What Is Natural Parenting to You?

Written by NPN_Admin on November 9th, 2010

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So what is this thing called “natural parenting”? For the most part, natural parenting (or “NP”) is simply a set of principles that grows out of a desire to live and parent responsively, respectfully, and consciously. No two families practice NP the same way, and at Natural Parents Network we embrace the fact that families take what works for them and leave the rest.

For this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting, we asked our authors to share what natural parenting means to them. Some of our authors chose to focus on one aspect of NP, and some covered the whole gamut of NP principles. We hope you’ll take some time to read and learn more about natural parenting as practiced by real families. Not one of us is perfect – we are all still learning, growing, and discovering on our own parenting journeys.

Thank you for traveling down this parenting path with us. We hope that the posts you read today will inform you about NP principles you may not have understood before, empower you to implement a parenting tool that will improve your family’s relationships, and inspire you to share your own natural parenting stories with us.

We hope you become a part of our natural parenting community here at Natural Parents Network. We invite you to join the conversations in our Forums or on Facebook, add your blog to our blogroll, post a parenting question to our “Ask the NP Mentor” panel, or participate in an upcoming Carnival of Natural Parenting.1

But first, this month’s posts! Below are the November Carnival posts, broken down by topic. Click on each of the titles (hyperlinked before each excerpt) to read the full posts at the authors’ sites. Three of the posts will instead be featured on NPN throughout the month, so be sure to check back at the dates listed!

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
    • Sheryl at Little Snowflakes knows better now how to prepare for her second baby, focusing on attachment rather than nursery curtains. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 23. From “Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting“: Before Dylan’s birth, I did a lot of preparation, but it was mostly related to material things like choosing a stroller, picking out a bedskirt for his crib, and the perfect curtains for his room. This time around I realize how unimportant those types of preparation are. … We’re not even taking the crib out of storage this time and the baby won’t have his or her own room — we are planning on co-sleeping right from the start!
    • Alison at BluebirdMama examines the first type of natural parenting she experienced: birthing at home. From “Begin at the Beginning“: I was born at home and thus, all my life I’ve understood homebirth as a legitimate option. In grade school, I was more interested in the fact that I could wow my classmates as the only one not born in a hospital. I didn’t give much thought to the significance in terms of birth options or maternity care reform, but subconsciously I must have realised that I was proof that hospitals were NOT a vital part of the process of birthing a baby.
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
    • Despite being told she would never be able to nurse her toddler through pregnancy, Jessika at Job Description: Mommy successfully nursed through her entire pregnancy, and she continues tandem nursing her two little ones fifteen months later! From Going With the {Tandem Milk} Flow“: I decided that the best thing I could do for Eliza, and for myself, was to remain positive and confident that our breastfeeding relationship would continue throughout this pregnancy, and that she would still be allowed to wean when she was ready. I knew I was facing some major challenges having two babies only 13 months apart, but I wasn’t going to let breastfeeding become one of them, and I wasn’t going to make this new pregnancy take anything away from my daughter. They say attitude is everything, and I truly believe that my attitude about my ability to continue nursing Eliza as I had planned before I was pregnant again, is the sole reason for my success.
    • Resisting the pressure to give up, breastfeeding was the way Dionna at NursingFreedom.org persisted in nourishing her son. From “Breastfeeding with Love and Respect“: My milk didn’t come in until day four; two days after Kieran’s doctors started putting major pressure on me to supplement with formula. I held my own: we never supplemented, and by the time we were discharged and Kieran was nursing better, breastfeeding had become a symbol of perseverance for me — latching and relatching and pumping and tube-feeding and crying and standing up to the doctors, those things were all a part of me falling fiercely in love with my child.
    • Amy at Toddler In Tow provides scientifically based research to support child-led weaning. From “Why Should I Call It Extended?“: I feel sometimes that the decision to breastfeed full-term or practice child-led weaning is one made by only a select few really passionate moms like myself, and that somehow I am part of a small club of women who do this wonderful thing for their families. But as I have gotten more serious about blogging my passion for natural parenting and breastfeeding out into the world of information on the internet, I find more and more that this group I thought was small . . . really isn’t.
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • For a child who is born “sensitive,” attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting “choice.” Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. From “Attachment Parenting Chose Us“: I am confident that the way we have parented Kieran has helped him develop into the kind, caring, amazing boy he is. I don’t want to think about what he would be if we had instead chosen more traditional methods of parenting: If we had made him cry it out, would he still trust us so implicitly? If we had pushed him to be more independent as a toddler, would he now be even more fearful? If we had chosen to use spanking, time-outs, or yelling, would we have crushed his sensitive spirit?
    • Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present. From “Parenting in the Present“: But no matter how much you can read about parenting, naturally or not, if you aren’t there with your child, fully present and tuned in to what he needs each moment, it’s not worth it. When you are fully present you are there to listen, watch and follow your intuition. You are out of your head and in your whole self — experiencing with your senses, your heart and your mind.
    • Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults. From “Parenting With Heart“: The healthy development of attachment in early life is also an essential part of healthy growth and development. Without this attachment, well, we humans can have a lot of issues later in life. Yes, it’s true we are resilient, and it’s good that we are, but in reality, resilience can only take you so far and can only overcome so much.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
    • Lauren at Hobo Mama finds that loving touch is a thread that runs through all her natural parenting practices. From “Nurturing through touch“: But I know that even when [breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing] end, those marks of baby- and toddler- and preschool-hood, the nurturing of touch can continue. As he clambers into our laps, as we smooth back his hair, as he hands us offerings of food he’s bitten in half, as we help him wash his hands afterward, I am aware of how sweet it is to have someone I feel so comfortable with — and who feels so comfortable with me.
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. From “Sometimes I Wish We Coslept“: Why am I bothering to [try cosleeping more] when the baby sleeps fine on his own? Well, it turns out there are way more reasons to cosleep besides “baby won’t sleep on his own” or “it’s more convenient for nursing.”
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
    • When Jen at Grow with Graces first started interviewing nannies, she was looking for practicalities. After a few months with her first nanny, she’s going to hire someone new, and this time, she’ll make sure the nanny believes in AP principles. From “Attachment Parenting . . . and Nanny Makes Three?“: Then little things started nagging at me. The kids were always watching TV when my husband got home. The kids could never tell me what they did all day. The nanny was telling us every day that the 3-year-old needed a time-out, a discipline method we try to avoid but don’t rule out and told her she was allowed to use. She is great with our baby, but I’m worried about how she interacts with our older two. The more I’ve thought about it, my issues with her boil down to the fact that we practice natural and/or attachment parenting and she does not.
    • For Rachael at The Variegated Life, natural parenting is about love and giving, rather than the alienation and longing present in so many in our Western culture. From “Do You Have This?“: I don’t remember when or how I first learned about attachment parenting; I just remember handing the Sears Baby Book to my husband, showing him the first chapter, and saying, “This is what we’re going to do.” Because I wanted my baby to know that he belongs in this human family; that we would hold him in his tears, anger, and sorrow; that it’s OK to have needs and desires of his own; and that if we laugh at his nonsense, we laugh only out of delight.
    • Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker shares what natural parenting is like as your little ones grow up. From “What Natural Parenting Looks Like in Our Family“: When our girls were babies attachment parenting not only came naturally to us, but it also came with a handy set of guidelines: breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc etc. Then the girls potty trained. And got too big to be worn in a sling. And weaned — and, well, you get the idea.
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. From “Unconditional Parenting“: The predominant discipline paradigm of “consequences” and rewards in North America is about controlling the children, making them obey. The premise of [Kohn’s] book is that the relationship between parent and child is paramount, and that punishments and rewards jeopardize the relationship.
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:
    • How does Mrs. H. at Fleeting Moments meaningfully connect with her kids every day? She turns off the TV. From “Reducing Screen Time“: Reducing our t.v. time is key to our family’s feelings of connection, and is in some ways a cornerstone of our parenting approach. I don’t say that just because that’s what “the studies” say, I say it because I see it first-hand.
    • Also see our October Carnival all about finding balance!

