Thursday, March 24, 2011

Natural Parenting....bigger than we think?

It’s pretty easy to feel like the only natural mama sometimes- or at least, one of the very few. To feel like you’re fighting an endless battle because you choose to wear your baby or nurse on demand or simply meet their needs. To feel like the pool of those to share with is overwhelmingly huge- not to mention generally on the hostile side.

But I had a perspective check this week that made me think- maybe we really are a growing movement- bigger than we realize. My mom’s been natural parenting for the past 2 decades. She’s dealt with a lot of harassment and unwelcome comments- from doctors, strangers, friends, and so forth. And, she’s dealt with a complete lack of information being available to her, especially in the first decade or so. An over-the-shoulder sling was about the only natural baby carrier available…and she wore it constantly till she discovered the world of maya wraps in 2003. When she had to have me via c-section due to my breech position, she was told she couldn’t breastfeed me- that it just wasn’t possible to breastfeed flat on your back. Lucky for me, Mom had found La Leche League’s book on breastfeeding while pregnant, and hence was fully aware of her ability to nurse in any position. Not so lucky for her, she received zero personal help or encouragement from the medical staff, friends, or family, which meant cracked and bleeding nipples, and a rough start. But somewhere inside her, she knew what was best- and so, she persevered. She’s parented during some of the heights of Ezzoism…with doctors and others who insist that it’s normal for a baby to cry, that you’ll spoil a baby by holding them, and so on.

This week, she’s been researching to invest in a new sling, and discovering the wealth of websites out there dedicated to babywearing and other forms of natural parenting. Companies that support and promote one another. People that are more concerned about spreading the babywearing love than making a buck. She was really excited, and mentioned to me how exciting it is that this is such a huge thing- there’s so many people who do it- there’s so much information for anyone who wants it- there’s support groups all across America and in other countries. My first thought was “Uh…we’ve got a long ways to go….” And then I realized- over the course of 2 decades, Mom’s seen us come a long ways- probably longer than I realize. So I take energy in her enthusiasm, excitement in the idea that this exists in stronger numbers than I thought- or at least, that it is growing.

Doctors and hospitals, overall, promote breastfeeding now. Most have lactation consultants available for any mom who has problems or questions. Some hospitals are even waking up to the research promoting kangaroo care for preemie babies, and allowing moms to spend hours holding their preemie baby skin to skin. A friend’s nurse was recently telling her that if a baby under 12 months is crying it’s for a reason and needs to be taken care of immediately. And until I meet the next rigid and unnatural doctor, I feel a glimmer of hope.

It’s not easy to see- because when I go shopping, all I see are plastic carseats attached to the carts. When I’m at a gathering, I see and hear babies crying unattended. When I visit homes, I see every latest contraption. When I talk to people, they tell me about how vital this piece of equipment or that is, to the survival of motherhood. And if I ever saw someone else wearing their baby in the store- it would completely merit striking a friendship on the spot. I still know very few people who’d fit the “natural parent” profile…and very, very few who share my same ideals to the same extent. We’re still the minority….but, a larger minority than we were a decade ago.

Because, hey- I do know people who parent naturally. I even know a group of babywearing moms who get together just to play with each other’s “toys”. Ladies that breastfeed while chasing a toddler and helping someone else try a carrier, like a totally natural part of life. I know people in scattered parts of the country who are committed to parenting their children naturally. And even if I don’t know very many natural locals, I know people who are receptive….people who are curious…people who feel there might be a better way…people who dip their toes in…

And all that is far more than my mom ever had. So maybe in a couple decades- when my daughter’s a mother- we’ll see as much change as my mom has. And even if there’s a long ways to go yet, maybe we older moms will be able to smile and say, “Oh, but we’ve come such a very, very long ways.” Maybe by then, the medical community and people of America will be listening to the current research in strong numbers. Maybe it won’t be such a rare thing to meet someone else wearing their baby in Walmart. Just maybe…we won’t be the minority.


  1. I don't think we are entirely a minority... I am definitely on the same page, we subscribed to Mothering Magazine back in 1999/2000 era. One of my favorite articles was about a woman who chose to lactate for her adopted baby girl even though she had never been pregnant, and was successful!

    The baby upstairs is breaking my heart every time she angry cries (which is several times a day and night) and there is nothing I can do to nurture her. Backwards parenting is all around, but some of us know in our souls that there is a different way to do things.

