Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My Story: Postpartum Recovery

September 19, 2014

By Ana Vela

My Story: Postpartum Recovery | The author, Ana Vela, holds her newborn baby, Mariana, against her chest.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shaffer Photography

I spent so much time planning for my first baby, from reading books and articles to talking with my doctor to talking with friends and family. Yet I didn’t take the time to learn about the postpartum recovery process. Perhaps it was because I was a bit scared. Or perhaps it’s because I assumed I was stronger than most women and would recover quickly. I completely underestimated the challenge this recovery period would be.

The postpartum recovery period is defined as the six weeks after delivery. An article in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health discusses postpartum effects lasting until 18 months after delivery. A woman will experience physical, emotional, and mental challenges during this time.

As someone who was unaware of what to expect during postpartum recovery, here are some tips I would like to offer for anyone about to go through this process:

Focus on your physical recovery.
Pregnancy and delivery was hard work for your body, and there is a whole list of symptoms you will experience afterward. Although you want to take care of your baby, it’s important that you focus on your own physical recovery.

At first, I felt very guilty that I was relying on my mother and husband to care for the baby so much in order to sleep (my mother stayed with us for the first two and a half months of our daughter’s life). Do not feel guilty. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for your child later.

One of the ways you can take care of yourself is to avoid going out to public places with your baby during the first weeks after giving birth, as you are both vulnerable to getting sick. Although I was going crazy from being indoors, knowing that my child was healthy at home was worth it.

Learn to ask for and accept help.
If you are like me, independent and in need of being in control, be prepared for the opposite. I have never felt so helpless before. I needed assistance with everything: bathing (extremely embarrassing for me), cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, getting groceries, and taking care of my pets. Family and friends will offer to help, and it’s okay to accept it and depend on them. Although it was difficult for me to feel so vulnerable, I realized that it was more important for me to spend my energy on what mattered most—the baby.

Prepare to continue feeling emotional.
I wasn’t very emotional during my pregnancy, but certainly was during my postpartum recovery. I wasn’t expecting to feel such a range of emotions—sensitivity, sadness, anxiety, regret, anger, impatience, etc. Once I even cried with my baby in my arms because I couldn’t help her get rid of her hiccups.

It’s okay to feel this way. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of women experience these types of symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you experience more serious symptoms that prevent you from caring for your baby, as these may be signs of postpartum depression.

Acknowledge that everything will change.
I was obsessed with wanting to be the same person I was prior to having a baby. I wanted to continue being dedicated to my career, my social life, my hobbies, maintaining my household, and even my weight and active lifestyle. Everything changes when you have a baby. I became stressed out that I couldn’t balance everything in my life anymore, and didn’t want to be criticized for it. After talking with friends and family, I learned to come to terms with these changes. Reconsider your priorities in order to enjoy your new life.

Follow all your health care provider’s instructions during the recovery process to ensure you avoid complications to your health, and enjoy the time with your new baby. Keep these tips in mind to help better prepare for the postpartum recovery process, and good luck!

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Bye-Bye Binky!

August 15, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Bye-Bye Binky! | A toddler sits with his pacifier in his mouth, looking innocent and curious.

My son’s pacifier is more than just your average piece of silicone. An ingenious invention called a WubbaNub, it is a small stuffed cat with a green pacifier attached to its mouth. We call it Fluffy Kitty, and it has been with my son since the day we brought him home from the hospital. For the past year and a half, it has been his source of comfort and the preserver of my husband’s and my sanity.

Pacifier use is one of those parenting issues that EVERYONE seems have an opinion about, but there’s really no right or wrong answer. On the pro side, pacifier use is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS, and it’s a great way to satisfy a baby’s sucking reflex. On the con side, prolonged pacifier use can lead to problems with speech development and may affect the way a child’s teeth line up. And then, of course, there is the question of when to take it away.

For my son, that moment came last month at his first dental appointment. The dentist pointed out his slightly protruding front teeth and told me that if he stopped the pacifier now, it wouldn’t affect his permanent teeth when they came in.

The thought of saving thousands of dollars in orthodontist bills was enough to convince me that Fluffy Kitty needed to go. However, the idea of depriving my son of his comfort object made me reluctant to cut him off cold turkey. So after doing a little research, I came up with the following steps to gently wean him off the pacifier.

  1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Upon observation, I began to realize that my son’s pacifier use during the day was a subconscious habit. If he saw his pacifier lying around, he’d just scoop it up, put it in his mouth, and go about his business. So when he was distracted, I started hiding it where he wouldn’t easily spot it. Sure enough, he didn’t seem to notice it was missing!
  2. Crib Confinement. Once my son didn’t seem to rely on it as a crutch anymore, I instilled the rule that the pacifier never leaves the crib. We made a game out of it—he would have the pacifier in his mouth when I picked him up out of bed, but then I would say, “Hi-ya!” and he would fling it back into the crib with a big smile on his face.
  3. Paci-Free Naps. The next step was to try to get my son to take his afternoon nap without a pacifier. I have to admit I had some help with this step since my son takes most of his naps at daycare. His teacher would lay him down on his cot and pat his back until he fell asleep. It took awhile the first day, but after a few days, he was napping like a champ—no backrubs necessary!
  4. A New Bedtime Routine. The final step toward a pacifier-free lifestyle involved removing the pacifier from the bedtime routine. I made a point of letting my son pick out a different stuffed animal to snuggle with when we read bedtime stories each night. My goal was to help him find a different comfort object that didn’t go in his mouth. He eventually settled on a plush white cat that my husband and I have jokingly named Fluffy Kitty 2.

