I was recently asked by an enthusiastic client what else I would recommend by way of natural and holistic parenting. I sent her a dream list and said to her what I will say to you. Many of these strategies and approaches were commonplace in a different time and different place. There is value to bringing them back for the health of your family. However, the reason they disappeared aside from greedy corporations was that our lifestyles changed. Women were now working and nuclear families were the norm. When you’re not raising your child in and with a village, these things are so much harder. And don’t get me started at the atrocious policies in this country that don’t give women adequate (if any) maternity leave or support after having a baby or being able to breastfeed.
If you are able to incorporate these practices, given all the challenges I just mentioned, excellent. If you are unable to, it doesn’t mean anything about how amazing of a mom or parent you are. The fact that you’re trying means you’re an amazing parent.
1. Breastfeeding – While we all know mom’s milk is best, some women can’t breastfeed for a number of reasons such as supply issues, having to go back to work, breast health, baby has trouble latching, baby’s health etc. etc. I took breastfeeding classes and saw 3 lactation consultants and struggled with supply issues, cracked nipples, soreness, pain, you name it. Pumping for a year in bathrooms and utility closets for a mere 2-4 ounces was devastating. I was able to breastfeed my daughter for 20 months but not without lots of challenges. Please don’t shame anyone for doing everything under the sun for trying to breastfeed or for not being able to breastfeed or for choosing not to breastfeed. We’re all trying our best.
2. Baby Wearing – Baby wearing is en vogue now but it’s been around forever and is still practiced in many countries. From Peruvian women who wear the babies on their backs in beautiful hand woven, colorful wraps to African women who hold their babies in slings or Indian women who wrap saris around their infants, baby wearing is ancient. It keeps babies close and safe, increases bonding, and helps regulate their temperature. It also frees your hands up. I loved it though I could’ve lived without the back pain as my daughter got heavier.
3. Elimination Communication – Did you know you can potty train an infant? Does it sound crazy? Think about what we did in the U.S. before disposable diapers were a thing or what they still practice in other countries. In India, children are often potty trained by 12 months. In Europe, it’s 18 months. Are American children less sophisticated or intelligent? Not a chance! Eliminating is a natural human instinct and no one likes to sit in their own filth. This approach takes time and being really attuned with babies cues but it’s natural, healthy, and possible. I didn’t do this but wish I had. We started potty training my daughter before she was 2 and she did well until it became her control issue. She was potty trained at 2 1/2 but fought us on it for 6 months. Incorporating elimination communication early on might have prevented the struggle for control.
4. Infant Massage – this is why you’re here, right? I don’t need to repeat the limitless benefits of massaging your baby but just know that the first 40 days affect the first 40 years of baby’s life. Massage helps them physically, emotionally, and mentally and is as essential as food and water. Loving touch throughout their life is CRITICAL. I still massage my toddler and she loves it!
5. Cloth Diapers – It sounds overwhelming or gross but that was not our experience. Once we got over sorting through the plethora of options, it was a breeze. We cloth diapered during the day and used eco friendly options at night. We had a wet bag, which we threw dirty diapers in and only did laundry once a week. Stained diapers were put out in the sun and came back like new. It also helps speed up the potty training process. We saved money and impact on the environment.
6. Yoga and Mindfulness – The world is more complex and complicated than every before, especially with technology. As much as we want to protect and keep our babes in a bubble, we know we can’t. Even if they’re safe physically, their emotional or mental health can often times be at risk. If we can support every child in dealing with their emotions in a healthy way through mindfulness, they will be better equipped to respond to whatever life throws at them. My daughter has been doing yoga since she was 1 and learning deep breathing exercises, which she’s not as excited about (except lion’s breath).
7. Natural Health – Holistic health has an important place in our healthcare and is essential in addressing chronic issues or preventing illness or disease. If I injure myself while climbing a tree, please take me to a hospital to stitch me up… and then give me all the oils, homeopathy, herbs, reiki, acupuncture, and teas needed to help my body and mind heal and recover. For little ones, avoid steroids, antibiotics, chemicals as much as possible after you’ve tried natural remedies. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard horror stories of side effects of mainstream practices. A doctor, for example, prescribed a steroid for a 4 week old’s eczema! Please just explore other options and follow your instincts! Homeopathy worked wonders for us for her teething pain and then mild symptoms.
Again, if you can incorporate 1 or more of these things, you’re already doing more than most people not because they don’t want to but because they can’t or they don’t even know that it’s an option. Your love and support mean the world to your child and the fact that you’re open to these approaches speaks volumes.