Instinctual Parenting

It seems we've lost our way. It seems that somewhere over the past century in America, as technological advancements, increased industrialization, and focused specialization promised to make our lives easier and simpler, they led us away from our own voice, our own instincts, and in so doing made our lives more complicated and stressful. Nowhere is this more obvious than in parenting.

Rather than trusting our own instincts and listening to our babies, from birth to toddlerhood and throughout childhood, we began abdicating control and losing touch with our natural wisdom. From placing control of our pregnancies and births into the hands of obstetricians and hospitals, to believing that babies should sleep through the night, to trusting large food conglomerates to feed our families, to relying on others to care for and teach our children, we have weakened the power of home and family and muffled our own parenting instincts.

Reconnecting with our instincts, listening to our inner voice and the needs our children so clearly communicate to us in their own way, can guide us back to trusting ourselves. It can help us to question the origin of some of our beliefs and expectations, and filter the barrage of "expert" advice. Who says my infant needs to learn to self-soothe? Who says children need to sleep alone, away from mommy and daddy? Who says I need to introduce solid food at six months if I don't think my baby is ready? Who says my two-year-old needs to learn to be independent from mommy? Why should I give my toddler time-outs? Why should my five-year-old get a dental x-ray for no apparent reason? Why should children be made to sit still and listen when their natural instinct is to run and shout?

We can learn a lot about reconnecting with our natural parenting instincts by watching our children, watching how they live with full authenticity and trust. Their needs are simple and straightforward, and when we listen and respond to them by trusting our own instincts, ignoring the reel of "should-bes" that rolls through our thoughts, we can experience more joyful parenting.

Trusting our instincts and parenting more peacefully is the topic of a new book just released by two Boston-area moms. The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year, by Megan Massaro and Miriam Katz, helps new parents to trust themselves rather than entrusting others to care for their baby's well-being. A must-read for new parents or others looking to parent more naturally, more instinctually, the book is full of thoughtful insights that help parents to question mainstream parenting beliefs and actions.

What about you? How have you been able to trust or reconnect with your own, natural parenting instincts, even if they run counter to current mainstream parenting practices?