When we give birth, the world is made new again. Through the eyes of our children, we are thrust suddenly and deeply into the primal experience of what it means to be human. When we trust our natural instincts, we are following a parenting model that has been around for millennia -- natural family living.
We Are Part of Nature
Natural family living is not about getting back to nature. Natural family living is about recognizing that we as humans are part of nature. Breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, mother-child bonding, natural foods and a trust in the body's ability to birth and heal naturally -- these ideas have been in practice for as long as human society has existed. It is only within the last few centuries of technological growth that humans have begun to revere technology over their own natural instincts.
Recognizing Technology's Role in Parenting
The amazing technological advances our society has undergone are marvelous and exceedingly useful, but they can at times create a barrier for us. When we live in an age where it is sometimes easier to tweet with strangers on our iPhones than to connect with the person sitting in front of us, it is not farfetched that we also struggle to remember that before hospitals, infant formula and fast food, we humans gave birth, grew our own food and nourished our young all by ourselves without any technological intervention.
Natural family living is not a set of rules. It is, instead, an acknowledgement that both parents and babies have natural instincts that are valuable and trustworthy. When we listen to these instincts, we find ourselves following a loose group of parenting strategies and beliefs that can be called natural family living:
Birth is a natural human process. Although we are very lucky to live in an age where modern medicine exists in case of emergency situations, birth itself is not an emergency. When we believe in our own body's ability to give birth, we empower ourselves and our children.
Babies need human touch. Nurturing touch is one of the most vital requirements for babies to thrive and grow. Co-sleeping, babywearing, and other forms of close contact help infants and children to grow into more empathetic, secure, loving and well-adjusted adults.
Breast is best. Although there are clearly situations where formula use is necessary, breast milk is the most natural and perfect food for human infants.
Food that is in its most natural state is the most nourishing for the human body. The prevalence of processed foods in our culture has been linked to a drastic rise of chronic diseases and health problems. Author and food activist Michael Pollan explains, "Make no mistake: our health care crisis is in large part a crisis of the American diet. Roughly three quarters of the two-trillion plus we spend on health care in this country goes to treat chronic diseases, most of which can be prevented by a change in lifestyle, especially diet."
Positive discipline helps children learn and grow. Research shows that children want to connect in a positive way with other humans. If we discipline them in loving ways, they are encouraged to develop that sense of connection. On the other hand, negative forms of discipline breed negativity, aggressive and antisocial behaviors.
Practice eco-friendly living. It is good to teach our children to live in ways that are gentle on the Earth. When we view the world as one family, we can make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone and ensure a bright future for future generations.
Make Your Own Choices
Each parent who chooses to practice natural family living may have a different interpretation of these strategies and how to practice them in their family life. This is okay! Children are as different from one another as night and day. Unfortunately with parenting, as with many things in life, there simply is not a definitive answer or a simple guidebook that will lead you through every step of the way.
But gratefully we have been given one gift. And that gift is our mothering instincts.
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