We’ve only recently transitioned to this final step, and bedtime can still be a little rocky at times, but I know there is smooth pacifier-free sailing on the horizon.



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.


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How can I wean a breastfeeding baby?

August 8, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I wean a breastfeeding baby? | A baby breastfeeds from her mother.

Question submitted on Facebook: How can I wean a breastfeeding baby?

Answer: There are many factors to consider when weaning a breastfeeding baby. Think about timing, nutrition, and the reasons why you are starting to wean your baby. And remember, take it slow and be patient.

If you start introducing your baby to solid foods at about six months, he or she may start to naturally wean. If not, your baby might start to wean on his or her own when entering the toddler phase, since he or she might not want to sit still for the duration of feeding.

If your child doesn’t start to wean on his or her own and you have been introducing solid foods and sippy cups for liquids, start the process slowly. Decrease the number of daily breastfeedings you provide and replace that meal with solid food. Over time, you can continue to cut out more breastfeeding sessions and replace them with solid food meals. Plan activities after these meals so your child will immediately engage and be less likely to notice that he or she didn’t breastfeed.

Talk to your baby’s doctor about getting him or her the proper nutrition as you start to wean from breastfeeding. The Mayo Clinic has excellent advice on weaning a baby, so visit their website for more tips and considerations.

For more information on breastfeeding, formula feeding, and providing a healthy start for your baby, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book Through the Early Years.

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Nursing Troubles

July 29, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Nursing Troubles | A baby nurses from his or her mother.

Before my son was born, I had his feeding regimen all planned out: I would nurse exclusively for the first few weeks and then introduce a bottle of pumped milk so my husband could participate in nighttime feedings.

Of course, nothing went according to plan.

Because I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy, my son had to drink a bottle of formula right after birth to regulate his blood sugar. A few hours later, he started having breathing problems and had to be rushed to the NICU where he was hooked up to all kinds of machinery.

In the meantime, I started pumping to build up my milk supply and tried to nurse during my visits to the NICU. Every time I tried to get my son to latch on, the poor little guy would get tangled up in wires and howl. Frustrated, I’d give up and feed him a bottle of pumped milk instead. I quickly realized that this most “natural” activity was a skill that both my son and I could not grasp.

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed do not meet their goal. Many, like me, encounter nursing difficulties in the hours and days immediately after delivery. Thankfully, there are resources available to help a mother who desires to nurse but is having trouble:

  • Postpartum Nurses. Many of the nurses who care for you in the hospital after labor and delivery have additional training in breastfeeding support. They can show you different nursing positions and provide an extra set of hands to guide your baby to a proper latch.
  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). If you need additional help, consider seeing a lactation consultant. These health care professionals have the highest level of training in breastfeeding support and can help with a wide variety of breastfeeding problems. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, their services may be covered under your insurance plan. Most hospitals and even some pediatricians’ offices have a lactation consultant on staff. Or, if you’d feel more comfortable in a private setting, you can find a lactation consultant who will come to your home. Check out the International Lactation Consultant Association to find a consultant in your area.
  • La Leche League. Founded by a group of Illinois women in 1956, this international nonprofit organization strives to help nursing mothers through support, encouragement, information, and education. Accredited La Leche League Leaders lead breastfeeding support groups all over the world and provide assistance via online forums.
  • Other Mothers. Don’t forget this valuable resource! Mothers who are currently nursing or have recently finished nursing are full of strategies and techniques that worked for them.

As for my son and me, we ended up having a lactation consultant come to our home so she could work with us in our own environment. She was wonderful and also included my husband in the nursing process. For a while, nursing was a three-person activity. My husband would help support my son while I focused on getting him to latch. Eventually, though, my son and I got the hang of it and it became second nature.



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.

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Breaking Up After Baby

July 10, 2014

Did you know that 13 percent of marriages end in divorce within five years of a first child’s birth? That’s just for couples who were married when the baby was born. For couples who weren’t married but were living together when the first child was born, that rate jumps to 39 percent.

It’s not news that having a baby is tough work. Aside from the physical demands, both on a pregnant woman’s body and on both parents from lack of sleep after the baby is born, there are countless emotional demands on a couple. And I’m not even getting into the effect post-partum depression can have on the relationship, which is an entirely different and very real beast.

Babble.com’s ChaunieBrusie spoke with a clinical psychologist about why couples break up after having a baby. In the article, she also offers tips on how to better sustain your relationship after his or her birth. Read the article for more information and those helpful tips.

Tags :  parentingbabypregnancymarriageinfant
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