Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding

February 10, 2015

By Ana Vela

My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding | There's a lot of pressure in the parenting community to breastfeed for at least a year. Why this mom decided to stop after seven months. | The image shows a baby breastfeeding.

Ever since I was pregnant, medical staff, family, and friends all talked about the benefits of breastfeeding. It made perfect sense to do it. Once my daughter was born, our pediatrician insisted that I breastfeed her until she was at least one year old. In the first weeks, my daughter and I struggled a bit, but once she latched on and I was fully producing milk, it felt like nothing would stop us from reaching that one-year goal.

Maternity leave was surreal. It was a time where I wasn’t working, had minimal obligations, and all I had to do was focus on my baby. Once that time ended and I returned to work, I instantly felt the pressures of returning to the person I used to be prior to having a baby: an executive director who worked long hours, a friend who was always willing to socialize any day of the week, a spouse who had a strong and attentive relationship, and someone who had household responsibilities. Now there was also a baby at home waiting for her mother to provide her breast milk, love, and attention. As someone who considers herself a strong and independent woman, I took on the challenge to still manage all of these roles.

Finding the time to pump became increasingly challenging. My work habits made it difficult to pause during the day to pump. I wanted to cram in as much work as possible in order to leave at a decent time. Traveling for work for several days at a time also became a burden. Planning ways to continue pumping while being in all-day business meetings was no easy feat. Socializing was tough, too, since I had to be more aware of my alcohol consumption and couldn’t stay out as much as I wanted to. Needless to say, I was losing this battle.

And then it happened. My milk supply began decreasing significantly. I took it as a signal that I was failing my daughter. There are several causes linked to a decrease in milk supply. I was experiencing several of those causes in my life and it was showing, which continued to add more stress on me. At some point it felt like I was formula-feeding more than breastfeeding because I couldn’t provide enough milk for my growing baby.

In the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, the importance of modeling positive behavior comes up a lot. I realized that if I wanted my daughter to be happy, I needed to be happy. As the end of the calendar year approached, I analyzed what I could eliminate in my life to be happier—breastfeeding was on the top of my list.

With pressure in parenting to breastfeed, I was starting to feel uncomfortable letting people know I was willingly quitting. I didn’t want to be judged, or feel worse than I already did. Even my daughter’s pediatrician was not very supportive when I asked for medical advice in stopping. Not much research is out there where women openly discuss this, so I wanted to offer some personal advice.

  • Make sure your baby is comfortably consuming formula milk through a bottle.
    Knowing your baby is getting the proper nutrients before you quit breastfeeding will ease the stress. My baby’s pediatrician and I discussed this before I quit, and I recommend that you speak to your doctor to ensure your baby is ready for the transition.
  • Set a goal to quit and establish a gradual transition.
    I set a date to quit based on an upcoming weeklong business trip. Gradually, I decreased my feedings fewer times a day as the weeks went by and my supply continued to decrease. Stay strong in your plan—your body will naturally show signs of wanting to continue breastfeeding.
  • Enjoy your decision to quit.
    Although I felt guilty at first, I started to fully embrace not having to breastfeed anymore. Remembering why I made the decision in the first place helped. I continued to bond with my baby, began socializing more, and even focused on exercising. I was very fortunate to also have my husband be very supportive of my decision.

I’m proud to say my daughter and I had an amazing breastfeeding journey for her first seven months. Breastfeeding is a different experience for everyone, and only you know what is best for you and your baby. With less stress in my personal life I can really enjoy my time with my family, and I no longer feel like I failed my daughter. In the end, I made a decision that was right for me, and in turn right for my baby.

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Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality

October 23, 2014

By Mario and Ana Vela

Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality | Ana and Mario Vela kiss their baby daughter.

In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked new parents Ana and Mario Vela about parenting expectations versus reality. Here’s what they said.

Before you had your baby, what did you think your biggest challenge would be as a parent? What did you think would come easiest to you?

Ana: Before having our baby, I thought the biggest challenge as a parent would be feeling overwhelmed and lonely. Having all our family 1200 miles away. I kept imagining that I would be holding a crying baby, not knowing what to do, with no one close by to help. The thought of wanting to take a break from the baby, but not having family around to help really scared me. Fortunately, my mother stayed with us for three months after our daughter, Mariana, was born, and taught me how to care for her. My confidence increased. After my mother left, I didn’t feel scared anymore. I know advice is a phone call away.

On the other hand, I thought the easiest thing would be returning to work after maternity leave. For some reason, I always imagined easily managing having a baby and a career without any feelings of guilt for working.

Mario: I thought the biggest challenge would simply be being a father. I don’t have a traditional father figure, and I relied on a collection of influences to help me define the person I am. I truly questioned my ability to be a father for my child, and questioned the value I could offer a child.

I felt comfortable providing the basic care Mariana would require, as I’m the oldest in my family. I cared for my younger siblings and relied on my experience in caring for them including feedings, diaper changes, etc. I even showed Ana how to change a diaper. However, both Ana and my mother-in-law have specific ways of caring for Mariana, and don’t always agree with how I handle her. I don’t let that discourage me, as I know we all want what is best for her. I just have a different way of caring for her.

Now that you’re parents to a 4-month-old, what is your current biggest challenge as a parent? What is the easiest thing about being a parent?

Ana: My biggest challenge so far has been maintaining a work/life balance. What I thought before would be easiest is really the most difficult. I feel guilty when I am away from Mariana, or when I’m not paying attention to her because I am working at home. It gets more challenging when both my husband and I need to put in extra hours at the same time—whose work is more important? One of us has to take care of the baby. We’ve even had to compromise how many work events and late nights we can put in a month to make things fair between us. It has definitely caused some friction, and I anticipate it will continue to.

