Please note that today's post is not intended to make any mother feel "unnatural" or that this way of mothering is "better" than or superior to other ways. I am friends with plenty of mothers who do not chose these practices, and many of them are much better mothers than I am! This post is simply to educate moms new to natural living about several aspects of what comprises "natural motherhood."
By Erin Odom, Contributing Writer
When I first became a mom nearly five years ago, I never imagined I would embrace a natural approach to motherhood--and life in general--soon after.
- I would let my baby cry it out--and most definitely in her own bed.
- I wouldn't wear her (didn't want to spoil her!).
- And cloth diapers? No way! I wasn't about to scrub poop out of cloth!
But once that first of three little wiggly redheads was born, something started to change in me: I realized that every decision I made--from the food I fed her to how closely I kept her--would affect her for the rest of her life.
Five years later? The other day a friend commented: I think the new gal at church wants to get to know you. She is all natural like you.
I had to laugh.
So what are some practices that define natural motherhood? Let's explore a few:
1. Natural Birthing
This one starts before the baby is even born, but unmedicated births are typically very important to natural mothers.
Whereas I believe C-sections can be lifesaving and pain medications can sometimes help ease a distressed mother, I've seen firsthand how natural births can help facilitate breastfeeding and early mother-baby bonding.
I also camp out on "no meds unless absolutely necessary," and, to me, the pain of childbirth is simply part of it. It makes us stronger, and there are many potential side effects with epidurals and other pain medications that are often given unnecessarily--especially during hospital births. Instead, I choose to embrace my labor pains and use these 9 natural pain management techniques for labor.
Many natural mothers opt for homebirths or to deliver in a birth center since they are much less likely to be pressured for medical interventions for either them or the baby. They can labor in a more peaceful environment and then immediately rest in the comfort of their own homes.
I always wanted to breastfeed. At first, my primary reason was mostly superficial: Breastfeeding is free. Why buy food for your baby if God has already given it via your body?
But after becoming a mom, I quickly became passionate about all the many benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk contains nutritional qualities that no formula can mimic. It also creates the perfect environment for mother-baby bonding and forces the mother to rest since she must sit still to nurse so many times each day.
If you're having trouble breastfeeding, I've written an entire series on breastfeeding challenges:
An added bonus of breastfeeding is getting to nibble on extra food since it takes so many calories to make milk. These homemade lactation cookies and gluten-free chock full rounds are especially yummy and help facilitate milk production!
This is one aspect of natural mothering that my family doesn't practice. Well...not officially. Our babies do not actually sleep in the bed with us, but we still keep them close.
With my first baby, I was a strictly let-the-baby-cry-it-out-or-you-will-spoil-her mother, at least in the beginning. I deeply regret that. Babies are only babies once. They need to be cuddled, rocked and nurtured.
Do I ever let my babies fuss for a few minutes? Yes, but I will never again let my babies cry it out as I did my firstborn when I was naive and believed every single thing I read in parenting books.
Our second and third babies have spent many months in our bedroom--albeit in their own bassinets. Having them close has aided so much in night nursing. They are right beside my side of the bed, and it is easy and more restful to simply scoop them up and nurse as needed.
Not only does babywearing facilitate bonding, it helps to keep the mother's hands free to tend to older children, cook, clean, garden, grocery shop and more!
I love the feeling of my babies snuggled up against me wherever I go. Whereas we opted to put our oldest in the church nursery when she was just a couple months old, you can still see me sporting my youngest, who is now 7 months old, in my baby carrier each Sunday.
My favorite baby carrier for the infant stage is the Moby wrap, and I love the Boba carrier for three months and up.
The Boba made me fall in love with babywearing. It was exactly what this often-clumsy-oh-so-humbled homemaker needed to go from baby wearing failure to baby wearing success!
5. Cloth Diapering
This one comes as a close third behind breastfeeding and natural birthing as one of my passions, but I'm not so passionate or strict about cloth diapering that I never use disposables. I take breaks when life gets stressful or while traveling.
Cloth diapering saves money, but they are also gentler on babies' skin and much better for the environment. Doing something that is kind to my baby's bum and creation and my pocketbook? It's a win-win to me!
I never set out to cloth diaper, but I fell so much in love with it that I recently released a 200-page ebook guide to cloth diapering! I made many mistakes when I started, and I want to save other cloth diapering mamas--or those curious about cloth diapers--from the frustrations I experienced.
Stephanie was so kind to write the foreword to my book, and I include a section from her about traveling with cloth since she is now traveling the world and is approaching cloth the hybrid (part-time) way this year.
If you're interested in making the switch to cloth or already have and want a good resource to keep on hand when challenges arise, I encourage you to check out my book. If you get it between now and Sunday, March 31, you'll get it bundled with a free nursing cover, a free sling, a free carseat canopy, a free nursing pillow and a plethora of coupon codes to natural parenting and cloth diapering stores and books.