Can all-natural parenting be harmful to your children?
Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's healthy for your family.

Many parents want to bring their children up as naturally as possible. Having home births, breastfeeding exclusively until baby shows readiness for solids, baby wearing, cloth nappies, organic food and so on. I’m a breastfeeding, baby-wearing, baby-led weaning mother myself, but there are a few things to be aware of in the quest to do things naturally.  

What is natural?

Some issues are personal choices and don’t affect others.  If you choose to do elimination communication or use cloth nappies you’re doing something positive for the environment, your choices benefit others. The choice to eat foods that are close to their natural state (avoiding processed foods as far as possible) and to exercise have been mainstream recommendations for many generations, the value of doing that is not disputed.  

However, some choices can harm others or be harmful to your child.

The naturalistic fallacy

This essentially means not applying common sense – deciding that if something is natural it’s good and if something is not natural it’s bad.  That is however a little simplistic.

There are a few other things that are natural too – cord prolapse during birth which is a medical emergency which can result in oxygen deprivation for baby and lead to brain damage, ectopic pregnancies which can be fatal. Diseases such as measles, polio, meningitis and diphtheria, all of which can cause serious ongoing problems for life if a baby or child survives them. Being eaten by predators is also quite natural.

Some things aren’t natural

Some of the things touted as being all natural aren’t actually all that natural.

Your pet dog for example – definitely not natural, bred with human intervention.  There are also numerous hybrid fruits that have been around so long we’ve forgotten that a bit of splicing took place – youngberries, grapefruit, and naartjies and even orange carrots.   

Am I harming my baby by using things that aren’t natural?

No, if you find commercial bum cream more moisturising than coconut oil, which tends to sit in a layer on top of the skin, by all means, use what works for you.  If you’re being told that injecting a tiny amount of an inactive virus into baby to stimulate baby’s own immune response to create antibodies to a virus is harmful to baby – think of how much more harmful the actual diseases are (and remember that natural immunity, which is no different to immunity from a vaccine, only occurs after you have had the disease meaning being seriously ill and risking death and permanent damage as opposed to the very tiny risk of even a mild side effect from a vaccine.  Vaccine injuries happen, but the risk is tiny).  

Remember, that car you drive around in, the computer you’re using to read this, the phone you’re using to take photos – not natural.  It is also quite safe to go on eating naartjies if you want to, and of course patting your dog.  

Am I harming my baby by using natural products

Some people enjoy making their soaps themselves or using breastmilk to make a moisturising cream for baby and it isn’t a problem, but there are some natural products that can cause problems – amber teething necklaces are not proved to have any effect on teething pain and pose a choking and strangulation risk.

Not vaccinating leaves your own child at risk but also leaves others who are too young to be vaccinated or have a reason they can’t be vaccinated at risk. 

Common sense can go a long way to not being taken in by scare tactics about things that aren’t natural or sales pitches about things that are. 

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Are there natural products that you have found not to be quite as effective as sales pitches and testimonials led you to believe?

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