5 Practices of Natural Mothering
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.
Besides breastfeeding–and desiring a natural birth (but doing nothing to prepare for it), I wanted to stay away from the “weird” stereotypes of natural parenting:
- 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 personally enjoy laboring at home and birthing in the hospital with the aid of a doula–and staying for as long as they’ll let me after the birth. I do enjoy my breakfast in bed.
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.
An added bonus of breastfeeding is getting to nibble on extra food since it takes so many calories to make milk.
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! 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.
The only one of these I was able to do is cloth diapering and yet I still consider myself a natural mother. It’s important to remember that natural also is flawed because of sin, so no method of natural is perfect and is right for everyone.
I had a traumatic, natural homebirth with my first son (severe shoulder dystocia and though he was able to be brought back to life he did suffer a lifelong birth injury and injury to me), so the rest of my 3 babies have been beautiful c-sections resulting in healthy children.
I starved my first son while trying to nurse him (literally, starving him to the start of lethargy) until my midwife told me to put him on the bottle so he was getting SOME nutrition via formula. I pumped, used the SNS device, took Regalin, drank mother milk teas and tinctures, fenugreek, clove, did EVERYTHING 3 lactation consultants told me to do, drank cranberry juice in case my body was in shock, encapsulated my placenta, and more trying to produce more than 2 TBSP. of breastmilk per pumping, had my hormones checked… to no avail. Nothing worked… with none of my 4 babies!!! Finally with my 4th baby a new lactation consultant I saw did an exam and said I only had 2 milk glands and they are underdeveloped.
I slept with my newborns on the couch, but quickly learned that they liked putting themselves to sleep in their own space. Every baby likes different things. When they were 4 months old, they started crying some before falling asleep. With having 4 kids in 4 years (I had the first 3 kids in 2-1/2 years), I had to let them cry it out some so I could tend to the older children. It just had to be that way. It didn’t scar them and I’m sane… so that counts for something.
We tried baby wearing, but my 3 boys HATED it. Every sling and carrier, they fought. My theory is that because they were such huge babies, they wanted their space when they broke free of my uterus. haha. I did use the Moby wrap for my 4th baby for a couple months (4-6 months old) before she decided to not love it either.
We love cloth diapering. I had wanted to try it when I had my first son, but due to his injuries/surgeries/therapies that took a QUICK back burner. Then I had my second son 14 months later and with more surgeries for my first and all the extra juggling of 2 kids and appts, cloth diapering was a distant wish. Finally started with my 3rd and 4th kids and it’s been great. I wish I would have took the plunge earlier, but am okay that I didn’t. My 3rd son calls them “diaper cwofs”… too cute.
So despite the obstacles we have had (though we are very blessed with seeing the beauty that comes from hardships), I pray to God to give me insight into what each of my children need, I try my best to nurture their spirits/bodies/hearts/minds. Those are natural things that each child needs and the funny thing is, is that I can’t do that NATURALLY. I can only do it through GOD’s SUPERnatural blessings, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and sanity. 🙂
Know you are very blessed to have been able to do the things you are doing! Not all women were given those blessings and abilities, so remember to thank our Heavenly Father for what He has given.
P.S. And while I have failed in the above things, I do what I can. I milk cows twice a day to provide raw milk to my family, raise cattle/sheep/chickens/and soon hogs for our meat, grow produce, homeschool so my rowdy boys can learn in ways that are natural to them, cook real food 3x a day, and try hard to be a goodwife to my farmer who will be busy out in the fields soon raising crops so other families, who are not as blessed as we, can live naturally as well.
Beautifully said! The above list are not sole characteristics of natural parenting…I think every mother is a “natural mother” in her own way.
Thank you for this comment. I’ve had many similar experiences and am thankful to the Lord for what He has taught me about trusting Him through these “difficulties.” Still, I struggle sometimes feeling like the outsider, the mom who couldn’t live up to the standards. I admit that I almost didn’t want to read this post because I already knew what it was going to say and it would just discourage me. This post is a helpful explanation of some natural options available, but every mom out there needs to know that you haven’t failed if you couldn’t check off all or any of the items on the list. I really like this blog by the way!
