Instinctual Parenting

by Jasmine Carlson on October 1, 2009

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Not to pick on birth boards at all— because I have enjoyed being a part of several— there is a wealth of could-be topics just begging to be written and discussed. Sadly there does not seem to be enough adult etiquette contained in a typical birth board to be able to address touchy issues– to be able to discuss, disagree and learn without injured feelings or just plain anger. I am getting off topic here though…

My most recent adventures in birth-board-land revealed many of the same questions that have been posted over a variety of topics but generally with the same theme, they all go something like this, “is it ok for my LO to have… now?” Now, I am not at all dissing mothers who are asking legit questions about whether or not their little one should be eating/drinking this or that.  Us first time moms especially have a plethora of questions about what “should” and “should not” be done. Sometimes I think that I must be a bit odd and a few times I have just been plain nervous that maybe I have missed the mommy boat somewhere and am swimming in some other kind of ocean all together. Why, you may ask, would I ask that? Because I have not asked those questions. I didn’t ask when or if I could feed my child eggs, peanut butter, OJ, milk, yogurt, etc. It honestly did not even cross my mind!

So I come to my topic and how this connects with AP, though this may more be a topic of discussion other than anything else. If you practice AP does your parenting become more instinctual?

Now, I, by no means believe that humans are animals but I do know that we have very many things in common with mammals. We raised sheep when I was young so I find myself comparing a lot of birthing and parenting with what I have seen acted out in the ewes and their lambs. I saw that when a mother was left alone to birth and then connect with her lamb, when the lamb was allowed to nurse and be close to his mother that lamb thrived and even if the ewe had been skittish and nervous before confidence appeared in her when it came to her lamb, she did not ever hesitate to defend, feed and nurture her baby. So following through with this thought in our own human birth and parenting, when we allow the natural to happen (because, unlike animals, we have a choice on how we will do things), when we educate ourselves on what is natural and we let that happen knowing that it is natural and right, when we let our hormones do their job, does parenting become instinctual? Do we know when our baby can handle peanut butter? Do we know if they can?

I know that this is also a simplification of the human mind and marginalizes the educated choices that we have to make as parents. But once we make an educated choice to let the natural happen then does AP become natural and tap in to our instinctual?

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Jasmine Carlson (50 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

tjwriter October 1, 2009 at 9:34 am

At the basest levels, we are nothing more than animals and I think tapping into those instincts (such as caring for our little ones) can be very beneficial. I used my instincts to guide me with my first one especially. It led me follow a lot of the AP practices without really knowing what I was doing. It just was.

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Shevelle October 1, 2009 at 10:12 am

I am a new mother and belong to a birth board too. I am new to AP, as my child is almost a toddler. I carried her around more than others said I should, co-sleep, do not practice CIO, breast fed, cloth diaper, and a host of other things. I am trying to practice AP alone. My mother doesn’t understand, my husband doesn’t understand, so I find myself asking questions on my birth board. What I’m trying to say: everyone practicing AP does not have the support system you say you have and therefore, may ask questions of others. The birth board is the only place I have to ask questions.

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Kayris October 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

I think instinct only applies on some levels. I instinctually knew that my son was ready for solids at 4 months but my daughter was ready at 6. But there’s no way I could have known ahead of time that my son was allergic to milk protein, and having dealt with a food allergy beforehand, I was pretty cautious the second time around when it came to food. So while I didn’t go on birth boards to ask questions, i did rely on our pede for that sort of information if I wasn’t sure.

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sarah October 1, 2009 at 10:49 am

“Now, I, by no means believe that humans are animals but I do know that we have very many things in common with mammals.”

What are humans, if they’re not animals?

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Kelley October 1, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I think how instinctual your parenting is depends so much on your prior experience and your own temperament more than practicing AP itself.

