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Refinery29: Why I Pulled Back From Natural Parenting

By Ashley Abramson

There’s a baby shampoo ad circulating that, likely to the chagrin of essential oil distributors everywhere, implies that “safe” and “natural” aren’t synonymous. “Natural might be the trend,” the ad reads, “but safe will always be our bar.” Five years ago, this ad campaign would have rattled me as much as your friendly Facebook oil mom. I probably would have shared it on that very social network, with some choice words and an eye-roll emoji, not-so-subtly inviting you into a debate disguised as convivial conversation. Back then, I wasn’t just a proponent of natural parenting. I was a full-on troll; a ride-or-die granola-mom-to-be more dedicated to an arbitrary system of parenting than I was to the actual needs of any real-life child. (Also, I wasn't a mom yet.)

And then I had a baby, and soon enough the need for my family to simply survive overrode my obsession with being "right." But not right away.

When I first became pregnant, I continued my maniacal swing away from conventional medicine, refusing to listen to anyone with a differing opinion. Other moms and, worse, internet message boards that supported my natural approach became my primary source of health information. My definition of health was anti-hospital, but it was also anti-learning, anti-grace, and, in retrospect, anti-safety.

But motherhood is one of nature’s best humbling mechanisms. I’m two kids deep now, and I like to think that, over time, I have evolved into a person of greater wisdom and empathy, in both how I approach health and how I treat moms whose views differ from mine. That we each want our kids to be safe and healthy is a given — but how we define those things can vary drastically.

Some of us feel more comfortable with a traditional, research-backed medical model, while others rely on natural solutions. Integrative medicine, a growing field, is essentially a combination of the two. But, is one way the right one?

Experts like Mary Anne Jackson, MD, director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, seem to agree that if safety is a priority, evidence-based and integrative medicine are the way to go. But in some scenarios, science and safety go hand in hand. “Parents have to go with their gut instinct for certain things. But there are certain caveats that have scientific proof behind them,” she says. “For example, babies should sleep on their backs and ride in approved car seats. These things are integral to health.”

Many doctors agree that beyond these non-negotiables, there’s some wiggle room. So how do we navigate it? 


Read the full article via Refinery29.

Learn more about keeping your family safe from the Center for Childhood Safety at Children's Mercy.