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

  • Amy at Innate Parenting explains how practicing elimination communication has helped her whole family gain awareness and healing in many areas of their lives. From “Healing Through Elimination Communication Part 1“: Elimination communication has forced me to look at sexual shame through being around my kids in their naked joy while learning about the toilet. The reason they’re joyful is because I haven’t assigned shame to their naked bodies. Since genitalia houses both elimination faculties and those of sexual pleasure, the body shame I spoke of above can intertwine with one’s feelings about sexuality. Talking about genitalia with correct terminology while not assigning it as “special” (i.e. off limits) allows them their own experience with their bodies, instead of something I’m handing down. They know their whole body is sacred, not just one part.
  • Stacy at Mama-Om is proud to be the “weird lady” who practices elimination communication with her babies. From “Outgrowing the Little Potties“: I held him and nursed him and diapered him. When we woke up, I nursed him, put the potty bowl between my legs, and held him lovingly over the opening. “Hm,” I thought. “Nothing’s happening…” and as I lifted him off, I saw it, his first poop, his meconium poop, plopping right into the pot. Well, I’ll be.
  • Lindsey at Mama Cum Laude started using cloth diapers because she felt they were a safer choice for her child; she stuck with them because they are convenient. From “Let’s Talk Diapers“: To be perfectly honest, the main reason for using cloth in our family was not directly an ecological one. I was thinking primarily of my baby’s comfort and health. Have you felt a cloth diaper? Given the choice between spending the first two or more years of life in a crunchy paper and plastic diaper or a super soft cloth one, I thought my babe would prefer the cloth.

