“Natural parenting” is based on a desire to live and parent responsively and consciously. While no two families who practice natural parenting may define it the same way, there are several principles that are widely agreed to be part of this lifestyle. These are ideals that natural parents tend to hold — even if we don’t always live up to all of them, we keep them in mind as goals.
Please click on each topic to find links to and descriptions of resources for each natural parenting category.
Attachment/Responsive Parenting: Attachment/responsive parenting1 is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive, please follow each link to learn more):
- Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting: parents and parents-to-be research parenting philosophies; maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle; educate themselves about healthcare providers, birthing options, and the risks and benefits of medical interventions; research breastfeeding and routine newborn care procedures (circumcision, etc.);
- Feed with love and respect: practice exclusive and full-term breastfeeding if possible, and feed with love and respect regardless of whether it is at the breast or with a bottle; parents continue to nurture when introducing solids, and strive to offer healthy, wholesome foods when babies are ready;
- Respond with sensitivity: parents understand that babies cry to communicate needs, and that physical contact is healthy and natural. Parents continue to respond with sensitivity into toddlerhood and beyond, embracing big emotions and helping children learn to communicate gently (rather than stifling emotions or punishing “tantrums”);
- Use nurturing touch: this category includes babywearing and skin-to-skin contact for infants, and hugs and physical play for older children;
- Ensure safe sleep: parents take steps to make sleep safe both physically and emotionally; this category includes bed sharing and co-sleeping, responsive nighttime parenting, and no “crying it out”;
- Provide consistent and loving care: Parents do not attempt to put babies on strict feeding or sleep schedules. When parents must leave children with alternative caregivers, they find caregivers who respect the children’s needs and are supportive of the attachment principles;
- Practice gentle/positive discipline: Parents do not discipline to control, manipulate, or put fear into their children, but to teach. Parents strive for communication and mutual respect and avoid harsh/physical punishment;
- Strive for balance in personal and family life: Families seek to balance the needs and wants of each family member.
Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature: Families strive to reduce their ecological footprint by living consciously and making Earth-friendly choices, such as by choosing organic when possible, using cloth diapers or practicing elimination communication, supporting local economies, and so forth. Parents may choose to find toys and clothing made of natural fibers and materials. Families spend quality time outside enjoying the natural world.
Holistic Health Practices: Parents research medical choices and make educated decisions regarding all health care (circumcision, vaccinations, medical interventions, medications, etc.). Many families choose to use alternative or natural healthcare such as herbal remedies, chiropractic care, natural childbirth, and so on.
Natural Learning: Families spend time together, and children learn through everyday activities. Parents try to facilitate learning without “teaching,” to help children ask questions that develop thinking, to develop consideration for others without shaming or training, to give choices while guiding the children, to listen to instinctual cues, to honor emotions and desires, to allow development to take place in its own time, and to engender cooperation and harmony without manipulation. This might include the decision to pursue uncommon methods of education, such as alternative classrooms, home schooling, or unschooling.
- Healthy Eating and Living: Families research and consider the benefits of eating local, organic, and/or healthy foods (no artificial colors, etc.). Families make regular time for physical movement (yoga, dance, etc.). Parents understand the importance of a healthy body image.
- Parenting Philosophies: Parents and parents-to-be research different parenting philosophies, such as attachment parenting, consensual living, continuum parenting, radical/whole-life unschooling, and equally shared parenting.
- Political and Social Activism: Families who parent against the grain often see issues in their society they want to change, and they work to make that happen. They tend to have support for those who are misrepresented and misunderstood, and they speak out against what they see as injustice.
- Family Safety and Health: Information about natural disasters, weather, travel, household and personal safety.
- NPN Facebook Frequently Asked Questions: Many parents reach out on our Facebook community to ask about common topics: teething, green cleaning, safe cookware, etc. We have compiled resources on many of these FAQs. This page links to each of the FAQs and their resources. Take a look!
Above all, natural parenting is making the choice to develop a deep bond with your children and family based on mutual respect. An attached child grows into a mature and interdependent individual who understands how to develop healthy, secure relationships with others.