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!

The Struggle of Coparenting

Ariadna, Mónica i Sergi

You’re not in a relationship.

…and it’s still complicated.

I can hear the collective sigh of frustration.  I know.  I get it.  Coparenting is tough.  But it’s also so very important for your kids!  The other day, I found myself clicking through random articles on the web.  I came across one about the “Best Arrangement for Kids of Divorced Parents.”  Being ever so curious, I opened it.  The article just said what we’ve all heard a hundred times before:  it’s important to have both parents in the picture.

Well of course it is!  That’s easy to say for a researcher with no kids, or for a parent in the perfect relationship.  But what about the rest of us?

The article conveniently left out the fact that coparenting is difficult.  It’s hard to deal with the other parent sometimes.  It’s hard to be flexible, to be understanding.  It’s tough to agree on the same rules and the same schedule.  Every time you drop him off or pick him up, it’s important to make sure you both know the child is the most important part of the relationship.

I’ve been pretty lucky, both of us are in the picture, and we both get a long pretty well, for my son’s sake.  It can still be difficult though, especially when you two don’t agree on something.  Try to remember that the little human in the carseat is still the most important thing to your world.  If you truly want what’s best for them, it’s important to try and make it work with both parents.

You may not think the other parent is amazing, but your kid probably still loves them, and they’re very lucky to have both parents in the picture.  Every time you drop them off, you’re teaching your child that family is important, even if you don’t get along.  You’re teaching your child respect and love.

If you have trouble (like me) try some of these tips for coparenting!

  • Try and have some consistency with rules, schedules, etc.
  • Focus on the kids, not on your feelings or frustrations.
  • Always treat the other parent with respect.  Never say anything bad about them in front of the kids.
  • Try to commit to honest, frequent conversation with the other parent.
  • Be flexible with your time.  If you want a few extra hours with the little one this week, make sure to return the favor.
  • Remember what’s most important, you kiddo!

Don’t Forget About You!

CalvinHobbesParenting

The number one thing people tell you about parenting?

Kids come first.

End of story.  No discussion, no questions.

Now, I don’t disagree with this advice, but there’s a fine distinction between the “kids come first”, and the “I have to do what’s best for my kids” approach.  The moment you do something for yourself, there are plenty of people ready to write you off as a selfish parent.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to you kids.  Ask your kiddo, “Do you like it better when mom and dad are stressed out, or when we’re happy.”  Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Thankfully, people are starting to realize that if you want to raise happy, healthy kids, you have to be healthy and happy too!  This is important to remember, and I noticed it the most in this Proud to Parent program.  Every meeting, we go through a few questions at the beginning.  Guess which question is the hardest to answer….

“What have you done for yourself this week?”

This might seem like a strange question to ask, especially coming from the “drop everything for the kids” approach to parenting.  But it makes a lot of sense, and I think people need to remember that.  Any parent, no matter what age, will tell you that parenting is exhausting at times.  Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it.  But it’s also so incredibly rewarding, and in order to get the most out of parenting, you have to be able to take a step back and reflect on it.

If you’re like me, it’s always hard to take time for yourself.  Between work, school, kids, and every other obligation I’m signed up for, “me-time” isn’t exactly a top priority.  You feel guilty, you can’t stop thinking about work tomorrow, or that exam coming up, you miss your kids.  But I’ve also started to see how important it is.  Trust me, if I’ve had time to hang out with a friend or relax and read a book, I have way more fun with my son.  Sleeping too; man does getting enough sleep help…

So don’t be afraid to help yourself help your kids.  If you need a break, that’s ok.  If you need a night out or time to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not entitled to that.  Parenting is a full time job, and full time jobs have vacation time for a reason.  Everybody needs a vacation, even if it’s just one night.  Trust me, taking a day to recharge, catch up with an old friend, do some yoga, take a nap, whatever, will pay back tenfold.  If taking a night to yourself lets you be able to relax and have fun with the kids all weekend, it’s totally worth it!

So let me ask, what have you done for yourself this week?

#MamasDay 2014

image

We believe that being a Mama is a profound act of community that should be acknowledged and celebrated. Make this radical idea go viral by sharing one of Strong Families Mamas Day e-cards here

Choose your favorite card image, then add your own custom message. We invite you to share the cards you make with your friends and loved ones via email, Facebook, Twitter and more. To learn more about the artists, click here.

A Mother’s Fight

I realize that you feed off my energy, my fight, my love and for that… I fight.

I realize that feeding you, bathing you, dressing you is only half the battle.

I will fight because better me = better you.

I was told never to use the saying “Do as I say not as I do,” because when you see me do or say something, you are bound to do the sooner or later. I can’t fight you for what I have taught you and since I know you’re watching, watch mommy put up a fight for you, watch how mommy loves you, teaches you, supports you, always forgives you, and never let you go.

As you watch, pay close attention to the words I use to help you to help us to fight and make sure you choose those fighting words wisely. Know that along with a fight comes sacrifice and for you I will always do that, no matter what. So as I pave the way, you may see mommy cry but just know they are tears of joy and when I look at you, know that it’s because you make me so happy.

This fight ain’t easy sweetie and boy did mommy have to start young, but guess what… we got through it.

One Toddler, Two Languages?

I grew up in the Dominican Republic and was taught to speak, read and write in Spanish. During the years that I lived there, Spanish was my only language spoken. When I was 8, I came to America and all of a sudden, my primary language was being changed. I had no option but to learn English, learn the way people live in this country, and adapt to how we are supposed to interact with one another. If I wanted to succeed, I needed to know English, there was no way that just speaking Spanish was going to get me by in school and out in the world.

