to giving birth to my daughter I worked in various HR positions in global companies, often having to travel to Europe on business trips.  When I gave birth I realised that my previous career would not allow me much home time. I knew it was important for at least one parent to be a constant in my daughter’s life and my husband is a lawyer and works crazy long hours so he wasn’t available to help out.  It was during this realisation as a new mum that I felt encouraged to pursue another career.  That, and also the fact that I was literally obsessed with getting my baby to sleep.  I believed at the time and still do, that implementing routine from an early age can often prevent poor sleeping habits from occurring later down the track.  I thought to myself that if I was able to pass on the knowledge I had learnt to other mums who were struggling with sleep deprivation or depression postpartum, then I could genuinely be making a change to their life, personal wellbeing, as well as to their ability to be a good mother. A tired exhausted mum simply cannot function the way they need to.

Pharmamum: How did you go about pursuing this career change?

Natalie: I searched online for the most comprehensive infant sleep course around led by  professionals who had been actively working in this field for 30 years. I was taught by pediatricians, psychiatrists, dieticians, pediatric nurses and senior sleep consultants.  The course involved face to face coursework and a  training period working in real life situations with families who were struggling with sleep. By the time I had started studying, I had already found myself helping so many other mummy friends and friends of friends with their babies. I knew I had to turn this into a business.

Pharmamum: I’m aware there are sleep consultants out there with different methods of sleep training, can you tell us a bit about what training method you follow?

Natalie:My motto to parents during our first meeting is: ‘it’s not about what I would do with my child, or what is good for me, it is about you and your family and what is good for you and your lifestyle’. Within the parameters of what are healthy sleeping habits, I offer parents a gentle sleep training approach providing them a detailed sleep plan and routine for both the day and night so they have something tangible and practical to work with. We start the training at bedtime and then tackle the night and finally the day time. There is no way a parent can do the training all at once, they would be exhausted, so we handle it in stages. I believe it is important to empower parents to do the work, so that once the consultation period is over, they are able to apply the knowledge I have taught them when they are confronted with dips in their child’s sleep as a result of: jetlag, illness or teething.

Pharmamum: Natalie,  let’s pretend that one of our mums have just started to experience some problems with their first child’s sleeping, and they want to come and see you.  Lets take them on a journey: what would be the first thing that you would do with them and what kind of journey would they expect to go on? What would it all involve?

Natalie: As I work both locally and globally I partner with technology in a huge way, as I help parents from all over the globe.  Parents can simply be in the comfort of their own home and chat together via skype calls or if my client lives in Israel, I happily do home visits. What I offer is:

For expecting mums or mums with newborns – 5 months, I offer parents a 3 hour home visit which includes everything and anything related to sleep. During this visit or skype call, I can talk about anything from routine and how to settle your baby, to how to prepare your baby room ensuring it is a good sleep environment for your child.

Once a baby is 5 months or older I start more gentle sleep training which includes a 3 hour house visit (or a long skype call)and following this visit we consult for up to 2 months, or until the child’s sleeping issues have been resolved. During this process I work on a daily basis with parents checking in on them to see how things are progressing so they receive consistent support and guidance from me. With this package parents will receive a personalised sleep plan and training guide.

For parents that just have a few quick questions, I also offer a phone consultation package.  All my packages are available both locally and globally to clients via skype.

In addition to this I run small workshops at crèche’s and childcare centers around Israel for new parents.

Pharmamum: We find we give birth to our beautiful baby, and they are an angel for us in the hospital sleeping so well. We bring them home, and the fun starts. At what point do you recommend getting in touch with yourself and what benefit is there in starting sleep training early on? Is there such a thing as starting too early?

