By Karen Jameson, R.N., M.Ed
When my husband and I became parents 23 years ago, we quickly learned that parenting is no simple matter and many choices had to be made on how we were planning to raise our baby. Disposable or cloth diapers? Stay at home or daycare? Enforce a sleep schedule or not? Breast feeding or formula feeding? We also quickly learned that no matter what decision we made someone would weigh in that we were wrong!
I’m not sure how we made it, maybe because we were on the same page when it came to all the major decisions, and we were able to present a unified front when faced with criticism, but somehow we managed to raise not one but three children!
We chose to breastfeed, and my first was an easy baby to nurse. He was always hungry and latched well. He gained weight like a champ. But I had been told in the hospital to feed on one side for 15 minutes and then switch sides and feed another 15 minutes. My baby wouldn’t do that, he would latch on and feed the entire time on one side, no switching for him.
Despite his fantastic weight gain, I felt like a failure. I remember the midwife calling me at 6 months to check in and asked if I was still breastfeeding. I told her I was but then guiltily blurted out “but I’m doing it all wrong!”
She asked me to elaborate and I told her how I was feeding. She laughed and said, “You’ve just discovered the way the rest of the world breastfeeds, only the U.S. suggests feeding both side each feeding.”
I can clearly remember my sense of relief that I wasn’t a “failure.” In addition to gaining experience as a parent, I also work at TLC as a nurse educator. I attended training to become a certified lactation counselor 14 years ago, after which I began offering lactation support to any women in Sullivan County through TLC.
Armed with my own personal experiences, I am determined to do my best to reassure and soothe new parents as they seek breastfeeding help. Perhaps a family wants to pump and feed in a bottle? Maybe they want to do a combination of breastmilk and formula, or they are clear from the start that they have no interest in breastfeeding and choose formula.
I see infant feeding as a very personal choice and even when asked the question, “What is best?” I will turn it back and say, “What is best for YOU?” I am happy to answer questions about the benefits of breastmilk, and tell families that if they want to breastfeed I will do everything I can to support them, but I will never make anyone feel like they are not a good parent because they are unwilling or able to breastfeed.
By Barbara Brill
Imagine how you might feel about moving into a community where you have no friends or family. You have four children, limited income, no home furnishings, and you just left your husband due to domestic violence. You are an African American family moving into an almost all-white community where you may not be accepted by everyone.
History and experience have given you no reason to trust, but your children need you no matter how you feel inside. Your faith is strong and you connect with a local church and ask for their help. Generous church members collect furnishings for an apartment and connect you with Turning Points Network (TPN), who helps you locate a place to live. Your pediatrician refers you to TLC.
As the home visitor meeting with this client for the first time, I knew making a connection was critical. Trust is essential and as I began working with this family it was evident that gaining this mom’s trust would be a challenge. After listening to her story I decided that if I were in her shoes I wouldn’t trust anyone either.
And so our work began.
Giving mom a chance to talk about what she needed and what her priorities were was where we started. They were her goals not mine and to her they were overwhelming. I simply helped her prioritize what she needed most and then supported her as she took steps to address each need. Each time she took a risk and reached out to connect to a service I applauded her efforts. Those small steps were not easy, but as she took them things began to improve for her family. Things seemed to settle down.
Then terror struck when she received an eviction notice from her landlord.
She was late paying her rent as another bill took priority. There was never enough money. She had never received an eviction notice before and she was frantic that she and her children would be placed out on the steps. Reading was difficult as she had a learning disability so seeing “Eviction Notice” was all she needed for panic to set in.
She took her children and fled into the night—back to an area where she had distant family, thousands of miles away—leaving everything in her apartment behind. She found it wasn’t so easy to reconnect there either. Supports she thought would be there didn’t materialize. Her children wanted to return to an area where they had started to make connections at school and where their apartment felt like home. She too had begun to feel connected before she left.
She took another risk and reached out to the supports she had identified in her new community—she called them. And with their continued support she decided to return home and try again.
When this mom came back, we began talking about what she might do when future challenges occurred. We used pieces from the Growing Great Kids (GGK) curriculum to design a security quilt made up of resources she could reach out to if something happened.
If the rent was due and money was short there were resources she could access. If she needed a ride when the bus didn’t run—she learned how to contact the local cab companies, she asked what their fees were, and how she could set aside a few dollars each month for emergency rides she might need.
With positive support at each visit her confidence grew.
She took small steps to add supports that would benefit her children such as the All-4-One Play Center and the Claremont Savings Bank Claremont Community Center. Each time we met she received praise for taking steps, for trying something new. Success wasn’t always there but praise was for her willingness to try. Her security quilt became larger and she gained confidence. When issues arose instead of fleeing she looked at other ways she might resolve them.
One year later mom remains connected with TLC and she and her children are doing well. She is a much more confident parent who knows her community, and knows how to access services. She is engaged in her children’s’ education, their health, and she has started thinking about going back to school to further her own education. She knows that she can face challenges that come up as she has a quilt of resources that will help her.
And, her children have watched their mom tackling tough issues, facing them head on, and working through them—lessons they will benefit from when they become adults and face tough issues.
Barbara Brill is a parent educator at TLC Family Resource Center. If you have questions or would like to find out more information, Barbara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-542-1848 ext. 321.
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