Lessons from the Past – Realities of the Present

My brother recently sent me an article about research from Notre Dame professor Darcia Narvaez that suggests “modern” parenting practices are bad for babies.  The professor believes feeding babies infant formula, living apart from extended family, sleep training, choosing medicated childbirth, etc hinder the moral development of children. In short, she says that our modern practices produce high-stress kids with less empathy for others.

In many ways, I agree with what much of the professor says.  Its no secret that I value a close-knit family structure and intuition-based natural parenting practices.  I breastfeed my kids for more than a year, I chose totally natural childbirth, I have my infants sleep in a co-sleeper right next to me.  I absolutely believe in much of the wisdom our ancestors passed on to us.

However, I worry that research like this leaves many parents feeling isolated.  Not all families can afford to have one parent home with the kids.  Some women have no choice but a C-section (I’ve never known a woman to choose a surgical birth!).  Sometimes extended family lives thousands of miles away.  Modern life is presenting us with a new set of choices never faced in the history of mankind.

I think we have a tendency to put the past on a pedestal.  It is important to remember that with modern day advances came wonderful triumphs and victories.  Childbirth used to be the #1 killer of young women.  A large percentage of children did not survive past their 5th birthday.  Women were not allowed to vote, hold office, make decisions for their families.  I sure am glad we left all of that in the past.

I would encourage all families to take what they can from this research.  If you live far from family, create your own network of reliable close friends who can help support you.  If you have a c-section, maybe you need plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your newborn.  If breastfeeding isn’t a feasible option, make bottle feeding sweet and special with dim lights and quiet music and extra snuggles.  Just because we live in a modern world doesn’t mean we should ignore the lessons of the past…but it also doesn’t mean we need to ignore the realities of the present.

If you’d like to read the article, check it out here: http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/sbt-notre-dame-professor-modern-parenting-bad-for-babies-20130111,0,5227175.story


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