Natalie: I never believe it is too early to be educated on infant sleep. I have met with mums with 1 week old babies. Getting off to a good start from the very beginning can help to minimize lots of problems down the track.  Obviously in the early days when your baby is still developing their habits, it is important to try and minimize poor sleeping habits. However, at the same time, it is also important to give them lots of love and affection to ensure they develop a good sense of security and attachment to their parents.  I help new mums find this balance of loving but also encouraging their baby to be able to eventually self sooth. By 3 months if you have been monitoring your baby’s sleep, you should start to see a routine forming, especially in terms of their nap times. At 5 months your baby’s habits are more fixed and harder to change, so if they have learnt poor sleeping habits parents will most likely need the help of a sleep consultant in order to correct them.

Pharmamum: I think a lot of parents thinks sleep consultants are like an angel sent from up above, a life saver, they are able to get parents through their darkest hour, the sleep deprived, exhausted,  almost non-functional stage.  Do you find you have a good success rate with parents and what sort of feedback do you get?

Natalie: I have to say that yes to date I have had a very good success rate with my past clients. Mostly due to the fact that I am an avid perfectionist and couldn’t bear to separate from a family if I knew their baby was still not sleeping well. It would literally keep me up at night!  Many parents believe I really have saved their life, their marriage and their sanity. I really do understand them. If I had no alone with my husband and I had to get up on the hour every hour, I would turn into a very dark and depressed person. I make parents see another way; that it doesn’t have to be so bad, that they can enjoy ‘the gift of sleep’. That it is ok and normal to ask for help when you literally do not know what to do in order to get your baby to sleep. By normalizing their feelings, they feel comfortable to work with me.

Pharmamum: What did you find most challenging with your child’s sleeping patterns and how did you overcome them?

Natalie: I am glad you asked this question as many parents see sleep consultants as a kind of super nanny with perfect children who are dream sleepers. And whilst my daughter does sleep well now, it did take a lot of work and effort, especially in the early days. The worst time I had in regards to her sleep was when I returned home after a short few days away. She was 2.5 years at the time. Initially I thought all was ok, but on that first night back, it all came out. Clearly she had been internalizing her fears and anxieties while I was away and when left alone in her room felt the need to express her emotional distress. I understand now that she was scared I wouldn’t be there when she woke up in the morning and no level of sleep training or hard lessons would have helped to get her back to sleep. What she needed from me was comfort and emotional support.  This was a very hard phase for us, with her waking up every night for hours at a time. Often during these times you need to put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to understand what kind of help they need from you. Also, it’s very important to know these phases will not last forever. What I recommend to do, is to give your child what they need at the time and once they are calm and settled to resume your normal routine and ensure you don’t start developing poor sleeping habits.

Pharmamum: Nat, I’d love to ask you a few questions that probably every mother listening would love answered:

At what point is it ok to settle our babies back to sleep instead of feeding them?

Natalie: In Australia it is recommended that from six months of age, babies who are developing well no longer need night feeds. According to the Health Ministry here in Israel, from 7.5KG, as long as your baby is consistently putting on weight and eating well during the day and getting the calories they need according to their age, they no longer need to eat during the night. In the early months you should aim to feed every 4-5 hours and re-settle your baby at other times when they wake up at night. Gradually as your baby gets older you should try and stretch this out till 5-6 hours and then eventually leave them once they are sleeping through.

Pharmamum:What are your thoughts on ‘roll over feeds’ should we really wake our baby up to feed?

Natalie: I definitely support the idea of a roll over feed or more commonly known as a ‘dream feed’. When it works, it works like a charm. The idea is that you are implementing what is known as ‘pre-emptive feeding’. Which means, that you are pinpointing a specific hour at night (usually from 10-11pm) where you are feeding your baby, rather than relying on them to tell you. The dream feed is best during these hours whilst your baby is in their deeper stage of sleep and less likely to wake up, rather than the early hours of the morning when they are in a light stage of sleep. Eventually if you are consistent and feed at the same time each night, the idea is that your baby’s stomach will get used to eating at this hour and will not ask for a feed at another time during the night. I also recommend it, as often it ensures your baby will sleep for longer stretches at night. Just make sure to burp your baby after.

Pharmamum:What are your thoughts on dummies? I know in the sleep schools they have here in Melbourne, the minute you get there, they get rid of all dummies? I know personally I wouldn’t have survived without dummies for my children.

