Everything I like is natural; everything I don’t like is a cultural construct

green natural and bio sign

If there is one thing that natural parenting advocates are sure about, it is that natural is always best. Evolution (or an intelligent designer, if you prefer) has created perfection and the key to happy, healthy children is wholeheartedly embracing that perfection.

Yet the definition of both natural and unnatural are both strangely elastic and there’s a reason for that. Natural no longer means “as occurs in nature”; it is a substitute for the word “good.” In other words, for natural parenting advocates, everything they like is “natural” whether it actually is or not; and everything they don’t like is “unnatural,” involves “chemicals” or is nothing more than a cultural construct.

I’ve written before about goofy unnatural practices that natural parenting advocates insist are natural. These include:

eating the placenta
lotus birth
tandem nursing

None of these practices are found among indigenous human populations, yet they are beloved of natural parenting advocates everywhere. They are not natural at all, they are cultural affectations of early 21st Century industrialized societies. The same thing applies to cranio-sacral therapy, herbal preparations, supplements and birth affirmations.

Conversely, labor pain, breastfeeding difficulties, and mother-infant separation are deemed cultural constructs, when, in fact, they are entirely natural. Natural parenting advocates are downright laughable in their insistence that labor pain is all in women’s heads, that breastfeeding rates are low because women aren’t “educated,” and that letting a baby cry himself to sleep causes brain damage.

The refusal of lactivists to take women’s breastfeeding difficulties seriously is a particularly egregious example of the tendency to ignore reality in favor of personal beliefs. It makes sense, though, once you realize that natural parenting advocates (and natural health advocates, too) have created a strictly dichotomized world where everything is either natural or unnatural, and where natural is always good and unnatural is always bad. Cognitive dissonance makes it impossible for lactivists to contemplate the high frequency of breastfeeding difficulties because, according to their way of thinking, breastfeeding is natural, therefore breastfeeding is good, therefore breastfeeding works perfectly. When confronted with women who have breastfeeding difficulties, lactivists face two choices. Either they can acknowledge that natural is not always best or they can pretend that women who are having problems with a natural function are doing it wrong or not trying hard enough.

This cognitive dissonance is particularly pronounced when considering childbirth. No matter how much evidence you present to natural childbirth advocates about historical and contemporary high rates of neonatal and maternal deaths, they insist that complications and bad outcomes are rare. Either they could acknowledge that natural is not always best, or they can pretend that complications are rare, or that doctors cause complications, or that there are no complications because everything is just a variation of normal. Clearly they’ve picked the latter strategy.

Natural parenting advocates, in creating an artificial dichotomy between nature and culture, fail to appreciate a central reality of human existence: for human beings, culture IS natural. In many ways, the ability to create and transmit culture is the defining feature of the human species. And not just one culture, but many different cultures whose characteristics can vary widely from group to group. Spoken language is both a natural biological function and a cultural construction with a myriad of variations. Written language has become a natural function over time, so natural that we can identify the specific area of the brain that is responsible for it. Yet the ability to create written language is a cultural achievement of the highest order. Moreover, no one has been complaining that reading and writing are unnatural even though they are undoubtedly cultural constructs.

The ultimate irony of natural parenting is that it is entirely cultural. It is a specific set of behaviors and beliefs chosen by Western, white women of first world countries as a means of creating an identity. It is neither especially natural or especially good; it is simply a matter of personal preference.

111 Responses to “Everything I like is natural; everything I don’t like is a cultural construct”

  1. Sandra Cuenca Señoret
    September 5, 2018 at 10:42 am #

    The natural is always better. The natural has no additives, it has no chemicals … They are beneficial for the body and the organism. Everything I like is also natural products from https://www.bioherbolario.com/
    A greeting.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      September 5, 2018 at 11:02 am #

      Tell me about that natural product with no chemicals…..how about honey? Is honey natural (ha, I almost wrote hunny)? Presumably so.

      So I want to hear how honey has no chemicals.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      September 5, 2018 at 11:56 am #

      Oh really? like these baby teething tablets with belladonna:
      https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/health/homeopathic-teething-belladonna-fda/index.html Belladonna’s other name is Deadly nightshade. It’s perfectly natural and can kill you naturally dead.

    • Madtowngirl
      September 5, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

      “The natural?” Are you a spambot? Because that’s how your comment reads.

      • Heidi
        September 5, 2018 at 1:54 pm #

        I believe she’s what you call a “hunbot.”

