Before I was a mother to preemie twins, and a children’s book author, I was a career counselor. During my 8+ years in the profession, I worked with hundreds of young adults struggling to select majors, choose careers, and plan their futures. Many of these students were experiencing significant distress over these decisions. Of course, this was understandable, because there is a perception that you must choose the perfect career. But career research tells us that this perception is false, and most people have several completely different careers throughout their professional life. One thing that always struck me was that after a few meetings, students began to relax. Once they were introduced to the career development process, the stress decreased and they were able to create a plan to find a career that was a good fit for them at this point in their life. If only they had been introduced to the career development process earlier. Perhaps they could have avoided a great deal of stress and unrealistic expectations.
The career development process is the same whether you are 5 or 50 years old. And it is never too early to discuss with children why and how people do the work that they do. In fact, around 3-4 years of age, is the ideal time to introduce the basic tenets of career exploration. This is the age where pretend play is developing, and many parents begin to notice an interest in careers and the future. Here are a few things that parents can do to foster a healthy sense of career development in young children.
Learn About the Career Development Process
The career development process begins with self-awareness. One must know their own values, interests, personality, and skills. Without this information, a career decision is incomplete. Often times people are making career decisions based on one or two of these factors (typically interests and skills). Parents can assist their children by helping them build self-awareness in all 4 areas.
When children are young, exploration is key. Career decision is many years away, so the focus at this age is exposure to as much as possible. One simple way to do this, is by reading books about different careers. Encourage children to explore what they like, what they are good at, and even what they aren’t so good at. Interest and skills can take years to develop, so why not start now. Early exploration builds skills, career awareness, and a variety of interests. All of which will be beneficial down the road.
Share Your Own Career Experiences
A very easy way parents can help their children in the career development process is to share their own experiences. Make sure you are sharing what your work day was like, and what you enjoy about your job.
Children go through many phases before a career idea ultimately sticks. Regardless of what your child is currently “in” to, it’s best to always talk about it in a positive way. I can’t tell you the number of college students that I have counseled that have found their passion, but it’s not accepted by their families. I advise parents to always come from a place of support. There are plenty of people and factors that will tell your child that they can’t do something. What they need from you is unconditional support.
Career development is a life-long process. Its never too early to start helping young children understand the steps. If you want more information, I have many more resources to assist parents, including an Introduction to Career Development eCourse. Check out www.metwobooks.com for more.
Regardless of how you ultimately choose to feed your baby, if your baby is born early you will probably be encouraged to start pumping breast milk right away. Preemies need more calories and nutrients to help them grow quickly. In addition to providing nourishment, breast milk can also help reduce the risk of NEC, build immunity, and prevent infection. Few preemies are able to feed from the breast or a bottle right away. Therefore, expressing your breast milk and providing it to the NICU in both it’s fresh and frozen form is an important part of your child’s medical care. But, it is not easy. Pumping is a labor of love and requires a great deal of commitment and time. I am not a medical expert, but I did pump exclusively for my preemie twins for 15 months. Here are a few of my tips and favorite products to help make things easier.
Start pumping as soon as possible after your baby’s birth
When I arrived in my hospital room post c-section, there was a breast pump and a lactation consultant waiting for me. I started pumping right away. It took several days for my milk to come in, but pumping early and often was vital for establishing supply. Every single drop was taken to my babies in the NICU.
Establish and maintain a pumping schedule
In the beginning, you will need to pump at least every 2-3 hours around the clock. It is hard to set an alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to pump, but a schedule that mimics the newborn feeding pattern will help to maintain and grow your supply with your preemie. As your baby grows and needs to eat less frequently, your pumping frequency will change as well.
A lactation consultant and your baby’s medical care team are great resources. They can provide you with any specific guidelines you need to follow when expressing and storing your breast milk. Also, make sure to discuss with them how you intend to feed your baby post hospital, so they can prepare and support you in that decision. Lactation consultants are not only available during a hospital stay, you can contact them at any time. They can also help you to identify the signs and symptoms of plugged milk ducts and mastitis, both of which are quite painful and can hurt your supply.
Accept the difficulty
I have said it before, but it bears repeating. Pumping is hard! It can certainly feel like all you have time to do in a day is eat and pump. And there may be times during this journey when that is true! But if pumping for your baby is what you want or need to do, it can be rewarding and successful.
Hands-free Pumping Bra- If you are going to be spending any amount of time pumping breast milk for your preemie, a hands-free pumping bra is a must. Every Momma can benefit from multitasking while pumping.
Hospital Grade Pump- A powerful breast pump and a lactation consultant will set you on the road to success. And remember, you don’t need to buy a hospital grade pump. You can rent a pump for a monthly fee, which may be covered by health insurance.
Car Adapter- At some point, you will want to leave the house. Being able to pump on the go can provide you with some much-deserved freedom.
Insulated Bag- An insulated cooler bag is necessary for transporting pumped and frozen milk to and from the hospital.
Breastmilk Storage Bags- Most hospitals will provide specific storage containers for breast milk while your baby is admitted. But once home, you will need something to keep milk in until you are ready to use it. Some women prefer a storage bag because they take up less space and are less expensive than storing in a bottle. Remember to label for future reference.
Convenient Pump Cleaning- Keeping your pump parts clean is important especially when you are pumping for a preemie. If you are making trips back and forth to the NICU, you might not always have access to soap and water. Cleaning wipes formulated especially to clean pump parts are great in a pinch. Sterilization bags that go right in the microwave and are quick and easy to use.
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*this is not an endorsement of any product, just what worked for me