Natalie:I am a fan of anything that helps your baby to self sooth. So a pacifier, a thumb and a lovey are all great tools to help your baby to get to sleep on their own and to ensure they sleep for longer periods.  If your baby is showing signs of either being a pacifier or thumb sucker, you should aim to go with them and not force them to take a direction either way.

Pharmamum: Before we finish up, what would be the single most important piece of information you could give to a first time mother about to have a baby or just had a baby in relation to their child’s sleep?

Natalie:Never keep your new baby up for longer than 1-1.5 hours during the day until they are about 3 months old. This includes feeding, changing and burping. A new baby cannot handle too much awake time and keeping them up for too long will mean it is very difficult to get them to sleep.

Pharmamum:Natalie, if any of our mums are interested in learning more about you and your business, where can they go?

Natalie: You can follow me on Facebook at Natalie Herman Baby Consultant & Sleep Specialist.

or If you would like to hear more about myself and my services, you can go to

W: www.natalieherman.com

or email me at:

E: nataliehermanbaby@gmail.com

P: +972 50 595 9156

 

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Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.

Disclaimer –  The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.

Constipation: With these practical tips, this too shall pass.

 Pharmamum’s Ultimate Guide: Constipation for first time mums

As a change of pace I want to discuss a common health concern amongst mothers with newborns. This health concern requires prompt management and needs to be addressed, otherwise it can lead to a lot of pain and be very distressing. Often, we concentrate on our baby’s health and at the back of our mind, think ‘I’ll deal with my issues later.’ We need to keep ourselves healthy in order to look after our babies.

Constipation is very common once we have given birth. Whilst we are getting used to managing our baby’s health as well as our own health, there are many reasons constipation can occur and not only in breast feeding mothers. If we allow constipation to continue, it can lead to potential straining, pelvic floor issues and potential tears around the anus called ‘anal fissures’. Anal fissures are common within the first 6 months of giving birth and can be prevented if we manage constipation effectively.

Why is constipation such a problem?

Constipation can occur initially once we give birth. We often dread our first bowel motion after birth due to a number of factors:

  • Pain medication given during labor which  may slow down our gut processing speed.
  • Tears/stitches in the region
  • A  change in hormone levels

All these factors increase the risk of constipation mainly by slowing down the pathway to passing a bowel motion.

Constipation can occur whilst breastfeeding due to a lot of fluid transferring to baby. When we become dehydrated, our bodies first draw on the fluid from the bowel, causing our bowel motions to dry up and become firm. Hence, it is extremely important to drink plenty of water whilst breastfeeding. If you notice every time you sit down to breastfeed, you feel thirsty, this is because your body is signalling you to replace the lost fluid that your baby is consuming. Whilst breastfeeding the progesterone levels are high and this hormone is also known to slow the bowel motility and hence allow more opportunity for the body to absorb fluid from the bowel motions.

Time: When we are so focussed on our babies, we become time poor and often forget to drink enough water. It is very common to have a headache in the early days, and that reason is often due to dehydration and  not finding the time to replenish our fluid. Try and carry a bottle of water  wherever you go and also have a large glass of water next to your bed over night. I found I had to have a large glass of water with me every time I breastfed, otherwise I felt uncomfortably thirsty.

Fibre: Same applies with eating, we often eat whatever is quickest and easiest in those early days, but it is really important to eat well and have a nutritious diet. Our bodies need fibre to pass through our digestive system, as well as protein rich food and ‘good fats’ to also ensure good quality breast milk.

Iron supplements- Your doctor may have you either continuing on an iron supplement from pregnancy or you may require an iron supplement after giving birth if a lot of blood loss occurred. Your obstetrician and local GP will let you know whether you need to take an iron supplement and many iron supplements can cause constipation. There are many brands of iron that have an improved  formulation to prevent constipation and ensure the iron is absorbed and not excreted in the bowel motions. An easy test to know if the majority is passing out through our bowel motions is if the colour of our stools are almost black.  I am fan of Ethical nutrients Iron Max, Spatone, or Bioceutical Iron sustain. These formulations are easy to absorb and won’t cause the side effect of constipation.