Holistic Health Practices

  • If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally. From “Supporting Natural Immunity“: We were nervous to sit passively back and simply not vaccinate. We needed something else, something that we could actively ‘do’ to support our children’s wellness. This steered our study in a surprisingly positive direction, and we began to learn how effectively the body manages illness if given the correct tools.

Natural Learning

  • Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning “challenges.” From “Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting“: What does this have to do with ‘natural parenting’? For the past 9 years I’ve tried to ‘help’ Little Miss Green with her learning by breaking things down into small manageable chunks. I’ve asked her to focus on what I am saying rather than doodling while I’m talking. I’ve encouraged her to sit still and write properly rather than swinging around on one leg of the chair. None of this is honouring who she is — it’s trying to get her to fit into my model of the world.
  • Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones. From “Let Them Look“: But the crux of natural parenting, to me, is never about the latest trend or gack — it is about our relationship as a family to nature. It’s about how utterly essential it is to me, as a parent, to not crush my babies’ innate curiosity and fondness for the natural world, but to nurture it. Our relationship to nature isn’t defined by grand outings to far flung and wild places so much is it is about how we relate to it daily.
  • Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. From “Why I Love Unschooling“: Learning is not restricted to several hours a day Monday through Friday. The children are free to live and learn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. They learn when it’s raining, the sun is shining, when we are at the grocery store, or the museum. Learning takes place playing at the park, or at home playing a video game. Running errands with the kids can be fun and exciting!
  • Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. From “Is He Already Behind?And there is always the talk at the playgrounds, about what all the other parents are doing with their kids, that makes it easy to wonder: am I really doing enough? This can be an even more difficult question for those of us that opt out of this hurried mainstream lifestyle for financial, philosophical, or pragmatic reasons. It can be hard not to worry: is my child already behind?
  • Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. From “How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning“: The traditional school system relies heavily on visual learning. I think it’s good for children to have exposure to each style of learning with the greatest emphasis on their natural learning style.

Healthy Living

  • Wonder how a family of five makes healthy eating a priority? Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares some common sense tips. From “What ‘Healthy Eating’ Means to Me“: When kids came along, there was the added pressure to feed them well and to model healthy eating — because it sure is hard to hand them the bowl of oatmeal and then eat a doughnut or potato chips right in front of them! While they were very young, it was definitely hard to find the time to cook all the time, but for us, more of a challenge to take them out to a restaurant, so we just figured it out.
  • Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has always wanted to give her children the most nutritious foods possible: first through breastfeeding, and later through healthy, whole foods. From “What is Natural Parenting? Embracing Real Food“: I embrace whole, real foods as much as possible because I want my children to grow up understanding why food is important and what it does inside their bodies. I want them to be able to distinguish a whole food from a processed food and know that whole foods are better. I want to take them to farms and grow our own garden and have them understand that this is where food comes from.

