Natural Parenting is the parenting philosophy that includes things generally under the umbrella of responsive (aka attachment) parenting (no crying it out), breastfeeding, natural birth, BABYWEARING, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, cloth diapering etc and sometimes includes homeschooling, mindful eating, and typical earthy, green hippy-ness.
And I am A HUGE fan! (Note: that doesn’t mean I agree with or follow all of these practices). But my favoring of hippie-parenting is quite surprising in many ways since hippie-ness tends to correlate with liberal political and social views, and I am definitely not that. Rather, I am a solidly-Catholic in social views and Aristotelian in political views, with added Catholic Social Teaching, of course. To sum it up quickly and roughly, I’m conservative.
So why do I love hippie-parenting?
Because to me, “natural” or “mindful” parenting is about enjoying the process of being a mother and raising children. It doesn’t race to end-goals or rush to milestones. Instead, natural parenting enjoys the steps on the path. I don’t breastfeed just to get food into his body; it’s also a time for connecting with him and enjoying him.
I was attracted to the idea of it even before I was pregnant. Reading about babywearing got me excited because it promised to allow me to go about most of my usual business. But once my son was born, I wanted to babywear because I wanted him to be close to me all the time. It comforted him and it comforted me. And there is just a darling, magical quality about seeing a baby swaddled dreamily with his mom.
I babywear (carry him close in a ring sling) because it’s pleasant for me and for him. Baby can feel my warmth and is almost always happy to next to me. I don’t worry about “spoiling” him. It is not a chore to hold my baby; it is a pleasure. I wasn’t counting down until he could sit up so I could leave him on his own. And he isn’t stunted. Baby W crawled and stood up right on schedule. He won’t always be small; he won’t always want to be carried. I am grateful for it now.
I was attracted to gentle discipline and guidance because I hate to see parents yell at their children. Granted, I don’t judge parents because I know we all have our off-days and that I didn’t see the circumstances leading up to event. Also, let’s be real: I have a temper too and someday I will probably have a meltdown when my child begs for candy AGAIN at the grocery store and writhes in tears on the floor because he can’t have M&Ms. But still, avoiding volume-contests and power struggles is my goal.
I respond to him at night and sometimes I put him in our bed because I’m so-gosh-darn tired. Is night-time really a time for connection? Not for me, I just do what helps everyone get the most sleep!
I respond to Baby W in the day too. If he’s crying, there is a reason, and I want to help meet his need whether it is hunger or just a desire to snuggle momma. Yes, there have been times when I have to put him down and he cries. There have been times when he was so fussy that I put him in the crib so I could eat in peace. But those aren’t most days. Most of the time, I try my best to find a way to do what I need to do and at the same time ensure that he receives what he needs too. After all, babies and children bear the image of God just like I do and are worth just as much to God as I am (and probably even more).
Yes, I had a natural birth. No, it wasn’t pleasant. But it was meaningful for me not just to dash to the finish line. Each contraction massaged Baby W and moved him closer and closer to the outside world. Also, going through birth class and labor was a deep bonding experience for my husband and I, and I was SO grateful for his love and support throughout the whole process. Having a natural birth kept him involved and made pregnancy and birth a family experience, not just an experience for me. And for the Catholics, I tried to focus on the pain as penance both for my sins and especially for Original Sin, which brought pain in childbirth upon us in the first place. My plan is to go natural with future babies too.
So these are some of the natural parenting practices that I like. Part II will examine how living it has smoothed my transition into full-time motherhood.
[Let’s be clear, though: I am NOT saying that only natural parenting is joyful or the only way to love and enjoy children. I believe most parents with their myriad philosophies are joyful and loving. This post is not intended to knock or disparage others who may not do what I do. I’m not even trying to say that natural parenting is better or best for everyone; parents need to do what works for them. My only goal with this post is to explain why I enjoy a parenting philosophy that can seem unusual given the other pieces of my worldview.]
Are you familiar with natural parenting? Does it sound crazy?