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Best friend says her baby is ill all the time - should I challenge her on it?

(25 Posts)
StackingAndNesting Fri 21-Oct-11 14:22:52

Have namechanged for this; sorry it?s long.

My best friend had a chronic illness for a long time so was always ill, and getting viruses etc on top of that. Although she WAS genuinely ill, she was also a bit of a hypochondriac, always thinking everything was serious, constantly at doc?s, taking meds etc. Since having her ds 12 months ago, her body seems to have righted itself, she no longer has the chronic illness and rarely gets ill.

What?s weird is that she seems to have transferred the hypochondria onto her ds. Every few days she is saying on facebook how her ds is poorly. Every single time I see her she says he is not himself/in a bad mood/teething/not right/in pain/has a virus?even though to me he seems perfectly happy. Any time he cries, even if just because she is putting him in his carseat for example, she frets like mad saying he doesn?t sound right, his chest is bad, stuff like that.

I?m not the only one who?s picked up on it either?my dh and several mutual friends have commented on it. My MIL met her briefly once and even said after she seemed to be way over-protective and talking about how ill her ds was. The poor child has been on anti-biotics 3 times in his life already and been taken to out-of-hours doc in early hours of the morning countless times.

Onto the second part of the story- her ds?s sleep. He is 12 months old yet has never stopped sleeping like a newborn. He wakes every hour, and is still sometimes up for a few hours at night. She and her dh are totally despairing about it, absolutely shattered, have not had an evening out since he was born etc etc. They say they have tried everything- different books, cranial osteopathy etc.

Now, I have an 18 month old ds and for a good few months in his first year he was a terrible sleeper. We decided we would do pupd and we stuck at it for good few weeks...he eventually learned to settle himself and for a long time now has settled himself at bedtimes and slept through the night. Now I?m NOT saying this is the way everyone should do it- I know co-sleeping and stuff like that works well for some but what I am saying is you have to be CONSISTENT in whatever approach you decide to take. (Same as with anything to do with babies/children imo) This is what I keep saying to my best friend but she and her dh are just all over the place ? sometimes they sleep in his room on the floor, sometimes one of them in the spare bed with him, sometimes have him in their bed, take him downstairs. They leave him crying a bit, they soothe him to sleep, they let him stay up?they just do not stick to anything and all the while she is saying the sleep problem is because he is ?ill?. She says he?s up crying ?clearly in pain? and that they will tackle the problem once his latest virus is all cleared up. I am properly starting to get concerned now for her health, she?s been depressed before?says she isn?t now but I can see it heading that way. She stays in all day a LOT with her ds on account of his illnesses.

Sorry to witter on?I would just genuinely like to hear some opinions on whether I should confront her about it or if it?s none of my business. Would I actually be being a good friend to say ?look, babies have different moods, it doesn?t always mean they?re ill.? Or just being a bitch? Writing this out now I?m not even sure WHY it bothers me so much; I know it?s her life, her decisions etc but it just feels like she will be fighting this battle for so many years and it could potentially be stopped.
I?m not sure I could even get through to her if I did but I am just so at the end of my tether with her and constantly boring my dh with it that thought I should talk to some other impartial people about it!
Thanks for reading.

StackingAndNesting Fri 21-Oct-11 14:23:38

Oh God- sorry for question marks instead of apostrophes...I wrote this out elsewhere and copy/pasted...sorry!

rubyslippers Fri 21-Oct-11 14:27:42

Confront her how?

FWIW, my DS was I'll a lot ... He had several hospital visits before he was even 6 months old

I think you are being a touch harsh - your friend may have PND which can majestic in her being overly anxious about her child's health

She is certainly shattered if she is getting no sleep so not in a good place to tackle very much

rubyslippers Fri 21-Oct-11 14:28:34

Apols for my typos -iPad autocorrect

SootySweepandSue Fri 21-Oct-11 14:33:46

If you are seriously concerned that she is imagining illnesses in her son and he is taking unnecessary medication as a result of her actions I would contact her HV or even call SS. This is a serious issue IMO. I believe this behaviour is a sign of mental illness.

