This week, we caught up with Dr Ella Rachamim, a paediatrician who runs Be Ready To Parent, offering practical training courses for parents and parents-to-be.
A mother of identical twin girls (18 months) and also a boy of nearly 3, Ella works in a team with a babycare consultant, a midwife and other allied health professionals and knows more than a thing or two about parenting. We sat down with her to find out more…
How old are your kids?
Joey is 2 yrs 10 months and my identical twin girls, Miriam and Leila, are 18 months.
Tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your story?
I am a mum, a paediatrician, and director of Be Ready to Parent. I am married to Hugh, who is also a doctor. Having had my career mapped out from the age of 11yrs old it has been an enormous decision to take some time out of the NHS and concentrate on raising my young family and to develop my very new and growing business.
I have felt for a long time that new parents lack real support and are given lots of conflicting advice from health and non-health professionals, their family, the media and from the wide society. I started up trying to fill this gap, based upon my own experiences of parenting and of paediatrics, wanting to help new parents actually enjoy their precious time with their new baby.
Right now what are you working on?
I am organising a Training Day for professionals on Reflux and Early Allergies as this is a problem I see time and time again and something that many professionals do not know about or understand. It has a massive impact on the family and if continues unrecognized can affect the bonding between the mother and the child. I am also running antenatal classes with other health professionals, paediatric first aid courses, antenatal workshops for those expecting twins or more and also developing my expertise in the area of media review work.
Where did the idea come from?
Reflux and Early Allergies is a problem I see time and time again and something that many professionals do not know about or understand. It has a massive impact on the family and if continues unrecognised can affect the bonding between the mother and the child.
What and when was your big break?
There has not been any kind of brig break yet – still waiting! It have only really been up and running for under 6 months so it is very early days and with juggling looking after my 3 kids, it is something that is progressing but not very fast.
What does your typical day look like?
Woken up I must say at the moment nearer 8am (don’t hate me!), get myself and the kids ready, have breakfast, plan our morning activity whether it is preschool or a twins group or toddler group. Lunch followed by naptime (except unfortunately my oldest has decided naptime is only for babies!) where I try and get all my emails done and update my blog or twitter accounts. Sometimes I have a phone meeting or someone comes to the house for a meeting. After naptime I have some help 3 afternoons a week and can then catch up more on work or on physically going out to promote the business. Once the kids have eaten, had a bath and a story and are down for their sleep, I have dinner with my husband (although once a week I go to a women’s boxing group) and veg in front of the TV. However, inevitably work creeps into our evenings and takes over and sometimes I am up till the wee early hours of the morning working. My husband has been very patient and I want to try hard to make sure most of the work can be done in the daytime but for the business to really flourish I need to put more time in or start to work with someone else.
How do you do it?
I don’t really – my husband is often neglected! My kids play so well together that they can occupy themselves for a while catch up on the housework or a few emails – something I rely on. I want to get a better work/life balance and am making steps towards feeling comfortable with my work and personal life decisions and time. My stepdad is also amazing and can hands-down manage all 3 kids on his own all day and sometimes I use this to get some work done.
Who is your super hero?
Not really sure I have a superhero but have to say that Janne Harrison who I work with saved me at a very critical stage in my life – she is a babycare consultant, a maternity nurse and now a trusted friend – I follow her advice and listen to her just as she was the first person to really listen to me last year.
What are you top tips for getting through the winter with as few bugs as possible?
It is perfectly normal for your child to have loads of coughs and colds of varying severity. Sometimes so mild you do not even notice, other times really disturbing their sleep and eating. It is obviously worse in winter time, and unfortunately tummy bugs are also at their peak this year. There is no way of really avoiding these illnesses as many are airborne – but if your child is ill then try and avoid coming into contact with other children and therefore making them ill is my only piece of advice. With tummy bugs, hand hygiene is paramount to try and stop it spreading to other family members making the whole holiday period one you would rather forget. Let’s hope that your child will some gain immunity this year to stop it happening again next year.
What vitamins are good for our kids and do they really help keep them healthy?
