Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Parenting With Heart

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.

So, what is Natural Parenting to me? I have to say that for me, the root of it all comes down to raising our children in a gentle, responsive and nurturing way. If you want to call it Attachment Parenting, that's fine with me. I call it that and I spread the word about it calling it that. In fact, I think it's a great idea to give this way of parenting a name, even if it does seem like commonsense, natural parenting, because sadly in today's society   many don't see it as that. People in today's society who share a family bed, breastfeed beyond the "recommended" time, or say no to sleep training are often labelled as "weirdos". However, in my mind, what is weird is trying to make our children independent before they are ready. What is also weird is that sometimes we are told to do things to prevent "spoiling" our children, in spite of our mommy gut screaming out "NO!" Giving this natural way of parenting a name helps bring people together to realize that we are in fact not "weirdos" and helps us find support. Plus, coming together to share the love is always a good thing.

I recently attended a lecture about stress and how it affects our bodies and our health. So many of our health problems can now be linked back to early life stress. Because so much of our development happens early in life, it's essential to reduce stress during these critical periods. In doing so, we can help babies' brains develop neural pathways in a way that will enhance their health and well being. The healthy development of attachment in early life is also an essential part of healthy growth and development. Without this attachment, well, we humans can have a lot of issues later in life. Yes, it's true we are resilient, and it's good that we are, but in reality, resilience can only take you so far and can only overcome so much. Plus resilience is a survival mechanism, not one that should be relied on for normal development. So, I believe that as parents it is in our children's best interest to do everything we can to ensure they don't experience unnecessary stress in their early life and that they develop a healthy attachment to us, their primary caregivers.

Not only will this help set the brain framework up for success {so that when they do experience unavoidable life stress in adulthood, they are able to manage it and overcome the hardship}, it will also help them learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships throughout their life.

So how do we help babies develop a healthy attachment? The answer is easy: respond to your baby, be there for your baby, nurture your baby, let your baby be a baby. Babies are meant to be dependent; it's a normal part of human development. Humans need to first be dependent so that later on they can be independent. If you think about it, we can see this reflected in nature as well. The young of wild animals stay with their mother, dependent on her for food and safety, learning all they can from her, until they are mature, strong and able to fend for themselves. I'm sure if we were to hear of a mother tiger leaving her young unfed and uncared for we would label her as an "inadequate mother" and we would feel sorry for those poor little cubs. Why do we think it's OK for us, the more advanced and intelligent species, to leave our babies to cry themselves to sleep just because so and so expert says they should be sleeping through the night, or to refuse them our milk just because they are a year old?

No two snowflakes are the same, just as no two babies are. 

Each baby will develop at their own pace. Some babies will sleep through the night at 12 weeks and another at 12 months {or whenever!}. Some babies will wean early {like my little guy, sniff, sniff} and others still need momma milk past their first birthday. As parents we should embrace our children's uniqueness, but what should stay consistent is the love and care we give our children.

I often get asked if I am worried that my children will "rule the roost". Aren't I worried that my children will be clingy and not do well in the real world when I can't always be there for them?

My answer is a simple: Nope. I am not worried at all. And now, because my daughter is 4 years old, I have proof that I was right not to worry.

My daughter learned to bond with people before things. She has learned to feel secure and safe, and because of that she also feels capable. She trusts that the world is a safe place because she has never had to feel the fear or anxiety of being alone or unattended. She trusts her instincts because her needs have always been met. Now, when she has a want and can't have it, she is receptive to my explanations of why she can't have it. Because of our close bond, we have learned to communicate and be receptive to each other, which makes parenting much more enjoyable. But to me what's most remarkable is the empathy and compassion she has for others and for the world around her.

Our society is in dire need of empathy and compassion.

And the rest of our natural parenting approach stems from the fact that we care. We care about our earth, about our food, about ourselves, our health and about those around us.

And lastly {because I can't spiel on and on about this, even though I could} I should mention that being an Attached Parent does not mean you have to be a martyr. In fact, it's essential for parents to take the time to refresh, rest, and replenish so they have more to give to their children and their families. Being an Attached Parent also does not mean that you have to give up on yourself and the things you enjoy. Quite the opposite, now you will have another set of eager eyes to enjoy your favorite things with you. Having a child is a miracle, a true blessing and if we embrace it and allow ourselves the luxury of listening to our inner guide, parenting can be the best journey ever!

Remember, there is no redo button. So toss away that book or stop listening to that person that's telling you to do things your heart doesn't want to. Parent from your heart and everything will be more than OK.

P.S. In case you are like me {a visual learner, a researcher or just like to read} there are actually some very good books out there that encourage parents to listen to their hearts and their instincts. Just through I'd share my favs:

"The No Cry" books by Elizabeth Pantley. I found "The No Cry Sleep Solution for Babies" especially helpful. She's also written books to help with other sleep issues, potty training, separation anxiety and more. Check her out.

Dr. Sears and his wife Martha have many books out there on Parenting. They write in a caring, understanding way and offer solutions for parents that are realistic and non-judgemental.

If you want a good read with lots of references and studies to support why Attachment Parenting is natural and instinctual check out "Our Babies Ourselves" by Meredith Small.

{Maddie and Isaac in March 2010}

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 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):
    • "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.
    • "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)
    • "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)

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


  1. "Our Society is in dire need of empathy and compassion:, these words are so true. I try to find ways to incorporate empathy and compassion in my classroom. Our culture does not seem to truly value these traits though, as I find that lip service is paid to them but schools do not really spend the time and money on truly incorporating them.

    Fabulous post, it really articulates what attachment parenting is, and why we should parent that way. Thanks.


  2. "Plus resilience is a survival mechanism, not one that should be relied on for normal development." I love this - I've heard that one from a lot of people, b/c I've said that Kieran would have been crushed had we parented using traditional methods. "But kids are resilient! He would have survived!" But I don't WANT him to "survive," I want him to thrive. To be the person he *should* be. Great post, Kat - thank you!!

  3. Hey, great post! This stuck out for me

    "I believe that as parents it is in our children's best interest to do everything we can to ensure they don't experience unnecessary stress in their early life"

    I really agree and that was one of the motivating factors behind some of the decisions I made when my girls were infants (and also what caused me a lot of angst, when I was dealing with twins and not able to always do this!)

    My challenge is remembering this as my kids get older -- once my girls became toddlers & beyond, I find I expect a lot more from them (and add unnecessary stress for them in some situations) when really they are still so little, and need that comfort and my protection. There is obviously a balance to be found as they get older, but its a lot less clear and obvious to me once they are out of infancy.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  4. It's interesting, among one of my mom groups I was certainly labeled the "weirdo," but I kept gently talking about what we were doing (cosleeping rather than CIO, breastfeeding on cue, etc.) I found that many of the moms in the group at one point or another found that the "traditional" things they were doing were not working. I was happy that many of them tried some NP techniques that I had talked about - I think this is a good example of how talking about AP and NP can have positive residual effects! Great post!!

  5. Kat,

    Thank you for such an honest and simple look at what attachment parenting/natural parenting is. It's true - many more moms and dads would practice "parenting from the heart" if they didn't have people from every angle criticizing what they do. When you write that "resilience is a survival mechanism and shouldn't be relied on for normal development" - you are right on!

    I also agree that our entire society needs a wake up call on empathy and respect for one another as human beings. Any current event will testify to this need. Even positive stories get bombarded with people who virulently disagree and make nasty comments when they end up posted on the internet. It's a jungle out there! And for what?

    But, again, as always, I digress :)

    I also liked Pantley's NCSS books, as well as her pull-off method for helping babies nurse TO sleep without creating the need for dependence. I recommend her highly.

    Another great book that talks about parenting naturally from pregnancy onward is "Understanding the Human Being" by Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro, M.D. It is a book produced by Nielhaus Montessori and talks about the importance of the first three years of life and gives an amazing perspective on children's vital needs starting in the womb. Explains a lot of things physiologically, including the importance of bonding with mom first through breastfeeding, and the role of the father in a way I had never thought of before. Awesome book. It's not a carefree read - you really have to focus to take in the information - but for delving deeper into what you're talking about, it's a great and concise text.

  6. What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about attachment parenting. I love your point about not stressing our babies unnecessarily, since we have the opportunity to set them up well from the beginning — why not take it?

    I also love the Pantley & Sears books, and Our Babies, Ourselves is one of my absolute faves! Such a good overview of why attachment parenting is a good biological and anthropological way of parenting.

  7. Great post!

    "There is no re-do." So true.

    Pantley and Sears are two of my favorites too.

  8. "Plus resilience is a survival mechanism, not one that should be relied on for normal development." I had never heard this, and it makes so much sense. Thank you!

  9. Lovely post! I love your statement "Parent from your heart and everything will be more than OK." That's so true!


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