Dads Can’t Breastfeed!

I know a lot of guys that cringe at even the sound of that.  They just don’t know how to help, don’t know anything about it, or just plain and simple don’t want anything to do with it.  They picture their beautiful wives and girlfriends, turned into monsters by lack of sleep and hormones!  I think what some guys fail to realize is the importance that breastfeeding can have in your child’s life.

First, if you’re going to be a father, there’s a couple things we can all agree you need to take care of:

  1. The kid(s).  Obviously, this is the most important part, kids benefit hugely from a having a father in their lives, and I’m sure we’ll get into that in another blog post.
  2. The relationship.  Whether you’re with the mom, separated, adoptive parents, or any form of parenting; chances are you have someone else helping you out.  This post is mostly for those of you in a more traditional setting, when mom + dad + kid = a lot of questions.
  3. All the other stuff.  I’m talking financial stuff, work stuff, extended family stuff, all sorts of good ‘stuff.’  This stuff, in my opinion, should typically take a back seat to your kids, but that’s a debate for another time.

So, your wife/girlfriend/baby mama says:  “I want to breastfeed.”

What do you do?

Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll know how to help a bit.  But first, let’s cross a few things off.  Assuming you’re the father in the traditional sense, you can’t breastfeed your kid.  Period.  Your body just won’t do it.  So the only thing left is to help, and I think we need to keep in mind the most important thing of fatherhood we agreed on above, the kiddo.

A lot of this is common sense, but here’s a few things for dads to try if they want to take an active role in breastfeeding:

  • Be supportive.  She needs a cheerleader.  Be there for her, you need to make sure she knows she’s doing an awesome job and that she has you in her corner.
  • Be thoughtful.  This one goes a step further, don’t just tell her you support breastfeeding, but actively try to help out.  See if she needs a glass of water, pick up a new book or magazine on your way home, or something else that will help her out.
  • Be willing to get up in the middle of the night.  For the first couple of weeks (at least) that baby is going to want to eat every few hours in the middle of the night.  Don’t always make her get up.  Take the nightshift sometimes, go get the kiddo, bring them over and hand off to mom.  Trust me, if mom doesn’t have to get up in the middle of the night every time, it’s easier on everyone the next morning (especially you!)
  • Be a multi-tasker.  If she’s getting up in the middle of the night, get up and make breakfast, or maybe run the errands in the morning.  Any little extra thing you do will help immensely.  An ounce of effort will probably feel like a ton of help to her, and that’s good for the whole family in the long run.

Remember to try and be a team whenever you can.  It’s best for the kid and definitely best for the two of you in the long run.  Despite all of its benefits, breastfeeding isn’t easy, but helpful dads can make it a lot better.  Hopefully some of the things in this post help you to help her!

Then vs. Now

Today I walked in my moms office to talk to her about some stuff. As soon as I opened the door I was hit with heavy air and cigarette smoke. Now this is not to speak badly about my mom shes an amazing person. The thing is I hate the smell of cigarettes and the way they make an enclosed room feel even smaller. However, If I had opened that door a year, year and a half ago, I wouldn’t of minded. Honestly I would have been happy because that means my mom wouldn’t smell the smoke off of me. I use to smoke almost two packs of Newport’s a day. How much I smoked really just depended on what was going on that day. If I was drinking I would smoke a lot, if I was at a club I would smoke a lot, if I was around people that smoked I would have one when they did. What I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t healthy. Ya I was a vegetarian and didn’t drink soda or anything; but I drank jager like it was water, I smoked cigarettes like they were healthy for you. I would eat out a lot, mostly pizza. I guess I was just being 21 in some ways. Then I got pregnant and that’s when everything changed. Not only did I stop smoking but I stopped being anywhere that there was smoke. I started walking 2 miles a day. My eating habits became way better, mostly veggies, and spinach and fruit smoothies. I removed myself from anything that was dysfunctional or negative. I found some coping mechanisms that not only entertained me but kept me going. It was difficult; mainly because I would miss certain things or feel chained down. The thing is I knew I wanted to be healthy so that my son could be healthy. I was his vessel; I was the only one that could make it healthy and safe for him. My biggest motivator to do all this was not wanting to repeat a cycle. Was not wanting to do to my son what my biological mother did to me. At the age of 21 I was just living life day to day, took it as it came. I was in school and working. I was just always up for the unexpected. Sometimes I felt like I was stuck though. Ya I was working, ya I was in school, but what else? Well when I got pregnant with my son Liam I saw what the “what else” was and I am not sure I would have ever of saw that if it was not for him. So from 21 to 22 I went from being the unhealthiest me to the healthiest me. Getting pregnant young definitely has its cons. However, for me it was life changing in a beautiful way. So I ask the next time you see a young parent please do not assume that their life is over and they have no future. Do not see what was taken from them, but rather what was given.

What Being Healthy Means To Me

To me, being healthy means that every part of your body is functioning  the way it is supposed to be. In order to do your part in keeping your body as healthy as it can be, you need to treat your body right and give it the nourishment it needs to function. Following your doctors orders can help you to do your best at maintaining your body’s good health so that in the future you wont suffer from any diseases that could have been prevented.

