Thursday, April 1, 2010

follow your instincts

When someone, usually a pregnant mama, asks me for my best parenting advice, I like to say, with complete honesty, "Follow Your Instincts." I could say many, many other things, but my mothering instincts have been strong since before I could even put a name to my parenting style. Attachment parenting, natural parenting, respectful parenting: for me, it all comes down to instinct.

I suppose the most important aspects of instinctual parenting for me started during childbirth. When both Eva and Esme were born, gently and naturally, both babies were placed directly on my abdomen, wet and warm, for optimum bonding. We had the wonderful opportunity to cuddle and touch and meet for the first time. We began our nursing relationship immediately, within the minutes following birth.

Breastfeeding, luckily, came naturally for me with both girls, perhaps because we started nursing within the suggested twenty minutes after birth, perhaps because labor and childbirth was unmediated, perhaps because I did my research beforehand and knew good positions and correct latch, perhaps because I absolutely knew I would breastfeed. Breast-milk's unique mixture of nutrients and immunities is made perfectly by mother for each individual baby's needs and ages. It comes at the right temperature and the perfect amount. Breastfeeding also stimulates a mother's body to produce prolactin and oxytocin, which are two important mother-instinct boosting hormones. All of these necessary aspects contributed to the unique instinct to feed my babies on demand, as soon as they showed signs of hunger.

Another super necessary (for me) aspect of instinctual parenting is the family bed. When sleep-sharing, baby naturally learns and mimics mother's sleep cycle, is more likely to "sleep through the night," and is at a significantly less of a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sleep-sharing also allows for a more successful nursing relationship. Additionally, it helps a mother to become familiar with her baby's cues--before the baby even needs to cry out. I was always close to my babies, was able to feed them without having to fully awake from a comfortable sleep, and I sensed everything about them.

Then there is babywearing. It has been proven countless times that carried babies fuss less and spend much more time in the awake state of quiet alertness, which is the optimum state for learning (boosting brain power). Again, like bedsharing, since your baby is close to you, you know your baby better, you become more sensitive to her needs and you can meet those needs before crying is even necessary.

There is a very fine line between each aspect of instinctual parenting, and in most cases, it is difficult to tell where one leaves off and another begins. The benefits of instinctual parenting are far too complex to fully describe. It contributes to a level of communication far beyond words. However, I could instinctively tell when my baby was hungry, needed a diaper, wanted to be put down, etc. by being close to her and learning her cues (rather than using her cry to let me know she needs something). I knew because I followed each of their silent signals and their body language, which I still know so well from years of dedicated breastfeeding, sleep-sharing, and babywearing.

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1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with this. The times I've felt out of control as a mother have been when I have followed the advice of 'experts' rather than my own instincts. It is all to common to trust a book or the Internet rather than yourself. It is so lovely to hear someone giving such sound, reassuring advice.