Updated: Jun 11, 2020
In addition to breastfeeding, I have dedicated myself to the practice of parenting peacefully since becoming a mother. This has enabled me to self-reflect and find the true meaning of peace. I have learned the importance of working from the inside out and creating balance in all aspects of life. One cannot parent peacefully if one is not at peace internally. We cannot change others and we can certainly not change the world. What we can do is build the best versions of ourselves to contribute to our families and communities in positive ways. We can model the behaviors we wish to see in our children. We can be proactive and demonstrate love and compassion. We can create a connection with our children by means of breastfeeding, gentle parenting and by implementing effective, respectful communication.
“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.” -Marianne Williamson
Breastfeeding has not only provided me with the opportunity to bond with and nurture my sweet baby, but it has also taught me to meditate. It has allowed me to work on improving myself through reading, writing and learning all that I can about raising a happy and healthy child. I have discovered more about myself during this expedition than I have my whole life. I’ve created and developed my own parenting style while reflecting on my past. The peaceful, gentle, positive and attachment parenting philosophies are all so alluring because they illustrate parenting as nature intended it for us, through responsiveness and understanding. Breastfeeding on demand goes hand in hand with many of these philosophies as we respond to meet our child’s needs by mothering through breastfeeding. Parenting peacefully is not a trend and it is not an easy way out. All aspects of peaceful parenting are mature, advanced and require patience and practice. It is clear that we are to treat children as humans, for that is what they are.
If we are gentle to our children and treat them with respect and kindness, we will eventually have a world full of kind and respectful humans.
Doctors like Gabor Maté and Laura Markham have opened my mind to relevant research and ideas that will ultimately help us to raise emotionally strong children, and I am thankful that my brother has introduced me to these two particular authors as well as decorated my home library with their greatest publications. As promised, Dr. Markham’s workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, has stimulated my thoughts on parenting as well as improved my relationship with my partner as well. Her three basic elements are: regulating our own emotions, connecting, and coaching rather than punishing. This approach reinforces the necessity to first tend to working on improving and controlling ourselves before advancing to improve relationships with others. She reminds us that our duty is to teach our children, not make them feel guilt or shame through punishment. She teaches us that although it requires great work on the parent’s end, children will “blossom” when we are patient and understanding.
“Nothing itself is addictive on the one hand, and on the other hand, everything could be addictive if there’s an emptiness in that person that needs to be filled.” -Gabor Maté, MD
Dr. Gabor Maté specializes in connecting childhood trauma and addiction. He is brilliant and unique in how he approaches these topics as he addresses the causes of our problems, as opposed to the common practice of prescribing a remedy that will only affix a temporary bandage. Similarly to a pediatrician telling a new mother that her breastmilk is not enough and she will have to supplement, rather than noting the cause of her low supply and addressing the issues. He explains how emotional stress contributes to disease and illness. He informs us that genes will not be the sole deciding factor of our future outcomes, but that instead our environments in which we are exposed to are crucial to our development and growth. He speaks about the importance of connecting with our children in order to positively influence them and build healthy relationships over a lifetime. He also discusses how the stress mothers endure during pregnancy impact a child’s development by speaking about deeply personal stories during the Holocaust. This proves to us that our responsibilities of parenting begin well before the birth of our children. Being mindful and addressing our own stress and hardships in healthy ways is the first step to being a “good” parent. From his work, we can conclude that raising our children in an environment in which they are genuinely loved and cared for through compassion and empathy is our key to world peace and healing.
I appreciate now more than ever that I can use my knowledge and power to make informed decisions for my child and my family. I parent peacefully because I recognize the importance of self healing in order to create a nurturing environment for my son, free of punishment and shame, yet full of connection and unconditional love. My son deserves to grow up being heard, respected and appreciated. He is worthy of witnessing healthy relationships with ourselves and with others. He will recognize that violence and abuse of all kinds must never be tolerated, and that he must always be true to himself. I will continue to mother through breastfeeding and cuddle my baby as much as I can because of the warmth and security it provides for both of us.
Breastfeeding allows us to tune out everything else going on in our world and be totally present in the moment. As I watch him nurse to sleep, I deeply examine every inch of my child, listen to his breaths, and feel every inhale he takes. I am gifted with my daily reminder for why I am full of gratitude.
Educating myself about raising happy and healthy children through my own gentle parenting style has been extremely liberating and rewarding. By focusing on our values, my husband and I have worked together to develop a solution to each and every concern we had before our son’s arrival. I am no longer concerned about how other families raise their children, because I finally understand that I do not have to do what everyone else around me is doing, as no two journeys are the same. I no longer worry about figuring out how to stay home and fulfill my dream of exclusively breastfeeding my child because I now realize that living off of one income for an extended period of time is absolutely possible. I have tackled my fear of being different from those close to me and found the confidence to be true to myself while doing what is best for my family. Although the job title of a mother is not praised like other careers, I am aware that it is the most important work of all. My priorities have completely shifted for now, and I am embracing the change. A dear friend and colleague of mine once told me, “stay home with your baby as long as you can because the money and jobs will always be there, but your baby won’t”.
We have so many choices as parents and most of us do not even realize we have the power to choose. We are all responsible to question everything and conduct our own research in order to understand how the choices we make will affect our children’s futures. I am confident that parents love their children and want to do what is best for them. Unfortunately, rather than trusting our own instincts, many of us will follow current parenting trends and go against our own will, no matter how odd or unnatural it may seem. We must remind ourselves that we are the only people accountable for protecting and nurturing our children in order to promote the best emotional and physical health possible.
I have come to find that breastfeeding and peaceful parenting do not always coincide, as I had once assumed. This was a tough reality for me to face because I couldn’t imagine anyone sending such mixed signals to a child. There are unfortunately parents who nurture their children through breastfeeding and then expose them to corporal punishment and abuse on a regular basis. Even though we know that using force or discipline combined with physical or emotional abuse and violence is evidently damaging to a child’s mental and physical health, the majority of American parents continue to hit their children. We know punishing and shaming children is ineffective, yet we witness it every day. There are public figures and social media pages that claim to advocate for peaceful parenting, yet they promote spanking (hitting) children. When children are hit by their parents, they are taught that people who love them will abuse them. The wounded adults of today are proof and evidence of how trauma, abuse and neglect negatively affect mental health. It is time we shift the cultural norm of abusing children to one of positive parenting. I will confidently be the voice that fights to protect children, always.
I dream of the day that all children are protected from violence, abuse and neglect, especially that which comes from within their own homes.
Although we can aim high, perfection does not and will not ever exist. We all deserve self love, which will ultimately lead us to a peaceful life and allow us to care for our children the best we can. We are all a work in progress. We track our progress by checking our growth. By staying mindful in all that we do, we can create change from within that will allow us to model positive and healthy lifestyles which our children will follow if we shine our lights brightly enough for them to see. We must surround ourselves with people whom we admire and can open our minds to new and progressive ideas. Author Stephen Covey has taught me the importance of creating synergy with such people in order to create greater things together through interdependent relationships.
So, I’m making changes. I’m being vocal about my own peaceful, natural parenting philosophy and how I have fallen in love with mothering through breastfeeding. I am sharing my ideas to be an example and hope to meet inspirational mothers along the way.
“Addiction Expert, Speaker and Best-Selling Author Dr. Gabor Maté.” Dr. Gabor Maté, drgabormate.com/.
American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/act/resources/webinars/corporal-punishment-gershoff.pd.
Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. FranklinCovey Co., 2016.
“Hands Are for Holding.” StopSpankingorg, stopspanking.org/.
Markham, Laura. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Perigee Book, 2015.
“Parenting Advice and Parenting Blog: Aha Parenting.com.” Aha! Parenting, www.ahaparenting.com/.