So what can I do to help relieve constipation?

Water: is one of the most important factors in preventing constipation. Minimise fluids that are dehydrating ie coffee, tea, other caffeinated drinks eg. Coke, pepsi max etc.

Fibre: Try and eat fibrous foods, ie plenty of fruit and vegetable, cereals, wholemeal bread or pasta. However it may be worth supplementing with a fibre supplement eg. Metamucil, Benefibre, Fybogel which are all  safe whilst breastfeeding.

Gentle exercise: Light walking can get the bowels moving and make it easier to pass a motion.

Medication: Stool softeners (eg coloxyl tablets )and osmotic laxatives (eg Lactulose) are safe to use at the recommended doses while breastfeeding until the bowel motions are soft. Stimulant laxatives are not recommended such as senna (eg. Senokot) or bisacodyl (eg.Dulcolax). They may pass into the breast milk and cause diarrhoea in your baby. Ensuring the stools passed are soft will prevent painful bowel motions. Painful bowel motions can lead to tears around the anus causing an anal fissure. If you find when making a bowel motion, there is extreme sharp pain and you break out in a sweat when making a bowel motion, you most likely have a tear in the anus. It is important to see your doctor and get it diagnosed, and your local GP will recommend a cream which aids in the pain relief and will  assist in wound healing. The medication applied is different  to creams used for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoid creams will not treat an anal fissure.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.

Disclaimer –  The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.

Can i do anything to help my babies cough? Here’s what you can try

Pharmamum- Cough

 

Pharmamum’s Ultimate Guide: Cough

I went to the doctor today with my 4 year old daughter. For the last 4 days she has been coughing and coughing to the point it has caused her to vomit. My doctor said it was viral and there is not much you can give a young child with a cough. It will just subside on its own.

As a pharmacist and a mother of 2 under the age of 4, I am continually being presented with coughs, from my own children as well as giving advice to parents wanting to know what to do with their children’s cough.

In 2012, the Therapeutics Goods of Australia changed the recommendations for cough and cold preparations as a result of a review of safety and efficacy for over the counter cough and cold medicine used in children. It was found that these medicines may cause harm to children  and the benefits have not been proven for children under 6 years of age.

When you think about why a baby/child has a cough and what their little bodies are trying to do, it is obvious that they are trying to clear and expel what is irritating their airways. If you give your child a cough suppressant, it will suppress your baby/child’s cough and stop  what their body is trying to do.

So what causes a baby/child  to have a cough?

Virus- Both bacterial and viral infections can cause a cough however the most common reason a baby has a cough is due to a virus causing an upper or lower respiratory tract infection.

Asthma -Asthma will not be formally diagnosed until your child is 5 years old. However around 70% of children have intermittent asthma, which means they have short, isolated episodes of asthma, usually in response to a respiratory infection or environmental allergen.

Post nasal drip– A cold/flu may start out as  congestion in the nasal passage and then often the  excess fluid will drip down the back of the throat, irritating the airways and causing a cough. Often by the morning a phlegmy sounding cough arises, as the body is trying to expel the buildup of mucus.

Irritants- Cold air, cold food eg. milkshakes, ice-cream all constrict the airways and trigger a cough. Other Irritants  eg smoke and allergens eg. pollen also can a trigger a cough.

So when a parent comes in to the pharmacy, what advice do I give them? I give the advice that works for me with my children:

1.Hedera helix (Ivy leaf extract) – There are a few different brands currently on the market eg Prospan and  Little coughs. Prospan is more concentrated than Little coughs. With my eldest daughter Prospan causes her to vomit whereas my youngest can take it with no ill effects. However they both can take the less concentrated Little Cough liquid with no side effects. In 2% of children, Ivy leaf extract can cause vomiting or diarrhoea, it is worth trying as it has been proven to be effective. Ivy leaf extract does not suppress a cough. It loosens mucus so that your baby/child can cough up the mucus and get it off their chest. It also has a soothing effect on the airways  and stops the cough that ‘hurts’  whilst relaxes the airways. It can be used in infants and children and is the only cough medicine available and safe for children under 6 years of age.