The DoH recommends vitamins daily for ALL children from the age of 6 months to 5 years. For some reason this important piece of information is not filtering down to parents and health professionals. Vitamins can be got on prescription from your GP, brought over the counter or sometimes if you are struggling to get them then your Health Visitor can help. There is no particular brand that takes precedent – just your barn door multivitamins for kids. What is absolutely vital is Vitamin D – this vitamin is essential for bone health and we are seeing a rise in rickets in the UK because of Vitamin D deficiency. So not only does sunlight (what sunlight you may ask?!) help your body produce vitamin D, but this essential vitamin is incorporated into all the standard multivitamins for children, hence the reason we must give them to our children from the age of 6 months.
Flu vaccine for our kids – yes or no?
Being a paediatrician I guess you are asking the wrong person to have a debate over vaccinations – I am 100% pro vaccination in all its forms. I wish the chickenpox vaccine was available to everyone here as part of the routine immunisation schedule in the UK as it is in Australia and I cannot wait for the rotavirus vaccine to be put into place here.
Vaccination is the best form of prevention and protection in my book. I cannot understand why one would not want to vaccinate one’s child but I know that people have their reasons and as a paediatrician my job is to provide them with the evidence, have an informed discussion with them and then I guess leave it up to them to make a choice. Interestingly though in the USA it is compulsory that a child is vaccinated in order to go to nursery and in some areas it is linked with child benefits. Should we follow suit?
What do you wish you’d known before you’d had kids?
How to actually “parent”. How PRAISE is the number one tool for getting your child to do what you want them to do without them knowing you want them to do it! Praise, praise and keep on praising. I have recently learnt a lot about how to “emotionally coach” my children, from some amazing people I work with such as a parent counsellor with years of experience answering the phone calls at Parentline. What I mean by this is to actually listen and acknowledge your child’s feelings for something; give them words to express their emotions and support them if they are upset or angry and then tackle ways of how you can make the situation better now and in the future. Sounds silly but it really works.
Scummy or scrummy mummy?
Definitely a scummy mummy – I wish I could emulate a scrummy mummy – just would not know where to start!
Bake it or fake it?
Actually I have recently taken up baking and love it – I went on a 6 week course at a local college and fell in love with baking. Before this, I can honestly say that I feared the kitchen, had no idea what the difference between a spatula and a palette knife was – now at least I will give it a go.
What’s your parenting shortcut?
Fromage Frais pouches – anything in a pouch rather than a pot! Less mess all round.
If you could delegate any parenting task what would it be?
I look forward to the day when they can all get up and go downstairs and make their own breakfast – at the same time I am also in absolutely no rush for them to be able to do this.
Confess all, go on tell us a secret…
I sometimes walk my loving and tolerant dog and have not had poo bags with me so have had to either leave the doggy do or use my kids nappy sacks to clear it up – happens infrequently I assure you.
Greatest kid products of all time?
I have done a couple of Blogs on Equipment – what I wish I had known about or had when I was starting my family. I think for me it is good twins products that are crucial – anything that actually saves you time when you have twins is, in my book, an essential piece of equipment. I love the Baby Bjorn bouncers as the fold flat and can be easily washed, the Emmay baby bath seat which is cheap and can be used from birth, and the Beaba feeding spoons as they are soft and can hold a lot of food!
What couldn’t you live without?
Bamba snacks – they appeal to all ages and are a great accompaniment to every meal when you are stuck – and are a great bargaining tool (it goes without being said that we obviously won’t need to bargain with our children to get them to do something as they will do it the first time following all the praise and emotional coaching we are all doing with our kids all the time and every day!)
How do you want your kids to remember you?
As present. I want them to remember me being around and actually present in their lives in their early years. I am not ready to give them up to the NHS for now.
Who are your top must follows?
I am becoming a fan of NHS Choices and am now working with the film production team to incorporate a number of parenting videos to accompany the written information on there. It is factual, up-to-date and readable. My only reservation is how to get all parents, from all cultures and backgrounds, to access the information – for example those who do not speak English.
What’s hot right now? I am a fan of swaddling in the early weeks and my favourite is the ErgoCocoon – an Australian concept and now over in the UK. A company to also watch out for is “4little1” they are coming up with some fab gadgets to help your snuffly baby sleep. There are also tonnes of fun changing bags around – stylish and do the job so worth taking a peek at those or getting a friend to buy you one.
What’s next for you?
Working on the possibility of partnering up with someone who shares my values and aims. Organising the Reflux and Early Allergies day. Oh and right now – stopping the kids destroying my living room while I am typing this!
How can we connect with you? Please visit my website and email me if you want to learn more about my courses or about me, firstname.lastname@example.org