What Even Counts as Natural Parenting?

Mother and Baby outside

What is natural parenting anyways?

Ah, the grand question.

I don’t always like labeling things. But labeling things seems to be something humans like to do.

Natural parenting is a new name for a surprisingly not-new idea in the parenting world. (Parents have for some time, switched back and forth between ‘modern’ and ‘natural’ techniques.)

Different advocates of “natural parenting” use the term to mean one of the following:

  • “parenting as nature intended” (a reasonable explanation)
  • “parenting without use of some modern inventions” (slightly more out there)
    or even:
  • “parenting in the ONE AND ONLY BEST WAY to parent.” (yes, unfortunately, someone somewhere probably believes that.)

The funny thing about the term natural parenting is that from one point of view, EVERYTHING is natural parenting.

Why? Because although we build nice houses and wear pants, we are creatures who live on earth and who therefore live in nature. Everything we do is natural, nothing we do can be done without the bounds of nature, because nature encompasses all that is in existence!

From another point of view, “natural living” isn’t even something that is always worth achieving.

In fact, in many ways natural living is painful & uncomfortable. (Sleeping in a house is far nicer to me in the winter than sleeping under the stars!!)

And I am eternally grateful for flush toilets and cell phones, but by golly you’d be hard pressed to call those things natural to humankind.

Natural Parenting Quote
Modern amenities I prefer!

It is also true that some practices that are considered to be modern (based on the relative time period) turn out to be harmful or controversial, and are eventually rejected. Sometimes older ideas are reverted to. (For example, leeching seemed like a good idea for a while.) (Twilight Sleep also comes to mind.)

And, as another example, I think we can all agree that breastfeeding is nutritionally healthier for babies. The use of pap to feed babies a few centuries ago brought along disease and death. Today, if you can breastfeed, your baby will benefit greatly from it.

But, if you cant breastfeed, that doesn’t mean you are a wicked mother.

Parenting isn’t a game where only the fastest, best, or most talented win.

And parenting isn’t about showing off or comparing score cards.

Parenting is about a relationship between parent and child. Parents must keep their sanity while respecting the needs of their learning children. Children are introduced by loving and trustworthy parents to a mortal world that is sometimes painful, but also beautiful.

It is a relationship of give and take, and yes the parents are mostly responsible for the give. (Especially in the early years.)

I think “natural parenting” tries to ease that descent to mortality for children. Every good parent wants the best for their child. Of course what is “best” for a child, likely differs greatly depending on who you ask. Because every child and parent have different needs.

And, all any of us can do, is all we can do. (Though we should be trying to be better.)

So what counts as natural parenting? Do you have to breastfeed? Do you have to babywear? Are parents allowed any practicality, any compromise?

Are babies going to break if they cry?

What even counts as natural parenting?

I make many compromises. For example, I have pottyed my baby, but do not consider myself to currently be practicing elimination communication. (I think those who do are awesome, part of me wishes I was you! But I also like cloth diapers just fine.)

I baby wear a ton, but not my toddlers, just my infants. I also own a double stroller (finally. And I really like it! Although sometimes I wear one child and push the other…)

I breastfeed (don’t own bottles) and co-sleep, but tandem nursing was too much for me, and my two year old seemed too old, so I weaned her. (Le gasp!) She was fine with it.

Natural parenting, to me, is not a term that includes a set list of strict rules. It is a descriptor that attempts to describe a parent who respects their child as a born person and attempts to build a bond, the best they can.

natural parenting is responsive parenting

Some other terms I’ve heard used in this way include:

  • “gentle parenting”
  • “intentional parenting”
  • “conscious parenting”
  • “communication parenting”
    and of course
  • “attachment parenting”.

Dr Sears puts it very well, he says:

“The idea behind attachment parenting is that you get to intimately understand your child to appropriately encourage and discipline them as they grow up.”

Dr Sears

Take note! The child you are striving to understand is YOUR child, not someone else’s.

He also famously says “If you resent it, change it!” which I think is so, so true. Not every mom can do or wants to do the same things. Maybe you’ll use one technique for a while, then outgrow it and adopt a new one. Maybe your opinions will change, maybe your circumstances will.

Change is natural.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that in a nutshell, natural parenting truly is this: parenting in a way that is natural TO YOU.

(Note that I didn’t say “in a way that is easiest for you, although that may be a part of it sometimes. Easy isn’t always the best. Sometimes your intuition makes you work for something good.)

Listen to your inner voice. Listen to your baby.

Respect your child’s needs. Respect your needs and abilities. Learn new abilities. Work together.

YOU were meant for her. SHE was meant for you.

One of the best things about being a mother is realizing that your kids want YOU! They don’t want someone else!

And one of the best gifts you can give a child is asking yourself “if I was my child, how would I want my mother to respond?” And then doing your best to meet that response.

That’s what makes natural parenting worth it. Taking the time to hear your child, and respond to them in the way that they need takes effort, but it is an investment in your relationship, and in your child.

Each mother has the mothering instinct inside her, and each mother has to learn to find it in their own way. It takes time to fully develop the mothering instinct, instincts can fade or be nurtured.

Nurture yours, and find out what parenting means to YOU.

You can achieve harmony with your child, yes, even if it seems impossible.

You were once in perfect harmony, when they were inside you. Those moments can come again.

I use the term “natural parenting” on this website because for the most part, is describes my style of parenting well, and hopefully it conveys the general type of mood I’m going for. Words are tricky sometimes.

This blog has many tools, recommendations, and stories that have helped me and others in their parenting journey. As you read, don’t worry about checking off all of someone else’s boxes. Take what makes you a better mother, leave the rest.

That’s what I do!

motherhood quote

So what counts as natural parenting?

I don’t know. You tell me.

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