Instinct and Intuition as Parents

I love feeling intuitive and having strong instincts as a parent. I love responding to my world with certainty and not overthinking things – it drives me nuts when my brain goes into overload and I have streams of thoughts to sort through. Instincts and intuition are like a short circuit through the thoughts and straight to the answer. Bring it on!

Instincts and intuition are aspects of ourselves we would all like more of. When it comes to our children, we want to know the ‘answer’ in any given situation, and how to respond. Instinct is clear and generally only comes when there is danger. We are wired for protection and we typically get very clear signals or instincts when something is threatening ourselves and our children. Intuition is more subtle and needs to be cultivated.

I was debriefing two birth stories this week, both first time mothers. Both ended up with hard, tricky situations. One resulted in an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic and the second one, after being induced, needed help to get her baby out. What struck me was that they both knew that something wasn’t right and they both struggled to be heard.

In situations like these, when care-givers who see the state of vulnerability of these women and assume they are irrational and can’t make decisions for themselves, they can be missing some key signs that further help is required. I once knew a home birth Midwife who told me that she has observed many mothers in labour and pays attention when they start talking about something not being right. She explained that there is often a shift in awareness. The woman comes out of the fog of labour and becomes quite clear – it’s like a switch. She reinforced that she always pays attention to the mother when she starts behaving like this. Mothers know.

I call this instinct. It is a clear message that something is not right. We all have it. It is often a physical feeling way before it makes its way through our mouth. Have you ever been around a person or situation and had an immediate sense of danger? This instinct has been evolved into us, to ensure our survival.

What then is intuition?

To me, intuition is different. It is a sense that is not quite as strong as an instinct, it’s more of a whisper. It’s like a subtle impression, a feeling, a knowingness that seems to bypass the thinking brain and makes itself felt in the still moments. We can’t access our intuition when there is a lot of noise, both from people outside of us telling us what we should be doing, or from our own incessant thoughts. To access it we need to be pretty relaxed and present to the moment. Not googling for answers. It’s that sense that you know, but you don’t know how you know. You just do.

Intuition, particularly around parenting, comes from experience. As you engage with your children, when you are present with your children, you are taking in an enormous amount of input from your them – like clues to a treasure hunt. When you get it wrong with your child, that adds to your database of experiences. As your experiences build, you learn to read the cues your child is giving you as they learn the art of communication.

In one of our Thriving as a New Parent for Mums groups recently, one of the mothers shared the following, “I was at a family barbeque on the weekend and my baby was getting quite unsettled, people were telling me what he needed and were taking him and passing him around. I just knew he’d had enough, so I got up, scooped him from my aunty and took him into a bedroom inside the house. Within minutes he was asleep, as if to say “Thanks Mum”. I didn’t even think, I just knew.”

Practices that can help the art of building intuition:

  • Avoid multi-tasking, particularly when you are with your children. When you are listening to your children, just stop and listen. When you are changing nappies, be there fully with them.
  • Avoid looking outside yourself for answers. This is a task I always give my new mums. Watch yourself every time you think to Google something, or read a book or ask someone other than your partner for advice. The feedback after doing this is really powerful. They usually discover that Googling often leads to feeling more anxious, and that when they just try different things, they usually find an answer. This builds confidence and that builds greater enjoyment of your new baby.
  • Learn to relax – some need this more than others. Relaxation, meditation and other forms of relaxation are essential to being calm and cultivating confidence.
  • Be okay when you get it wrong. As parents we are always course-correcting. Those experiences are what feeds your capacity to be intuitive.

Most of all, have fun being with your children. Trust that you have instincts and will know when to use them. Cultivate intuition so you don’t have to think too much and enjoy the gift of these precious souls and what they teach us.

Love to you all,


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