      • swbarnes2
        September 5, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

        She’s a spambot. Every post she’s ever made in Discus has a link to hawk her wares. Different links every time too, cause that’s super professional.

  2. Busbus
    October 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    I really like this post – one of my favorites. Concise and very compelling.

    I just found this article about lotus birth: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432412/The-craziest-birthing-fad-lotus-birthing-newborns-left-placenta-attached-10-days.html

    and somehow, I stumbled over the part where, after quoting doctors who said they worry about infection, they quote the mother as saying, ‘Rather than increase it, we believe non-severance actually reduces the risk of infection because there are no open wounds, unlike when the cord is cut and

    It stumped me because of the word “believe”. This is not a question of belief, it is a question of fact. Either this statement is true, or it isn’t. But if you treat science as “just another theory” (or conspiracy theory…) then questions of fact *do* become questions of belief. And you can’t argue with belief, can you?

    • Young CC Prof
      October 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      But belief works really well for neonatal infections, didn’t you know that? Especially if you breast-feed. You just have to believe that your baby is healthy, and then your breasts will instantly produce the right antibodies, which will totally clean up sepsis right on the spot.

    • Mrs Dennis
      October 22, 2013 at 4:33 am #

      Stumped, lol! Cord issues stump me. I latch on to breastfeeding topics. I’m incisive about caesareans. When it comes to PPH, words pour from my mouth like spicket (sic). I like to probe the subject of rectal exams. Anaesthesiology sends me to sleep. Anxiety had me out of bed all night, pacing the pelvic floor. Oh well, you say, at least you weren’t climbing the vaginal walls!

  3. wookie130
    October 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I learned about how “natural” isn’t always the best when I switched my daughter’s baby bath/soap to some Burt’s Bees soap. I guess since the ingredients were “natural”, I thought it would be gentle, and non-irritating and what have you…until the next morning after one use, I find my daughter in her crib, a blotchy, rashy, irritated mess upon waking. She had such a severe skin reaction to that stuff, I had to take her to the pediatrician. She doesn’t have particularly sensitive skin, and I have used this brand of products with no reaction myself, but I guess since it was “natural”, I felt that it could do no harm, and that it would be better for her. Well, once the rash cleared up, I switched back to the old synthetic J&J stuff. No problems since.

    • Young CC Prof
      October 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

      I have extraordinarily sensitive skin, and I’d never touch a product labeled “natural.” They’re inevitably filled with crap, like six different plant extracts. If you ask the seller what’s in it, the response is, “Don’t worry! It’s all natural!” Once a lady at a booth actually grabbed my hand and put lotion on it without asking. Of course I had a reaction.

      I have a very short list of personal care products I can use, mostly Dove brand, and I don’t deviate. It might be boring, but it works.

    • theadequatemother
      October 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

      That natural burt’s bees soap felt like tiger balm to me. I put it on my kiddo, who immediately started wailing and then I tried it on myself. It BURNS!! No rashes…but so irritating. Thank god I didn’t get it in his eyes…

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
      September 5, 2018 at 12:02 pm #

      Many “natural” products have essential oils, as at least some of those are plant based it’s no surprise many people might have reactions. My daughter is allergic to apricots. Even the small amounts in some shampoos make her break out in a severe rash.

  4. Mommy Vee
    October 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! Thank you for writing this! Every time I see a narcissistic baby-rearing post, I’ll be sure to post the link to this article.

  5. kryssiecat
    October 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Oh yes, let’s go back to “natural”. Let’s go to rural parts of Africa where mothers get no prenatal care (that’s “natural” right? let nature take it’s course, don’t interfere) and have “natural” home births and end up with obstetric fistulas. If you don’t know what an obstetric fistula is, check out the wikipedia page for it. I cringe each time I read it. Or better yet, let’s do away with hand washing since it requires “chemicals”. Then we can have a rise in puerperal fever!

    I don’t understand when people started getting the impression that they know more than doctors. Did you spend 10+ years training in medicine? No, but you read a few articles on the internet? Good enough! You don’t need a doctor! This is so ridiculous it’s offensive.

  6. Sue
    October 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    In Oz us pro-science types have been debating the Chiros on the treatment of children and babies, including fresh newborns. The Chiros like to have it both ways:
    – “Natural” birth is good, medicine/hospital/epidural is bad
    – BUT every birth is ”traumatic” to the newborn spine – so every new baby needs ”adjustmen” (and life-long).

    There you have it. How did humanity recover from its birth-induced ”subluxations” before D.D. Palmer came to the rescue?