Being healthy also includes having a good and stable mental state. If a person suffers from any psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, it can cause a person to not enjoy or live life the way others do. Some times psychological conditions can effect your body in many negative ways. My definition of being healthy has not changed but instead the knowledge that I have acquired has enhanced my understanding of what it means to be healthy.

Before, I thought being healthy only referred to the body being in good condition but I never considered the minds health. Now I know that being healthy takes a lot of work and that there is more to being healthy and its not just eating all your vegetables. I’ve learned that your lifestyle, the environment you live in, and the way you your mind functions has a major impact on your health. Some health conditions are out of your control but living a healthy life style and having a healthy mind set can enable you to deal with any conditions you may face.

Getting Your Body Back

Having a baby is tough. There’s no time for anything, going to the gym can be pricey, looking for a babysitter is the worst so I came up with a few ideas to getting your body back. I think the first thing we have to do is admit that we are beautiful – embracing our motherhood is key. There and three things that we can do to get our body back.

Number 1: Eating healthy making it a lifestyle, not a diet. Use your phone, laptop, whatever you may have look on Google. There are many healthy recipes choices. Remember to buy more fresh foods and less packaged. Shop more in the fruits and veggies aisle, rather than the snacks, walk around the supermarket and try to stay away from the middle sections. That’s where a lot the oils, sugars, and unhealthy choices are. You can also watch the movies “Fat Sick” and “Nearly Dead” for more exciting ideas on weight loss.

Number 2: Playing and having fun with your child is exercise. Exercising can feel boring, so why not go to the park with your baby and play, even if they are small. Take a family member a friend to help you hold your baby so you can run around. If your child is a toddler, well, you know how much energy they have. Play with them and have fun. You can also get a running stroller!

Number 3: Make time for yourself.  This is very important! If you’re stressed, your body feels it. You may begin to develop acne, lose hair, and even not be able to lose the baby weight – it becomes a vicious cycle. So take a bath, read or do anything you like to do to de-stress for a little while. You can nap with your baby.

Find ways to not spend money or have to look for daycare on your journey to a healthy body. Best thing you can do to de-stress is laugh and make your baby laugh. Laughter and happiness is the best de-stressors!

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Young Parent Ambassadors at STEPS

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My Community and My Health

Over the past 24 years, I have lived in 4 different communities. When I was born, my family and I lived in a 3 family home on a busy street in Somerville. We were walking distance to my elementary school and some amazing restaurants and cafes in Inman Square. I always felt it was a safe neighborhood and many of my neighbors were Portuguese. Being a Brazilian family, we spent a lot of time chatting outdoors with them and visiting each others’ homes.

When my parents divorced, my mother moved us into a one family, 4 bedroom home on the other side of Somerville. It was a much more suburban area and there was plenty of backyard space for us. Frankly, I loved it. Having space, having access to outdoor playtime, and being able to have lots of friends and family over made a huge difference. Except, we barely talked to the neighbors now. There was definitely a sense of community on a safety level (everyone watched over the street and each other’s property), but I never went into my neighbor’s home for tea like we used to. However, it was always quiet, peaceful, and extremely safe. Of course, we were the only minorities in the area too.

When I became a teen parent, my mother kicked me out and I was forced to live with my boyfriend. He lived in East Somerville. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to hang out in East Somerville because that part of the city was always on the news. This section was primarily occupied by immigrants and the cost of living was much cheaper than any other part of town. It didn’t occur to me that I was in a danger zone until I woke up at 3 am one night to gunshots on our street. Someone was killed. I no longer felt that safety from the previous 17 years of my life. I began to stress a lot and was even too afraid to fall asleep at times. I saw a lot of alcoholics roaming the streets and knew that I couldn’t live like that much longer. It was physically beginnning to affect me. The thought of worrying whether I’d survive the walk from the front door to the car was one I couldn’t handle. There were times when drug addicts or gang members would randomly walk down our street and start picking on my boyfriend, even as me and my infant stood beside him. It was terrifying.

At 18, I moved to Newton where my father was living. I felt peace again. It was an all white neighborhood and once again, we were the only minorities. I could walk down the street at midnight and not feel threatened. I was able to sleep again. Finally, I was comfortable in an environment and I could start to de-stress. I have lived in Newton since and am glad I can raise my daughter in a community where safety isn’t a concern.

While the changes in the communities are obvious, I still can’t help but feel as though just moving to a safer neighborhood isn’t a solution. Yes, you can pick up your things and leave your community for another but not everyone has that option. And honestly, not everyone WANTS that option. Where you grew up, where your family lives, where you learned to ride your bike becomes a part of you. When you’ve been facing those issues from the beginning of your life, they don’t feel like issues anymore – they feel normal. That stress of wondering whether or not you’ll be safe is one that many of us have to live with everyday.

It’s not up to me to dictate what your community is supposed to look like and vice versa. We all have to determine what we want our communities to look like and push for that change. Whether we realize it or not, they do affect our health. The exposure to violence, the stress from not having enough money, the pollution around us, the lack of green space, the overpopulated buildings, the racial segregation, the discrimination, the quality of schools, and the social support around us effect our health. We can’t all just pick up and move, leaving the communities behind in tatters. We need to advocate for change and let people know that we are facing these issues and that these issues effect our ability to live. It’s not fair and it can’t stay silent.