Advice For New Moms: Just Kidding, We Know You’re Sick of It

Even on baby #3, it still feels like I can’t get it “right.” Part of that is because every baby is so different. But also, what’s “right” is a moving target. Those books you read 10 years ago? Toss ‘em. That advice your doctor gave you after baby #2? That’s no longer the case either. And every mom you meet is full of advice from their own personal experience.

“Oh he’s not sleeping? Have you tried keeping him up later?”

“You should put him down to sleep earlier.”

“Stop nursing him at night.”

“Definitely nurse him at night. You don’t want your breastfeeding supply to dwindle!”

I have to remind myself the breastfeeders and the formula feeders, the co-sleepers and the never-co-sleepers all want the same thing… happy, healthy babies.

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. If you’re a mom, you know about SIDS. It’s our worst fear. Once we finally get over the fear of losing our baby in utero, we move on to this next phase that keeps us up at night (along with the crying newborn).

In honor of SIDS Awareness Month, let’s try something different. I’m not going to tell you to how to take care of your baby or how to create a safe sleep environment. We get enough of that, right? Instead, let’s narrow down the whole conversation to two important points.


  1. Babies need to breathe.

Mary Adkins, a member of the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep (NAPPSS) steering committee, agrees that moms get bombarded with enough advice.

“Parents are so tired of everyone telling them what to do and making them feel like a bad parent,” she said. “That just doesn’t work.”

Preach, sister. We are tired of it. I’ve read it all; I have a (sleep-deprived) brain; I can make my own informed decisions.

Keyword: informed.

“If you think about how tiny that nose and mouth really is and how very little it takes to obstruct that. If you can get that visual and always keep the air around your baby’s nose and mouth uncompromised, the other recommendations follow logically,” Adkins said.

  1. Babies will exhaust you in a way you never thought imaginable.

My one year old woke up EVERY HOUR for the first 7 months of his life. Even now, he’s up once a night. The toll this takes on your body and mind is no joke. You make decisions you wouldn’t normally make—letting your baby sleep on your chest while you sleep in a recliner, for example. No judgement, I’ve done it. Is it safe, though? Absolutely not.

“Parents, especially first time parents are pretty stunned about what that baby requires,” Adkins said. “They are not prepared for how different the sleep cycle of an infant is from their own.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a national program to help military spouses with newborn sleep, but there are programs like Mission Sleep taking steps to make a difference.

And here’s something I wish somebody had told me: you’re not going crazy. This is what babies do, and it won’t last forever.

Most importantly—ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.

Military spouses often find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation: alone with a new baby while their spouse is deployed and their families are across the country.

If you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or your FRG leader about support groups. Take advantage of the military spouse tribe near you.

If you’re like me and you’re still not getting it “right,” don’t worry. That’s what ice cream is for.

What kept you sane during those rough, sleepless nights with your newborn? Share your encouragement in the comments!

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Sesame Street and the USO Tackle Military-to-Civilian Transition in New Show

“My family is going to be moving to a new base . . .again,” trails off Katie’s sorrowful announcement to her pals during the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families – a free, traveling show for U.S. service members and their families. “It seems like every time I get settled, I have to move again.”

Katie’s sentiment represents the stark reality for many military kids. They move.  A lot.

A service member and his or her family will face countless changes and challenges throughout a military career and beyond, and deployments, frequent moves, navigating the transition from military to civilian life are just a few. Sesame Street and the USO understand these changes effect the whole family and hope to ease the stress that can accompany these transitions with messages and tips from this special Sesame Street/USO tour.


The tour debuted in 2008 and has evolved to reflect the ever-changing needs of America’s military families. Last year, the tour traveled overseas to introduce its newest show about military-to-civilian transition called “Katie’s Family Transitions to Civilian Life.” This latest installment, featuring new songs and choreography, runs simultaneously with their ever-popular hit “Katie is Moving to a New Base,” bringing the journey of a service member and his or her family full circle.

Both moving and military-to civilian transition effect the whole family. The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity website states military kids move six to nine times between preschool and high school education. These statistics, and the faces they represent, provided Sesame Street and the USO an opportunity to combine their skill and knowledge to create an entertaining resource that tackles these realities head on. The goal of each show is to ensure that military kids and their parents are empowered with the confidence and assurance that they are not going through these transitions alone.