Regarding sleep, it wouldn't hurt to share what has worked for you, but babies are so different she may not find it that useful.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 21-Oct-11 14:55:02

I think the key part here is that you think it's starting to affect her ability to lead a normal life. If she has an existing tendecy to be anxious and over-focused on illness and then you add sleep-deprivation and ordinary new mum difficulties into the mix, I think you could end up with someone with problems. Staying home with her baby rather than going out would be an alarm bell for me.

It would be the action of a very good friend to express your concerns for her. You can't judge if her baby is really ill or not, only a GP can do that, and some people are unfortunately saddled with children that refuse to sleep. But you can offer help, urge her to see the fuller picture & explain why you are worried about her. Also, if you're a good enough friend with her DH, you could talk to him. If it's apparent enough for you and other friends to notice, chances are he'll be worried as well.

StackingAndNesting Fri 21-Oct-11 18:26:09

Thanks so so much for your responses, has given me lots to think about.

ruby I know I am being a bit harsh and probably should have more sympathy with her as being sleep-deprived is hell. In terms of 'confronting her' I don't mean some huge intervention, just gentle the mo I just nod along with what she says.

sooty I don't think it has quite reached the stage of SS yet but what you said about mental illness is a bit confused as there is a history in her family.
I have shared lots of tips on what we've done with sleep but as you say, they're not always helpful. I don't know if I'm just a bit smug in the way we 'managed' ds's could easily be that he is just a good baby and I'll be blush retrospectively when our second one is an awful sleeper!

Thanks cogito...yes I am friends with her dh, the 4 of us are very close and I have suggested to my dh to hahve a word with hers but he seemed reluctant. Maybe I will gently ask him but feels a bit like going behind her back. I will try explaining to her why I'm worried next time it happens.

Thanks all.

wigglesrock Fri 21-Oct-11 20:29:03

I think you can legitimately talk to her gently re her anxiety about her childs health, its important you do, but I wouldn't touch the sleep issue unless she came to you specifically for advice. Dd2 was a dreadful, dreadful sleeper until 3 and I tried everything including shush pat etc and had anyone passed me advice along the lines of "children need consistency" etc I would have thought "you smug cat", not that I'm saying you are but thats certainly how my sleep deprived self would have felt.

By the way dd1 was a fab sleeper grin

rosycheeksandasmile Fri 21-Oct-11 20:41:26

V difficult - I have a friend who I am convinced everything is "very serious" with - I would make sure you support her, offer advice and be optimistic eg may not be serious etc etc...... I would not directly challenge her - I am not sure what this would achieve for anyone?

BerylOfLaughs Fri 21-Oct-11 20:43:37

Sounds like this:

matana Sat 22-Oct-11 23:21:57

Maybe he is actually ill a lot. Doctors don't tend to prescribe antibiotics on the whim of a baby's mother. And antibiotics lower your immunity, so if her DS has had 3 lots in his short life perhaps he's then picked up viruses afterwards. In their first year babies go through all sorts of trials and tribulations, teething and vaccinations included. It wouldn't be that unreasonable to assume that your baby is ill during this time.

IndigoSunshine Sun 23-Oct-11 17:31:32

The sleep thing - recommend some books, maybe even buy her one. Only her and her dp can get him into a decent sleep routine and no matter how much advice you can give she will try as many different things as is possible.

The illness concern can be an array of things. She might just be a naturally over protective mother and a worrier, the child could genuinely be ill or she could have a syndrome called Munchausen by Proxy (MSbP). It's a form of child abuse so it is that absolute last thing you should bring her up on. There isn't really much you can do; I understand your concern but he is her child and she could be overwhelmed from having a baby, being very ill and extremely sleep-deprived: all these things can cause people to think the worst. As he gets older she may improve, she may not but I don't think you will be able to change her. As for the syndrome, try not to think the worst. Look it up, bear it mind but be wary of using that expression when expressing concerns about your friend. Being accused of child abuse when it's not is possibly the worst thing ever.

cory Sun 23-Oct-11 19:10:28

On the one hand you could be right and that she is projecting.

