Updated on November 24, 2007
Natural parenting doesn't involve granola and hemp. The goal of natural parenting is to have a parenting style that best fits how humans have evolved. This is not to be confused with doing everything the "old fashioned" way. Many of our old ways resulted in death (such as not having access to medical help during birth). We have evolved to new levels of knowledge and understanding, and it would be unnatural to go against that wisdom.
There's a difference between instinct and suddenly waking up and knowing how to take care of a baby. You never just wake up and know the answers, but your intuition will often guide you.
Pretend that you are the only family in the world. You get to make the rules about what is right and wrong. Would you do what you are doing? Would you change it? Follow those instincts rather than listening to outside advice. If you feel like it is perfectly natural to shower with your kids or to let them see you naked, don't listen to people who are trying to tell you that your actions are sexual or inappropriate if they're not.
Humans are mammals. We are designed by nature (by chance or by intelligent design) to feed our babies by breastfeeding them (the word mammal comes from the word mammary as in the glands in the breast that produce breast milk). Breast milk contains everything that a new mind and body need for optimum development, including antibodies that reduce illness. Formula just doesn't measure up.
Breastfeeding naturally continues until the child is 2 or 3 years old. The need for breastfeeding drops dramatically after the first birthday and often becomes more of a source of comfort than nutrition, but breast milk continues to be a source of vital nutrients. Generally, in toddlers, breastfeeding is a way for the child to reduce stress and feel bonding.
If for any reason you cannot breastfeed your child, then you should rely on human wisdom to help you find an acceptable alternative, infant formula. Not all infant formulas are the same, so do your research, and get the best you can.
Humans need to maintain a certain body temperature (around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to survive. Babies are unable to maintain their own body temperature without a bit of help. Their clothing must be frequently adjusted to warm them up or cool them down. In addition, holding them close to an adult human body (which is able to maintain adequate body temperature) is an almost perfect way to help an infant maintain body temperature.
Another advantage to physical contact is how our bodies react to it. We were designed by nature to be social creatures, relying on each other, bonding with each other, and living with each other. One way we have evolved to meet these needs is to benefit from physical touch. People (babies and adults) who receive loving physical touch are generally healthier and happier, and there have been many studies to prove this.
You should attempt to carry your child as much as possible to maintain physical contact. Kiss each other, look into each other's eyes, snuggle up, and keep each other close. It's good for you, and it's excellent for baby. (This helps any intimate relationship, not just parent-child bonding.)
There are many ways to achieve this level of contact without feeling smothered. Use a baby-sling rather than a stroller whenever possible. You may even discover that you like the sling better because it doesn't require large amounts of trunk space, it easily fits in public transportation, you never have to find a place to park it, it isn't very expensive, and it allows you to look at, feed, and tend to your baby without having to stop what you're doing. Hold your baby while you sit (some slings can help this as well by letting you have two free hands to work on your computer or whatever else you need to do while the baby snuggles up on your lap). Sleep next to your baby (AKA co-sleeping). Babies will actually sleep better while co-sleeping, so mommy and daddy can get some much needed sleep as well. Breastfeeding a baby while co-sleeping is incredibly relaxing, and as the baby gets older, they'll be able to breastfeed without even waking you up. (Myth: co-sleeping ruins your sex life. Wrong! If the only place and time you have sex is in your bed before or after sleeping, then you need to get more sexually creative, and you probably need to be more physically affectionate with your partner at non-sleeping times. Nothing puts spark back into the bedroom like a little adventure.)
Balance your time with baby and time you need to be by yourself. If you start feeling smothered, it's time to make sure that you are taking turns with your partner. After all, you both need to nurture that intimate bond with baby.
Humans are naturally social creatures because we rely on each other (our community and society) for survival. We learn how to behave by watching others as well as interacting with others. We pick up good habits as well as bad.
Consider who you allow your child to spend time with. If little George down the street has a bad habit of hitting people, don't let them play together. If uncle Joe uses profanity and drinks excessively, don't invite him over. If the neighbor has a bad temper, don't ask her to babysit. Pick and choose wisely.
Let the relationships develop naturally. Step in only to stop potentially harmful situations. Babies and children need to learn how relationships work. They need to make the connections that "people don't like it when I pull their hair" or "people I love like it when I hug them." This understanding of relationships will only come with experience. You can't teach it to them any other way. Modeling good relationships is a start (a big start), but children need to be able to test those models out for themselves.
Don't try to force anything. If baby feels uncomfortable with a certain person, don't force your child to be held by that person, even Santa Claus at the mall. (Imagine if you were forced to sit on the lap of somebody you didn't feel comfortable with.) Don't force kids to be friends when they just don't want to. Don't tell your child that they have to give Aunt Bertha a kiss. Just let them figure out what feels right to them.
Make sure your children, no matter how young, are involved with the normal social aspects of your life. Bring them out and about in the world to see how things work.
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