In the new show, Katie — Elmo’s military friend — is transitioning back to civilian life at Sesame Street after living on military bases for the past few years. At first, Katie feels unsure about this big change in her life, but her Sesame Street friends help her realize that she will always be a part of the military community even as she goes on this new adventure. Her experience echoes that of many military kids.

Sesame Street and the USO know everyone can relate to having to find a new job or changing careers, but military families face that challenge, as well as a host of other important changes, when they transition from military to civilian life. For military families everything is different. From the lingo and clothing to the surroundings and structure, none of the everyday rituals of life exist any longer. These types of transitions, and others, can stress both parents and children. To help fill that space and alleviate that burden, the Sesame Street/USO tour helps kids express how they are feeling and what they might be thinking.

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour is currently touring in the U.S. and will wrap up at the end of October 2016.

Has your family seen the Sesame Street show? How awesome was it?!

Another “First Day of School?” Check Out These Tips!

School is back in swing, and we know it can be an exciting time filled with new experiences, teachers, and friends, but along with that excitement often comes a bit of apprehension. Those concerns can be amplified for military children who, according to the National Military Family Association, change schools on average six to nine times during their K-12 years. Pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Jim Olsen states, “uncertainty is the number one challenge for kids and the cause of most anxiety during [a] move.”

If your family has recently relocated to a new duty station, take a moment to recognize that mixed emotions are normal! Staying in touch with friends from former duty stations can help kids establish a sense of continuity in their nomadic military lifestyle, and the era of social media, smart phones, and Skype has made it easier than ever to do so. I’ve found that social media can also be a great way to engage with a new community. Check out school social media pages for clubs, sports, and other ways to get involved and meet potential friends.


In the quest for new friendships, don’t forget to encourage your family to occasionally put down the electronics and reach out to others in person (neighborhood Halloween party, anyone?). Sometimes the best ways to make new friends are the decidedly old-fashioned ones. If you have older children, volunteering over the summer, or during breaks at school, can be a great way to make new connections, fill school community service requirements, build a resume for future college applications, and a surefire way to start feeling at home.

What else can you do to ease your military kid’s transition back to class this fall?

Use the first few months of the new school year as an opportunity to establish good communication with school and educational staff. Let your child’s teacher know about any special circumstances that might impact their classroom performance such as a current or upcoming deployment, homecoming, reintegration challenges, or changes of duty station. This is particularly important if your family is living in a non-military town where teachers and staff may be less familiar with the lifestyle challenges of the military family.

The new school year is also a good time to assess how your child is progressing academically and determine if any assistance is needed to reach educational goals. The Department of Defense offers free memberships to for all K-12 military students providing one-on-one online tutoring and homework assistance in math, science, social studies, languages, and test preparation. Check it out!

If you are located on or near a military base, make sure to take advantage of the many resources available through community service programs designed to help your child succeed in school. Have a child with special educational needs? School liaison officers are available to serve as disability advocates. Need help purchasing school supplies to start the school year? Check out Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade program which distributed more than 25,000 backpacks full of school supplies last year to children aboard military installations nationwide. Reach out to your family readiness/liaison officer or ombudsman for more information about these and other installation specific programs.

Making the transition from the lazy days of summer back to regular school routines can be stressful for both children and parents alike. Calm first day of school nerves by practicing the new routine a few days in advance. Routines are comforting for children, and knowing what to expect will make the first day run much more smoothly for everyone. Most importantly, don’t forget to smile for those first day of school pictures! It’s the beginning of a brand new year of learning and fun.

What are some tips you have for military kids who are starting a new school?

Posted by Barbara Eastom-Bates, NMFA Volunteer

5 Easy Ways to Volunteer with NMFA (And Why You Should Join In!)

When I first joined the National Military Family Association as a Volunteer, I didn’t think I would be able to contribute very much since I stay home full-time with my two toddlers. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to give back to the military community even with tiny humans in tow.

You may think you have to choose between staying at home with little ones and volunteering in the community, but the NMFA allows you to do both! There are even virtual volunteer opportunities, as well as community engagement events that can easily fit a busy parent’s schedule.


So, where do you start?

