By Yogimamas founder Joanna Parkin
When we got home from the hospital with our baby, we soon realised that many of the items that we'd bought in preparation for her arrival were useless to us. She didn’t want gadgets; she just wanted us close to her. She made it abundantly clear that she didn’t want to be left alone and was most happy in our arms, being carried skin-to-skin in the sling, or snuggled next to us in bed.
We were inundated with conflicting advice from well-meaning friends and family and so we decided to buy some books for some professional advice. Again, the advice was all so contradictory - some said to put her on a schedule, others said absolutely never to do such a thing. Some said that babies need to be trained to sleep whilst other books insinuated that sleep-training was akin to child abuse. I was so confused and so I eventually decided to discard all of the books and simply follow my own instincts. And my instincts were telling me to keep my baby close and to tune into her as best as I could and then follow her lead. She seemed to be doing a good job of telling me exactly what she needed and so I relaxed and just focused on responding to her signals.
Some weeks later, after facing some criticism for my ‘unconventionall’ mothering style, I decided to discover what science had to say on every issue so that I could be sure that the way I chose was genuinely best for my baby. I was somewhat shocked to discover that what science says is best, is often not what the mainstream parenting guides say is best.
I went on a three year journey of discovery, trawling the archives of science journals and organisations such as the Association For Infant Mental Health, Attachment Parenting International and charities such as What About The Children. I discovered around a dozen scientists that are global experts on issues such as breastfeeding, infant sleep and mother/baby attachment. These scientists have devoted their careers to study these important issues and their research is slowly changing the parenting paradigm from last century’s parent-led styles - that began in the Victorian era and centred around attempting to separate the child from the mother and stop the child becoming too dependent or ‘needy’ - to a more gentle method of baby-led parenting where the primary caregiver/child closeness is considered to be a biological need of the child to support their optimum psychological and physiological development all the way until around three years of age.
I learned that it was as the effects of the Industrial Revolution took hold, as the world of manufacturing grew, and corporations began to push their products and gadgets, that breastfeeding rates sharply declined. The sales of formula grew and powerful advertising campaigns even persuaded mothers that perhaps their natural milk was inferior to synthetic formula. All kinds of manufactured gadgets that were advertised as 'necessities', ensured that the baby product industry was soon booming.
But do we really need all these gadgets? Since science tells us that what babies need most to support their optimum neurological development and foundation of a healthy mind is a strong attachment relationship with their primary caregiver, then all babies really need is their mother (or primary caregiver) – to be as close to them as possible. Leading infant sleep scientists tell us that babies thrive best when they sleep close to an on-demand breastfeeding mother and that their systems are put under stress when they sleep alone. I was shocked to discover this as I had built a nursery with a stand-alone cot and planned for my baby to sleep in there eventually. I was disappointed and even a little bit angry that I wasn’t aware of such important research as I knew that how we nurture our babies in their early months (whilst their brains and minds are so rapidly developing), was laying the foundation for their future mindset and outlook for potentially the rest of their life. If a baby is left with unmet needs or feels abandoned and builds neural pathways around these negative feelings, those pathways are potentially there for life.
Marianne Williamson famously said: 'There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world, than a transformation of the way we raise our children'. And based upon such groundbreaking research in child development and particularly in the field of neuroscience during the last decade, we now know just how powerfully the style of our nurturing during a child's early months and years, affects the adult they'll become. If we wish to create a kinder, more empathetic and compassionate world, then we have to be sure that we’re raising our children in line with their biological needs.
What sets YOGIMAMAS apart is not only that our recommendations are all heavily science based, but also the inclusion of the spiritual aspects of parenting. While there are numerous different parenting styles, we offer classes rooted in the yogic principles of spiritual connection, self-transformation, and the belief that if we wish to raise our children with healthy minds, bodies, and spirits – we mothers need to also be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. If we can learn to be more centred and connected to ourselves and one another, we’ll become happier, calmer parents, make life better for our children and play our part in creating a healthier world.
Through our courses and YOGIMAMAS as a whole, we hope to play a small part in raising the status of motherhood and the vital work that mothers do to meet their children’s needs and lay the foundations for a healthy future society.
Our children are the builders of tomorrow’s world and how we nurture them today will be seen in the shape of the world tomorrow. Through conscious parenting, we are helping to design a better world.