    • Young CC Prof
      October 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Chiropractic adjustment of newborns. I’ve read some of the stories. *SHUDDER.*

  7. Elle
    October 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Very well said! This is so true, and it is apparent in so many areas as well as birth… food, medicine, child raising, education, etc. People who really believe “natural is always better” really don’t know much about nature.

  8. yentavegan
    October 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Dr. Amy
    You have hit the nail on the head with this one. Cognitive dissonance coupled with ‘herd-think’ mentality made it impossible for me to believe that a healthy normal mother and healthy normal infant couldn’t breastfeed, or would choose not to breastfeed.
    But first of all who died and made me queen of lactation-ville? And since when is it my business!
    This is why I love your blog. You have made me a more balanced, more tolerant human being.

  9. Amy M
    October 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    There’s an ad for a “natural” stomach soother called tummy calm coming up on the right side for me over here. Just this morning I was ranting about homeopathy and snake oil, and evidently frightened a coworker who didn’t realize I felt so strongly about it! The ad says “bye bye upset tummy” Sigh. Just because it says “natural” doesn’t mean it mean it doesn’t have unsafe levels of belladonna in it.

    • SkepticalGuest
      October 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      I was recently rooting through my SIL tea stash to find something herbal before bed (we were visiting, spending the night). There was a tummy soothing tea by one of those woo brands, don’t remember which. I had no illusion that it would help my stomach, which was admittedly a tad upset from the traveling, but I thought it would make a nice caffeine-free bedtime tea.

      That is, until I read the ingredients. I can’t remember if it had rye or barley in it. Either way, that’s GLUTEN, and given that over 1% of the population has celiac (me included!) and at least a few more percent have IBS that isirritated by gluten, I found it rather ironic that anything containing gluten was a main ingredient in a tea marketed to soothe the digestive system.

      Not the brightest bulbs in the chandeliers, these woo folks. My GI doc would never have invented something so idiotic. But then again, he doesn’t need to create snake-oil for a living because he has some actual skills.

      • LibrarianSarah
        October 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        It’s even more ironic considering that gluten-free diets are very popular in woo land for things that have little to nothing to do with the digestive system like autism.

      • Anj Fabian
        October 21, 2013 at 10:56 am #

        Barley most likely. Roasted barley is in a tea (Roastaroma) that I like the taste of – but don’t drink.

    • Burgundy
      October 17, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      2 or 3 years ago, woos in Taiwan (yap, they have that in other countries too) believed that eating Burt’s bee Res-Q ointment would sooth upset stomach. I found out because my friend back home emailed and asked me about it. It stated “not for internal used” on the package in English. Some people ended up in ER because of it.

  10. Shelly
    October 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    I just had a baby 3 weeks ago and I somehow ended up with a woo-infested nurse in labor and delivery. The hospital was overloaded at the time, so they ended up bringing in a nurse from the attached birth center. I knew I was in trouble when she started saying crazy things like, “Your body knows how to have a baby.” She didn’t bother to fix my monitor when we stopped getting the baby’s heartbeat so my baby went about an hour without being monitored at all. She dragged her feet on taking my blood work to the lab, so I never did get pain relief before I delivered. She put the baby on me immediately following delivery because she felt that skin-to-skin contact was more important than suctioning my newborn. Then she proceeded to argue with the resident who wanted to suction because there was meconium present that it was OK because “the baby is breathing”. She also suggested that I have my placenta encapsulated to prevent postpartum depression.

    I gave birth in a hospital because constant monitoring and pain relief are important to me. I can now identify with those women who are disappointed by their child’s birth experience. I feel like this is not what someone should expect when giving birth in a hospital in a major metropolitan area. I would like to write a letter of complaint to the hospital, but I’m not sure how to express my displeasure and explain why I’m not happy.

    • Amy M
      October 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      Write the letter…Mrs W here can help you, I think…
      I am sorry you were treated this way, it isn’t right.

      • October 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

        More than happy to help…to the degree I can. Note: I am a lay person who is very much embroiled in a similar (but more extreme) version of the same tale…

        • Shelly
          October 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

          Found your blog…is there a post that summarizes what happened to you?

        • Amy M
          October 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

          I meant with drafting a letter, since you had experience with that sort of thing, that’s all. 🙂 And you are very eloquent on your blog.

          • October 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

            No apology needed.

    • jenny
      October 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      What you wrote here is pretty clear. You wanted constant monitoring and pain relief, and thanks to the nurse, you got neither. You had additional worry when your baby wasn’t suctioned, and you shouldn’t have had to worry. I’m sorry that happened.

