Before I became a midwife, I became a mother. I gave birth to my three children at home. My husband and I chose our parenting style carefully: extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, no circumcision, attachment parenting, family bed, herbal and homeopathic remedies, and homeschooling. Our kids are growing up to be the most wonderful people I have ever met.
These are my and my husband's beliefs and practices for raising healthy children. Not everyone will agree on every issue, of course, but here are some references and ideas to research for yourself.
Since the dawn of womankind, babies have been nourished from breasts. Human breastmilk is the ideal food for human babies. It is perfectly formulated to nourish the growing babe. The mother's body automatically produces the correct amount and it is delivered at the perfect temperature in a soft, warm, snuggly container. What could be better?
Please read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League for more information on breastfeeding.
During each of my pregnancies I read The Continuum Concept by Tine Thevinen. It is hard to summarize this book in just a few sentences! I think everyone should read it. The book makes the scientific case that the physical bodies of the mother and baby are designed to, and 'expect' to, be in continuous close contact with each other. If the baby's body is not touching the mother's body, nursing, snuggling, sleeping and carrying, the mother's body assumes the baby has died and reacts accordingly. Her body may begin cycling much sooner than it would naturally, or she may experience greater postpartum depression. Likewise, the baby's body will assume that the baby has been abandoned. Stress hormones will be released as the tiny body does all it can to cope with its lack of a mother. Both mother and baby, therefore, are more likely to thrive when in constant close contact.
The book also talks about the way the South American Indians, studied by the author, taught and parented their children into adulthood. The author never witnessed an adult nagging a child to 'hurry up,' when they were traveling. The children were expected to keep up with the tribe, and they did. I tested out this theory by expecting my children to 'keep up' with me in the supermarket. It really works. I never had to turn and ask my child to 'come on,' because they never got the idea that it was an option to lag behind.
Cloth diapering seemed to us like the wisest way to go. I didn't want to put any chemical-filled plastic bag on my baby's bottom. We purchased a bunch of really nice pre-fold cloth diapers used, and several diaper covers. Living way out in the country, there was no diaper service, so we washed our own diapers and saved a lot of money! That was years ago, and now the diaper scene is different, with many styles and types of cloth diapers to choose from.
Night-time parenting is not just for lazy parents, like us, who like a good night's sleep, a baby properly fed, warmed and kept within earshot. On the contrary, the work that it takes to "night-time parent" pays off big in the long run with healthier, more confident children. I would not recommend co-sleeping if either parent is a drug or alcohol user, but for the vast majority of families, it is a choice to consider. There are quite a few good books about co-sleeping, including Nighttime Parenting by Dr. William Sears.
My husband and I did not have children in order to send them away for eight or more hours per day. We believe our children are gifts from God, and we are the perfect teachers for our own children. Some of our favorite homeschool authors are John Holt, author of Teach Your Own and Growing Without Schooling Magazine and John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.
Some helpful websites include: Families for Home Education - Missouri, Home School Legal Defense Association.
Teenagers are not born. You grow them from children. And you grow your children from babies. It's never too early to start growing your babies into the healthy adults you want them to be, and it's never too late, either. Although, the longer you wait, the harder it will be!
Two great books on improving your relationship with children (and adults!) of all ages are Children Are From Heaven by John Gray, and Giving the Love That Heals by Harville Hendrix., PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD.
Herbal & Homeopathic Remedies
To treat and prevent common ailments, we chose to use herbal and/or homeopathic remedies instead of over-the-counter medicines. We feel that building up our immune systems will help our bodies to fight off illnesses and heal from injuries much more efficiently than medicines that suppress the body's natural responses.
Herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years and many are very safe to use in normal amounts. Please consult a knowledgeable practitioner before using an herb in a strong potency or one you are unfamiliar with.
Homeopathic remedies are very safe. They are effective when the correct remedy is chosen, and have no side effects. A knowledgeable homeopath should be consulted for higher potency remedies or for serious conditions.
Bach Flower Remedies work on a similar theory as homeopathics, but are used in a different way, usually treating emotional and mental conditions.
Helpful book: Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, by Dana Ullmann, is a helpful resource for choosing the right remedy for many common ailments. Each section of the book has a section called "beyond home care" which can help you determine which illnesses you can treat at home and which require a trip to the doctor.
Whole and Complete
Circumcision is an irreversible, unnecessary plastic surgery of the penis. I hope parents will educate themselves on this topic and NOT circumcise their baby. It just doesn't make sense to want the best, most gentle, loving experience for birth and then turn around and surgically remove a part of your baby.
Medically, there is no reason for routine circumcision. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), after an exhaustive review of more than 40 years of research data on
the potential benefits of circumcision, issued a policy statement concluding that the data was not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. The AAP first adopted this policy in 1971 with their first position statement on circumcision declaring, “There are no valid medical indications for circumcision in the neonatal period.”
Biblically, Christians were freed from the Laws of the Old Testament, including circumcision (Acts 15:1-20). It was described as an almost unbearable yoke on the neck (Acts 15: 10). The yoke, of course, was a sign of slavery and Christians were told not to become entangled with 'a yoke of bondage' (Galatians 5:1-2). Jesus contrasted circumcision (cutting off foreskins) with his own healing, which made a man 'whole and complete.' Jesus' conclusion, not to judge by appearances, also hit the mark, for his critics rejected those who were not circumcised.
Helpful websites: NoCirc Missouri, Kansas NoCirc and National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers