Cupids Health

What Is Maternal Instinct & Is It Real? What The Research Says

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with the realities of motherhood. No matter how picture-perfect your fantasy parenthood experience was supposed to be, just know that there are going to be hiccups. Every baby is different, and even though you just spent nine months carrying them, you’re both getting used to each other. 

As alluring as the notion of an innate maternal instinct might be, it’s also a double-edged sword that can prevent you from getting help when you need it. By trying to adhere to the ideal that you should naturally know how to do everything—even if you’ve never cared for small children before—you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

When you struggle with a specific task like breastfeeding, transitioning to solids, or even potty training (which are perfectly common struggles), you’ll measure your actions against a mythical concept that’s impossible to uphold. Likewise, relying on “maternal instinct” as a hardwired force in those who give birth ignores the reality that fathers and foster parents are just as capable of performing child care tasks and experiencing increased oxytocin when engaging in bonding activities with their children.

Rather than subscribing to the notion of maternal instinct, embrace the idea that it takes a village to raise a child—lean on your friends and family for help when you need it. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, ask your mom, friends, other relatives who have experience, or seek out a lactation consultant who can provide personalized attention and help. Can’t get a swaddle just right? Try again, or skip it and get a wearable baby blanket instead. There are plenty of options, and you shouldn’t have to go it alone.

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