    • Burgundy
      October 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      That is not right. A hospital should be the last place to encounter woos.

    • October 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      Definitely write a letter of complaint. Unless women who have had the woo shoved down their throats speak up – it will go unaddressed. I empathise.

      • October 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        At this point I’d be tempted to go one further and see if you could find a lawyer to sue for negligence in failing to provide you with pain relief during delivery….(but I’m more than just a little fed up with this kind of garbage – and think part of the problem is an inability to demand accountability for breaches of what should be considered human rights in maternity care…)

        • Lizzie Dee
          October 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

          I am also more than a little fed up with it too. In fact, it was my daughter being treated in this way that brought me here, and I absolutely do think it is a human rights issue. Here in the UK, human rights are currently being hotly disputed, and out of idle curiosity, I went and had a look to see which right it might be. I reckon it comes under one of the major ones – the right not to be subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. I think withholding pain relief is or can be a form of torture, and it is degrading to have strongly held wishes ignored.

          I wasn’t pleased to find that the natural brigade have also highjacked the Rights debate. Yes of course any woman has a right to be heard but the idea that it only matters if what you are saying is No to CS/interventions is outrageous. The idea that women who reject natural are deluded and don’t know what is good for them is outrageous

          Suing for negligence is a non starter unless the trauma is devastating – and demonstrable. Writing letters is essential, but hard to be effective. Women tend to get what they want when acting collectively, noisily and sometimes badly – which is what has got the NCB movement where it is. They are a minority who claim to speak for the majority, and they are pretty effective in limiting the human rights of mothers who do not share their views.

          • October 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

            It’s a huge problem – if women can not effectively assert their rights by demanding meaningful accountability when they are violated, how can we expect things to change? I absolutely believe we need to get behind those with claims and support them to avail themselves of the justice system. Last month Birth Trauma Canada launched the Maternity Legal Action Fund to assist me in pursuing my matter – we are currently working to formalize the organizational structure. I am hopeful that with the right organization in place (subject to adequate resources being raised) we can start demanding respect for basic patient rights in maternity care. http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1220439/patient-rights-should-not-end-with-pregnancy

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            October 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

            All I wonder is, where are all the “empowerment” folks on this?

    • Squillo
      October 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      I think you should write exactly as you have here.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      October 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      I am uncomfortable with the nurse publically questioning the Resident. I realize that Residents are learning, and in fact, nurses can provide assistance and advice that can help (my wife the vet relies an awful lot on the advice of techs), but to question the recommendation like that is absolutely inappropriate.

      • dr. luba
        October 18, 2013 at 7:56 am #

        This. It is one thing to disagree with the doctor in private, another to refuse orders IN FRONT OF THE PATIENT. Unless doing what the doctor ordered would have risked the health or life of the patient in question (the infant in this case), it is not the place of this nurse to do this.

        I have nurses who disagree with my orders or recommendations all the time. But the way to do this is to have a conversation away from the patient. And I will often defer to their judgement.

        Suctioning the baby’s mouth is routine, and would have casued no harm. Was it absolutely necessary? Perhaps not. But willfully disgergarding what is most likely the normal protocol is simply wrong.

    • theadequatemother
      October 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      I also hope that you complain. If the main hospital LDR is going to cannibalize nurses from the hospital BC then they need to make sure those nurses are trained and familiar with what to do during deliveries that REQUIRE intervention or that become high risk.

      This nurse just seems like all she can do is hold hands and massage lower backs while crunchy mommas have their “experiences.” I imagine she would have had a significantly hard time coping with an interpartum emergency. Doesn’t inspire confidence. The hospital, if they are going to shift nurses around like that needs to make sure that they can function in both environments. That includes knowing the importance of obtaining a good FHR tracing and sending the f’ing labs on time.

      Plus it’s really unprofessional to foist your personal beliefs onto patients.

      • October 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

        Maybe a complaint to the nurses professional college might help??

      • Just a Guest
        October 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

        I agree that the nurse needs to be trained to handle a high risk birth, but they also need counseling on supporting the mother’s wishes and realizing that the majority of women do want pain relief in labor. There is no reason that a healthy woman should not be able to choose her own pain plan. A question I have received on my survey every time I have used the hospital asked if I felt my providers addressed my pain appropriately. In a first world country, providing quality care should also include managing the patient’s pain. I know some people refuse for birth or even post surgery, but that should only be the patient’s decision to make and should never be with held at the will of the provider, assuming there is no medical reason not to medicate the patient. Any other pain is taken seriously in hospitals. This nurse needs someone to talk to her about such arrogant behavior. She thought she knew better than the mother what was best. I would have been insulted.

