Maternal Instincts

Search online for ‘baby’ and you will find legions of books, websites and consultants who are in place to advise the new mother how undertake the biggest challenge of her life: motherhood.

From eating, sleeping to even translating a baby’s cries, such advise is part of an industry geared to encourage mothers to second guess their own instincts. What are these instincts, and why are they superior to any form of external, remote advise?

It boils down to a particular, intimate bond that a mother has with her baby.  This bond is forged in the very first days of a baby’s birth. As mother and baby familiarise themselves with each other through feeding and comforting, a deeper connection is built.

Both mother and baby begin to recognise the smallest change in facial expression, mood and feeling in each other. Providing that nothing has occurred to prevent this bonding time (or ‘rooming in’), such as lengthy separation or illness, a mother will unconsciously begin to recognise changes in her baby’s needs.

It is easy to forget this a few months down the line, when a mother can be overwhelmed by advise from books, websites and even well-meaning friends and relatives. Often, a mother can be so tired from sleep deprivation that she can begin to doubt her own instincts as to what is best for her child.

This is not uncommon, and is often at this point when the infant advise industry steps in to offer mothers a strategy to overcome a particular problem. It is not to say that these books and websites are not useful, rather that a new mother must see them as a compliment to her own instincts.

In some cases, a mother can feel that she has to choose a particular ‘style’ or method in order for her child to thrive. What is often forgotten however, is that for centuries, mothers have been following their own instincts supported by family, with out referring to remote advise from experts.

As extended families live further and further apart, perhaps these remote, referential advise sources are responding to a particular need at this time. However, instead of religious adherence to a particular parenting method, if a mother realises that this advise comes second to her own belief about what is best for her child, her maternal instinct will not be undermined.

As each mother-baby bond is unique, there is no singular answer or piece of advise that is appropriate for every baby. For this very reason, a mother should strive to drown out well-meaning advise, often expensive in favour of her own, natural instinct. There is, quite simply, no substitute for it in the world.