A cuppa with Pinky – It’s all about trusting yourself and your baby!

Pinky McKay is a real-world, no-nonsense, parenting ‘guru’ for Women’s Day who approaches parenting with a blend of humour, sharp wit and wisdom not found anywhere else….and I had the pleasure of having a cuppa and a chat with her on my verandah when she was in town for the Hunter Collective last month. And as a mother of five and grandmother of three, she has the experience to back up her wisdom!

Pinky is the creator of the lactation biscuits, ‘Boobie Bikkies’, and a best-selling author with four titles published by Penguin including Sleeping Like a baby, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, Toddler Tactics and Parenting By Heart.

She specialises in gentle parenting styles that honour mothers’ natural instincts to respond to their babies and empower a positive response from infants and toddlers. Pinky is also a frequent guest on major TV shows and has appeared on the Today Show, The Project, Sunday Sunrise, Insight, A Current Affair and Today Tonight.  

Mel: What would be your best piece of parenting advice for women?

Pinky:   Trust yourself. Trust your kids. And trust your feelings – because I’ve never met a mum that was wrong yet. When you just do it from the heart, you may make mistakes but our kids know that we are coming from a good place. And often those mistakes just become a part of the family folk law don’t they?

Mel:     What was your journey to becoming a parenting ‘expert’?

Pinky:   When I had my first baby I was a very isolated young mum in Melbourne. I had six older sister-in-laws, so this was the thirteenth grandchild but was the first child in the family to be breastfed. I didn’t know anyone else who was breastfeeding except two other mum’s in my Mother’s Group.

I moved back to New Zealand, where I’m originally from, and got all sorts of pressures from other people about my breastfeeding: comments like, “Isn’t it time to wean the kid?”, even though he was only eight months old by then.

I went back nursing when my children were little, then moved back to Melbourne but once again felt isolated and I couldn’t find a ‘tribe’.

A few years later I was homeschooling my children and I found an ad in the paper to do a copywriting course. I had no clue what a copywriter did but I had a friend whose boyfriend was in advertising who told me, “You’ve got to do this, it’s a great course”.

I did the course on weekends and I took my two year-old breastfeeding child with me. I was the only mother out of the whole group of 10 people.

After I finished the course I was offered some great jobs at ad agencies but I knocked them back. I suddenly became ill with a lump in my neck: it wasn’t malignant but I had to have all sorts of treatment which put me out of action for 6 months and I couldn’t work.

I thought, oh shucks what am I going to do? I’ve got no income.

So I wrote an article and sent it off to The Age and the editor rang me up and said can you write some more for me.

I became a bit braver and started sending articles to other people too. I was writing for The Age education pages when I was contacted by an opposition paper who asked me to write for them on health, education or parenting.

I began interviewing experts in their ‘ivory towers’. In those days you couldn’t find simple, easy to understand information for real parents. I’d say to the experts I interviewed, ‘Look can you just give it to me in a language that I can understand’ and ‘ I’m a mother with a 3 year old, I just want you to tell me what to do.’

I applied for an editing  job with a publication but found out I was pregnant again and thought I’d better not take on this big job. So at the interview they handed me a different job: to edit a baby magazine. I went through it and, because I was pregnant, I realized a lot of the information was wrong.

I had previously been a breastfeeding counselor, a nurse and worked in maternity wards so I knew the information was wrong and I had to change it and provide the right information for mother’s that was easy to understand.

When the Internet was created I saw a real loss of confidence around mothers; it was like we were all handing over our power to the experts and I think mothers cannot do that.

We’ve got it in us to be mothers or the human race wouldn’t be here.

So I had an idea for a book and I rang a Melbourne publisher and she said, ‘Oh we don’t do parenting books’. We had a lovely chat and I asked if I could send them a one-page synopsis.

A week later the publisher invited me out for lunch and told me they wanted to publish my book. That was the first edition of ‘Parenting by Heart’.

I’m not really telling people what they should be doing, I’m helping people with their confidence as much as anything.

A lot of mother’s want evidence based information for sure, but I say to people to just ask yourself is it safe, is it respectful, does it feel right for you and if it doesn’t, if it is stressful for you or your baby, step back.

The publisher then asked me to write a book for dads. So I went out and interviewed dads and I said, ‘I don’t want to know how many nappies you change or what you do. I want to know how you feel.’ … and many of these dads became teary.

Nobody had asked them, ‘How do you feel?’

Now there’s more awareness for men and it is a journey for them too.

So that’s how I ended providing support and advice on parenting and writing a range of parenting books.

Mel:     Wow, that’s an amazing journey!

Pinky:  I have also certified as a lactation consultant and qualified as a baby massage instructor. It has been an evolving journey.

Mel:     I was a nervous first-time mum. Is that common?