2. A vaporiser- A vaporiser won’t necessarily stop a cough but it adds moisture to the air in your baby/child’s room. This allows your baby to breathe more comfortably and stops the cold dry air hitting the airways, which often triggers the airway to constrict and cause your baby/child to cough.   I recommend just water in the vaporiser as the steam generated is what makes your baby/child breathe easier. I would not recommend the use of menthol/eucalyptus inhalant liquids in the vaporiser until your baby is over 2 years of age for the relief of nasal congestion. Once eucalyptus is added to a vaporiser, always keep the door open to prevent  the eucalyptus concentration building up in the room.  I would also recommend on those cold nights, if you have heating, to make your child’s bedroom temperature around 19-20 degrees, just for the same reason, it stops the cold air hitting the lungs and tightening.

3. Baby Vicks eucalyptus rub-  Rubbing the Vicks on your baby’s feet and putting socks on, really helps a cough. I honestly don’t know how it works but whenever I rub it on my children’s feet, they often have a better nights sleep with a lot less coughing. Vicks BabyBalsam is also great on the chest so the vapour can help a blocked nose. Vicks BabyBalsam can be used  from 3 months of age.

4. Speak to your doctor- If the above options are not helping, I would recommend speaking to your family doctor, as once they listen to your baby/child’s chest they may recommend an inhaler that will open  and relax the smooth muscle in the airways and/or an anti-inflammatory inhaler. Sometimes oral medication may be prescribed too ( eg a corticosteroid liquid). Often when a baby/child has a virus they can get what is called a ‘post viral asthma’ where the body produces mucus to try and kill the virus and remove it from the body. This mucus production that sits in the airways narrows the airways causing them to constrict. An inhaler relaxes the smooth muscle allowing your child to breath easier and obtain more oxygen. If an inhaler is recommended, a spacer with a mask is important to use to ensure the medication gets to the airways. Obviously a baby would not understand to breath in through the mouth,  so using a mask will ensure your child/baby  will be breathing in the medication and it will reach the lungs.  Once the airways are relaxed, you may notice your baby coughing  more initially, as the mucus loosens and expelled.  Your doctor will also need to assess whether antibiotics are required. Most commonly a cough is due to a virus and antibiotics will not help, however your doctor will need to gather information from you and make an informed decision.

Unfortunately there is no way of preventing a cough and a cough can often linger on for a couple of weeks after a cold/virus. However if a child is otherwise happy and going about their daily activities with no problem whilst their cough persists, then there is no cause for concern, the cough will pass. However if there are any of the following symptoms, it is very important to see your local doctor:

  • Your child has difficulty in breathing and you are hearing a wheezing sound on their breath out
  • When your child  coughs, there is a ‘whooping’ sound on their breath in.
  • Your child gets out of breath when coughing
  • Your child’s cough comes on suddenly with a fever
  • If your child’s skin turns very pale or even a blue colour whilst coughing
  • The cough is just not going away

Other tips:

  • You can give a baby older than 1 year, a teaspoon of honey which may give some short term relief by coating the lining of the throat which acts as a barrier to irritants.
  • Give your child warm (not hot) drinks.The warm liquid will often help soothe the airways.
  • Avoid cold drinks and ice cream, as you will notice it sets off a cough.
  • Avoid air conditioners, this will often exacerbate a cough.

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.

Disclaimer –  The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.

Baby sleep tips for first time mums, Interview with Natalie Herman

Disclaimer –  The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.

 Pharmamum Show Episode 2: Baby sleep tips for first time mums, Interview with Natalie Herman

  • Baby sleep tips for first time mums
  • Interview with Natalie Herman (Founder, Natalie Herman Baby Consultant & Sleep Specialist)
    www.natalieherman.com

Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.