Love this! A great intro to natural mothering and one I’m sure to link to lots. I smiled at your birthing preference–labor at home with doula but birth in hospital. I’ve done that twice now, too. I’m very pro-natural labor, but the fact that they kick you out of the birthing center after 6 hours is not ok– for me. I want to be taken care of for 2 days at least! 🙂
I love this post! Natural motherhood looks so different for each of us! My biggest struggle was with the natural birth. As the third trimester approached with my first, I started looking into birth options, and decided on a natural hospital birth. That didn’t happen, but thankfully so. I had severe complications and during the c-section, and it saved my life that they were able to take action immediately and not get me into an OR. My midwife told me that with my circumstances, it most likely would have happened if I had refused the section and birthed him naturally too. My second birth I labored naturally with the help of a doula but still was unable to deliver my baby, and needed another c-section. Again, thankfully so! My first c-section healed poorly and part of my uterine wall was compromised (so thin they could see my baby’s skin through it!). Without the second c-section we would have never known the high risk I have for uterine rupture. At first I had to grieve not being able to naturally birth my babies and work through feelings of inadequacy. In the end, I’m still a “natural mama”, who accepts that in my case, medical interventions are a good, and perhaps, life saving thing! For now, we can continue to grow our family biologically. With each birth we will take the advice of the medical professionals on whether it is safe to have another. Our hospital is great, when we are pregnant again we will continue to see our midwife, and when the time comes, having the OB join with the midwife care to prepare for the planned birth.
I am into all of those! I just had baby #3 and had him naturally….in my van lol!
One part about natural mothering that frustrates me is the fact that I can only have c-sections. I was born with a, well, I guess deformity, where my hip bones are too close together and at an awkward angle. As a result, unless my baby is really tiny (like premature tiny), I can’t give birth naturally (and I’ve tried). Left on my own to give birth, both baby and I would die (baby wouldn’t be able to come out the normal way, and I’d just bleed to death). Which is where I feel blessed to be living in today’s times because c-section is an option and I can enjoy my sweet gifts from God. But what really frustrates me is that SO many other natural-parenting mothers look down on me because of this. Like it’s my own personal choice or something. Like I want pap smears and female checkups to take longer than they do for normal women (eyes rolling) or like I want my stomach cut into and to have a huge scar for the rest of my life. Bleh. Anyway, that’s the only thing that frustrates me. Thanks for the great post. I totally agree with you–even love my Boba carrier. 🙂
Don’t feel bad TJ. 35 years ago I was in your same situation ready to have my baby naturally and when I went into labor he wouldn’t go low enough because he was too large. All the doctors said his approximate weight was 7.5 lbs and to hang in there. After two days of labor they did an emergency C-section and my son weighed 10 lbs 4 oz. Afterwards the doctor said I was too small to have large babies and that I would always have to have c-sections. I had two other children the same way and they were also large and the doctors didn’t know why. I didn’t have gestational diabetes or anything like that. I did nurse them all and they loved “mama milk”. I nursed my first baby for 14 months and that is when I discovered that I was pregnant with my daughter. This is strange but my milk turned salty (I guess this is natural if your body isn’t strong enough to breast feed and be pregnant at the same time). Everything turned out great and I did my best to feed my children good food. I nursed my other two for over two years each. I just wanted to encourage you and tell you that having your children by c-section is okay. My babies turned out great and it is good to know that c-sections do save lives when it is necessary but when women choose to have them unnecessarily it gets a bad name. Unfortunately many women in the olden days didn’t survive child birth. Take care and do the best you can. Have a blessed Easter.
I also regret taking the advice I got to let my son cry it out, and we won’t be doing that again. We ended up co-sleeping for about nine months, and since then my son has slept wonderfully in his own crib. Breastfeeding and baby wearing also rock!
I am new to “natural living” and didn’t even realize that I mother naturally until I read this! I have 3 boys ages 3, 2 and 1. When I was pregnant with the first I read the lamaze technique and I did yoga and was really looking forward to going into labor and the whole process without meds. I had high blood pressure, was induced and later had an emergency c-section (that I had to be knocked out for) 🙁 So, I have had 3 c-sections and 3 healthy babes. But I was set in my mind to breast feed (still am)and love it!! I had all my boys in my bed until 6 months. I am an avid “baby wearer” and have recently added cloth diapering to the list! I guess I’m a pretty natural Mama 🙂
I just read raisingcropsandbabies….. LOVE what you said. God bless you and your family 🙂
🙂 You’re such a good mama. I’m blessed to know you.
