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    Natural Parenting, Following Our Instincts, and Keeping Our Son Intact

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
    I took the one less traveled by,
    and that has made all the difference.

    ~Robert Frost (from The Road Not Taken)


    Parenting naturally means following your natural instincts when it comes to parenting. Over the years for us, parenting naturally has meant co-sleeping in a family bed, breastfeeding, delayed/selective vaccinations, baby led weaning, using gentle discipline, eating natural, organic, vegetarian foods, and following our childrens' lead when it comes to education. But more important than the whats in natural parenting is the whys: listening to what we know, what we feel, naturally about our children – following that innate urge we have to protect: to nurture them, to keep them safe, away from pain, out of harm’s reach. It is keeping our babies close to us, feeding them when they root, responding when they cry – realizing that even before they know how to speak they are communicating with us – and doing what we can to help them get comfortable again.  This instinct is natural and primitive; keeping our babies safe keeps our human species alive.


    But following our instincts, particularly in this time of super-access to information, can sometimes be difficult. Often we’re led to believe something we read or hear – even if it goes against what we might feel deep down inside.  Maybe it’s because a doctor or our mother or a friend we trust said it; or it's something we read in a magazine or book or on a website we respect.  It’s a challenging task to try to extract bits of the mass amounts of information available to us, balance it with our own feelings, beliefs, and understanding of the world, and then, take that mix and apply it to the sensitive, complex, and sometimes confusing realm of parenting; all without losing sight of the very important natural instincts and sense of rightness, justness, and goodness towards our children that we all develop when we become parents. Our own sense of protection, justice, and connection to our children can be lost in the noise of what everyone else says & thinks. We may come to feel that our instinctual reactions towards our children are less than necessary to care for them because it may fall outside of the cultural norms of the day (think things like: letting babies cry it out or sleep completely separately). Our instinct can be drowned out when we’re constantly told, “You’re doing it wrong”.

    newborn baby
    (Photographer: Kathy Phillips     Source: Flickr) 

    This is a dangerous trend, because instinct is the key to raising comfortable, confident, secure, healthy children.  Without it, our children can be at risk; at the very least, without following our instincts, we put our children at a disadvantage.  As parents, we need to learn to tune more clearly into our own natural nurturing skills, and turn down the volume on everything else; to trust ourselves, to take the road less traveled, even when it’s difficult to do so…


    When my son was born early, our natural parenting instinct kicked into full gear. Our baby was tiny. He needed protection. Against the policy of the hospital, we insisted he be put on my chest while the doctors were sewing up my birth incision. Against the urging of the nurses, we insisted that he not be separated from us for testing. When he developed severe jaundice, we insisted on a biliblanket instead of the traditional method of incubator light treatment, so that I could continue to keep him skin to skin and nursing around the clock, and could bring him home from the hospital earlier. We also insisted that he not be circumcised.


    Why did we insist on leaving our son intact – a decision “less popular” in our area? Why did we choose to say “No” to the nurses and doctors in the hospital who asked (several times) if/when we’d be circumcising? Why did we choose not to circumcise even when people reminded us that he won’t “look like his daddy”, or regaled us with stories of people who had to have a circumcision later in life because of an infection, or scared us with concerns that it’s “hard to clean” (Which, its not; it’s actually very easy. See here.)?


    Well, there are two answers.

    1) The information-laden one, in which we read and studied and looked at all of the reasons why circumcision is not necessary: 

    -         The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend routine infant circumcision (in fact many health organizations around the world do not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure)

    -         The foreskin serves several vital purposes like immunological defense and sexual function (Dionna at Code Name Mama does an excellent job of detailing each of the functions the foreskin)

    -         Circumcision is a painful surgical procedure which brings with it (just like any surgery), the possibility of infection, blood loss, and even death

    -         Circumcision can negatively affect normal sleep patterns of the newborn, bonding of the newborn with his mother, and difficulties breastfeeding (due to the fact that many babies react to the intense pain by “shutting down” or going into a post-traumatic state of shock)

    -         Circumcision is not the norm in the rest of the world, and is fast becoming not the norm in the United States (in 2009 the circumcision rate in the United States was only around 33%).



