Gentle in it’s approach. It’s the scenic, slower route of parenting. Gentle parents allow children to reach milestones in their own time.
Conscious in attitude. Conscious parents need to know “why”. Conscious parents don’t go along with the status quo “just because”. They do their own research and make decisions based on fact rather than opinion.
And attached at the heart. Attachment parents always seek to strengthen their attachment with their children, no matter the circumstance. Attachment or connection between parents and children is the single most important factor determining lifelong emotional health. It’s a parenting superpower.
Natural parenting is a term I like to use to encompass all of these definitions. At it’s core natural parenting is centred on meeting babies’ and children’s needs. It sounds too simple. Don’t all parents meet their children’s needs?
I thought so too.But when I researched how we, as a species, are biologically wired to parent I was shocked to see how far conventional parenting has shifted from what nature intended.
The aim of natural parenting is to meet baby’s needs and nurture a strong attachment between parents and children.
In infancy, natural parenting involves the following key components:
- Breastfeeding on demand
- Encouraging physical contact through co-sleeping, skin-to-skin contact or baby wearing.
- Elimination communication
A gentle, non-coercive way to respond to a baby’s natural pottying needs, from birth, which enables her to follow her instincts to not soil herself, her caretaker, or her sleep space.
EC may also be called natural infant hygiene, infant pottying, diaper-free babies, or early potty training.
EC is all about communication. And most accurately, it is babies training their parents. Babies know when they need to go to the potty. They communicate it with us from day one. We need to tune into what they’re asking for. Provide it. And roll with the evolution until they reach total potty independence.
In many cultures, which keep their babies close and practice attachment parenting, and in places where washing machines and disposable diapers are not accessible, Elimination Communication is normal and has no special name.
When I learned about EC I had to try it. The thought of forcing my baby to soil himself felt all kinds of wrong. And unhygienic.
- Same bed: parents and children sleep in the same bed.
- Sidecar: babies sleep in a sidecar attached to the bed.
- Same room: babies sleep in the same room as their parents but in a separate bed or crib.
Where babies sleep is controversial (to put it mildly!). Many suggest co-sleeping is dangerous. But when practiced safely the opposite is true. Just a few of the benefits include:
- Reduces the chance of SIDS by up to 50%
- Helps regulate baby’s body temperature and heart rate
- Promotes growth through physical contact
- Encourages healthy breastfeeding and helps maintain milk supply
The most important thing is to consciously consider the parenting choices you make. And understand they are choices.
You may choose to practice EC but nothing else. Babywearing may not be physically possible for you. Or the crib may be the safest place for your baby. All circumstances are different and each family needs to find what works best for them. Even by practicing one or two attachment parenting techniques you can nurture attachment with you child.
Babywearing is convenient – the world and babies were not designed for strollers! But it also offers countless benefits to both mum and baby:
- Babywearing supports breastfeeding
- Carried babies cry less
- Carried babies sleep, feed, and grow better
- May help avoid spinal and cranial deformities
- Babies who are held close regulate their own physiological functions better (breathing, heart rate, temperature)
Life slows down. It now takes an hour to get out the door instead of ten minutes. Saturday morning sleep ins are gone. A quick five minute walk turns into a half hour meander. And it can be frustrating in our fast paced, over scheduled busy lives but if we let them, our little guys teach us so much. They may be small but they’re full of wisdom and intuition.
Life will never be the same again. But if we wanted it to stay the same we wouldn’t have had kids, right? And you will never be the same again. Pregnancy, childbirth and seeing your baby for the first time changes you in the deepest way possible. I was, am still am, shocked by the intensity of the love I have for my son. It’s like being in love for the first time, multiplied by a thousand and it never wanes. Being a mum is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.
But it is difficult to not lose yourself. I miss the ease of my former life and all the free time I had to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And the later you have kids the more time you have to get used to the good things in life. Parenthood is all consuming and there is never a break. I’m still trying to find a balance. Sometimes I lose myself. And all I see is a “mum”. And it’s in those moments I’m at risk of becoming impatient with my son, losing my cool and not being the best mum I can be. And that’s time for a mummy time out. To ask your husband or someone to care for your child and take a break. Even a half hour walk can make the world of difference. Go shopping. Go to the gym, for a swim, meet a friend for a coffee and laugh about it. Breaks are essential. It’s the best way to keep being you.
And I’d add to that – build in some time for you and your partner. Just the two of you. Marriages take a hit when a baby arrives and it’s crucial to nurture your relationship.
Having said all that – jump in feet first. Go with it. Don’t fight against nature and you’ll be rewarded with the greatest gift of your life. Experiencing life with a child makes every experience richer. You see the world anew through the innocence and curiosity only a new person can bring.
Ironically natural parenting has made travel easier in so many ways…
We sleep with our son so he doesn’t mind if he’s in a new bed every night. As long as we’re there he’s happy.
We breastfeed which is the most convenient way to feed a baby or toddler especially when traveling. Whether we’re on a plane or on the road it’s always ready. And in difficult moments like when our flight from Maui to Vancouver was delayed 6 hours only to be cancelled at 3am, our 9 month old son was happy he had a ready supply of milk. No chance of running out. No problem with making up formula in a closed airport. And of course nursing is the quickest way to calm an anxious or upset baby in challenging times. Every time we’ve flown I’ve breastfed on take off and landing and he’s never cried with his ears popping like so many other kids. Nursing on a plane has bought us hours and hours of calm and sleep on multiple 13 hour flights to NZ.
Babywearing and travel go hand in hand. The world was not built with strollers in mind. Ditch the stroller and get a baby carrier. Babywearing allows you to move faster. Pack less. And feel lighter. It calms babies in new situations knowing they’re protected by mum and dad. And they can interact, make eye contact and experience the world at chest height rather than being ignored at ground level.
But above all else we travel because we’ve made the conscious decision we have to. If would be very easy to make the excuse we can’t travel because we have a toddler. Or because it’s too hard. Or promise we’ll travel when he’s older. Or when he leaves home. Many of our friends say those sorts of things. And we feel sorry for them. Kids aren’t a disability. We just have to adapt. Plan what works best with kids. Allow for more breaks. Drive 3-4 hours a day instead of 8 hours. Hike to a lake to throw stones rather than to the top of a mountain. Stay in cabins with a kitchen rather than a hotel room. Adjust your expectations and although it’s a little different, travel can just be as amazing as it always was.