    • Rochester mama
      October 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Write a letter to the office of patient affairs, or call the billing number and ask where to address care concerns. Send a letter to that office and a copy to the head of OB and indicte at the bottom of the letter that the other wan CCd. Simply tell your story, exactly as above and name names.

    • moto_librarian
      October 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      FILE A FORMAL COMPLAINT. Your hospital should have a center for patient affairs or an ombudsman. I am so angry for you! I hope that the resident took the baby and suctioned him/her immediately – mec is nothing to mess around with! I hate when I hear about women who are unable to get pain relief because some asshole NCB ideaologue decided to push her agenda. Nurses are there to provide patient care, and IMO, she doesn’t deserve to be one.

    • yentavegan
      October 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Congratulations on the birth of your baby. It is not uncommon to have a less than stellar birth experience.
      I am wondering what your Ob/gyn has to say for him/herself.

    • kumquatwriter
      October 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      I had a very similar experience, but luckily it was limited mainly to my labor nurse. Delayed my epi 2 hours, told me to have her *approve* every time I wanted to hit the “more epi” button, kept pushing for birth balls and the tub even though my birth plan said “epidural now please”

    • ChrisKid
      October 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      Start with your second paragraph, and rework the first a bit, to be just a tad more tactful. I think you’ve explained it very well.

    • anion
      October 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      How awful! I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      By all means write to the hospital. You may even get a survey in the mail soon asking you what you thought/how you felt about your care. Of course let your OB know immediately, if you haven’t already. In addition:

      Write directly to the nursing supervisor. In my experience, all departments have specific supervisors for the nurses (my mother is an RN). You may find you get more attention if you complain to her direct supervisor instead of just Patient Care–though again, do write to them, as well.

      Write to the director of the birth center. S/he ought to do a better job reminding the birth center’s nurses that when they walk into the hospital proper, they need to let go of the “interventions are evil and you can’t have them” mentality. And she ought to know that one of her nurses tried to convince a resident to ignore a meconium-stained baby’s breathing.

      Write to the state nursing board. Your nurse deliberately withheld needed care for no reason, and failed to monitor your baby and tried to impede proper care immediately after birth. Those are serious ethical & procedural violations IMO. I’d file a complaint. That woman was reckless with your baby, and tortured you deliberately, without care or consideration. How dare she do that to you!

      If you don’t hear anything from the hospital, start leaving messages on their Facebook pages or whatever. You don’t have to go into specifics or name the nurse–I wouldn’t, because I don’t do that sort of thing–but you might find that making a public stink gets you the response a private stink wouldn’t.

      And honestly? I’d consider, when you’re feeling better, going down to the hospital again and giving that nurse a piece of my mind, and telling her that she ought to keep her smarmy little opinions out of your care, that you are extremely angry that she took it upon herself to deny you pain relief in violation of your express wishes, that she was reckless and endangered you and your baby, and that she ruined your birth. Don’t yell or make a scene, but it might be worth reminding her, too, that she was not in the birth center and that her job was to provide care, not withhold it.

      And by all means, tell your story. Far and wide.

      Again, I am so sorry that happened to you. It’s shameful and awful.

      • anion
        October 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

        I forgot to say, also find out who is the Head of Obstetrics at that hospital, and send him or her a copy directly, too.

    • Ob in OZ
      October 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Please complain to the hospital. What you have written is fine as is, but the suggestions of others (swapping paragraphs, a bit of editing) is worth it if you have the time. A 3 week old doesn’t allow much “free time”, but you might enjoy the next stage a bit more if you do something about the poor care you received at the hospital. On the technical side, not all babies with meconium should be suctioned. So would need to know specifics before judging the care in that regard. I hate it when there is disagreement in front of patients, but it can be unavoidable in some instances. My anger is the idea that you request pain relief and someone decides for you that you don’t need it and obstucts the process by not getting the bloodwork done. SO please make that a priority in your complaint. The placenta thing makes me vomit on so many levels I don’t have the time to list them, but worth mentioning so they realize how much of a nut this so-called professional is. There are excellent writers in this blog who would I’m sure help you with the letter and the different people to send it to. I am a terrible writer but happy to help as well. Definitely include the Director of OB at the hospital, as 99+% of us OB’s look for this kind of complaint to make things better, as our own opinions fall on deaf ears. Good luck

    • Bombshellrisa
      October 18, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      The nurse manager of the unit MUST KNOW about this. Make sure to write the exact dates and the time that you were attended by. Since she came over from another unit, the manager might not be as familiar with her (oh but she will be NOW!). Nothing worse than a woo infested nurse.