    2) The instinctual one, in which we just did what felt right:

    -         We didn’t want to hurt our baby.

    -         Our newborn trusted us completely to protect him, nourish him, and keep him safe and healthy.

    -         Our baby was born perfect. He didn’t need elective cosmetic surgery.

    -         Our son's body belongs to him; it isn't ours to alter.  


    Circumcising him, which would have meant exposing him to severe pain and permanent alterations to the most sensitive part of his body (and in doing so taking away his right to control the look and function of his own body), would have violated his trust in us, and gone against our mama- & papa-bear instinct to protect him and keep him from harm.  Above all else, even beyond the information reassuring us that it was the right decision, and even amidst the people telling us it would be a harder row to hoe, we listened most clearly to our instinct: protect our baby.  I am grateful we chose that path, I hope that others will choose the same path as the tide of infant circumcision is changing and more children are kept intact because parents are listening to their instincts. 


    It isn't easy to listen to our instincts, and we don't always get it right.  Sometimes we make choices based on the information we have at the time, and come to realize later, we wish we'd made a different choice.  It happens in parenting, and in life, but I try not to dwell on things I wish I did differently as a parent.  Instead, I strive to continually work on learning to trust myself to continue to make more right decisions than wrong ones when it comes to my children.  When the noise of the information of the world gets loud, I am learning to lower the volume, and tune more clearly into what my instinct is telling me is right for my own children, and I try to walk that path, even if it is the more difficult one. I’m not talking about completely ignoring advice or facts or studies or opinions, or eschewing research or medical advice.  I am saying that before we make important decisions affecting our children, particularly permanent ones, take that information in and measure it critically against the most important tool we have in our toolbox to care for our children – our instinct.  No, it’s not always easy! But then, the things that are most difficult are usually the things most important; most worth doing.


    Here’s to trusting your instincts, and taking the road less traveled.



    For more information on infant circumcision please read:



    Ten Reasons NOT to Circumcise Your Baby Boy



    The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys:



    Where is My Foreskin? The Case Against Circumcision



    A Case Against Circumcision:



    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

    This list will be updated November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

    Attachment/Responsive Parenting

    Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

      • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
      • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
      • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
      • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
      • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

    Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

    Holistic Health Practices

    • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

    Natural Learning

    • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
    • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
    • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
    • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
    • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

    Healthy Living

    Parenting Philosophies

    Political and Social Activism

    Posted: Nov 08 2010, 23:41 by kelly | Comments (20) RSS comment feed |
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    Kellie United States said:

    KellieInstinct is so vital in parenting!  You are 100% correct.  My daughter was born at 31 weeks and has had all sorts of fun experiences, especially medical ones, throughout her short 4 years, and I have found that following my instincts about what is right for *her* has never lead me astray.  When I've gone against my better judgement in allowing different tests and treatments, it has never been profitable.  But I have to remember that while doctors often know their textbooks and their case studies, they do not know my daughter nearly as well as I do, and they cannot guess for her as accurately as I can.

    # November 09 2010, 10:24

    Kellie United States said:

    KellieInstinct is so important in parenting!  I completely agree.  My daughter was born at 31 weeks and she has had lots of adventures, particularly medical ones, in her short 4 years of life.  I've found that when I have followed my instincts about what was right for *her* it has always served me well, but it has never been profitable to let a doctor make a decision for her that I wasn't comfortable with.  If I hadn't relied on those instincts, and honed them, I may not have had them when I needed them most for her!

    # November 09 2010, 10:27

    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama United States said:

    Dionna @ Code Name: MamaThanks so much for sharing your own story, Kelly. Circumcision is such a touchy subject, and I think it's mainly because of your second point - because it goes against every parent's instinct to purposefully hurt their baby. Thankfully, more and more parents are realizing that the traditional "reasons" given for circumcision are just plain wrong. Thank you for helping share the truth.

    # November 09 2010, 12:07

    Rachael @ The Variegated Life United States said:

    Rachael @ The Variegated LifeKelly, your first paragraph here is as beautiful a summary as any of what I hope we are doing with our little Critter — it always helps to see it put so well. I like your use of the word "instinct," too. I guess that's why we came to a similar decision with our son, despite doing apparently much less research than you did.