LilyNow that I’m a mother and I’m raising a child in America, I have a hard time choosing which language to teach my daughter. I have had so many pleasant and unpleasant conversations about the language that my daughter should speak. The issue is that people feel like my daughter should maintain her “Latina culture” but what they don’t seem to understand is that I am her mother, not them. I will teach and show my daughter the Dominican the culture. I will do this not because I have to, but because it is good for my daughter to know where her mother was born, where her family is from. I want my daughter to be educated on her family history. I know that by exposing her to as much Dominican culture and language as I can, I will give her a form of clarity of who she is as a person. Overall, it will be my daughter’s choice on how she takes in all this information and what she will do with it. Regardless of what my daughter learns, I do not have the last say of who she becomes or what language she will speak. My daughter will interpret all the information I hand her, in her own way.

My daughter is two years old and for her to learn two languages and two different cultures at this age is a lot. I know that explaining and teaching her two languages now means that she may not know how to explain herself to certain people. I believe that there is no rush for a two year old to learn her “Latina culture” right now, she has a lifetime to do so.  As a young parent, I’m constantly questioned the decisions I make because people assume I put no thought into them. In reality, I spend a lot of time thinking deeply about them. I use my own experiences and what I have learned to make these decisions. So it’s unfair to question my parenting just because my daughter isn’t speaking Spanish.

The Support I Needed to Help My Son

My son was born 9.14 oz when he was born! He was a giant baby and because of his weight I believe it made it so much easier for him to sit up and crawl and stand up at an earlier age. He was a really strong baby and because of that he even took his first steps at 9 months!

He was also was very good at exploring the world around him. He never really found interest in his toys but rather in simple things like a shoe box or a remote control. I loved watching him be so curious because I knew that in that little head there were many many new connections being made in that tiny little brain. But around the time he was 15 months I really began to worry about him.

My son was at the age where he should have had at least 4 words in his vocabulary and he didn’t . He didn’t say mama or papa. He would also still cry like a 9 month old baby who couldn’t express his wants. When I mentioned this to his doctor she recommended that he get tested to see if he would qualify for early intervention and it turned out that he actually did need early intervention for his speech delay.

photo

Although it’s normal for kids to have a delay in speech it made me a little sad. Would my son not speak until he was 3? Would he have the same learning disabilities as I did when I was a child? These were all questions that I had. After finding out that my son had a delay I worked a lot harder to make sure he was getting the stimulation he needed to speak. I would repeat words to him over and over making sure I said it slow enough for him to hear the pronunciation.

He started getting speech therapy and even then he said nothing. I became frustrated because after weeks of trying to get to speak he still didn’t say anything. But one day, I went to pick him up  day care and his teacher said that he had been calling me all day, “mommy” . I felt my heart warm up a little bit and I thought it was the cutest thing and he has not stopped repeating ” mommy” over 30 times.

Today at 18 months he knows how to say mas (more), car, chu chu (train), leche (milk), and of course mommy. Even though I’m still waiting in him to say more words I’m glad he has progressed. I believe that reading books to him and having conversations with him has really helped him to start speaking. I also turned everything into a pointing game where I point to something and then name it with a high pitch voice. I have no doubt in my mind that he will one day be able to speak just fine. Until then I will continue to work with his speech therapist to make sure I am doing all the right things.

Being an Activist!

Being an activist for young parents is not something you can do from a text book. You have to be able to connect or relate to other young parents. Also to understand the foot steps we take on a daily basis and the obstacles we endure. It’s hard for young parents to take advice and encouragement from someone who cannot connect or understand. Criticism or judgement does nothing but push us away.

I found that sharing my own story can motivate other young parents, who may be going through the same or similar struggles that I am. I still endure the daily trials but I am also progressing in my parenting journey to provide a stable life for my son. My story is not one of success. This means that I can be an inspiration and give advice as to what I am CURRENTLY doing to make better choices to achieve my personal goals.

When I hear stories from others who have been through or are going through the same tribulations I’m currently facing, it makes me feel as if I’m not alone in my battle. This pushes me to continue making positive and beneficial moves for my family.

My last blog

To My Dear Ambassadors and Three Great Supervisors,

I am so grateful to have met you all. Even though I am leaving or gone by now just know that I already miss you all. Its weird how we all got so close this past couple of months I feel like I know each one of you so personally. We are like a family we have the crazy one you know who you are the mom the funny one the shy one and so on and that’s what makes us so fun and unique.

More than anything we are all young mothers and we understand each other’s struggles and achievements we pick each other up when we fall . We laugh and cry together. I just want to let you all know that I’m so proud of all of you and I hope I will make you proud if me. You are all wonderful moms and great friends. I will be thinking of you guys when I’m scared or when I feel like given up because you all strengthen me. I love you all and God bless you and your families.

Sincerely,

Wonder Woman

Mommies Night Out!

photoAs we all know by now having a kid can get quite stressful, and that’s why we mothers have a stress getaway called “mommies night out”! As I have always said since the beginning of my journey being a mom, wanting a break and time away from reality is always okay and no mother should feel as if they were a bad mom if they wanted it.

Some of the YPA’s and I recently had a mommies’ night out. It was so much fun. Not because we were out and relaxing, but because we all had in common the fact of going back home to our babies. It’s great to go out and spend time with other mothers. We can talk about common stresses and find out new things about each other.

After a night of excitement and joy going back to your child is such a wonderful feeling and that is key. Having a night out doesn’t only give you a break from reality but also a chance to miss your child and gives a special excitement to seeing them again.

We all came to an agreement that we will definitely be doing these outings at least once a month. I am more and more grateful everyday to be able to share experiences like these with whom I consider my sisters.

I also think personally these outings are important because it’s one of the few ways that a young parent can balance being young and a mom, in my case having time to be a teenager because at the end of the day I am a teenager and having a kid doesn’t change that fact.