    • Karen in SC
      October 19, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      not getting bloodwork completed? wouldn’t the be a risk if you needed a crash section?

      • Happy Sheep
        October 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

        That is exactly what I was thinking, blood work is needed for so much more than epidurals. By delaying it, she could have put you in very real danger.

        I would also write a letter to the nurse herself, letting her know she has caused you distress and ruined your experience.

    • mel
      October 21, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      BREATHING in meconium is a fucking problem – so no, it’s not okay not to suction because ‘the baby is breathing’

  11. batmom
    October 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    I think sometimes the supposed naturalness of a practice is invoked when there’s no good reason for it to be beneficial. (E.g., if eating the placenta was really a cure-all, we’d have good reason to do it even if our ancestors never discovered it.) But I find calling cultural practices “natural” to be rather offensive, as if people who aren’t upper middle class white women don’t have cultural practices (with all the goofiness that might entail) but just parent their babies in the state of nature (as opposed to say, babywearing because they have to get back to work, or because there’s no safe surface to set down the baby, etc.)

    • Elle
      October 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      Yes, I totally find it offensive too. By saying that one particular practice is “natural,” you’re basically saying that anything different is therefore “unnatural.”

    • Young CC Prof
      October 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Exactly. If I copy your culture, and call it “natural,” what am I saying about you?

      Of course, baby wearing IS common to many cultures all over the planet, but that’s just because it’s practical. Baby needs to be transported, mom needs free hands, tie the baby on to Mom in some fashion.

    • Josephine
      October 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

      I think I’ve truly “healed” over not being able to breastfeed, because when a commenter on that picture referred to it as “artificial piss-water” I cackled like a witch in a Disney movie.

      If my kid is just as smart and healthy as your kid despite a steady first-year diet of artificial piss-water, that doesn’t speak really highly of breastmilk.

      • Wren
        October 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

        Nah, it just shows your kid had better material to start with, as evidenced by a mother who can consider facts properly.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        October 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

        “artificial piss-water”

        If I remember my youth correctly, Pabst Blue Ribbon is authentic piss-water.

        • Josephine
          October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

          Fortunately PBR is considerably cheaper than infant formula. I’ll have to try putting that in my next child’s bottle.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

            And the best part is, it’s not artificial!

            PCM diversion

            Scooter McGavin: “I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast.”
            Happy Gilmore: “You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?”

          • anion
            October 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

            That never gets old.

            (But it’s Shooter McGavin, not Scooter.)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            October 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

            “I’m Shooter….”


          • anion
            October 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

            Did I seriously see a C instead of an H, or did you edit it?

            That’s what I get for reading/typing while talking to my kids about other stuff. Sigh. Sorry.

        • Bombshellrisa
          October 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

          Ah now PBR is the hipster beer of choice

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
            October 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

            So I’ve heard. Ours was Old Style.

        • Ob in OZ
          October 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

          And I can only hirt like once! tough call between PBR and Old Milwaukee

    • jenny
      October 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      I laughed so hard when I saw this because I couldn’t believe someone could be that much of an asshole on such a permanent medium.

    • rh1985
      October 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      I am happy that almost everyone that commented was disgusted.

    • SkepticalGuest
      October 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

      OMG…what an asshole. Some bizarre masochistic instinct made me go check out her blog. OMFG. She had a post about a woman whose baby was born without a nose. Yes, without a nose.

      And the alphaparent’s comment first comment: “How could this little girl ever manage to breastfeed with her mouth as her only airway?”

      I couldn’t make this shit up. Go see for yourself: thealphaparent.com

      • Tim
        October 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

        She’s a rotten, spiteful, awful person.

      • Dr Kitty
        October 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

        Oh dear.
        The mother refused fortifier to help her daughter gain weight. She refused thickener to help with reflux.
        Even though the baby found it easier to drink EBM from a bottle than to BF, the mother felt that it was more important that she *nurse* than *feed* her baby.

        I’m glad that baby T’s mother is fighting her daughter’s corner, and she clearly loves her deeply.
        I’m not glad that her goal of exclusive breast feeding (just from breasts) apparently trumped all other concerns.

        She must have been very difficult for the NICU team to deal with.

        • Tim
          October 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

          5$ says someone somewhere on a BF board has said that in a non-satirical fashion.