    # November 09 2010, 15:22

    BluebirdMama Canada said:

    BluebirdMamaThis is so true and I think the sad part is that so many of us have completely lost touch with our intuition when it comes to parenting (or anything medical). We are so used to being told that doctors, experts, authors etc. know better than we do (for a couple hundred years) that it is quite the process to turn down the volume and actually hear our own voices.

    # November 09 2010, 15:26

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama United States said:

    Lauren @ Hobo MamaWhat a beautifully written piece! I love how you've compiled so many helpful links and hope your article speaks to parents who are researching the subject and considering what choice to make. I'm glad it's becoming less popular to circumcise, so eventually we won't be the odd ones and parents who feel pressured into circumcising when otherwise they wouldn't (or who never consider the subject at all because it's so mainstream) will be able to stop and think more clearly.

    # November 09 2010, 16:57

    Amber Canada said:

    AmberThat's too bad that one "no thanks" to circumcision wasn't enough. In my case, my midwives asked once during pregnancy, and that's it as far as I can remember.

    Repeated asking, if you were on the fence, might make you reconsider your choice. While I don't have super-strong feelings on circumcision, I also don't think the medical community should be pushing it in any way.

    # November 09 2010, 19:18

    Michelle @ The Parent Vortex Canada said:

    Michelle @ The Parent VortexI totally agree that intuition is a key part of successful parenting.  I think that many people have lost touch with their intuition today, not just parents.  When we do become parents I think it's easier to get back in touch with our intuitive selves because the instinct to care for and protect our babies is louder and clearer than usual.  Thanks for putting together the information on circumcision.  It's great to see that the rate is coming down in the US.

    # November 09 2010, 23:05

    Betsy Canada said:

    BetsyGood for you! We didn't encounter an iota of pressure to circumsize. But it's funny how just a generation ago, all boys were rcumsized without it ever being questioned. I hope that when my son becomes a father he won't even know what circumsision means.

    # November 10 2010, 00:01

    Dagmar Bleasdale United States said:

    Dagmar BleasdaleThanks you so much for this wonderful article! We totally agree on things. We didn't circumcise either, there was no way I would have put him through that plus why would I cut my perfectly perfect little boy? My husband thankfully didn't insist that he looks like him, he got educated and totally agreed to not circumcise. It's really a matter of education nowadays (okay, if you are Jewish maybe you are having a harder time to not do it, I get that).

    We whisked L out of the hospital after only seven hours so we could escape all the interventions, shots, and could bond and learn to breastfeed on our own terms. Was the best decision. :) He's still breastfeeding for comfort at 4 years old. We love attachment, gentle parenting, and I write about extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping all the time.

    Dagmar's momsense

    # November 10 2010, 11:28

    Goofy Mama United States said:

    Goofy MamaNicely said. And what a plethora of information you have! You are an excellent resource.

    # November 10 2010, 19:28

    Stacy (Mama-Om) United States said:

    Stacy (Mama-Om)I agree -- though I often use the word intuition in place of instinct. Same thing... that heart-feeling, gut-feeling, balanced sense. I am learning ever-more about accessing that in my own life, and it feels really good!

    I have two intact sons. :)


    # November 10 2010, 22:18

    Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children United States said:

    Mandy @ Living Peacefully with ChildrenI love the connection you made between following our instincts and not harming our children. I have 4 intact children - 2 of them boys. I would never allow someone to do that to them.

    # November 11 2010, 08:56

    NavelgazingBajan United States said:

    NavelgazingBajanMy son is also intact. It's funny how those who always give me these dire warnings about the risks of him staying intact haven't really done any research on the topic at all.

    # November 12 2010, 11:06

    amoment2think.wordpress.com said:

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    # November 12 2010, 11:27

    Amy United States said:

    AmyThank you for an informative, thoughtful, and heartfelt piece on circumcision and trusting yourself as a parent.  I hope it touches parents in the decision making process :)

    # November 13 2010, 01:10

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    KellyNaturally.com said:

    trackback6 Reasons to Think Twice Before Circumcising Your Baby Boy

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