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Parenting by Heart - Pinky McKay

Parenting by Heart

Paperback

Published: 31st January 2011
For Ages: 18+ years old
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Published: 27th January 2011
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Bringing a new baby home can be one of the most intimidating experiences of our lives and can fill us with self-doubt. But in order to nurture our child, says parenting expert Pinky McKay, we must maintain our own sense of worth. Bonding with our baby and learning to trust our maternal/paternal instincts is vital. In Parenting By Heart, Pinky offers practical and reassuring advice on:

  • bonding with your new baby
  • feeding
  • sleeping
  • routines
  • play and massage
  • your new life as a family
Pinky's techniques are based on the latest scientific research but always come back to her philosophy that every parent and child is unique, and that parents need to follow their hearts rather than a one-size-fits-all model. Her advice will help you get to know your baby and yourself, and to find the right options for you both so that you can delight in this precious time together.

About The Author

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), certified infant massage instructor and sought-after keynote speaker at conferences for parents and health professionals internationally, Pinky McKay is the author of Toddler Tactics, Sleeping Like a Baby and 100 Ways to Calm the Crying. Her books are approved and recommended by respected bodies such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association, the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health, La Leche League International and the Centre for Attachment (NZ).

Pinky writes and blogs for Practical Parenting magazine (Australia) and contributes to various national and international publications and web sites including Littlies magazine (New Zealand), Attachment Parenting International (US), Pathways to Family Wellness (US) and Opposing Views (US). She runs a busy private practice in Melbourne and, thanks to modern technology, also supports clients around the world with gentle baby care, breastfeeding, settling and sleep solutions through her e-newsletter, web site, blog, teleseminars, workshops and private consultations.

The mother of four adult 'children' and a now-teenage 'bonus baby' (the baby you have when your other kids can run their own baths, tie their own shoelaces and even drive their own cars!), Pinky's greatest pleasure is enjoying the precious giggles and cuddles of her delightful grandchildren.

Introduction

Every parent, every child and every parent–child relationship is unique.

Parenting by Heart is not about advocating a single parenting 'method' because there is no one-size-fits-all. Rather, the spirit of this book is about encouraging you to trust not only your innate wisdom but also your child's response to your nurturing, just as women have throughout time, in cultures all over the world. Sadly, our confidence in our ability to nurture our young has gradually been undermined to the point that few women in our own time and culture seem to trust their intuition or their child's responses.

Each day, in my work as a lactation consultant and baby massage instructor, I hear from parents (mostly mothers) who feel confused, frustrated and overwhelmed by immense pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Many are burdened by feelings of inadequacy and guilt because they don't have a 'good' baby (who is, they believe, a reflection of their own competence). Mothers express fears that if they do hold and cuddle their babies as their instincts are urging, they may encourage 'bad habits'.

In our culture, values such as independence and control are prized. The pressure to be seen as 'coping' (or 'in control') perpetuates the myth of the 'good' baby. Many parents are afraid to speak openly about how their babies behave: those whose infants don't simply feed, play and sleep (preferably in that order) often feel as though they are somehow abnormal if they 'give in' to their baby's cries; mothers whose babies 'fail' sleep training fear that they too have failed, as they secretly soothe little night howls; and many mothers exist in isolation because they are afraid of the stares and advice they will attract if they venture out in public with a baby who happens to cry – as all babies tend to do, at times!

'I was terrified of going out, and didn't really get over this for four months. I couldn't handle the feeling that my skills (or, more to the point – lack of) as a mother were on display for the world to see.' Rachelle, mother of a nine-month-old

There is also pressure on the other side of the pendulum. The mother who 'confesses' that she is having a difficult time and perhaps has responded to her child harshly, or not as she may have if she'd had more help, is likely to be criticised too. Then there is the mother who is making conscious choices about her parenting but not fitting into the rigid ideas of a fundamentalist parenting group. Sometimes, mothers themselves create the worst kind of pressure.

'I popped my baby into her pram and walked to a nearby attachment parenting group – I needed to meet some other mums with small babies. I was breastfeeding and had had a natural birth at a birth centre, so I expected to meet some 'kindreds' at such a group. Instead, I was criticised for having my baby 'separated' from me in a pram, and also because she had a dummy. I went home feeling shattered and like a failure.' Lexie, mother of a three-month-old

For many parents in our culture, having a baby is an enormous shock, rather than a rich experience in the continuum of life, celebrated and supported by the community. Many women today have never held a baby before their own is thrust into their arms. Invariably, as new mothers struggle with the notion of the 'good' baby, they are also struggling with an identity crisis – who am I now? Even when she looks in the mirror, the face (and body) reflected back at the new mother is virtually unrecognisable in comparison to the smart, savvy woman who used to have a clearly defined job description and a life that would fit neatly into her electronic organiser.

'I think it was the fact that I had always been so independent and successful that made it so much harder for me to surrender to these feelings of vulnerability. I was a health professional – I felt I should have known what to do. I felt that everyone was watching me – testing me, waiting for me to slip up. Even amongst my girlfriends with babies, it felt like we were all competing as to who was the perfect mum with the perfect baby.' Melissa, mother of a toddler

Fathers can of course also experience shock at the new responsibilities and changed lifestyle involved with parenthood.

