Taboo Carnival. Our topic this Spring is RESPONDING TO THE NATURAL PARENTING COMMUNITY!
This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on criticism of the natural parenting community both from those parents outside of its perceived borders as well as those inside the community itself. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
|A serious subject calls for a very serious boy on a carousel.|
I'm a very logical person. One thing I like to do in my free time is play logic puzzles, for aside from being logical, I am also a nerd.
I don't think I'm quite at Vulcan levels, but I have of late become much less spiritual and much more pragmatic in my thinking. When I choose my parenting course — whether it's related to pregnancy, birth, feeding, sleeping, discipline, health — I choose what seems most reasonable to me.
Now, I'm reasonable enough to know there are limits to reason. I know that as humans we often post-justify our actions without ever acknowledging that's what we're doing. I know that sometimes I choose a less logical path simply because that's what I want to do. I don't even think that's always wrong.
But. I want to retain my integrity as a reasonable person. If I espouse a view of parenting, I want to make sure it's backed up by common sense or research or both. Which is why I sometimes get irritated by the lack of sense and misunderstanding of science that permeates the natural parenting community.
Don't get me wrong — the conventional parenting culture has its own failings when it comes to believing research or following common sense. I call them on it all the time, but now I want to speak to my own community, because it's been making me uncomfortable.
The problem is, I don't even want to name specific things that bother me, because when I've tried to debate certain topics with fellow crunchies, it's felt like kicking puppies. Suffice it to say that I am highly skeptical of a lot of alternative health therapies, which, when researched, have shown no efficacy beyond a placebo effect. But if I tell that to the NP community, I get a resounding chorus of "It worked for me!" (um…placebo! see above) and "I just feel like it works" (that's not science) and "It worked for my sister and my friend and for me" (anecdotal evidence does not an adequate sample size make).
This phenomenon in turn makes me wary of believing natural parenting bloggers and activists about anything, and that's where it's really unfortunate — particularly when you think of how the mainstream culture views us. If they think X and Y that we believe are completely ridiculous, then how will they believe us when we talk about breastfeeding or gentle discipline or circumcision or something else that really (in my opinion) matters?
When I want feedback on a controversial topic like, say, vaccines, it's a dilemma. I know for sure that the mainstream sources are unreasonably fear-mongering in themselves. They exaggerate the risks of catching vaccine-preventable illnesses as well as the risks of having those diseases, which damages their own credibility. But, I've said that before. What's bothersome is that the NP community does entirely the same thing, but in the opposite direction, by exaggerating the risks of vaccines and downplaying the risks and discomforts of the illnesses. It makes it so I know I can't believe anyone to be unbiased and reasonable, and that's unfortunate. When I know from experience that various NP folk don't believe in the scientific method, don't understand causation and correlation, don't know what an adequate sample size is or why anecdotal evidence is useless … then how can I trust their reading of research and the conclusions they've drawn?
Take fluoride for an example — a hopefully not too horribly controversial one (she says naively). For awhile, I believed the commonplace NP hype that it was harmful and switched my family to fluoride-free toothpaste (actually tooth soap for me) and seriously considered a reverse osmosis water filtering system. Then Mikko went to the dentist and we found out he had a mouthful of decay; the dentist recommended switching immediately to fluoride toothpaste, so I researched it — really researched it. I found out that there's evidence that fluoridated toothpaste is good for teeth. My findings on fluoride in water were less clear-cut; the problems with it seemed to be when it was in excess amounts, which our city's supply is not. You can do your own research and draw your own conclusions, but don't do what I did at first — which was believe all the blogs that drew their "proof" that fluoride was bad from the exact same website. I could tell because everything I found was copying/pasting the same language.
|Don't exasperate Mikko.|
In case this sounds like a rah-rah-me sort of post or a bashing of some particular bloggers, it's not. It's a general discontent, and it includes myself. I've done a lot of faulty research myself (the fluoride thing was a good example), and I've changed my own mind on topics as I've learned more. For instance, after reading the Safe Co-Sleeping Carnival hosted by Monkey Butt Junction and linked resources in various posts from that carnival, I'm no longer confident in recommending bed-sharing with an infant under six months of age. Here's where it gets tricky, because I probably still will do so in my own life (more on that in a separate post, perhaps?), but I now believe, based on the evidence accumulated so far, that it likely is more dangerous for young babies in Western adult beds than in cribs, even when safe bed-sharing practices are followed. I don't want to think that, believe me. It's made me feel physically sick at times. But I have to go where the evidence points me. That's what being logical means.
I sometimes feel that logic doesn't help me out much — it's made me question so many things I'd rather just embrace in a hippy love-fest sort of way. I wish I didn't have to be so conscious all the dang time. But it is what it is, and I can't turn it off.
It's not that I disregard everyone who claims instinct or a mama gut as the basis for doing something. Sometimes I think of instinct, gut feeling, and common sense as being names for the same thing. And I don't discount something that's been reinforced down through hundreds of generations, as many of our attachment ways have been — obviously, that can lend weight toward its being an evolutionary advantage. But I still like such claims to be backed up by evidence, if possible.
I'm also not derisive toward individual people I know who believe in elements of natural family living that I don't hold true — but I am skeptical toward other claims they make.
When we're in our little world, it doesn't matter. We can believe in pixie dust and magical unicorn rainbows and whatever makes us happy. But when we're trying — and many of us are — to reach the outside world with our messages of respectful and attached parenting, then I want them to know we're people they can trust.
That we're people who have a heart … and a brain.
Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival!
Enjoy the posts from this month's Carnival participants!
- Stop Bashing Each Other Already! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses on why for her, “natural parenting" involves more work and why it would be more supportive to all parents if there wasn’t such a great divide based on parenting styles.
- Politically Correct Natural Parenting — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't want parents practicing Natural Parenting to walk on eggshells with other parents.
- Just bought some! — Lindsay at The Life of Lulu Belle just bought some of Kelapo's coconut oil but hasn't had a chance to try it yet.
- Keep Your Labels — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings discusses why she isn't comfortable with the label "natural parent" and urges us all to be a little more respectful and accepting.
- Finding a Happy Parent Place — A "circumstantial loner," Mercedes at Project Procrastinot enjoys her forays in to the Natural Parenting community while learning the ropes of mothering twins.
- On reason, research, and natural parenting — Lauren at Hobo Mama wishes reason and logic were valued more than gut feelings and instinct.
- Is there a No Sleep Solution? — Hannah at Hannahandhorn wonders when she will sleep again.