How following my instincts made me a better parent

I've never picked up a parenting book in my life. I don't know if this was a conscious decision, but I didn't really trusted 'experts' with telling me how to be a 'good parent'. I know there are some genuine experts out there, who don't rely on bogus scientific data, but separating the chaff from the hay is no easy task!

So, there I was - with a little baby to raise, away from home, and away from family. I decided very early on to take it one day at a time, and not worry about how I would take a shower the next day!

I felt that nature intends us to be good parents, and all the answers are within us. All we need to do is get in touch with our inner instincts. Our instincts to protect and raise our children are very strong. After all, our survival depends on it.

But in this age of information overload (interspersed with misinformation), we often lose our connection with our inner voice. We begin to doubt ourselves when we read about what our baby 'should' be doing, instead of just accepting that every baby is different.

How following my instincts made me a better parent

That's why, during the first few months, my contact with the online world was minimal. I wanted to connect with my baby, observe everything about him, and understand his cues. It helped a lot. Even if I didn't sleep when he did, not reading tons of parenting articles actually kept my head clear.

It's not that I didn't need advice. I found a community of online mothers who were supportive and non-judgmental. I read some parenting blogs which confirmed my own beliefs about becoming a mother. There are certain subjects - such as starting solids, breastfeeding, and teething, which will have you reaching out to others. Naturally, we can't rely on instincts alone for conditions which require experienced advice. But it does come in handy to decide what will work for your child.

I would say that following my instincts about what felt right for my baby helped me make a lot of decisions. My approach was baby-led (I wasn't even aware of this term at the time), so I let him fall into pattern for sleeping and feeding. A routine did emerge all on it's own, and I realized that my son was happy because all his needs were being fulfilled just as he needed them.

Following my instincts also made me a confident parent. I trusted myself to make the right decisions, even when they went against popular practices. I was stupefied when my son was only a few days old, and a doctor told me to feed him"every four hours". I knew nothing about breastfeeding, but something set the alarm bells ringing. I never saw that doc again and proceeded to feed my baby on demand, even if he needed it every hour.

From then on, I knew that I had to decide what was best for us. And I never regretted any of my parenting decisions. I made mistakes, but I learnt from them, and only grew more confident.

This also means I felt less guilty. I didn't feel guilty about doing something very different from the other mom. For instance, I didn't think I was wrong for not setting up play dates during the first year. Everyone was doing it, but my son was simply not ready to socialize. I didn't feel right about putting him in a situation he wasn't comfortable in. He's three now, and quite social with other toddlers. That's why I believe in tuning in to your child's personality, and doing what's best for them.

Another wonderful outcome of following my instincts was that I didn't have set expectations of how how things should be. I let the milestones come at their own pace, and didn't worry about my baby's stats as long as he was growing and healthy.

Following your instinct as a mother should be natural, but it won't come to you easily if you are distracted, stressed, or over-tired. Learn to take care of yourself too, as much as your situation allows you. It's not just important to take physical rest, your mind needs some calm time too. Practicing steps to be a calm parent, and keeping your head clear are essential to truly being an instinctive parent.

I'm sharing my thoughts in instinctive parenting, especially for new moms, because I want you to know that it's okay to do what feels right for you and makes your baby happy. You earned that right when you became a mom. Take support when needed, but also learn to trust yourself!

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Mike said...

Wow, from everything I have "seen" on my end of the computer screen you are doing a FANTASTIC job of parenting, Tarana! I couldn't agree with you more and relying on instinct and your own maternal abilities. Little Dude is a very blessed and lucky young man :) Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Carin Kilby Clark said...

I agree 1,000%! You have to trust yourself in parenting. There is no handbook so the best guide we have is our own inner voice, intuition, and instinct. Great post!

Chris Carter said...

This is just awesome, Tarana!! I really wish I did this more when I was a new mom. I agree, it really eliminates the expectations and the guilt for not doing things a 'certain way' according to whatever books, parents, experts tell you.

Meredith said...

I'm amazed you never picked up a parenting book! When i was a first time parent, I read them all....but you're absolutely right....Instinct is our best guide.

TheMissusV said...

Totally with you on this one! So many things that books can't teach us and I think we moms have built in sensors. We need to be in tune with it!

Tarana said...

That's a lovely thing to say, you've made my day :)

Katie @ Pick Any Two said...

Wonderful post—thank you so much for writing this! I agree that in this digital age, with so much information at our fingertips, it becomes harder and harder to trust our parenting instincts. But no book or website can know your baby/child better than you can!

Tarana said...

That's exactly what I wanted to put out there, Carin!

Tarana said...

Very true!

Tarana said...

We certainly do!

Tarana said...

I can't believe it too - especially since I'm such a bookworm!

Tarana said...

Absolutely, nothing can replace your understanding of your child!

Jenny @ Unremarkable Files said...

Great insights. I've had a couple of experiences last year where I listened to other peoples' (well informed) opinions over my own intuition, and regretted it. After the last of these experiences, I decided to follow my intuition more and got one of my kids evaluated by a speech therapist (which I'd been thinking about for years but never acted on it because their teachers and my husband thought it wasn't necessary.) Long story short, we went ahead and working with this wonderful lady has been great for this child in a way I completely did not expect. Go motherly intuition!

Tarana said...

Yes, some of the times I made my worst mistakes as a mother was when I blindly followed what others said! That's why, nobody knows your child like you do! I'm so happy you found a good speech therapist for your kid :)

Nina G said...

Great post, Tarana! I read many parenting books, and so many of them conflict with one another. As do blogs and advice and articles. The biggest takeaway I had was to do what works for my family. I acknowledged what works for others may not work for mine, and vice versa.

I don't know if we're equipped with instincts per say (as that feels like a load of pressure to 'know' what we should be doing just because we're moms now) but I do believe that balancing both—knowledge from others and taking them with a grain of salt—is very helpful in making decisions. We shouldn't do something just because someone else told you to, especially when it feels wrong, for sure.

Tarana said...

That's what I mean, no one else can really decide what would work best for you.

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