"Instinct" derives from the word "impulse". Our gut is often referred to as our second brain or more commonly the 6th sense. It is packed with around 400 - 600 m neurons and can process information before the brain has even had a chance to rationalise and process to make a rational and informed choice. This brain biology helps us to make one choice over another, often the right one! These are not conscious decisions like our brain which are rational; our gut can make decisions quicker than our head and with greater accuracy. Our instinct can help us to stay safe; ever had the feeling you should avoid a particular route or person? Stop us eating rotten food bad or sniff out a partner. (Yes, my nose chose my husband!).
Every one of us is born with a functioning second brain; it is how we survive those very early days by relying and operating purely on our instincts. Over time our emotional instinct or gut feeling can get pushed down. Children are so in tune with their second brain unlike most adults and use biology every day to make choices. Often we can find ourselves casually dismissing their 6th sense and emotional intelligence because are unable to rationalise or understand. By adulthood we prefer using rational thinking over our instincts.
A parent's instinct is natures way to ensure that your baby stays safe and gets their needs met. Parents really do know what is best for your baby and family.
There so many textbooks and baby experts available for parents today. Each of these comes with their own differing ideal of a baby and when they should eat, drink, sleep and be awake. There are endless chapters and lists of what you SHOULD, HAVE and MUST do with YOUR baby. They often have very unrealistic expectations of babies with differing and contradicting advice. I have seen first-hand the utter frustration and worry that they can cause when their baby simply just doesn't fit that particular textbook ideal. I have known parents think that there is something seriously wrong with their perfectly normal baby or worse that they have failed as a parent if baby isn't sleeping through the night at six months or they are not asleep on the stoke of pm every night!
These books and experts also encourage parents going against what even feels instinctively right for them.
Kerry Care Parenting mantra sums it up perfectly:
"There are no right ways or rules to raising your family only ways that are right for you and your family"
I am passionate that a text book baby or family simply doesn't exist, that there isn't a one size fits all solution and we are all beautifully unique! What will work for one baby and family may not work for another. I know babies do not come with their own user manual (wouldn't that be great!) but I actively encourage parents to take all the information and advice in the textbooks as a guide and remember they are not gospel. The most important thing above everything else is to listen to what your instincts are telling you. Pick out the advice that you have an affinity with and ignore the rest that your instincts are telling you don't sit right because if it feels wrong to be doing then it is safe to say it is probably not the right thing to be doing for you and your family as parenting instinctively feels right.
In my many years of working closely with parents I have come across lots of parents that have gone against what feels instinctively right because the textbooks said so, creating unnecessary guilt.
Here are my tips to get back to parenting with instinct:
Remember text books are just a guideline, they are not gospel:
Pick out the parts and advice that feel right to you and forget the rest.
YOU are the expert when of YOUR baby:
The author of the text book or expert has never met you or your baby so how can they possibly know more about your baby and family's needs or what is right for them than you!
Does this feel right to be doing?
Ask yourself this when making a decision and If it doesn't feel or sit right to you it is safe to say not the right thing to be doing.
The only person whose opinion t really matter is yours and your family:
You are always going to get people giving their unsolicited advice even if you have not asked. Just smile and be confident in YOUR choices for YOUR baby.
Ditch the words SHOULD, HAVE and MUST:
There are no shoulds, haves and musts when it comes to YOUR baby!