Pinky McKay is a lactation consultant and author of many books – including Parenting by Heart. She’s sending a message to new mums to tell them they know more about their baby than they might realise.
Fact or fiction?
Mother’s instinct is not just something the Hallmark card people made up!
It’s an actual physical process that’s humming through mums’ – even brand new mums’ – hearts and minds thanks to some natty biology, according to Pinky McKay.
“It’s just not some airy-fairy thing,” Pinky told Babyology podcast Feed Play Love. “When you are pregnant, there is this massive hormonal upheaval and at its core is the chemistry of attachment.”
This phenomenon occurs “so that you’re chemically primed to respond to your baby,” Pinky explains.
The Mummy Margarita
“During that last trimester of pregnancy, your body brews this cocktail of hormones … the old Mummy Margarita as I call it. The pituitary gland which produces these hormones doubles in size, and it remains enlarged for about six months postpartum.”
“It very gradually slows down,” Pinky says, “but by then you’ve got to know your baby very well, starting to trust that you actually are the expert on your baby.
Pinky says that mixed messages from all kinds of sources can have mums second guessing their parenting choices, but that women are very often doing exactly the right thing for their little ones.
“Trust yourself,” she suggests and know that your body has its own inbuilt hormonal GPS to help guide your decisions.
“You’ve got oxytocin which is the love hormone or the mothering hormone,” Pinky explains. “It has effects that make you very responsive to your baby. Prolactin is a mothering hormone too and it’s also your breast milk-making hormone. It directs the oxytocin towards the baby.”
Listen to Pinky McKay on Feed Play Love:
Boost your parenting confidence
But what about when mums don’t feel they can trust their hormone-driven instincts, or feel their natural impulses have been confused by the glut of parenting advice? How can they rebuild their confidence?
“I think it’s a really gradual process,” Pinky says. “I think finding someone you trust helps, you know? Ring the Breastfeeding Association. Their counsellors have been mums. They understand how it feels.”
“Find somebody that you trust as a parenting guide,” she suggests. “It might be a good friend of yours who has got a baby a bit older, it might be your own mum. Find someone whose mothering style you admired feel comfortable with and talk to them. And talk it out, okay?”
When it comes to any parenting decisions, Pink suggests asking yourself three simple questions:
- Is it safe?
- Is it respectful?
- Does it feel right for us?
That “feel right” question taps brilliantly back into your intuition and as Pinky says, you know more than your realise.