        • Guesteleh
          October 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

          Did anyone else get the sense that the mother has no idea how ill her daughter was? Also that her daughter isn’t out of the woods by a long shot. The fixation with breastfeeding instead of being worried about her daughter’s life threatening condition freaked me the hell out.

    • I don't have a creative name
      October 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      This is comedy gold. Lack of self-awareness, anyone?

      Time to go pick up my combo fed boy from school. He’s miles ahead of his class in math and reading. If only I hadn’t used the “excuse” of low supply and denied him those extra IQ points; perhaps he’d be in college already.

  12. October 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    This is why I love being an economist – a central theme in economics is recognizing that people derive their happiness from their preferences and that preferences are heterogenous. The only thing that everyone wants to do is maximize their own personal satisfaction. This is why, as an economist, I have a great disdain for things that restrict informed, free, choice – ie. “promoting normal birth”, “breast is best”, etc. etc. Further, I see a huge toll on women who do not agree or who would make different choices – I think there’s a real (and unneccessary) guilt associated with not breastfeeding, with having an epidural, with working out of the home, with choosing a cesarean. It is all really rather disempowering, and awful.

  13. Emily Sutherlin
    October 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Apparently you are not an anthropologist. ALL of those “goofy practices” have been practiced by other cultures, in one way or another.

    • auntbea
      October 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      Really? Please educate us!

    • Burgundy
      October 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      I can pointed out several practices were originated from my culture. HOWEVER, most highly ‘educated” women back home don’t even do that anymore. I was very surprised to find white rich America women misinterpreted the old practices that I heard as urban legends back home.

      • Burgundy
        October 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

        Placenta consuming for one, it was originally used as sex pill.. not for mom’s milk.

        • Anj Fabian
          October 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

          Is anything NOT used as a sex pill?

          I could probably google “lion gall bladder” & “aphrodisiac” and get a hit.

          • Burgundy
            October 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

            I once read through a 3000 years old Chinese herb book, a very few thing does not use as sex pill.

          • jenny
            October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

            I guess human nature never changes, eh?

          • Burgundy
            October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm #


          • The Computer Ate My Nym
            October 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

            I can point you to a failed blood pressure medication that’s a genuine sex pill, but it’s not exactly natural (meaning no rhinos died to create it).

          • Tim
            October 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

            They use sildenafil to treat pulmonary hypertension in pediatrics all the time, it’s not failed

          • theadequatemother
            October 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

            we use it for adults with PHTN too – both chronically by the respirologists and in cardiac surgery/ CSICU and the ICU.

          • Tim
            October 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

            Doubly not failed! I didn’t know if it was a peds only thing – I just know that we know a ton of babies on viagra 🙂

          • theadequatemother
            October 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

            as long as they don’t have priapism…that can be awkward at play group.

          • Tim
            October 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

            honest to god spit take.

          • araikwao
            October 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

            Did you happen to see the link to 2012 Pediatrics article that Karen (in SC, I think) posted recently? It was suggesting an association between maternal fever secondary to epidural, and neonatal seizures? I have si ce tried to find her post again, but it’s probably buried beneath the many troll-infested threads. Anyhow, was hoping you would weigh in!

          • theadequatemother
            October 17, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

            I didn’t see the comment but I did receive an email and this is my reply…it’s not entirely comprehensive because I don’t have fantastic knowledge of all the literature in this area (epidural fever and consequences)…so I’m doing some reading:

            I’ve seen that study before and just reread it. I haven’t poked around in the other literature on this topic.

            Fever is bad for neonatal brains. Epidurals can cause fever. Perhaps we should be quicker to deliver in the presence of epidural fever but I don’t know enough about the entire body of literature in this area to really make a learned pronouncement at this time.

            Epidurals don’t cause seizures if fever is absent. Moms who got fevers were older and had longer labours. The mechanism of epidural related fever is unknown. Interestingly fever is NOT a known complication of epidurals for postoperative pain management. Just what is it about a labouring woman that leads to fever? Is it the amount of physical work involved? The altered physiology? The progesterone? I wish we knew.

            Not that this helps you very much…but I’m zonked out on turkey right now. I guess I have more reading to do!

          • araikwao
            October 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

            Thanks, I read the article fairly quickly (while dreamfeeding my son – don’t tell LLL on me, now!) but I don’t know enough yet to know whether it is a finding to guide practice, or just for NCBers to have a field day with.. Appreciate your input!

