A Nurse’s Look At 5 Natural-Parenting Trends
In a lot of ways, I lean towards the “natural” spectrum of parenting without getting too crunchy. Is that a thing?
I dabble in essential oils (swear that they are the only thing that ever cured my recurrent mastitis), co-sleep when I feel like it, breastfeed exclusively, and avoid taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
But in the same breath, I don't make my own baby food, I do happily tuck my kids into their own beds when they are kicking me in the face, and I make sure to get my children vaccinated.
In short, I am definitely interested in the natural-health movement, but as a trained nurse, I can't help but see many of the things about parenting from a medical perspective as well.
So let's talk: just what does the medical world say about all of those “natural” aspects of parenting anyways?
Eating Your Placenta
Welp, it doesn't get much more “natural” than eating your placenta, does it? Tons of mammals do it. But what is the official stance on eating your placenta, whether raw or in capsules, from the medical world? The general stance is that it is not medically necessary for human mothers to eat their placentas, and in the majority of cases, a doctor will not offer for the placenta to go home with the mother. Many times, the placenta is kept or tested, especially if there was a problem with the baby for clues about what went wrong.
Currently, there are no definitive studies that prove that eating your placenta is good (or bad) for you, but more studies are in the works, so we should hopefully have a more medically clear answer soon.
Although in the U.S. we may look at extended breastfeeding — basically anything over 12 months old — as a little strange, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years old “and beyond.”
The basis behind the WHO's stance, obviously, is that in developing countries especially, breastmilk is a great source of nutrition, even as babies grow, since food and water may not be adequate otherwise. In developed countries, there may not be as much of a nutritional need for breastmilk beyond 2 years old, but there aren't any clear studies to say that it's harmful in any way to practice extended breastfeeding.
Have I ever co-slept with any of my children, even as newborns? You betcha. Is the medical community thoroughly against co-sleeping in any way, shape, or form? You betcha.
The American Academy of Pediatrics not only discourages co-sleeping, but they actually call bed sharing the “greatest risk factor in sleep-related deaths,” so I think it's pretty safe to say that the medical world believes co-sleeping is a big fat no-no. However, one important study shows that there are different variations of “co-sleeping” and that sharing a room with your baby while breastfeeding, which is one definition of co-sleeping, is actually a life-saving move.
This is where natural parenting was born, right? (Ha. Sorry, couldn't help myself!) Personally, I know that home birth can be a perfectly safe choice for a large majority of women in low-risk pregnancies, but the medical community in general believes that a more professional setting is safer.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that it “believes that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest settings for birth, [but] it respects the right of a woman to make a medically informed decision about delivery.”
Bottom line? Most health professionals have seen the worst of the worst and those one-in-a-million freak occurrences that make us want to be fully prepared, just in case.
I'm almost afraid to even go near this topic, but obviously, many of us have heard the argument against vaccines because they “aren't natural.” And in some way, I do understand this. I myself am very curious as to the science behind vaccines, how they actually work in our immune systems, and what some of the long-term effects on our immune systems might be.
But, bottom line, I trust the loads and loads of studies that have been done on vaccine safety, and the medical community is pretty clear on this one: vaccines are 100% recommended for those who can medically receive them.
Also, a little note: Ebola is also “all natural,” so nature is not always the best, you know?
Where do you fall in the natural parenting spectrum?