The easiest thing about being a parent is loving her. Everyday I am amazed at the love that flows out of me for this little person. Before, I really thought I would want to constantly take breaks from her, but I’ve been surprised at how easy and enjoyable it is to spend time with her. Sometimes I just stare at her, and even cry because she makes me so happy.

Mario: Now the biggest challenge is my fear that something might happen to her. I never wanted to be overprotective, but now that I hold her in my arms and see her potential, I’m afraid that something might happen to her. All her care now is our responsibility, and I want to make the best decisions for her, but I feel that these decisions shouldn’t be based out of fear. I need to learn to manage and understand it, and let go when appropriate.

I was nervous if I was capable of offering a father’s love. But from the first moment I saw her and experienced that I was responsible for her, I realized that all those questions I had didn’t matter. I had to move on from all the hesitation I felt, which I did immediately when she was born. I understand now that I will make every effort to make the best decisions for her and our family.

Reflection
Ana: I am surprised that Mario said he was so comfortable with the thought of caring for Mariana. I know he helped take care of his younger siblings, but I still thought he would be nervous with our baby. I hadn’t taken care of babies—and yes, I didn’t even know how to change a diaper! I realize now that I shouldn’t have been so scared to not have my family close by when Mario was perfectly capable of helping me out.

Now that he’s putting it out there, I feel guilty about criticizing how Mario cares for Mariana. Although I may not always agree with how he handles her, I am happy that he likes spending time with her and will always make sure she is safe.

Mario and I had always planned to put Mariana in a daycare. Seeing the quality of care my mother provided her made him realize that he didn’t want to expose her to anything other than one-on-one care. Accommodating this change in plan for Mario has completely changed our plans, which was very stressful. My mother-in-law has decided to move in with us and care for Mariana. It was very interesting to see how differently Mario and I felt about her care.

We both agree that Mariana has completely changed our lives. We are both so in love with her. We talk about her all the time and enjoy seeing how she develops every day.

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Fun in the Sun Facebook Contest Winner

September 17, 2014

Fun in the Sun

This summer we held a contest on our Facebook page, asking parents to post a photo of their child having fun in the sun. The parent whose photo had the most votes (and met all of the eligibility requirements), won an Amazon Kindle Fire, the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher ebook in English or Spanish, and a YOU Parent tote bag.

We spoke to the winner, Camy Lopez, about her family’s summer, parenting moments, and what she’s looking forward to this fall.

YOU Parent: What was the best part about this summer for Josue?
Camy Lopez: Last summer I enrolled Josue in swimming classes. He loved it so much and learned very quickly. He was disappointed when summer came to an end and he spent all year wishing it was summer again. This summer, he has spent most of his time swimming in our pool with his friends. He absolutely loves swimming. I am very glad he does since this is a great activity for exercising and is better than him staying inside playing video games or watching TV.

YP: Do you have a favorite summer tradition for your family?
CL: My favorite family summer tradition is getting together with all my family. We have a cookout at our house with games and music. I like this tradition because I am able to see all of my family, which is hard to do when school is in session and with everyone's busy schedules.

YP: What is your proudest moment as a parent?
CL: I have had numerous proud moments as a parent but I would have to say the most proud moment was when I battled breast cancer. After my surgery, my sons Josue and Jonathan took care of me. They would help me bathe, dress, and would cook for me. They did it with so much love that I was able to recuperate very fast. I had the best doctors in my house!

YP: What has been one of your most difficult moments as a parent?
CL: The most difficult moment as a parent was when my daughter, Carmina, passed away. She was only 15 years old. I had to live with the pain of her loss but had to remain strong for my sons. I knew they needed me during this difficult time. I taught them that they could overcome any situation no matter how difficult it may be. 

YP: How has YOU Parent helped you and your family?
CL: YOU Parent has made me realize how important it is to spend time with your children. It has made me want to spend more time with them and do the fun activities I find on YOUParent.com. YOU Parent has also helped me with parenting issues. I love all the advice I find on the website.

YP: Now that summer is ending, what is your family looking forward to this fall?
CL: The cooler weather. We live in California, so the summers here are very hot! We are also looking forward to Josue starting another school year and my other son Jonathan starting his senior year in college. My husband and I are so proud of them.

Congratulations, Camy, on winning the YOU Parent Fun in the Sun Contest! You deserve it. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy fall.

Stay up-to-date on future contests by following along on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.

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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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I’m a single mom. How can I help my son not feel left out on Father’s Day?

June 13, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Happy Father's Day! Dad, you're awesome.

Question: My son’s father left when he was less than 12 months old and I’m a single mom. He’s 9 years old now and most of his friends celebrate Father’s Day with their dads. Is there anything I can do so that he doesn’t feel left out on Father’s Day?

Answer: Growing up without a father can sometimes be difficult for a child, especially if many of his or her friends live in a two-parent household. Your son is very lucky to have a mother who cares so much about him and doesn’t want him to feel left out.

While Father’s Day traditionally honors fathers, it’s a wonderful opportunity for your son to honor a male role model in his life. This year, ask your son to choose a male whom he respects and values. It can be a grandfather, uncle, family friend, or even a brother. Arrange for the two of them to spend time together. Whether they go out for ice cream, miniature golfing, or to a movie, giving your son the opportunity to spend time with a male role model will allow him to celebrate the holiday without feeling left out.

As you ask your son to choose this male role model, be sure to also ask him how he feels about his father not being in his life. It’s important to listen to him and understand his feelings. While you cannot change the past, you may be able to help your son understand that he is not at fault and is loved by many other people, including his mother.

For more information on parental engagement from birth through high school, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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