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.

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