    I was fortunately raised around moms who wore their babies and fed on demand. My perspective of breast feeding is basically that it's priority, so when peers apologize for not having a cover or are fearful I would be offended, I'm like, no, feed that child, and for heaven's sake I'm a woman too, skin is fine! And if she's playing peek-a-boo or an active nurser don't worry about it! This is normal, natural and expected!

    I creep people out telling them my kids are going to sleep with me, and I won't be buying a crib. I want to do a piece on minimalist baby equipment simply because I know you don't have to have all the "stuff" just like with weddings, it's now an industry and they tell you what you have to have in order to be a good parent, but the fact is you are the most important thing in your child's life, not a fancy do-dat. I may be investing in a sheep skin and wool socks so they stay comfortable and sleep deeper. Why? Cause babies need sleep like we do to feel good.

    So no, you aren't alone! Natural mother away! I think it's awesome!

  2. Natural mothering is wonderful and beautiful.
    I think our age is the 2nd generation of the natural mothering movement. My mom was very much into natural mothering when I was born over 25 years ago. (and she had twins!) She nursed all of us until we were a year old anyway. She "wore" us though I don't think it was constantly by any means. She used cloth diapers, made most of her own baby food etc...
    She said "no" to vaccinations.
    And she said "yes" to homeschooling!
    I am forever indebted to her!

    It will be interesting to see how far things have come in the next decade or two.

    And you're right, children don't need the latest gadgetry. Babies are simple. (most of the time!)

  3. Sarah- I would say that we're still a minority, just one that's reasonably-sized, now. That article sounds really neat- it is neat that some of the more "popular" parenting magazines promote breastfeeding and the like.

    Yeah- I think God in-grained it deeply in our hearts how to mother....that's why moms who were/are pioneers in their area do what they do, without support. Somehow, though, a lot of people miss that...or it isn't ingrained into everybody, but that doesn't totally make sense to me.

    It would be really hard to live where you can hear a baby who isn't being nurtured and cared for. I can definitely understand how it feels- I've frequently had to be in a similar situation, and it sends me into high-stress mode and is so hard emotionally. Poor babies!

    Yes....demand feeding is a wonderful thing! And if you don't want to show skin....then for pity's sake, leave the conversation/whatever, and feed the baby. :-D

    I was thinking after posting the article that I never mentioned co-sleeping, but that's really important to me. :-) We love it- I don't know why people think it's gross. Maybe their imaginations are too vivid as to how the marriage relationship plays in- but like everything else with becoming a parent or other life changes, you simply employ some creativity. It seems really natural to nestle close to your baby all night- what better way to get lots of extra hours of (super healthy, physically and emotionally) touch in?

    Thanks for commenting, I always enjoy hearing your thoughts! It's fun when people share their opinions and ideas, and the comments become more conversational. :-)

  4. Samantha- it's really neat that your mom chose to natural mother- even/especially with twins! Did your mom know anyone else who parented naturally, or was she a loner in her community?

    Vaccinations are something my mom didn't get into (as in, didn't stop listening to the drs about) till around 2000.

    I agree, I'd say we're 2nd generation...and it's really neat to see how it's grown, so that, whereas at least many of the women in the generation before us couldn't, we can find each other!

    Yep, babies are simple...and when they aren't, usually gadgets don't help them either. :-) Most babies who couldn't be classified as "simple" need all the more touch time and natural parenting "methods". ;-)

  5. I think it's interesting we had a conversation about this last night. DH said he would not want to be in this apt if we had kids, hearing the baby cry all the time and the parents yell above us is just something we couldn't let go on if we had our own kids. It's not the example we want in our own parenting and it's starting to grate on us, but not enough for us to move as a couple.

    The co-sleeping thing is funny. I told DH that's why we bought a futon and there is a door in the living room - it's our escape plan! He's like "That's what the futon was for!?!?" LOL!

    Not that's we're planning on having any kids soon, but my brain thinks that way.

  6. LOL...I told Ben before that if we ever build our own dream house, I want to build a large closet type room off our master bath, with a door, where we can have a futon/etc., and call it our "marriage suite".... :-D

    It would be really stressful to live where you do! I can imagine that gets difficult to handle....and I definitely agree it would be wise not to expose your baby/children to that. It seems like it would put them under a lot of extra stress, especially sensitive babies.