Firstly I’d like to point out that this post is not meant to cause offence to anybody. It is my own opinion and experiences with some input from fellow mummies who were willing to share their experiences. If you disagree or have any comments please feel free to add them 🙂
Health Visitors. On paper they seem like angels sent to help and support us through one of the most difficult and testing times that any woman could go through. In reality I am struggling to find many people who have a good thing to say about them. Out of all my mummy friends and people I have spoken to about Health Visitors I would say 90% weren’t happy. Some women are unbelievably lucky and do get their post natal angel but they are few and far between. I must also add that every person that I have included in this entry live 100’s of miles away from each other so it can’t even be explained by one area.
When researching for this Blog I found the definition of the role of a Health Visitor, it read as follows –
“A Health Visitors role is a varied one and is an integral part of the NHS Community Health Service. The main focus of our work is prevention, helping people to stay healthy and avoid illness.”
If we took that definition in its literal form then Yes I would agree that is what they do. Prevention is key and they will be the first people to flag up any difficulties that may require social services and the like to step in. It has also been reported that they are essential in preventing post natal depression by catching it early enough to get it treated. However it goes on to state that they are also there to offer support and advice on many subjects ranging from growth and development to behavioural difficulties for the first five years. Now from my personal experience I would say that this is where they are lacking. Every Health Visitor that I have encountered has offered conflicting advice on the same topics. Surely all the training that they go through would teach them the same things?! I have been told by a friend that it’s hard to get onto the course to become a Health Visitor, you have to be a qualified nurse or midwife and also be very knowledgable and that they are put through their paces. Do they just lack common sense then?! Or are they taught to be patronsising and to contradict themselves?!
With Spud I had a wonderful Health Visitor. When I met her she completely put me at ease and I felt like I could rely on her for anything. Then he hit the 4 month growth spurt. Why is it that they don’t advise you that these pass and that in a week or two you get your happy contented baby back?! I was told to pack him with food before he went to bed because he was obviously starving. I followed her advice and we developed an absolutely terrible relationship with food. I was constantly stressing about him eating and used to offer food over and over again. The poor little mite went on hunger strike at one point because he simply didn’t want to eat any more food! It took until he was over 18 months old for me to relax and it was only because the Hubby stepped in and it would have meant undermining him.
With Spike I am still reeling from my first few visits. At 2 weeks old I informed the Health Visitor that he really wasn’t ok. There was something wrong. As you know a mother always knows best but I was clueless as to what it could be. He (yes he) told me that if i stopped breastfeeding I’d probably feel better. So i did. Spike didn’t improve at all. I visited another Health Visitor a week later who told me that I was making it up and that I obviously wasn’t coping with two babies so they would “keep an eye on me.” I decided not to go to them for advice about that issue again and persevered until my 6 week check at the GP where I begged and begged him to believe me. Spike was prescribed Gaviscon for digestive irritation or possible silent reflux. Within 2 days he was a totally different baby. I am absolutely devastated that nobody listened to me in the first place. I really wanted to breast feed this time around and tried really hard to get it going, the fact that I could still be feeding him today if someone had listened to me bothers me most days.
Their job role states that they will play an integral part in a child’s life for the first 5 years. My friend had her initial home visit where she informed them that she wasn’t coping that well and then never heard from them again even when she contacted them there was never a reply. Her daughter is now two and hasn’t had the developmental checks or any of the support that we are promised. So much for preventing post natal depression!
My other friend has just had her third baby and on her initial visit told the health visitor that everything was fine and that there were no issues. The Health Visitor then in a very patronising way (the biggest complaint I heard about Health Visitors was how patronising they could be!) appeared to start searching for problems and even told her how to arrange her house! Surely she should have thought “great no problems here, what an easy assignment!”
The last time that I went to the clinic to get Spike weighed (he’s a very healthy 20lb!) I mentioned that we were having problems sleeping. I was told of a technique where you rouse the baby in the hope that they just bat you off and go into a deeper sleep. She told me that if it was 3am most days then to wake him at 2am. To do this I set an alarm to get myself up. The thing is, what if i set my alarm on a night that he wasn’t going to wake up at 3, I have completely defeated the whole point of the technique as I am still not getting a full night in bed! When I said that he wasn’t consistent she said to just try it. She then told me to add ounces to his final bottle. When I told her that if he’s finished at 7oz he won’t have anymore, she told me to give him 9. I felt like screaming at her, she wasn’t listening to a word I said and I felt like she was just trying to get me out of there or had absolutely no idea what to suggest!
One friend, when asked what her view of Health Visitors simply answered that they are judgemental, unhelpful, ignore your problems and make up new ones!
I am seriously starting to wonder what the point of them is. It has been stated that cuts to the number of Health Visitors that we have in the country would lead to a surge in the GP’s workload but the amount of times I have asked a health visitor and been told to go and see the GP, I don’t see how it would make any difference! There are so many cuts happening to the public sector but I think it’s about time they completely re-evaluated the money spent on a service which isn’t providing all that it promises.