On the other hand it could be that you suspect her of projecting because of her own past- which in itself is a form of projecting.

I have been suspected of Munchausen myself -and by medical professionals too- because dd had a range of symptoms which didn't seem to add up and nobody who wasn't living with her 24/7 knew what our lives were really like and she seemed fine when she wasn't having one of her turns.

She was diagnosed age 8 with a connective tissue disorder. A few years later her little brother was diagnosed with the same thing; it turns out it is hereditary.

But I went through hell at the time when everybody suspected us. Dd is still in therapy, having been told once too often that her pain is all in her head.

Not saying you shouldn't say anything to your friend: just be gentle with her, don't assume you have seen everything there is to see, and don't mention Munchausen or abuse- that really would not help.

MysteriousHamster Sun 23-Oct-11 19:14:12

My son had anti-biotics about 7 times from 6months to 12 months, and also slept badly - because he has a problem with his adenoids that makes him prone to adenoid and ear infections. He was ill constantly from March to July. Ok for most of Aug/Sep and has now started getting ill again. God knows what my friends must think but they've never said anything bad, thankfully. It's hard enough watching him be ill, never mind be criticised about it.

Above all, your friend needs support. But what if her son is really ill, like my son is above, and you're not only ignoring what she's saying but moaning about it on here?

MysteriousHamster Sun 23-Oct-11 19:15:38

Also, we had no luck with sleep training until he had his two months 'off' being ill in the summer. So I could easily believe your friend on wanting to wait until he's free of virus. It's hard (and I wouldn't do it) to leave a baby to cry and cry when they're only doing so because they're ill.

(and yes I'm probably projecting in this thread!)

discrete Sun 23-Oct-11 19:29:01

Well I had a poorly child in his first year (multiple hospital/medical visits) and you know what? It does make you really anxious about his health.

And I was also told several times that I was basically a fantasist because 'look, he's perfectly happy right now' and that his poor weight gain was due to the fact that I was just not feeding him enough.

In fact he was seriously ill, and once he was diagnosed and on meds he changed completely. It was a while before I lost the anxiety, though. And the only reason we managed to get a diagnosis was because we diagnosed it ourselves online and then sought out a specialist who had lots of experience of that condition.

And it does make it completely impossible to manage their sleep, and people's 'helpful' suggestions are anything but. And yes, you do end up trying everything under the sun. Because you are at your wit's end.

Tbh, unless you have had a baby who has been unwell, the best thing you can offer your friend is sympathy. She'll be getting enough aspersions cast on her by everyone else (never any lack of people to question the judgement/motivations of the mother of a baby who is unwell).

As they say round here, if in doubt, blame the mother....

ladyintheradiator Sun 23-Oct-11 22:32:13

Do you really think the GP will just give anti-b's because the mother asks for them?

I would tread very, very carefully here. I think this sounds like a case of severe smuggery on your part. Maybe she is depressed - but to stretch that to the idea that she is making things up about her son is just ludicrous. I think you should leave the diagnosing her son to her son's GP. Beak out.

cory Sun 23-Oct-11 22:38:00

adding to what discrete said, I am sure there were times when I came across as a hysterical loon

you see, I knew from the start there was something wrong but the one thing I didn't know was how serious it was- if it was something you could die from or not

and everyone around me kept maintaining that there was nothing wrong...

it was a great relief to have a diagnosis in my hand and be able to say to myself "ok, this is the score, she may be disabled for life and she will probably be in pain a lot of the time, but she won't die from it"

dd is nearly 15 and she still mentions from time to time that one of her friends tells her that "my dad says there's nothing wrong with you, that you're just putting it on" (this is a family who has known us since dd was a baby)

sunnyday123 Sun 23-Oct-11 22:41:45

everyone reacts to motherhood differently - i think you may be over thinking this - she may be being overprotective and over anxious but lots of new mothers are.

I took DD to the docs pretty much every week, as i'd had no experience with children and so little exposure to signs and symptoms of common illnesses. The doc must have dreaded seeing me!

I also remember sleeping on the landing blush as DD1 woke everytime i moved and the floor boards creeked! I wouldn't have dreamt of doing it with dd2 and i consider myself and DH educated and balanced people but we did this for over a year!!