  1. Facebook Groups. This is a great way to start since you already have an online network of military spouses and parents. Engage in conversations, pose questions and look for trends to report.
  2. Playgroups. Look for local playgroups in your area. Most likely, there are military family playgroups as well as civilian groups in your community.  Introduce yourself and bring some materials to hand out to the group, or start your own group!
  3. Military Housing. Housing is a great way to get the word out about NMFA. Welcome new neighbors with helpful resources and place brochures in the leasing office. If your housing community has a monthly newsletter, ask if you can include a piece on NMFA. Also, find out about any potential table events or expos that would have participation available. Even if you don’t live in housing, you can still contact the office manager or events coordinator at your local military housing office. They are always looking for new resources for their residents!
  4. Military Installations. Head to your local military installation and drop off some literature to other military organizations. A few suggestions would be: Fleet and Family Services, USO, and Youth and Teen Centers.
  5. Local Spots. Think about spots you already frequent with your kids: coffee shops, frozen yogurt shops, libraries, museums, parks, children’s events, etc. Keep a bag of supplies in your car and drop off materials during your weekly visits.

The National Military Family Association provides all the tools you need to succeed as a Volunteer. I love that I am able to stay easily connected to my Volunteer Manager, as well as the entire volunteer team through emails, phone calls, webinars, and Facebook. And the best part? I can achieve my volunteer goals while spending time with my kids!

Have you considered joining the NMFA Volunteer Corps? It’s the perfect time!

Posted by Amanda Schwenk, National Military Family Association Volunteer, San Diego, CA

Suicide Prevention Matters and Every Second Counts

“Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

How am I supposed to ask someone that? Can I even get the question out? Such a personal question…and what do I do if the person I ask says yes?

Several years ago, I participated in an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program offered by the Chaplain’s office. I was nervous and a little uncomfortable at the start of the training because of the topic, but I left hopeful and more informed. Like mental health and domestic violence, the ‘hush-hush’ stigma surrounding suicide is one that we absolutely need to change the conversation about. Yes, it’s a difficult subject to discuss. But it MATTERS. It’s a disease, and it’s treatable. And you can help.

In the first quarter of 2016, 110 service members (Active and Reserve Components) died by suicide. And I’m sure you’ve heard the horrific statistic that 20 veterans complete suicide each day. How many received treatment and were helped?

What’s worse, we don’t have any idea how many military family members died by suicide–a whole group of people unaccounted for. But Congress directed the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office in the Fiscal Year 2015 NDAA to track and provide those numbers.

We’ve been waiting for that data…for over a year. Suicide happens in moments, and in desperate times, someone considering suicide could be helped in just a few seconds. NMFA will continue to urge the Department of Defense to release this information so that we can help every military family member who needs help RIGHT when they need it. Every second counts.

So what can you do to help someone who is thinking about suicide?

Ask them directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Then:

  • Care for them – listen to them and remove anything that could be used for self-injury.
  • Don’t leave them alone. Take them to the chaplain, a behavioral health professional, or if it’s a service member, remember you can take them to someone in their chain of command

As we come to the end of September and Suicide Prevention Month, it’s worth remembering that suicide prevention isn’t something that we should think about one month a year – it’s something we should always be aware of.

The Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office has launched the “Be There” campaign as a way to encourage everyone to take responsibility to help prevent suicides—it’s not just the Department of Defense’s duty, its all of ours. The campaign asks us to be there for service members, be there for families, be there for the civilians who support them.

Look for suicide intervention programs at your installation Family Services office, Suicide Prevention office or Chaplain’s office. If they’re not offered ask for them.

Asking someone if they want to end their life is a difficult question, but for many service members and family members, it is a question they should become more comfortable asking. By simply asking, it may help someone. And if nothing else, it lets someone know they’ve been heard.

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director

5 Things to Accomplish While Your Spouse is Deployed

Separation from a spouse who is deployed is not easy. Most people suffer from loneliness as the major worry when they separate from their spouses. However, you can take the opportunity to make your family relationships stronger and make some significant steps towards achieving your individual goals while your spouse is away. Here are some things you can accomplish:

Marriage Goals
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the time you have away from your spouse offers an opportunity for you to reflect and see how to strengthen your relationship. You may consider taking online classes or reading books on how to improve your marriage by making your spouse happier. Through phone calls or letters, you may let your spouse know about what you have been learning and what you plan to do to maintain a long-distance relationship for a while.