'People would say, 'You must be so happy.' Part of me was thinking: I should be happy, I am a father. But our lives had changed so dramatically that we were tired and stressed for weeks and months. There was a lot to get used to, especially the changes in our relationship. I would wonder: Does this mean there is anything wrong with me, or with me as a father?' Richard, father of a one-year-old

When our sense of self is eroded, it is extremely difficult to trust our feelings or to believe we possess any wisdom at all. It is easy, then, to see how uncertainty and doubt creep in, and how new parents, desperate to regain a sense of control over their lives, not to mention their partner relationships, are all too willing to grasp at whatever promises are being made by whoever is offering advice. And, no matter how unrealistic these promises, or whatever the trade-offs involved, the promise of a 'good' – that is, 'convenient' – baby is almost irresistible, even when it is being made by men in suits, in offices or clinics, or by childless 'celebu-nannies' who have never experienced the profound effects of the hormonal chemistry between a mother and her own infant. Without this amazing biological connection, it is almost impossible to fathom the awesome responsibility that you feel as you gaze into the eyes of your trusting baby, knowing that you are everything to her and that everything she needs comes from you.

Babies magically draw people together, even before they are born. It seems that everybody loves to share in the delight that a baby brings. Suddenly, too, it seems as though everyone is an expert – about your child. You can put yourself in the hands of these 'experts' or you can put yourself in charge. This doesn't mean you have to ignore or dismiss advice – after all, most of it is given with good intent. Nor do you have to go it alone without seeking support or professional help. Taking charge is about trusting yourself and your connection with your child, but it is also about becoming informed by asking questions, reading and listening so that you can make the most appropriate choices for your situation.

From now on, you are choosing on behalf of your child. You will live with your choices and so will your child. But as well as being your child's advocate, you are also his or her most important role model; your strength and support will make your child feel safe, even when you don't have all the answers.

You are unique. Your child is unique. To slavishly follow any method of parenting as though it were a religion, or to expect your child to fit a preconceived stereotype of success, is to deny your child's individuality as well as your own. But it is also a fact that the connection between you can be weakened when you are under stress, lack support or feel you are in unknown territory. At such times, you may question your own wisdom and become vulnerable to pressure and inappropriate advice. When your connection with your child is strong, you will find it easy to parent by heart, to ask yourself, 'How do I feel?' as well as, 'What do I think?' And to trust your feelings and thoughts.

'My husband and I have two little girls: Matilda, who is two years, and Genevieve, who is three months. I am so lucky to have a wonderful child-health nurse whose favourite saying is, 'Trust your intuition.' In those early days of sleep deprivation and sore nipples, I didn't think I had any intuition! But the more I listened to that little voice, the louder it became. And now I'm the proud mum of a smart, sweet, loving toddler and a happy, healthy baby. And all I can attribute it to is just being there when they want me, for whatever they want.' Jo

When you follow your heart, rather than a single parenting 'method', you seldom fit neatly into a stereotype. Sampling various options from the stack of child-rearing techniques to form your own rich collage can often mean going against popular opinion. At times, following your heart can also result in challenges as you confront the wider (child-free) world. My two year-old at my breast, I remember rocking up to weekend workshops with creative directors from some of the city's top ad agencies; these people were more familiar with the association between breasts and fast cars!

Like all parents, I have experienced criticism and self-doubt. To parent while ignoring mainstream opinions (which seem to change according to which 'expert' is currently popular) takes courage – and a deaf ear. To care for children and to nourish their identities requires a strong sense of self: you need to know where you are coming from in order to know where to go to find support.

There are as many ways of caring and loving as there are families. So, as well as evidence-based information, in this book I have included the voices of other parents, who share their experiences and their feelings – of joy, sadness, fear, frustration, hope and humour. Realising that other people make the same mistakes and feel the same fears validates your own experience and can give you new courage. You can, of course, also learn from others' experiences and apply this knowledge to your own situation, when it is relevant.

Having a child changes your life. Forever. It changes your body, your soul, your mind and your bank balance. It affects your relationships – with your partner, your parents, your friends and your community. This book shows you how to stand strong against those who undermine or oppose your choices. In other words, it acknowledges the real experts – you and your child. My aim is to help you unlock your intuition so that you nurture with confidence.

Seize your power! Whether you are making birth plans, choosing health care, education or child-rearing practices, or confronting the pain (and blame) of things gone wrong, explore all your options and take charge. Trust yourself. Trust your child. Trust your feelings. Take good care of yourself. Laugh, love, enjoy, and remember to be as gentle on yourself and your beloved as you are with your child.

P.S. Because children come in both genders, I have alternated the terms 'she' and 'he' throughout the book – no sexism intended. Boys and girls have equal ability to tickle your funny bone and pluck at your heartstrings, and, as babies, they are equally delightful.

Families come in more than one form, too – not just the traditional nuclear family. I would like to acknowledge this but apologise in advance if I haven't used the perfect terms to describe your unique family structure, whatever this may be for you and your child – single parent, blended, two mummies, two daddies and so on.

In some of the personal stories, the names of parents and children have been changed to protect their privacy.

ISBN: 9780670075089
ISBN-10: 0670075086
Audience: General
For Ages: 18+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 31st January 2011
Dimensions (cm): 23.2 x 15.3  x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.39