I would sooooooo love your book! But I think you haven’t realised you have a faithful readership as far away as New Zealand – that’s me!
I doubting would qualify for your super coool gifts 🙁 being that shipping to here is ASTRONOMICAL!!!!!
But do you have ebook as well? Are there any offers on that at the moment for someone like myself who is due to give birth to baby number 3 and just thinking about cloth diapering for the first time ever? Thank you 🙂
Keep up the great natural mothering! X
you’re not the only one in NZ Di! A great place to start with cloth nappies is http://www.thenappynetwork.org.nz Good luck with the natural parenting.
Some added things I love about the “natural parenting” scene is that often the mothers are more affectionate, more aware that they need to give plenty of time and attention to this parenting business, like spending more time listening to their children, etc. I also love the natural remedies, the slow introduction of food and real, natural food 🙂
One thing I dislike is that SOME (not all, by any means!!) in this scene/group seem to tend towards “permissiveness”- in that they withdraw from giving any guidance, correction or character training. I love the gentle ways of parenting and encouraging, but I don’t like it when it goes so far the parents don’t believe in saying the word “no” or teaching their child what is good and what is bad, but “letting them find it all out for themselves.” (I hope that makes sense!)
It is funny. I have done and still do all the things listed in this article as “natural” mothering. Twenty years ago, when my first daughter was born, no one really talked about these things unless you were a “hippie”, “new age”, etc. I just did them because it was what felt right and compassionate for my children. I am glad I choose the “natural” path with all my children. They are all caring, empathetic, and wonderful people. My children are 20 (21 in 2 months), 18, 15 & 3. I am utterly amazed at the changes since my three oldest were born to now. I think it is great our society in general is moving or has moved in the direction of more acceptance of “natural” parenting.
What a great post. Thank you! I never set out to be a natural mama either. When I became pregnant with my first child a lot of what was deemed “Natural” just seemed like common sense to me. I am happy with the choices we made in terms of, natural un-medicated child birth, breast feeding…then extended breastfeeding, bed sharing/co-sleeping, cloth diapering and baby wearing (Its just easier to get stuff done and spend time with my precious one.) I don’t think it is the only way one should do things, but, it sure has worked for us and our three children.
One thing I’ve recently done to try to better provide pure, natural nutrition for my breast feeding 15 month old (and myself!) is to start eating a Paleo diet. My family is now dairy-free, grain-free, legume-free, and processed sugar-free. We eat high quality, organic meats, vegetables and produce. I feel so blessed to be able to do things that can make them healthier their whole lives.
Thanks you for a nice explanation. Natural mothering was never for me, I work full time outside the home, so needed to focus on baby being ready for other caretakers. I do wish the BF advice was available 10 years ago with my first, we struggled and she was starving because I had very little milk output, so I had to go to formula and BF became a hassle after that. Didn’t even try with the 2nd because he was born 4 weeks early and never ever once latched on, then proceeded to be a very challenging bottle feeder. And pumping was worthless, I’d get maybe 5-10mls in 15-20 mins, so I quit that too as it became a stressor for me. My 3rd did the best with BF, but unfortunately once I returned to work, my milk production stopped after only a few days (I had already been supplementing to keep him growing and satisfied, something about my body and inadequate milk production I haven’t ever been able to figure out). I am tremendously grateful that all 3 are incredibly healthy, with not even a single allergy or health problem, and I have no regrets, I did the best with what I knew at the time.
Baby wearing was uncomfortable for me, probably because I had a crappy carrier with the first and just never wanted to go thru that again with the other 2. Were all these wraps even around 10 years ago??? I don’t remember them at all. I was lucky to have good babies and the bouncy seat was a beautiful thing when I needed to get things done around the house. All were content to sit and/or sleep in the car seat too.
I had hospital births, 2 with epidurals, 1 without, and 3 fast labors. My fear of something going wrong and the baby needing emergency intervention kept me from even considering a birth anywhere but at a hospital with at least a level 2 nursery. All 3 birth experiences were wonderful and the only thing I would have done differently was to slow down labor with the 3rd so I would have had time for an epidural! No csections or unwanted interventions, and easy recoveries, although I did tear with the 3rd because his 8lb 10oz self came barreling thru the birth canal so fast. Nothing a few stitches and some ibuprofen didn’t take care of!
I did not cloth diaper, I have horrid memories of my little sister in cloth diapers in the 70’s and vowed never to do it. My mom always wished that good diaposables had been around back then! Also wanted to make diapering as painless as possible for my husband and other babysitters. Not to mention, I don’t know how you girls deal with scraping poop out and all the extra laundry! A friend of mine who cloth diapers once said, “but it’s only an extra 4 loads a week”… what?? Plus the stripping and the covers and the 4 different laundry additives if the poop is like this, or this additive if the poop was this…. sorry that is just too much for this mama! Disposables were kind to us and we had very few cases of diaper rash.
And lastly, a BIG THANK YOU for not co-sleeping!!! I admittedly have a very warped perspective because I work in a pediatric hospital, but I have seen too many babies brought into the ER in full arrest from suffocation or being rolled over on in an adult bed. No worth the risk, at all, IMO. Kudos to you for having a safe separate sleeping area for your baby while still doing “natural mothering”! We did the same thing, a bassinet in our room for the first few weeks, then they were perfectly content in a crib in their own room. I never really had to do any hard core “cry it out” sessions.
The important part is that we are all doing the best we can with what we have and the goal is for our kids to grow up to be successful, healthy, competent adults! Let us not criticize each other, but “be one” and share experiences in our journey to be the best moms we can be!
Add in diaper free, elimination communication or natural infant hygiene! No diapers at all! Babies give you bathroom cues just like feeding cues and i just take my baby to the potty. I’ve done this with my second following a beautiful home birth, while tandem nursing my 2 yr old, co- sleeping with both, baby wearing & eating all natural/vegan.
Every mother does the best they can with the info and situation they’re given and all mothers should be honored for that. We need to keep loving each other and our different parenting techniques and not judge each other.
Loved the article!! I adopted my son at birth – so natural birth didnt happen and 🙁 milk didnt come in for bf.. However I did the baby wearing/sling since birth my son LOVED it and we bonded because he grew to know and love my heartbeat. And we bonded over the closeness. He is 5 and will give me kisses and hugs in front of his friends! LOVED cloth diapers — I was uneasy at first being a singl;e parent but… He went to a in- home dc for 4 months he had disposable on and cloth the second I picked him up! Then my nephew moved out to live with me and he wore cloth diapers until he moved on to cloth pullups. Saved a BUNDLE of money!!!
With my first son, 2 1/2 years old now, I began to research a lot of the “natural” choices that parents can make during pregnancy. Which resulted in a midwife-attended, drug free hospital birth to my beautiful son, followed by 16 mos. of breastfeeding and (mostly) self-weaning. We cloth diapered nearly exclusively from 10 days old, I also did a lot of baby wearing, especially in the first few months, though I also used a jogging stroller as he got older. Those can be handy, also! Our son co slept part of the night the first couple months, just so we could surivive, LOL. Due to living arrangements, he remained in the same room with us (in a different crib) for 10 months. But we were definitely ready for him to switch over to his own room when we moved into our new house.
Now we are starting afresh with baby #2, who is 2 weeks old. I have learned a lot along the way about natural motherhood, and I think the most important thing I have learned is that God is a God of grace! I have learned not to stress out so much about every little choice I make, and the repercussions of occasionally using a disposable diaper or letting him fuss for a few minutes if my 2 year old needs attention. My heart is I hope in the right place, and we are attempting to be led by the Spirit of God in all our parenting choices. There should be no room for obsession or anxiety in these choices, and every family may have a little different plan that God has laid out for them and their children.
I must say, however, that I have developed a definite passion for home birthing! Despite a borderline high risk pregnancy (high blood pressure) we still managed, by the grace of God, to have the home birth we so desired with our second son. And it was awesome! If we have more children, I hope we can have them all at home. What a precious experience.
If you work it right you can have a home birth and breakfast in bed. I had my 4th baby at home and my mom came to get the kids and made me blueberry pancakes before she left. My midwife has been known to cook a meal before leaving also. She had to satisfy herself with only starting a load of laundry before leaving since my mom had breakfast covered!
Congratulations! Love the natural way , some of the mommy’s is really young