Financial Goals
Just like online courses for marriage, financial courses are also available. Maybe you are looking forward to clearing your debts or getting finances to fund your dream house. Apart from giving you the opportunity of taking financial courses, separation from your spouse also allows you to think about your financial goals and see where you need to improve on. Set a target you want to achieve and commit yourself towards achieving it before your spouse returns home.


Professional Development
Taking extra projects and classes to develop your career is a good way to stay productive when your spouse is away. It is the best time to ask for more work from your boss to keep yourself busy. This may make your employer feel that you are ready for more responsibilities and thus promote you to a bigger role. Also, taking classes or earning an online degree may be a great way of expanding your horizon and placing you at a better position for bigger roles in your company.

Health Goals
Have you ever thought of running a marathon or going to the gym to lose some weight but have never found time for it? The best time to do so could be while your spouse is away on duty. You have all the time for yourself. Physical activity is a great way of reducing stress and improving health. Write down a fitness goal and share it with your spouse the next time you communicate.

Educational Development
Now is the best time to improve your education. You can decide to update your certifications or take time to go through your kids’ books and see what they do in school. Even subscribing to a podcast or browsing science news websites can enlighten you on new concepts and stimulate you mentally.

Separation from your spouse means more time for yourself. Instead of spending time thinking of how lonely you are, begin thinking of what you can do to improve your life and the lives of your family members. When you are finally reunited after your spouse’s time of duty, you can do so as a person who has grown and developed as much as your spouse has.

Posted by Dixie Somers, military supporter and freelance writer

No Time to Volunteer with a Full-Time Career? Consider This

Working full time or managing a career as a military spouse is hard. It’s a constant balancing act, full of compromises. If you’re a spouse who works in the civilian world, it can feel extremely isolating. While most military installations and units put forth a lot of effort to ensure families feel a strong sense of community, the events or program hours are often less than ideal for working military spouses.

As a military spouse and a full time headhunter (executive search consultant) for high growth technology companies, I understand the difficulties that come with that balancing act. I often feel as though I’m being pulled in two opposite directions. As the wife of an Army Combat Engineer, I know I have to work harder than everyone else at my firm, as I’ve been awarded the opportunity to continue a career that allows for remote positions. Easier said than done, of course, but the thought of losing that opportunity is enough to push me to prove my value day in and day out. Trying to find time to attend family and spouse events is a challenge in and of itself, so it was tough for me to imagine finding time to volunteer.


At our last duty station, I was traveling every other week, missing out on community events, and felt completely disconnected from my husband’s work. Volunteering did cross my mind as a way to meet people and build relationships, but I thought, “Why volunteer when I’m not looking to fill gaps on a resume? I have a full time job that permits little time for myself.”

It wasn’t until my husband’s second deployment during our time at Fort Drum that I truly felt the need to become more connected to him and his work. While my work is important as well, I believe that his service is a higher calling. I wanted to help in any way that I could, especially while he was serving overseas. To put it into perspective, I decided this while moving away from “home” to be closer to my company’s office in Washington, DC–something I’ve done 8 times in the last 5 years when my husband was away or overseas (I move back each time he comes home).

Now, I won’t lie to you and say no one is ever too busy for another commitment. I feel your pain and sometimes, you are just TOO PLAIN BUSY. In my case, despite how strapped for time I felt, the feeling that I had something to offer prevailed. Onto the next step; where do I start?

I started my research as most things begin these day, with a Google search. I quickly found the National Military Family Association. I should add, I was excited to find NMFA but I still felt a sense of extreme hesitancy. I was concerned that even if I found a volunteer opportunity that resonated, it would be too much of a time commitment and I would be too busy to be a helpful Volunteer…I was wrong.

After scheduling a conversation with someone who could tell me more about the organization, I was still doubtful. Doubtful that I would meet the “requirements” needed for a volunteer. Doubtful that I would have something–anything–to offer that would be useful. I was wrong again. I was pleased to speak with another Volunteer who immediately understood my struggle, and was willing to work with me to find volunteer opportunities that would fit my lifestyle. This article is one of them! Important lesson learned: there is never a “right time.” If you wait around for the right time to do something important, you’ll never do it.

Is now the right time for you to Volunteer? Join us today!

Posted by Paige Kuderka, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer