Mothering through instinct

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Is this a scary thought to you? Or a common sense approach?

When I first had my first child I wasn’t sure if I could 100% trust my instinct. What did I know about babies, feeding, weight gain, how to do things for them? I had ideas and an underlying feeling that what I was doing felt natural to me, but I constantly doubted myself. I was surrounded by professionals whose business it was to know about babies; Midwives, Doctors, Health Visitors. And everyone else seemed to know so much more about my baby then I did; friends, relatives and even strangers. In fact, with my first I was constantly offered advice from people I didn’t know; one of whom confidently informed me that my daughter was screaming because she was hungry. My first thought was ‘my goodness, what kind of mother am I? How could I not spot my own daughter was hungry when this stranger knew?’ Now of course I would question what gave her the right to think she knew my child better then me, but back then I wasn’t confident in my ability to parent, after all I’d never done it before.

Being a new parent for me was the biggest learning curve in my life. Nothing, and I mean nothing; no reading, no watching other peoples babies, no advice, could have prepared me for how it would FEEL as a new parent.

Those people who know me will be the first to tell you this doesn’t sound like me, I know my own mind and am not afraid to say my opinion, but when it came to being a parent I had no real opinion to say as I had no idea what I should be doing.

I did do certain things I instinctively felt, for example, I let my daughter sleep on my chest for the first 8 weeks of her life. It just felt right, but it was also because I had no idea how to get her to sleep otherwise. Yet, despite it feeling right, every day I worried that I was making a mistake, making a rod for own back and at worst putting her life at risk with this decision. I fed her when she was hungry but would also be full of self-doubt, was she actually hungry? Was I just using my breast to pacify her, was that wrong? Am I spoiling my baby.

My husband would also come home with stories from colleagues…”James let their baby share their bed and now they can’t get him out of it and he is 5!”. One colleague informed him that if we keeping picking our daughter up every time she cries and carrying her in the sling, we are going to spoil her and she will never be able to settle herself.

Words kept jumping out at me…don’t spoil her, she must learn to self sooth, you can’t always pick her up, she must learn to be independent, its important that’s she is left with other people otherwise she’ll be too reliant on you.

Now don’t get me wrong, some advice I received was very helpful and appreciated. However, much of the information I got was so conflicting. How can it be true that you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby but feeding on demand is making them use you like a dummy? How can it be true that you just need to sleep however you can, but having baby in bed is dangerous? How can it be true that you can spoil a baby when I am also being told that leaving a baby to cry will teach it that no one will come? And how can it be true that if there is just one right answer on how to bring up babies we don’t all know it and do it?

The conclusion I came to is that it CAN’T BE. There is no one way. Like life, relationships, friendships, there are 100 different ways to do things and to get on. You HAVE to trust your instinct and give yourself time to listen to yourself. To push aside the doubt and do what FEELS right. Respond to your baby how you see fit. Of course, you won’t always know. You will try things that don’t work for you, but that’s ok.

Trusting your instinct isn’t about getting it right first time. It’s about going with our inbuilt ability to know what is the best for our young. I am yet to watch a Planet Earth  documentary in which a rhino is reading Gina Ford, or an elephant is looking up attachment parenting. They parent through their natural ability to instinctively know what’s right for their child. And we have that too!! We need to stop advising mothers and encourage them to know all they need to know is already within them. Of course give information, give the facts and the options but don’t tell them what their baby is feeling, thinking or needing. Don’t tell them they need to be concerned about things that they are not worried about. Don’t make them doubt every decision they make. Let’s build up mothers and start stripping back and listening to our bodies. After all we grew the baby in our body through no help of parenting experts or different techniques. It was nature, and that is how we should approach our role as parents.

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi🙂

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Letter to breastfeeding mums

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Whenever first time, breastfeeding mums come to my massage classes, many have experienced the same things I did when I had my first baby. They worry that everything they are doing is wrong, they worry about how much milk their baby is getting, if their baby’s behaviour around feeding is normal. They worry if their baby is on the breast too often or not enough, if they want to feed all night or sleep too long. They worry about everything because that’s what we do as new mums. We care so much about this miracle WE created; we want to do everything we can to protect and look after them.

I wrote this because I don’t want new mums to feel like they are alone, you are NOT alone. This is to all the new mums who are starting out on their breastfeeding experience. It is HARD WORK at first, but it is sooo worth it! This is in no way a critique of mums who have chosen formula. In fact, if I knew enough about it I would write something for those mummies too. I hear time and again how bad they have been made to feel, or how they were just left alone to ‘get on with it’ without having any idea about formula and how to feed their little ones. However, this is for those breastfeeding mums because I have been there, and I have experienced many of the same worries and anxieties you may be going through. I am not a breastfeeding expert, but a mum who has breastfed 2 babies (and is still feeding my 1-year-old)

Here are my main things I want to share and things I wish someone had told me:

         Breastfeeding is painful at the beginning for many of us. It just is. It’s not because the latch is wrong, or anything you are doing. It just hurts to have someone suck on your nipple as if their life depended on it (which I guess it does). Of course you ought to check it out and make sure there are no issues like tongue tie or milk supply issues, but its normal to struggle. Please don’t feel upset or disappointed and, if you can, push through. It WILL get easier, just give it time. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t panic that this is how it will be for months, it won’t, but you need to have someone by your side telling you how well you are doing. Because you are doing well, so keep it up. Join La Leche league, call the breastfeeding NCT number, see your Health Visitor, find a lactation consultant, check out FB pages about breastfeeding. Get support and the correct information.

          You may not need to top up. Well-meaning friends and relatives will tell you to top up on formula if you are worried, or tired in those early days. This can be very unhelpful as topping up on formula will tell your body that you don’t need to produce as much milk. Breastfeeding is supply and demand. It takes a few days for your milk to come in but the more baby is on the breast the more it will stimulate this. if you are concerned do check with a health professional who will be able to help you do what is best for you and baby.

          When your baby is very little (or maybe not so little) they will want to feed all the time. This is normal. They are establishing feeding and they are getting comfort too. Breastfeeding is so much more then feeding. Try not to worry about ‘how much’ they are getting. Babies get what they need and if you are worried their weight is a good indication of how they are doing.

          Don’t let people tell you that your baby is using you like a dummy. So what? That is exactly what the breast is for, to feed and comfort. It is natures ‘dummy’ and therefore normal and natural for your baby to want this.

          Finding clothes isn’t as tricky as you might think. When I had my first child I wore the same 3 feeding tops on rotation. It turns out I could have worn any top I wanted. You just do the 2 top trick, pull the top one up and the bottom one down. No one told me about this until much later, but it’s worth remembering if you don’t want to buy all new clothes . Just using 2 of your existing tops in tandem works a treat.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to connect with your baby and to remember what a fabulous job you are doing. You are literally keeping your baby alive with your body! How amazing is that. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. I used to worry so much about feeing in public. But what should we? I wouldn’t feel ashamed if I was giving a child solid food in public. Your baby is eating. End of, don’t let others make you feel embarrassed about that.

*If you enjoyed reading this please do share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/rootsandwingsparenting/ I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences so pop by and say hi 🙂

 

3 Little Buttons

 

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