I am really concerned with where Sweet Pea’s guts are at, and what will be easiest for him to digest, but he was premature. After so much concentration on his gut (which is one of the areas that can be affected pretty severely by prematurity), you bet I’m more cautious about whether a certain type of food is more likely to cause a reaction at his (adjusted) age. We started solids late – he’s actually 9 mos adjusted, and only has yogurt along with his nursie milk. A good friend of mine had a homebirth and a really healthy babe who I think started solids at 5 mos. Her daughter eats anything and everything, and was eating a wider variety of foods faster than my son. Both of our babies are healthy and happy.

The awesome thing about being a lamb is that your grass is there to eat – and when you’re ready for it, you eat it! I think it’s a bit harder since we have to provide the opportunities to eat to our little ones, and we also have such a range of choices. Rice cereal, fruit, dairy, peanut butter: with such a wide range of choices, I think it’s easy for some of us (myself included!) to feel a bit overwhelmed and to want some outside help.

Maybe I’m getting too bogged down in specific examples, though. I do think AP is great because it gives you more of a mindset to listen to yourself and trust that you know your baby, especially when the outside advice just doesn’t seem right. For example, when our pede was telling me to start feeding him since he’d reached six months old and “needed it,” it didn’t feel right and so I didn’t. He kept growing and nursing exclusively. I absolutely trust myself over our pediatrician most of the time for things that concern Sweet Pea, but I value her input and weigh it with what I’m thinking about a certain situation.

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Amber October 1, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I don’t usually trust my instincts. I’m not sure why, exactly, it’s just not the way that I usually approach the world. Since I had kids, though, I’ve become much more instinctual. I have gained this connection with the animal part of me.

I don’t know if it’s AP entirely that has caused that. Or some combination of factors. It’s interesting to me, though, to see. I now have two children, and I would say it’s only increased with time and experience. I’ve rarely regretted listening to my own innate mother wisdom. I have definitely regretted ignoring it.

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Jasmine Carlson October 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

“Now, I am not at all dissing mothers who are asking legit questions about whether or not their little one should be eating/drinking this or that. Us first time moms especially have a plethora of questions about what “should” and “should not” be done.”

Shevelle, I am not AT ALL coming down on the mom’s asking these questions. It was more of throwing out a thought of the instinctual side of parenting I know that we all need advice and yes I am blessed to have a great support system and I do not come down on anyone who finds that in a birth board, I have also enjoyed mine. The point being that the questions made me start thinking and this is what came out of the thinking.

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Jasmine October 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm

“What are humans, if they’re not animals?”

Animals are completely run by instincts, as humans we are able to make choices. Which I think is so profound about AP is that we choose to do it, we can choose to tap in to more “instinctual” parenting as well or we can choose to ignore or not explore that side of ourselves. That is just not so with animals.

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Lisa November 2, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Something amazing happened to me even before my child was born. I had very strong intuitive feelings that I could not ignore. I just knew things. I still just know things. It has never even dissipated a bit.

This was especially interesting with a preemie.

I was staying in the Ronald McDonald House accross the street from the hospital where she spent 100 days in the NICU. Often, I would get a feeling and just head to the NICU, and sure enough, something was going on with my baby, and it was good I was there.

The most stunning to me was how I could be in a deep sleep and it still happened. Now, you have to realize I had eclampsia and my heart stopped twice during the delivery. I was still recovering, and in pretty poor shape myself. Regardless, I would find those intuitions would get me up out of bed, quickly dressing and heading out into the night to my baby in the NICU.

Is this because I became a mother and mother’s intuition kicked in? Is it because my baby was so fragile, and it’s a very animal instinct to protect our young, especially when they are extra vulnerable? Is it because I actually taught AP and used it in treatment settings for mental health venues for many years?

I have no idea. I only know I am so grateful for it. Early on, a female nenatoltogist who “had a feeling” about my daughter spent hours saving my daughter’s life, for many days. As we prepared for her to go in the ambulance to take her to another hospital in another state for a heart surgery, I felt a heightened sense of connection with my tiny baby who’d already defied the odds. That wonderful neonatologist grabbed me, looked me in the eye, with tears, and told me “always trust your mother’s instincts. No matter what.” I do.

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