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How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent?

October 18, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent? | A new dad sits in bed with his wife while his mother argues with them while holding the baby.

Question: I just had my first baby and my mother-in-law is driving me crazy! She’s telling me how to do everything, even breastfeed! She has an opinion about formula, diapers, swaddling, how to hold the baby—the list goes on and on. I’m about to lose my mind—how can I stop her from telling me how to be a parent?

Answer: We’ve all been there. As soon as the pregnancy or adoption announcement goes out, the unsolicited parenting advice rolls in. It seems unstoppable. You start by politely smiling and nodding, agreeing even when you don’t. But once the baby comes, there is neither time nor patience for being polite. And of course, the advice that hits the biggest nerve is from your mother-in-law.

This is one of the most common questions we receive from friends and YOU Program workshop attendees and the answer isn’t simple. It depends on your and your parenting partner’s relationship with your in-law. It depends on the advice they’re offering. It depends on a lot of factors.

There are two key starting points:

  1. Take a breath and remember that it comes from a good place.
    Your mother-in-law loves her grandchild and wants to pass along advice that helped her raise your partner. But she might not understand that parenting trends come and go, safety expectations change, and most people only want advice when they ask for it.
  2. Assess the advice.
    If it’s a clear safety violation to follow her advice, then stop her right away and explain the current safety rules or laws. For example, if Grandma says it’s okay for a two-year-old to ride in the front seat of the car, you need to stop her immediately and explain why that’s unsafe and where your two-year-old should be sitting instead (in a strapped in car seat in the back seat).

From there, here are some ways to deal with common issues.

Giving Birth
If your parenting partner and you would like privacy during the birth or right afterward, communicate that to close family and friends as soon as you have decided. Be proactive about announcing this decision so everyone knows your expectations. Let them know you’d like some privacy as a family before they come to visit the baby.

First Visits at Home
If parents or parents-in-law want to stay with you after the birth of your child and you’re comfortable with it, be proactive about asking for help.

Think of things you need help with that won’t interfere with what you need to do with your new baby: laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. By giving them something to do, they can be helpful while you take care of the baby’s immediate needs.

If your in-law seems to take too much of a hands-on role with your baby, you or your parenting partner need to quickly explain that you are now in the parent role and your in-law is now in the grandparent role. Explain the differences, like the new parents needing to establish a routine for the baby with them, and the exception to the routine is with the grandparents. The grandparents need to respect your rules for your baby, not the other way around.

Parenting Advice
If your mother-in-law is persistently offering opinions that you disagree with, you and your parenting partner should discuss them privately to ensure you’re on the same page. Then, figure out who should talk to Grandma.

Some people are more comfortable with the child directly addressing the issue with their parent. For example, if Dad’s mother is critical of the way Mom is feeding the baby, Dad can gently tell his mother that her criticism is hurtful to both him and you and that you are following your doctor’s advice.

If Dad’s mother is with Mom alone a lot, it might be better for Mom to address the opinions directly. Again, be gentle but firm. “I really appreciate your advice and you did a great job with Dad, but this is something I want to figure out for myself. If I’m having trouble, I’ll be sure to ask you for help and advice.”

Remember those starting points and that your mother-in-law means well. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity for you to start setting boundaries for your new family. Hopefully, everyone in the family will soon settle into a routine with your baby and you can get the help you need but not the advice you don’t.

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Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First

January 12, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First | Making baby food is pretty easy; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions. | A baby looks at her food before eating it.

Before having a baby, many parents idealize what life will be like with the baby. From all-natural births to cloth diapers and organic creams, expectant parents fill their registries with products that suggest that we can do it all ourselves.

Then the baby comes and we realize that we’ll do anything to make raising our child easier and less painful. But one of those idealized visions can remain a reality: making your own baby food.

Not only is making baby food more economical than store-bought food, you can also control the nutrients and eliminate added chemicals and preservatives in your baby’s diet. And it gets the baby used to eating the same foods as the adults, which will make your transition to solid foods easier.

Making baby food is pretty simple; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions.

1. Wait until your baby is 3-6 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until your baby is six months old to introduce finger and puréed food. If you follow proper sanitary guidelines, they say you can introduce baby food along with breast milk or formula as early as three months old.

Check with your pediatrician before changing your baby’s diet at any point, and talk to him or her about potential food allergies in advance.

2. Get the right equipment.
For the basics, you’ll just need a steamer and a food processor (or blender). If you want to splurge, there are plenty of all-in-one products that can aid in the whole process from peeling to steaming to blending.

This article breaks down the types of equipment you can use to make baby food.

3. Wash. Wash. Wash.
Wash everything that will come into contact with the food. Wash your hands and the surfaces you’re using to chop, dice, mash, etc. Wash the equipment and the food, even if you’re going to peel it. Keep everything clean to prevent the spread of bacteria to your baby.

4. Limit nitrates in the food.
Nitrates are found in plants, soil, and well water. If your baby is exposed to too many nitrates, he or she could develop a type of anemia known as “blue baby syndrome.”

To limit the amount of nitrates your baby ingests from homemade baby food, do the following:

  1. Consume or freeze baby food immediately. Nitrates develop in food the longer it sits, so if you’re not going to cook fruits or vegetables right away, use frozen versions. If you’re not going to use all of the prepared baby food within a few days, freeze extra portions the day you make it. You can defrost it later in the week or anytime in the next three months.
  2. If you have well water, test it for nitrates. If the levels are more than 10mg per liter, use purified or bottled water for all baby food (including formula).

5. Never sweeten baby food.
Babies don’t need extra sweetener. They get all they need from naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables. It is especially dangerous to add honey to baby food, as it can cause botulism in babies under a year old.

6. Avoid any unpasteurized dairy products.
Raw or unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria that can cause illness, so just as you avoided it during pregnancy, you should avoid it when making baby food.

7. Have fun!
While it’s important to be diligent and cautious when making your own baby food, have fun experimenting with different flavors and textures to see what your baby likes. This website has great recommendations for starter fruits and vegetables, like peas, mangoes, squash, and more.

Do you make your own baby food? Share your favorite recipes in the comments below!

Tags :  early childhoodbabyphysicalhealthbudget
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Do you let your baby cry or do you comfort them?

December 10, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Do you let your baby cry or do you comfort them? | Before you became a parent, you probably talked to your partner and friends and researched what to do when your baby cries. Should you rush to the baby’s side and comfort him or her, or should you let the baby cry it out? | A mother holds her crying baby.

Before you became a parent, you probably talked to your partner and friends and researched what to do when your baby cries. Should you rush to the baby’s side and comfort him or her, or should you let the baby cry it out?

Everyone has an opinion, and many insist theirs is the right one. But what’s best for you? We want to hear which approach—or combination of approaches—you take.

Cry It Out
Some research suggests that letting a baby cry for a short period of time won’t cause any harm and may actually help the baby and the parents sleep longer in the end.

You can try “controlled crying,” during which you wait a certain amount of time before comforting your child. With this method, you first wait two minutes, then the next time three, and gradually extend the amount of time you wait to comfort your child. The intention is that your child will learn to soothe him or herself back to sleep.

Soothe the Baby
Others are strongly against the cry it out or controlled crying approach, stating that a baby’s cry is the only way he or she can communicate. If ignored, the parent isn’t giving the baby what he or she needs.

For example, Ask Dr. Sears, a website with advice from several pediatricians, says,

The cry is a marvelous design. Consider what might happen if the infant didn’t cry. He’s hungry, but doesn’t awaken...He hurts, but doesn’t let anyone know. The result of this lack of communication is known, ultimately, as ‘failure to thrive.’ ‘Thriving’ means not only getting bigger, but growing to your full potential emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you let your baby cry it out, do you soothe him or her immediately, do you practice controlled crying, or do you just do what you can in the moment?

Tell us in the comments below and share why you do what you do. We can all learn from each other. And remember, if someone does it differently than you, that’s okay. We’re all doing the best we can.

Tags :  parentingparenthoodinfantbabyemotional
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4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills

September 22, 2015

By Ana Vela

4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler's Fine Motor Skills | As infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones like crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). But fine motor skills are equally as critical. Here are 4 fun ways to develop those skills. | The author's daughter plays at a park.

All photos courtesy of Ana Vela. 

As our infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones such as crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). We may not put as much focus on fine motor skills, which can be equally as critical.

Fine motor skills involve the movement of muscles in smaller actions. According to Baby Center, “it's equally important that kids work on their fine motor skills—small, precise thumb, finger, hand, and wrist movements—because they support a host of other vital physical and mental skills.”

I’m fascinated in watching my 15-month old develop these skills. She gets frustrated when trying something new at first, but with my persistence, encouragement, and modeling, she will eventually pick it up. And I love seeing her glow with pride when she learns.

There are many ways you can help your child develop fine motor skills while integrating them into your everyday activities. Here are some of my personal favorites to do with my daughter:

4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler's Fine Motor Skills | As infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones like crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). But fine motor skills are equally as critical. Here are 4 fun ways to develop those skills. | The author's daughter stacks blocks.

Play with toys.
Use stacking blocks to encourage your child to grab the block and carefully coordinate stacking them on top of each other. This will take several tries, but it’s amazing how soon your child will stack them to a nice height! Other great toys are large puzzles with knobs on the pieces, stacking toys, and Legos.

4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler's Fine Motor Skills | As infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones like crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). But fine motor skills are equally as critical. Here are 4 fun ways to develop those skills. | The author's daughter plays with cymbals.

Enjoy music.
I sing songs to my daughter that use hand motions, such as “The Wheels on the Bus” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Through many attempts, she now knows how to follow along on her own. She also has a musical instrument set, which has encouraged her to grab more difficult instruments such as the cymbals. She couldn’t pick them up properly at first, but now she can hold them successfully between her thumb and fingers to bang them.

4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler's Fine Motor Skills | As infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones like crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). But fine motor skills are equally as critical. Here are 4 fun ways to develop those skills. | The author's daughter eats her food with a spoon.

Encourage independent eating.
Although I hate messes, it’s important to teach your toddler how to eat on their own. Demonstrate how to hold a spoon, scoop up some food, and place it in their mouth. Sounds simple, but a lot of complex finger, wrist, and hand movements are involved.

4 Fun Ways to Develop Your Toddler's Fine Motor Skills | As infants enter the early toddler stage, we tend to focus on major milestones like crawling, walking, and running (gross motor skills). But fine motor skills are equally as critical. Here are 4 fun ways to develop those skills. | The author's daughter picks up a soccer ball.

Encourage physical play.
We live in Chicago and have a limited amount of nice outdoor weather, so when it’s warm and sunny, we spend a lot of time at parks. Help your child learn to climb, slide, and maneuver around the playground and obstacles. I’m also teaching my daughter to play with a soccer ball by picking it up and trying to kick it.

All of these activities are beneficial, but most importantly they are fun and entertaining for your toddler. As discussed in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, use positive reinforcement to encourage your child to keep trying and celebrate their successes.

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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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