In my day to day life, i too tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac and over think things but i dont think that means i'm unstable or have parenting issues- some people are generally more negative - i've read it often happens with mothers who are used to being in control of things and so panic when faced with any kind of change.

I think you should support her but dont judge by your own standards as shes being the best she can be and another mother putting pressure on is unfair and unwanted.

StackingAndNesting Mon 24-Oct-11 12:01:28

Thanks for the responses.

I feel quite chastised!
I would never mention abuse or Munchausen's to her; I am absolutely certain it is not abuse or I would have mentioned that in my original post. I know her v v well btw, we are v close friends and see each other a lot I'm not just a mum in the park projecting my smugness onto her. We spend a lot of time at each other's houses and have been on holiday together with both babies so I have seen quite a lot of what home life is like for them. I know she is an extreme worrier, to the point where she makes herself ill and gives herself nightmares because of it.

But I totally take on board what has been said about projecting, and my smugness, and being sympathetic to her. I think I just find it very hard because we are quite different in some ways- I am quite laissez-faire and practical about my ds whereas she is always v highly strung (eg will freak out if my ds trips over even if he clearly hasn't hurt himself whereas I'm more 'oh dear, let's get up now' etc..) BUT I will make more of an effort to see where she is coming from; I obviously don't expect everyone to mother in the same way I do.

To those who talked of their dc actually being ill, sorry if I offended you. I'm really not brushing aside her complaints or 'ignoring her' as was suggested and yes of course I know it's up to the gp to diagnose. I really am just concerned for her and her dh who are constantly fretting, and have not had an evening to themselves in a year.

I will just hope then that in the next few months he will become healthier and things will start to sort themselves out. Think I am just sad more than anything cos I want my best friend back but I know having a baby changes people a lot.

InmaculadaConcepcion Mon 24-Oct-11 14:23:05

To me, you sound like a very concerned friend who is desperate to try and help someone she cares about.

Good luck.

ladyintheradiator Mon 24-Oct-11 16:42:46

I hope you can see where I'm coming from with the comment about being smug? I see it in a friend of mine - not directed at me because I am perfect wink and so are my kids, of course wink but she will criticise so-and-so for not letting their baby cry or whatever or being too soft or too weak or too - well, anything.

I'm really glad you clarified that you don't think your friend has MSBP and I suppose I picked up on that more because of BerylofLaugh's response. So sorry that my post sounded a bit accusatory, that was misguided of me.

Maybe your friend just needs lots of gentle reassurance that she is doing a good job? My DS has some difficulties and I question myself about them all the time - did I do something wrong, am I responsible? I know I am not but that doesn't stop the niggling worry sometimes. Maybe you can offer to babysit if they haven't an evening off since he was born. It can be hard to get perspective when you don't have a break.

StackingAndNesting Mon 24-Oct-11 19:00:20

lady no need to apologise at all- I was just saying to my dh about the responses I'd had on here and how I think I really needed to hear it to be honest because I can be very smug as my ds is a very good baby, has always adapted so well to all changes etc and I think hers is a very different baby (obviously, they all are hmm)

I have offered to babysit, and so have many other friends and her parents. The one time they have been out was for an hour when her mum insisted on having him and friend said she hated every moment of it as she knew he wouldn't settle etc. When we were on holiday together it took me a couple of days to persuade her and her dh to go off to the hot tub just the 2 of them while I watched baby & she still wasn't sure when they did... but I will keep trying on that front. Thanks smile

dikkertjedap Mon 24-Oct-11 19:08:07

She is probably totally exhausted. Could you offer to look after her dc an afternoon/evening so she or she and her dh could have some time for themselves?

redjumper Tue 25-Oct-11 18:32:20

To me, it sounds like she may be depressed - staying in a lot, worrying a lot, hypocondriasis (though this is a point of debate). However, it doesn't really matter what I think, or anyone else as we don't know your friend. If the two of you are that close, best friends, then you will know if there is something wrong. Just listen to your gut feeling and do whatever you think is right, that's all you can do.

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