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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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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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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Overwhelmed? Seek Parental Help from Others

February 4, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Parents talk in a support group.

As parents, we want to be and do the best every day for our children and family. Because of this, there might be times when we feel helpless. Parenting can be overwhelming, stressful, and chaotic.

Sometimes you need to seek help from others. It might be difficult to swallow your pride and admit you need assistance, but it’s okay. We all need help sometimes and it’s normal to ask for it. Here are a few places you can find it:

Support System. Always remember that as a parent, caregiver, and person, you need to have a support system in place. Family, friends, and neighbors are usually great support assets. Make contacting them easier by having their phone numbers available. Knowing and trusting these individuals is essential to facilitate the motivation to request their help. Foster open lines of communication with your support network.

Community Organizations. There are organizations available in your community that can offer support and help to parents. Accessing these services is usually just a phone call or website away, and most are confidential and voluntary. Here are some examples:

  • United Way is an organization that initiated a 10-year program designed to achieve three main goals: improve education, help people achieve financial stability, and promote healthy lives.
  • Your state’s Department of Human Services can help you and your family meet basic needs like food, housing, and health, among other needs.
  • Parents Helping Parents helps special needs families by providing information, resources, and referrals, including special interest groups specific to certain conditions and languages.
  • YOUParent.com. Talk to us! We have a forum where you can vent to other parents and ask advice.

I know that as a parent and/or caregiver, you are juggling many things at once and need encouragement and support. Know your limits and seek help before things get too overwhelming. Talk with someone to decrease your stress level. Have a family member babysit so you can relax. Attend a support group for assurance that there are many other parents who feel like you.

What do you do when parenting gets overwhelming? Do you have a favorite organization you contact? Help other parents by telling us in this forum.

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A New Parent’s Guide to Taking Care of YOU

January 15, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

A new mom cares for her baby

It has been my personal experience that when we become mothers, we instinctively become selfless. We focus on our child wholeheartedly, attempting to make his or her world perfect in every aspect. We read every parenting book we can find, research nutrition that will maximize our child’s development, and are ready for every doctor’s visit. Our child’s health and development is and will remain a priority for decades to follow until the cycle of life runs its course. But what about you? Are you prioritizing your health and your continued development? Are you reading, researching your nutrition, and preparing for your doctor’s visits with the same focus and priority that you dedicate to your child? In my experience, probably not.

I have been a parent for twenty-three years now. I have watched my two children grow into amazing, independent beings. I have been witness to their successes and their struggles, their joys and their sadness. I know that I could not have supported their development as well as I have if I had not taken the time to focus on me. By taking care of my overall health (mental and physical), I was able to participate in their lives to the fullest as the best parent I could be.

  • Simple things such as personal grooming, exercise, and social activities helped fight the reality of a post-pregnancy body (which no one tells you about) and the many emotions that come with parenting.
  • During the first months it is suggested that you establish a routine for your baby. Why not establish a routine for you and your baby? When he or she naps, exercise, take a shower, dress for the day (no sweats, no pajamas), or eat a nutritional snack. You would be surprised how far this goes towards your post-pregnancy survival and establishing a strong, consistent parenting style.
  • As you look toward reaching milestones with your child, establish milestones for yourself to reach along the way as well. Take time to reflect on what you want for yourself now that you are a parent. How will you manage your life while being responsible for the development of another?

Once you discover those things that will bring balance to your mental and physical health, you will instinctively be the best parent you can be. Whether you are staying home on leave or will remain home, establishing this routine for both of you from the start will shape you and your child’s relationship for the years to come.



Nely Bergsma is the co-founder and executive director of the Penedo Charitable Organization (PCO). Nely co-founded PCO, along with her sister and our program author Sunny P. Chico, to support at-risk girls in the same Chicago neighborhood where she and her sisters grew up. PCO works with teachers, psychologists, and social workers to mentor at-risk girls from sixth grade through high school, providing full scholarships to those who complete the program. Founded in 2009, PCO now serves 40 girls, adding 10 new participants to the PCO family each year.

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