Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Natural Parenting Benny & Bex Style

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I am a natural parent.  I dig attachment theory.  I realize it's not a popular choice.  The term, in and of itself is so arrogant.  Natural Parenting?  Isn't all parenting "natural"?  Yeah, pretty much.  It's not better than any other style of parenting, it's just what works for us.  I don't dish out a lot of criticism when it comes to parenting styles.  Becoming a parent has helped me understand that everyone does their own thing, for one reason or another, but mostly because it works and that's okay.  I don't accept all Natural Parenting practices, however.  I fully vaccinate my children.  I let them watch more than the recommended amount of TV.  I don't subscribe to homeschooling.  And Ben knows exactly where we are when I pull through a McDonald's drive-thru.  But most of the practices make sense to us, so I define myself as such.

(1) I breastfeed.  Not for any noble reason, I'm not trying to make a statement.  The bond is amazing, and knowing that I put every fold on Beckett's chunky baby legs is definitely a bonus.  But it just seems easier.  This kid is still awake and ready to party every 2 to 3 hours, every night.  Getting out of my cozy bed to fix bottle after bottle just seems like unnecessary work. 

(2) Schedules don't work for us.  This has become increasingly apparent as my baby continues to resist sleeping through the night.  I've read all the books about creating predictability in an infant's schedule to get a "quiet-alert" baby who never cries and always smiles.  Beckett thinks this is garbage.  I do too.  After trying them (and failing miserably), I've decided we are too lazy for schedules.  We do better when I trust my mama intuition.  Being close to my kids all day long, I can tell when they are getting tired before they can.  And anyway, neither of them can tell time, so why bother with the clock?

(3) My kids are a fashion accessory.  Yeah, from time to time, I even wear my 28 month old.  Babywearing gives my kids the illusion that I am constantly hugging them, but gives me the flexibility to do things like laundry and errand running.  I gain an extra set of hands and they gain the security of being close to Mama.  And when we go places where strollers are inconvenient, Jacob can wear one, I can wear the other, and everyone is happy.  Easy-peasy.

(4) My baby has a fluffy bum.  I sort of cheat on this one, because my toddler wears disposable diapers.  I get a free pass however, because he has diagnosed sensory issues and hates the idea of cloth making his butt look fat in jeans.  Believe me, we've tried.  But I choose cloth for Beckett because it is easier for Team Turner.  No late night runs to the grocery store to pay double for a pack of diapers when you realize you just put the last one on your baby's bottom.  No diaper rashes.  And the biggest bonus - no leaks!  Well, assuming the diaper was put on correctly and not left on for hours.  I get the most criticism for this choice.  Everyone's first question: "What do you do with the poop?!"  You rinse it off, people, it's not a big deal.  The environmental-friendliness is another added perk.  Some will argue that the extra water consumption offsets this bonus.  Tell that to my February water bill - it's the cheapest it's been in over a year.

(5) We let our kids learn through experience.  I like to call it laissez-faire parenting.  I try not to intervene when they are exploring something new, or doing something that will probably result in a spill, a bump or a bruise.  This could also be a direct result of my laziness, but I'd like to think it's helping them understand cause and effect.  And of course, we do this one within reason.  We don't have bleach-drinking experiments to see what would happen.  But sometimes Ben needs to take a tumble off the coffee table to learn why we don't get up there routinely.

(6)  On a related note, we parent with positivity.  I hate the word "no".  Coincidentally, Ben hates it too, so we reserve it for dangerous, or really, really annoying behaviors.  This comes from the B.F. Skinner in me.  In college, I trained rats to do all kinds of unbelievable things with positive reinforcement.  Punishment didn't produce very strong desired behavior patterns and in fact, made my rats sort of aggressive.  Because I, like Skinner, believe that kids and fancy rats aren't all that different, I reject the idea of time out and taking dessert away.  Ben gets ridiculous amounts of praise for being awesome, and gets completely ignored for bad behavior.  It works for us, and it keeps my blood pressure at a manageable level.

(7) I haven't slept alone in over five months.  We have a crib.  In fact, we have two.  And Beckett will sleep in either one if I make him.  But since his first night home, he's been my official cuddle buddy.  When Ben was small, he also shared the bed.  Some of my favorite memories of his infancy were our late afternoon naps after I picked him up from Grammie's.  He insisted on lying behind me, facing my back, and played with my hair gently until we both fell asleep.  And go figure, the kid sleeps independently and through the night, ever since he moved into his own room.  I get the best of both worlds - bonding with my babies and eventually sending them off to their own space for uninterrupted sleep.  Added bonus: not getting out of bed to fetch Beckett for a nursing session.

