One Little Change at a Time

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I remember exactly when “natural parenting” stopped being some sort of strange parenting punchline and became a way of life. It wasn’t the breastfeeding; even before I was pregnant I was pretty sure that breastfeeding was just what you did. It wasn’t the co-sleeping — that just happened because I was too tired to be up and down several times a night. But looking back, the seeds may have been planted.

The cloth diapering started it; my son was nine months old. When I started using cloth diapers, I found myself aware of the chemicals in my son’s diapers, of the disgusting impact of disposable diapers on the environment.

Then I was learning about baby-wearing, and getting into that — a little too late, but soon enough to know I want to do it again with our next child.

I learned that without realizing it, we had practiced baby-led weaning, plus some baby-food because it was “what you do.”

I became ever more confident in my ability and desire to breastfeed beyond my son’s first year; this information has helped me feel more comfortable talking about it, especially to the blessedly-few in my life who think he’s much too old for it now.

I learned more about gentle discipline, and while it doesn’t always stop my son from hitting me when he’s upset, it has helped curbed it as his primary emotional response.

And one day, endeavoring to make as much as our food from scratch, 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? Where is the woman who was prepared for the long nights of crying it out, who thought that co-sleeping was the most dangerous thing you could do with a baby? The woman who was skeptical of her breastfeeding goals? The woman who couldn’t bake, who thought that the idea of gentle discipline was wimping out of “real” discipline?

One little change at a time, she had become the kind of natural parent that she thought was crazy. I’m not perfect; I still lose my temper sometimes, I still order pizza when I’m too tired to cook something, and some nights I just want to tell my toddler, “Enough — you really don’t need to nurse again!” And I’m sure as hell not the most natural parent out there; even on the best of days I pick and choose what I like. Natural parenting by buffet, I guess.

But on the whole? Being a more natural parent has been a blessing, a comfort when parenting itself is simply exhausting, and — most importantly — it just fits.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit 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. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”

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:

  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • Attachment Parenting Chose Us” — 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. (@CodeNameMama)
    • Parenting in the Present” — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • Parenting With Heart” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • Sometimes I Wish We Coslept” — 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. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • Unconditional Parenting” — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • Supporting Natural Immunity” — 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.

Natural Learning

  • Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting” — 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.” (@myzerowaste)
  • Let Them Look” — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • Why I Love Unschooling” — Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Is He Already Behind?“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. (@borninjp)
  • How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning” — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

  • Mindful Life Shop

    Isn't it funny how naturally natural parenting happens? This is one of the things that I've always loved about it, that tells me that it is the way to go.

  • Ashley

    Agreed; I'm mostly pretty comfortable with my parenting decisions, because they just happened. That said, the fact that it just sort of happened can make it difficult to explain, at least for me — my son doesn't sleep through the night, and every time someone suggests just putting him in his room and letting him cry, I find it harder to explain why I know it won't work. (Mostly? Because even when he tried it in the past, the results were temporary at best — like it'll somehow be different this time.)

  • Dionna

    NP by buffet – love it! I am much the same, I stumbled onto NP and each little step seemed so logical, so practical, so right! And I don't think anyone can claim the title of the perfect poster mama for NP – we all do what works, we are all human, and we are all learning as we go. That what makes this journey so beautiful, and what makes me so blessed to have such a wonderful community! Thanks for sharing your story, Ashley.

  • BluebirdMama

    I agree with Dionna that we all do what works and that there probably isn't a mama out there that finds that all principles of NP work for her family all the time. I really do get a kick out of the fact that so many us of came to NP in exactly the way you describe. I'm really glad that it's working for you!

  • livingpeacefullywith

    Instinct leads us to attachment parenting.

  • Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    This is so perfect! When I first heard about various aspects of natural parenting, I always had this initial visceral reaction of "no way!" I think it started with natural birth, but it moved on from there. And then what do I end up doing? Ha ha! It's like a snowball effect, I guess.Thanks so much for sharing this for the carnival!

  • Ashley

    I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who kind of came up NP one piece at a time! :D Thanks for the opinions! (And for having the post, Dionna & Lauren!)@Lauren; I actually had pretty much the polar opposite of a natural birth — I told myself that if I made it to 5cm and wimped out, I'd get the epidural.I had my water broken, was monitored, had the GBS antibiotics, had the epidural — but was also lucky enough to have a really fantastic birth (and relatively brief; 13 active hours, 20 minutes of pushing at the end). Knowing that I did it once and lived makes me want to try harder to do it naturally next time, so I guess it all comes back around, lol. :D

  • Rachael

    "Natural parenting by buffet, I guess." Ha! Ha! But isn't that what we all do, really? Except for those who don't at all, I guess.I'd be curious to hear which small change might have been the "tipping point" for you. Or was it really that you just looked around one day and thought, Hey, now how did I get here?