          • KarenJJ
            October 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

            It’s a weird thing but I have a periodic fever syndrome and had a fever flare after my last birth. My obgyn thought it might be to do with hormonal and immune system shifts after birth.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym
        October 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

        Where are you from (if you don’t mind my asking)?

        • Burgundy
          October 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

          Taiwan. Due to the history, my ancestors were from China, but we had a Dutch great great great great Grandma, (it was a shared colony between Dutch and Spanish). My grandparents speaks Japanese (Japan colony for 50 years), Then Chinese took over 100 years ago. I moved to the State when I was a teenager. So you can image my “WTF” when the rich White women do things that I consider as old myth.

          • jenny
            October 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

            Similar feelings here. My mom is Korean, and many of the bed-sharing, baby carrying, breastfeeding stuff lionized by natural parenting movement is stuff they did back in the day because they didn’t have two baekwon to rub together. These practices relied on having an enmeshed, group-centered extended family structure, limited value of personal autonomy, and oh yeah beating the kids was totally cool. I don’t understand the drive to replicate some of these behaviors in a totally different cultural environment, and assign them moral value as though doing anything else is lesser. And I did do these things as part of my parenting toolbox I inherited from my family….and it was so damned hard to do without the support of the extended family structure that I am cautious about doing them again in the same way.

          • Burgundy
            October 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

            I can only speak for my culture. But honestly, the “lionized” stuff were done in the lower economic group in the old days. The wealthy family hired “milk mom” (like wet nurse) to take care the baby. In the old days, a mom had to go back to either house works or field/farm works after the baby is one months old. Baby carrying was the most practical option to do both works and looking after the baby. In tradition, we didn’t name the baby after he/she was 100 days old because a lot of time, babies did not make it to that far. Of course we don’t keep that tradition in the modern days because we expect the baby to live to adulthood.

          • jenny
            October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

            That’s a good point, Burgundy – so many of these traditions in so many places (although every place is different) were for the poor, not the wealthy. Along similar lines, we have a 100 day celebration. It’s a quaint tradition now but my mom says it used to be a big deal to live that long.

          • Burgundy
            October 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

            It was. The friend and family would give little baby boys gold (not so much for the girls). The parents in turn gave out sticky rice and eggs dye in red color. Now we celebrate at 1 month old mark and baby received $ in the red envelops and little gold charms.

    • Elizabeth A
      October 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

      Emily, I am dying for specifics here. Please tell me – what culture(s) did placentophagy originate in, and under what circumstances? How about lotus birth?

      I have long believed that water birth originated among hippies with good access to indoor plumbing, and water heaters. I would be very interested in evidence to the contrary.

    • Josephine
      October 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      *Citation needed.

      • Playing Possum
        October 18, 2013 at 3:13 am #

        Yup. Cite us up please!

        Never mind the oral bioavailability of all the “feelgood hormones” in placental tissue is unhelpfully low. Sublingual, maybe, but I’m sure even the hardest core crunch momma warrior would baulk at holding slabs of meat under her tongue for long periods. And do they really think that encapsulation or cooking, followed by acid and protease digestion in the stomach will leave these molecules intact?

        Seriously. Science works. Deal with it, hippies.

    • Guest
      October 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

      The only placentaphagy I have ever heard of involves other people eating a mother’s placenta. Not a mother eating her own placenta.

    • KarenJJ
      October 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      ” Placentophagia is observed more routinely among captive chimps and bonobos but apart from recent “new age” contexts is almost never seen in humans, and reports of placentophagia from the ethnographic literature are exceedingly rare. Across human cultures, the placenta tends to be disposed of by burial or some other means in a process that may or may not have ritual significance. ”

      How many anthropologists have you read that haven’t been quoted out of context on some “natural” website?


  14. Amy M
    October 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    I like the part where they have this idea that all /prehistoric societies, and all societies that are non-Western did/do things the same way. As though there is or was only one culture before Western culture (and there’s only one Western culture too! Live in New York and then live in Texas and tell me those are the same culture.) came along and wrecked their wonderful utopia.

    They never take into account different continents, climates, environments and whatever else shapes human cultures, or the fact that cultures change over time. How about that neighboring cultures influence each other? Or that sometimes one group decides they hate their neighbors, kill them all, and wipe their culture off the face of the map? Genocide is nothing new, so there must have been cultures in the past where they practiced “natural” parenting and “natural” living, and either wiped out their neighbors, were wiped out by their neighbors. Also, they could have assimilated with varying neighbors, gone imperialistic and imposed their culture to a wider area or simply changed their culture with the changing environment.

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