Friday, December 10, 2010

Naturalists vs. Traditionalists

After becoming a parent, I was introduced to the terms naturalist and traditionalist.

Naturalists practice natural parenting, meaning they home-birth with no medications, baby-wear, breastfeed exclusively and lengthily, cloth-diaper, and co-sleep with their children. They prefer all-natural products, toys, and food for their families. They do not believe in harsh discipline, purple crying (letting the baby cry themselves to sleep), circumcision, or all vaccinations. In my experience, many tend to be snobbishly judgmental of traditionalists. Of course, there are different degrees of naturalists.

Traditionalists are the complete opposite: they have their babies in hospitals, take medications, and often schedule induction; use disposable diapers; put their babies to sleep in their own rooms, perhaps letting them cry; and circumcise and vaccinate their children. They may breastfeed (most likely not lengthily), formula feed, or both. They tend to think naturalists are weird, extreme, and unwise. Again, there are different degrees of traditionalists.

I'm a babywearing, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, co-sleeping mother. But I also had my baby at a hospital (with a midwife and doula, though) and had him circumcised and vaccinated. So am I a naturalist or a traditionalist?

I consider myself neither; I am somewhere in between. And it turned out that way because I chose what I think is best for my baby and me. I birthed my baby at a hospital for insurance reasons. I wear my baby because I like to hold him close. I breastfeed because the benefits are numerous and undeniable. I use cloth diapers to save money. I co-sleep so I can get more rest at night. I circumcised and vaccinated my baby for his health.

I feel good about my choices. I do not believe others should make the same choices just because I did. Only you can decide what is right for your baby, family, and situation. I do not think we should judge others for their choices simply because they are different than ours. Nor should we feel ashamed or defensive about our choices for fear of what others will say. Do not let fear of judgment stop you from choosing your parenting style, whether it be more naturalist or more traditionalist or somewhere in between.


Cory and Cherise said...

I'm not sure I think of it in these terms, it feels like their team and ours... but I know some degree of that exists. The snobby judgement goes both ways, and both sides tend to think the other is uninformed or ignorant. Where is the respect for individual situation and decision?
I like to think that I, as a parent have a responsibility to my child to question tradition against the research and my own intuition, and see if I think it's really the best thing for my family. The more I read, research and connect with like-thinking mothers the more I believe that the baby will tell me what he/she needs and to stay connected to that - and that God designed it right the first time! Most of the time, there's nothing to fix!! I guess that makes me more of a naturalist :)
I hope that really what we can do is respect each other in our decisions to parent, and encourage each other to make informed decisions. It actually takes a lot of effort to be an informed parent because there is a LOT of information out there, and a lot of decisions to make too. I don't think doing something just because your mother did it is a good reason just like I don't think doing something just because it's trendy is a good reason either.
Ultimately, God gave us access to him in these matters, as well as intuition and our motherly feelings for a reason. He expects us to use them.

Francesca said...

Good points. I agree being informed is crucial. It makes it harder to make decisions, though, because you find support and evidence for opposing solutions. That's where I'm having a hard time.

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