Parenting Philosophies

  • To Olivia at Write About Birth, natural parenting isn’t about a fixed set of ideals, but about what is instinctual. From “Natural Parenting — Lazy Parenting“: Natural parenting is about doing those things that make both parents and babies happy. It is about parents and children learning from each other and developing problem-solving skills together. Are you doing something wrong? Don’t worry — your kids will let you know!
  • Jessica at This is Worthwhile follows her gut and parents with respect, and that’s what feels natural to her. From “I’m not the most crunchy, but I’m still au naturel“: I choose to define myself by guidelines that fit my life and my lifestyle, my presiding beliefs, and because I do this I am confident and sure in my strides as a parent. And, despite my implementation of some less-than-crunchy things, my life is mostly bent toward ecological mindedness, a healthy population, healthy bodies, and sharp minds. I guess what I’m saying is, embrace the natural parts of your philosophy and identify with the greater natural parenting community for support, companionship, inspiration, and guidance. And also because they rock.
  • Breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping — Bess at mommakesmilk does these things because they feel right. From “Because Natural comes Naturally“: People often ask me why I do the things I do. Why do we co-sleep? Why do I breastfeed — even in public — for more than 12 months? Why do I wear the babies when there are perfectly good strollers around? Well I’ll tell you. It’s what felt right.
  • Luschka at Diary of a First Child fell into natural parenting by listening to her baby and her own instincts. From “What Do You Mean ‘Natural Parenting’?“: And the list of things we never intentionally planned on but ended up doing anyway goes on and on. We never sat down and said “these are the things we are going to do.” Instead, we listened to our baby. We allowed her to show us her personality, her likes and dislikes, and rather than trying to ‘train’ her to become a mini version of us, or ‘train’ her into habits that would be more convenient for us, we allowed her to lead.
  • Ashley at Domestic Chaos made one small change at a time until “natural parenting” wasn’t a punchline, but a way of life. From “One Little Change at a Time“: And one day, endeavoring to make as much as our food from scratch as we could, desperate to let my son grow up in a way that encouraged his autonomy and independence, trying my damnedest to discipline him without totally scaring him into line — I looked at myself. Wow. How did this all happen?
  • While they might take some work to put into practice, Momma Jorje at A Slightly Crunchy Momma finds that all of the tenets of attachment parenting fit her family. From “WHY Attachment Parenting?“: Why would you offer anything less than love and respect to your little one? First, it just seems natural to me to breastfeed my children. It is what nature intended and while science has made lots of helpful advances, I don’t think science can trump nature on this one. Then when it comes to introducing foods, I choose to introduce healthy foods because I want to instill healthy eating habits in my children.
  • For Kellie at Our Mindful Life, natural parenting is about being respectful: to yourself, your children, and your surroundings. From “Yours, Respectfully“: There are many things that we do. There are many philosophies that we follow in our natural parenting journey. But for our family, respect is the foundation of all of them.
  • Michelle at The Parent Vortex explains that natural parenting is a mindset, not a set of specific choices or a few fancy acronyms. From “The Natural Parenting Label“: Like its sister, Attachment Parenting, Natural Parenting is characterized by a mindset, a mindset that admittedly lends itself to certain choices more easily than others, but is ultimately more a way of thinking and being.
  • Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children parents naturally, because she is building a firm foundation for her children. From “When Our Children Are Grown“: How we treat our children now not only affects our current relationships with them; it will affect how they communicate with others and the type of relationships we have with them when they are grown.
  • Lily at Witch Mom has planned out what she wants for her son, from health to socialization to interactions with the natural world. From “What is Natural Parenting to a Witch Mom?“: A natural parenting philosophy … is something that resonated with me, even before I had an all-encompassing term for it. Rowan was planned and thought about before he even entered this world. His father and I talked about what it would mean to have a child, how our lives would likely change, and how we wanted to raise him/her.
  • Semi-crunchy Mama at Adventures in Mommyhood takes us through the way the Baby Bs have transformed their family of four. From “Attachment Parenting and Our Family“: All seven of the attachment tools are important to our family. Some, like breastfeeding or co-sleeping, come more naturally than others, like balance. Each attachment tool sort of fell into place for our family before we even knew there was a name to our instinctual parenting philosophy.
  • Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. didn’t intend to parent naturally, but it happened by instinct. From “I’m a Mama…Naturally“: Prior to getting pregnant, I had vague ideas of the type of parent I wanted to be in the distant future. During my pregnancy with Ella I developed some very strong opinions (shocking, I know). For example, I swore my child would never sleep in bed with us. It’s not that I was planning on becoming a mainstream parent, it’s just that I didn’t know any different — it’s called mainstream for a reason. It is the style of parenting that is overwhelmingly shown through media in so many different insidious ways.

Political and Social Activism

  • Amy at Anktangle, who is a Registered Nurse, describes her encounters with circumcision in a medical environment and why they guided her decision to leave her own baby boy intact. From “A Private Matter“: The doctor swept into the tiny room in a hurry, and got right to business. He worked his way in a circle, quickly injecting each boy’s penis with Lidocaine: one, two, three, four. All of the babies were screaming by that point. Then, he started over at the beginning—hardly giving the anesthetic any time to take effect—and began to cut. I was horrified. Then, what happened next was what really made the experience stick in my head forever: He finished with the last baby, propped up the board the little one was strapped to so we could see more clearly, and gestured to his bleeding penis. He looked at us, two young women and said, “Now that looks more familiar to ya, doesn’t it?” and he winked.
  • Kelly at KellyNaturally went against the tide and refused to circumcise her son. From “Natural Parenting, Following Our Instincts, and Keeping Our Son Intact“: Circumcising him, exposing him to severe pain and permanent alterations to the most sensitive part of his body (and in doing so taking away his right to control the look and function of his own body), would have violated that trust, and gone against our mama- & papa-bear instinct to protect him and keep him from harm. Above all else, even beyond the information reassuring us that it was the right decision, and even amidst the people telling us it would be a harder row to hoe, we listened most clearly to our instinct: protect our baby.
  • Sure, Navelgazing Bajan at Navelgazing wants her son to be kind — but kindness is not enough. From “Relying on Kindness“: Will my son really be a kind person if he gives to charity regularly but freely uses classist, ableist, sexist, etc. language? Will my son really be a kind person if he’s only kind to those who are most visible in society? Will my son really be a kind person if his well-intended kind act causes harm to another person who is marginalized in ways that he is not? Will my son really be a kind person if he says he loves all people but fails to see how his privileges reinforce prejudice?
  1. The Carnival is hosted by NPN’s co-founders: Lauren of Hobo Mama and Dionna of Code Name: Mama.

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