The First Teachings of Parenting

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New born baby
New born baby

One of the first things we teach our babies is how to feed; breast feed or bottle feed, it does not necessarily come naturally. Have you ever heard the one that breastfeeding is natural and easy? Have you ever had your body liquefy itself and be sucked, squeezed, manipulated and deflated while you feed your precious little bundle?

Anyone who has ever experienced the excruciating heartache of learning to breastfeed knows it does not come easy. And for some, it does not come at all. There is a reason we had wet-nurses provide life for babies for so many years.

Breastmilk provides nutrients, immunity, neurological growth, love and connection to our babies. But so does the mothering of a bottle fed baby. The more we learn about the life-saving and unique properties of breast-milk, the more we can build on the essential properties of infant formula and the way we give it to babies.

Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding

We are lucky in Australia, we have some of the best formula in the world, so much so other countries are buying it in bulk. But we know more about coffee, wine, personal fitness and mindfulness than we do about the mechanics of breastfeeding, the support mothers need and the way in general that we feed our babies the only life sustaining ingredient they need for growth and development; milk.

We may even know more about the cartoned milk we buy from the supermarket, whether it’s organic, pasteurised, or local, than we know about the milk babies drink, breast or formula, that actually makes them grow and thrive. We need to have more open and honest conversations about what it is that makes our babies grow, and less about the judgement of the decision-making process.

We are in a constant dialogue of judgement where we look and judge a parent over how they feed their babies. We live in a diverse society with diverse ways of parenting and diverse ways of feeding. Let’s celebrate these differences and successes. Let’s celebrate the normality of the feeding experiences, in a diverse way.

Parents know even less about the settling and teaching of sleep to their babies than they know about milk. Yet, six months into the journey, parents can be literally crippled by the effects of sleep deprivation and the not knowing of what to do.

Luckily, there is more than one way to swing a cat (I love that saying!), and the same goes for teaching your baby to sleep. I am not going to tell you this is how you sleep-train a baby, or that there is one hard fast method guaranteed for success, because there’s not. There’s lots of ways, just like there are lots of ways to serve up meat and three veg and lots of ways to teach your child humour, there is more than one way to teach your baby to sleep.

Finally asleep…

The key though, is consistency and persistence. Find a method that suits you and your family, and as long as it’s safe, stick to it. Don’t try one way, give it a go, and then try another. Just like adults, it takes them a little while to manage change, learn it, and eventually, go with it. We need to be kind and gentle to our babies, and give them grace.

The movement of grace can change any of us, and so to with our babies. If we give them the space and time to learn a new skill, self-settling, they will less likely fight it, and so will you. Fortunately, this space and grace can be carried on with all our parenting journey, and applied to any area where we are their teacher; to walk, to talk, ride a bike, adjust to school, venture into the world. And before you know it, this grace is given right back to you, and you realise they have taught you more about yourself, than you have taught them; the sweetness and richness of life and parenting.

One thing we need to learn as parents, is that we are our children’s greatest teacher. If there is only one thing you do well as a parent, it is to teach. To show love, grace, patience, gentleness and kindness, it is the spiritual WD40 of parenting; share your wisdom, your acquired knowledge, your skills, your education, your experiences, your incredibly lucky privileges. Be a wise teacher. Even if you are not a parent, be a teacher. Teachers pass on their gifts and are one of the most important people in the world. Rejoice and praise what you have learnt, gift it to your children, share it, spray it, and parenting will be your greatest joy.

And, what I’ve learnt about parenting, is that I don’t always get it right. I make mistakes, have regrets, loose my cool. But another thing I have learnt is that earth is forgiveness school, and you might as well start with your self and your family. Hold on to the times you did it well, you kicked goals and celebrate them all.

You can find more child health information from Summer at her website: http://www.sbconsultancy.com.au/

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Summer Gwynne
Summer has almost 20 years experience working in the public health system in neonatal and paediatric nursing, with qualifications in child and family health. Summer brings a wealth of first-hand experience in understanding the challenges and opportunities for Australian families trying to do their best in a complex world. Three years ago Summer took this passion for supporting Australian families in a new direction, starting her own business, Summer Breeze Consultancy - with a strong focus on rural communities and their unique situations. Summer complements these activities with active participation in a number of not for profit organisations, including the Child Health Association of Tasmania, the National Rural Women's Coalition and the Tasmanian chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Summer also represents Tasmania on the ABC Advisory Council. Summer lives in Richmond, Tasmania, with her husband and their six children.