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!

Trapped?

This one is a touchy subject for me.  It took me a while to even share it within a small, trusted group, and it’s taken me quite some time to come to terms with it.

Sometimes you can feel trapped when parenting, especially when you’re a young parent.

Now, I’ve heard some people say it before, or ask me if I feel trapped or stuck, and I usually try and steer clear of the subject.  The fact is, parents can feel a little trapped, and I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.  If you’re a parent, or have ever read any parenting blog or magazine, talked to parents at all…you know what I mean.  The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, wanna do something this weekend?”

“Yeah sure!  What were you-oh wait I can’t actually, I have the little guy!”

“Oh..uhh ok well can’t you find a babysitter or something?”

“I mean I guess I could, but I kind of want to hang out with my kiddo…you wanna come to the park with us or something?”

“Umm no that’s ok, I’ll hit you up later.”

Unless you have a lot of great friends that also happen to be parents of young kids, you know how hard it is to find time to hang out with your friends.  I think this goes for all parents.  You might be more likely to have friends that have kids later on in life, but you’re still bound to have some peers without kids, and they just don’t really understand how valuable your time is now.

It can be tough to make all of your decisions around a new person.  I’m not talking about being selfish, but on the other hand, being completely selfless isn’t a walk in the park.  A parent’s life revolves around their child, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Parenting is a long, difficult journey.  It’s extremely rewarding, but you also don’t really know what you’re signing up for when you start.

I think the hardest part of parenting for me, is the lack of freedom.  And, until recently, I thought I was alone.  I thought that maybe I just didn’t get it, or maybe I just wasn’t a great parent if I was thinking about myself too much, or even at all.

I had a conversation last week about this with some friends.  I joked that someday I’m going to live out of a backpack and travel the world, it might just be when I’m 55 instead of when I’m 25.  So maybe I wait until he’s on his own, or maybe I pick a closer destination, or a shorter trip, or maybe I even bring him with me!  Don’t worry, I’ve already picked out a kid’s backpack and size 4 hiking boots if the little one wants to come along, I kind of hope he does!  To my surprise, I found out I wasn’t crazy, and that many parents cope with similar feelings.  It’s important to know that you’re not the only one out there.

I guess what I’m saying, is:  never stop dreaming.

Parents lose sight of themselves sometimes.  Parenting is a selfless act.  If you’ve given your child a life full of love and support, what else do they need?

Well, I think they need parents that will be with them, spend time with them, and be present.  A kid needs someone that can dream with them and then help them achieve their own dreams.  A child needs a role model, not only in parenting, but also a role model when dealing with life’s challenges, staying positive, and sometimes reaching for the stars.

I still plan on living life fully, maybe just not in the traditional sequence.  For now, I have to realize that the little guy comes first, and show him a life of fulfillment.

And how exactly do you expect to give your child a life full of love, if you’ve lost your love of life?

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?

Getting Started on Your Anthology Submission

Our current culture is often having discussions about young parenthood without including the voices of young parents. We’re often told what should motivate us, why we should be happy, and our dreams are defined for us – without our input. As we advocate for respect, autonomy, support, and recognition, our viewpoints have often been considered unconventional.

I know how frustrating this can be.

The idea that all young parents need the same things is inaccurate and unjust. We all live different lives with different stories, backgrounds, and histories. The one thing we do experience is feeling like way too many people are trying to narrate our lives from their perspectives.

The annual young parent anthology is an opportunity for young parents to share stories, views, opinions, art, and creativity through their lens. This anthology is a collection of honest and genuine pieces created by young parents for young parents. Our mission is to publish and distribute these anthologies to other young parents and continue spreading positivity and empowerment throughout our communities.

If you are interested in submitting a piece, the submission guidelines are simple. There are 3 themes (motivation, happiness, and making your dreams a reality) and all submissions can be in writing or art form and in any language!

If you need help getting started, here are 10 prompts to think about:

1. Share a story about a time when you felt the happiest.

2. How would you define success as a young parent? Does it differ from others’ definitions?

3. What are some of your dreams and how are you achieving them?

4. How do you find and maintain your happiness?

5. If you could create an ideal environment for young parents, what would it look like?

6. What are some of the amazing things you have learned about yourself through struggles, obstacles, and hardship?

7. What motivates you? Write about the good, the bad, or the weird things that have motivated you to keep going.

8. Tell a story about a time when you challenged someone else’s definition of happiness or success.

9. Describe your epic journey. If your child wrote you a letter to you in 20 years, what would you hope he/she would say about your journey?

10. Write a letter to a younger you. What motivating and inspiring things would you tell yourself?

Comments? Ideas? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! More details about the anthology can be found here: BeProudToParent.org/Anthology.

Young Parent Ambassadors at STEPS

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National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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