(8) I didn't do this with Ben, but I intend on practicing "baby led weaning" with Beckett.  It's a different concept of helping kids explore solid food by eating whole foods in their natural form, not pureed.  Is there a lazy theme developing?  This one is quite controversial but makes perfect sense to me.  Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't have Cuisinarts or Gerber to rely on.  And somehow we persisted as a species.  After trying rice and oatmeal and failing miserably, we decided to ditch cereal altogether and introduce fruits and veggies when Beckett is ready. 

(9) Ben eats dirty Cheerios off the floor.  He has access to clean ones too, but I don't freak out if he eats one he found under the couch, plays in a muddy puddle, or puts another kid's toy in his mouth.  When Beckett's binkie "hits the deck", I inspect it for hair and dirt, wipe it off on my jeans, and pop it back in his mouth.  I know, totally disgusting, but I'm building antibodies.  I've been a disgusting parent since the beginning, but the only time my kids were ever sick was when day care was involved.  Eating a dusty Cheerio every now and then hasn't harmed Ben in the least, and he seems to be healthier because I allow exposure to things that aren't always sanitized.

(10) My kids have a stay at home mom.  I am always available to them, which makes all of this possible.  I spend all day, every day with them and know their moves before they make them.  I don't let them dictate how things are done, but I use their strengths, preferences and abilities to build a successful day.  If someone needs me at 3 am, I pull it together to be there and be nurturing in the process.  And I believe they are better because of it.

I didn't get the option of a natural childbirth.  So maybe my choice to be a "natural parent" is a way to make up for that.  Or maybe it is pure laziness.  I don't push the NP agenda.  But it's what we do and it's what works for us, and that's okay.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)


  1. I love hearing from the semi-crunchy among us. :) And from another mama who can't do schedules. I think a lot of my natural parenting choices are made out of convenience (read: laziness) but as long as they work for me and my kids, then why not!

  2. I love this article! It's nice to read about natural parenting without all the pretentiousness. A lot of people seemed more concerned with pushing the NP agenda than they are with just raising their kids the best way possible for them.

  3. Love it. I hope Peter (7 mos) and I can find more moms like you as he grows and we get more social! What type of carrier(s) do you use? We have a Snuggli, but it only holds up to 23 lbs. I also have a backpack type carrier, which is very comfortable, but doesn't give him any contact with me (aside from playing with my hair).

  4. I love this list. Your open`ing paragraph describes me too. We don't do schedules either, and I also believe a lot of my NP choices are partially out of laziness. I'm definitely bookmarking this post so I can check out your blog more.

  5. It's really great to read about the ways other mamas and families do natural parenting and discover new ways for us to do it, too. I never intended to follow the "natural parenting" model, per se. That's just how it evolved, which is probably the most natural process. It's nice to see that we're not the only ones without a schedule and knowing that other mamas wear their babies, despite me not seeing too many (read: any) when I go out in my neighborhood.

  6. To those who say added water offsets the greenness of CD'ing, I must scoff. ;) If anyone is interested, I wrote more about the environmental iompact here: http://codenamemama.com/2010/08/04/cloth-diapers-part-1/

    TY for sharing!!

  7. I love the theme of easier parenting that came up a few times here. It's so true! Following our kiddos leads really is easier for the whole family, I think. Lovely post! :)

  8. The term, in and of itself is so arrogant.  Natural Parenting?  Isn't all parenting "natural"?  Yeah, pretty much.

    I think I adore you. I follow some NP practices, not others, buy don't identify as NP and in fact usually get defensive about it - because even the term itself suggests the rest of us are practicing UNnatural parenting - an impression some NP advocates frankly reinforce.

    Reading this was such a breath of fresh air.

  9. Thanks for sharing. I have loved sleeping with my kids, too, but with the second one, I sure am glad she will nap alone!

    I am trying to avoid the word "hate" as well as the word "no," but 5-year-olds are really in a place of extremes, so both words creeping in a lot more around here out of a little mouth. Sounds so ugly! I try to keep a smile and think positive!

  10. Thanks so much for reading and leaving such sweet comments! Catholic Mommy - what carrier DON'T I use?! Haha, my favorites are the Ergo and the Beco Butterfly II for extended babywearing - good to 40 lbs :)

  11. This is a beautifully written list, and I love that you take what works for you and leave what doesn't. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting! Also, your boys are handsome, and I love your blog! :)

  12. Thank you so much, Melissa, I've been following your blog as well! You're right, there is not one-size-fits-all, and taking elements from each method of parenthood often works best. If there's one thing I've learned since becoming a parent, it's that everyone has a different way, and we're all right because it's what works for us :)