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The Kiwi mum who couldn't find a decent parenting book so wrote one herself

Five years in the making, Natalie’s book gives scientific answers to things that keep worried parents up all night.

By Amy Nelmes Bissett
When psychologist Dr Natalie Flynn became a first-time mum more than a decade ago, she couldn't help but think there was still something missing in her life.
She had husband Michael and a beautiful, bonny baby boy in her arms – but no matter how hard she looked, she couldn't find a no-nonsense parenting book that was based on solid research rather than opinion.
Now, 13 years later, the Dunedin-born doctor and mother-of-three has written that book herself.
Modern-day mums, she says, are constantly bombarded with advice on how to parent. Conflicting information can be found on social media, in every corner of the internet and even in well-meaning but factually flawed parenting books.
Natalie with, from left, Maya, mum Emily, Elijah, Michael, dad Jim and Leon.
It means mums and dads up and down New Zealand are sometimes making decisions that are based on in-depth research and other times – more worryingly – they're not.
In Smart Mothering, Natalie breaks down every part of parenting, from the birth experience and breastfeeding to sleeping arrangements, giving a detailed look at the scientific research around each topic so parents can make their own fully educated choices.
She wishes she and her husband had exactly that when they welcomed their kids, Elijah, now 13, Maya, 12, and eight-year-old Leon, into the world.
"But who has time to look through research when you're a new mother?" Natalie asks. "You often don't have time to have a shower. I wanted to do the hard work for all the others out there."
Pregnant with her first child Elijah, now 13.
When Natalie first decided to take on the challenge of researching and then writing the ultimate fact-based parenting book, even she was surprised that it took her a mammoth five years.
"It definitely wasn't a speedy process," says Natalie, 49. "But I knew I had to keep going because I'd looked and looked for a research-based factual book for mothers, and I simply couldn't find one. It became a passion."
Now Smart Mothering has been hailed as the book every parent needs to read and it's been celebrated by the likes of psychologist heavyweight Nigel Latta.
"My aim was to help mums in particular break through the BS, which actually stands for bombardment stress," she laughs.
Natalie with baby Maya, now 12.
"Women would come to my maternity clinic and express they felt stressed and sometimes distressed by the sheer volume of information and misinformation out there."
The daughter of famed professor James Flynn, who was heavily involved in the US civil-rights movement before moving to Aotearoa in the '50s, she admits that searching out the truth is ingrained in her.
"And I also love working with mothers," she tells. "They're so motivated. Mothers will do anything for their kids."
So, with all this incredibly helpful information at her fingertips, does this make Natalie the perfect mother?
"Nothing is foolproof," she laughs. "Parenting is such a passionate topic. We love babies and many mothers are frightened of doing something wrong, but hopefully this will reassure them of their choices."

Natalie's best advice? Stay calm.

Natalie admits she's always asked what's her best advice for new parents, so when Woman's Day asked her, she didn't miss a beat:
"Remain calm!" In fact, the clinical psychologist says that calmness in child rearing is the number-one goal all parents should aim for because it has such huge benefits.
"The calmer we can stay, the more likely it is that our children will regulate their own emotions and we know that emotional control has so many positive effects," she explains.
"We want our children to experience a whole range of emotions, but to be able to express them in a way that is conducive to happiness."

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