I am fed up with sancti-parent bullshit. It seems like every decision from conception to college is scrutinized by the cult of awesome-parenthood. There’s one subsect of this cult that has gotten way out of hand, to the point of being dangerously irresponsible – the natural parenting movement.
True Confession Time: Hello, my name is Steph, and I was a natural parent.
It’s true. I birthed with midwives (Certified Nurse Midwives in a hospital), breastfed (as much as and as a long as I was able to), cloth diapered, co-sleep, made my own organic baby food from homegrown produce and then practiced baby-led weaning (a.k.a. feeding baby table foods), own nine baby carriers and slings, practice gentle discipline, made my own cleaning supplies, used coconut oil as a diaper cream, washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar, and even moderated two natural parenting Facebook groups. I found myself buying into and even making “natural is better” arguments. And while I still do some of these things – gentle discipline, babywearing, co-sleeping, gardening, I no longer call myself a natural parent.
Why? I realized how dangerous this movement really can be. Also, I found myself a target and having to defend my choices – everything from choosing a hospital birth, getting an epidural, having to be induced for pre-eclampsia (the nerve!), using birth control, having to supplement with formula (to avoid my kids starving), working outside of the home and vaccinating to letting my kids watch Wonderpets, wear sunblock and eat conventional produce. I realized that as a woman, a skeptic and a feminist, I should not associate with a movement that shames women and uses fear to motivate people to make unsafe choices.
If one spends some time on a natural parenting board, they will discover a few key themes.
Natural is good; unnatural is bad. Idealizing the past and/or ancient or non-Western cultures is common and conversations are often colored by privilege, with a touch of racism and/or a lack of recognition that some people live the way they do because they have to, not because they choose to or that lifestyle is ideal or healthy.
Anti-birth control, especially hormonal birth control (it’s not “natural” and remember, natural is good; unnatural is bad). Instead, monitoring your cycles and knowing your body is recommended.
Pro-homebirth, even for high-risk patients; anti-regulation of midwifery and/or lawsuits against neglectful midwives because it is bad for the movement; anti-hospital birth; anti-birth interventions (if a woman chooses them, she is weak or has been bullied); anti-OB, a general feeling that OBs are anti-women, don’t support birth choices and force unsafe interventions on poor, unsuspecting, vulnerable women; anti-Cesarean Section, even for women in situations where it is medically indicated. Remember, surgery is unnatural; unnatural is bad. Shaming women who had to or chose to have birth interventions.
Extreme pro-breastfeeding lactivism by breastfeeding absolutists ( I refuse to call them Nazis) and formula demonizers, who discourage anything but “exclusive breastfeeding” (cue choir of angels singing), even in cases like mine when a baby needs supplementation to grow and thrive or in cases where a baby cannot tolerate breast milk. People recommend informal donor milk-sharing and unsafe and unregulated homemade formula recipes in cases of lactation failure versus commercial formulas, because again – natural is good; unnatural is bad; shaming women who couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed or use donor milk or who didn’t “try hard enough” to overcome breastfeeding challenges.
Anti-vaccination and pro-parents “educating” themselves about so-called dangers of vaccination; encouraging parents to make their own choices and trust their instincts, rather than trusting their doctor or the government’s recommendations; shaming parents who vaccinate or accusing them of being stupid, ill-informed or misled by the medical community or government, which has ill-intentions or motives.
Pro-natural remedies for mild and even serious conditions; trusting supplements or natural remedies over medicines; avoiding doctor visits and crowdsourcing medical advice and reassurance; shaming parents who seek medical help for their kids or who opt for a medical solution.
Pro-chiropractic care in lieu of medical care or physical therapy and for conditions unrelated to the spine; belief that chiropractic care can cure a variety of illnesses, medical conditions, allergies and even turn breech babies.
Fear of chemicals and toxins; the overwhelming fear that anything unnatural we put in our bodies or our children’s bodies could be harmful; this is often paired with a trust of natural substances (lead is natural; uranium, also natural).
Fear of GMOs and a belief that organic, pastured and cage free foods are better for you, even when faced with evidence that they are not nutritionally different or that GMOs might be helpful.
Fear of corporations and the overwhelming belief that if a company is making money they must have evil intentions, yet an overwhelming trust in companies that make supplements and natural remedies; calling anyone who detracts a corporate shill (I am still waiting for my checks – BigPharma and Monsanto, PM me for my address).
Fear of the government and mistrust of information from government sources.
In summary, this entire culture is based on a logical fallacy, relies on fear and shame to motivate, and promotes dangerous and irresponsible practices. It’s like a religion. Seriously.
On one of the groups I moderated, an atheist natural parenting group, a friend once asked, “How do you resolve your beliefs in “woo” with your disbelief in God or religion?” What a great question. One, for which, no one had a great answer. It seems that there is a lot of cognitive dissonance happening.
As a skeptical person, can you really believe that a chiropractor can cure your allergies by realigning a special force in your body? Can you believe in amber teething necklaces or homeopathy? Can you really ignore science and evidence and allow the culture of “nature is good” to guide your decision-making?
For me, the answer was, and is, no.
Hello, my name is Steph, and I am an evidence-based parent.
Featured image credit: Steph, all rights reserved.
Image credit: vancouvernurtitionist.com