Pinky:   I do a lot of work with first time mums including home visits. Having a baby is a huge life change and we don’t acknowledge it. You see them on tv and they have the baby and then pick up the briefcase and multi task from day dot. I couldn’t find the damn letterbox for 6 weeks after I had a baby and even longer. There can be a long recovery period.

Mel:     I used to look at other new mums and they always seemed to have it all together!

Pinky:   You know what, you only saw her on a good day. When she was at home she was probably crying into her tea towels too.

Mel:     I cried a lot as a new mum and now I feel so guilty that I was a nervous mother and that I have made my son a worrier.

Pinky:   No, if he is a worrier that was probably going to be his temperament any how. My youngest child has dyslexia and he has a lot of anxiety around school work and learning situations. We all look back and wonder did we do enough.

Mel:     And so how did you come to create Boobie Bikkies?

Pinky:   I had been giving out lactation biscuit recipes to mums for years, when one day a friend suggested I start making them. The thought kept dancing around in my head until I finally decided to do something about it. I made contact with a bakery, sought advice from other food producers, spoke to a food technologist and figured out that it was actually ‘do-able’.

It was a massive learning curve with so much to do and consider. I had to do test bakes, find the best certified organic ingredients, work out the packaging and brand design. I wanted a carton that looked like a milk carton so I had to find a company to make them and get my designer to do the copy.

We did a soft launch at a baby expo. They sold out very quickly and I realized there was a need for them.

So it all worked. And it’s been fun and really interesting getting our teeth into it (no pun intended).

Mel:     It is the experience of other entrepreneurial women that they often meet ‘naysayers’. Have you found this?

Pinky:   Yes, there were definitely naysayers. I still get them. I may put a woman’s testimonial up on Facebook and someone will say, ‘Oh, what a rip off’.

Someone emailed me recently to say, ‘Isn’t it nice to see you are creating a money-making dynasty out of vulnerable new parents?’.

I am actually trying to support vulnerable mothers.

Mel:     How did you respond to that?

Pinky:   I didn’t. When people talk about you behind your back, there’s a reason they’re behind you.

But I know the Boobie Bikkies work. I actually did all the research into the ingredients to determine what helps and why it helps.

In the ingredients there are saponens in the oats that affects your hormones and betaglutens that works on your prolactins.

Mel:    Mother’s forums are very big on the web these days, but I have seen some real anger and angst pointed at certain mums on those forums by other mums.

Pinky:   Yes they can be really brutal to each other. The other night there was one mum who asked a question on my Facebook page. She was worried she’d been an unresponsive mum to her baby when she had the food processor on and didn’t hear her baby wake up. She didn’t know how long the baby had been crying and was worried that she might have caused her baby some lasting damage. It’s just a new mum’s angst. I explained that it’s called rupture and repair, when you get it wrong and then you get it right again. You calm your baby down and then they realize that you’re still there for them.

But underneath there were just mums slinging off at her saying, ‘Wait until you have three kids’, or ‘Way to bring up a needy child’. You can’t have people saying stuff like that. That anxiety is real for that mum and she needed some reassurance.

Forums can be positive as well though.

In one fortnight I saw three women all within the same block in Melbourne, all with babies about 3 months old, all with parenting anxieties. I said to each mum, ‘Have you talked about this in your mothers group?’ And they replied, ‘Oh no everyone’s so together.’ I reassured them that they’re not.

We decided to just have random meet ups in a local café. The first day I turned up with 2 grandbabies. The mums all exchanged emails and I suggested they set up a little Facebook group. Within a month there were 400 women meeting up in that area of Melbourne. Now we’ve got them everywhere, all over Australia.

Anyone can come, the only criteria is not to do baby training and not to belt your children. My whole philosophy is about being gentle and respectful to the child too.

Mel:     So what’s next for the Boobie Bikkies?

Pinky:   We have 2 varieties of bikkies plus a gluten free variety. We’re selling really well online and we’ve tested a few, we’ve got health food shops and baby shops we’ve just started into. So now’s it distribution into more places.

Mel:     What would be your best piece of advice to new mums?

Pinky:   New mums, trust yourself. Just listen to your baby, listen to yourself because you will never do it wrong. You’re going to have naysayers all around you but if you just trust yourself and trust your baby I think you can’t go wrong.

Mel:     And what can you say to ‘older’ mums like me?

Pinky:   Stop looking back and beating up on yourself. ‘Cause we all do it. No child is perfect and they are going to do things. And you’re always second guessing yourself as a mother, and the fact that you are shows that you’re a caring mother. And yes you do need to go out and skill up. Any time you come to a hiccup realise it’s alright to reach out to professionals: there’s no shame in it. You know if you need to get your child to a counselor, or you need to get some help with your child’s reading,  go and do it.


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