First published in JUNO magazine, Issue 28, Summer 2012; http://www.junomagazine.com/
Stone Age Parenting
Our babies are born with the same desires as a baby born in Stone Age times. It is our environment and culture which has so radically changed, affecting how we parent our children today. Living in a fast-paced, materially and technologically driven age we need more than ever to listen to our inner voice, for the sake of our children’s and our own wellbeing.
I am bringing up my son, Ewan, in the 2010’s in modern day Britain. However, in as many ways as possible I parent him as our Stone Age ancestors once did. This includes baby-wearing, sustained breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, bed-sharing, using natural toiletries and medicines and attempting elimination communication (also called potty or natural toilet training).
My journey to attachment style parenting was gradual. I began to question culturally acceptable parenting practices, such as feeding our babies artificial milks and baby sleep training programmes. Jean Liedloff’s ‘The Continuum Concept’ taught me a great deal. I realised our parenting instincts lay buried deep within us. We are inundated with confusing, contradictory advice and pressures to consume, from medical, childcare and government experts, the multimedia and big corporations. We no longer trust or communicate with ourselves or our babies.
A Stone Age parent made a new sling for their newborn baby. Today we acquire huge amounts of material goods in preparation for our new arrivals. Yet do we know how to parent? Our ancestors were in close proximity to their children at all times, carrying and feeding them almost continually when young and sleeping and working alongside them. They lived sustainably and in harmony with nature.
With the onset of industrialisation we started separating home and work, with it our babies from ourselves. Life in continuum with our children and nature was broken. Formula milks, cots, prams, baby food jars, dummies, nappies and day nurseries became popular. These changes have accelerated as we live in a more electronic, multi-media age. We have lost sight of what our babies actually need, not baby monitors and beautiful nurseries, but constant physical and emotional human contact from a caregiver(s) who can interpret and respond to his/her needs.
By being open to and accepting Ewan’s needs I have learnt to trust him and myself. I now know that baby-wearing soothes and calms him, that bed-sharing ensures a full, stress-free, nurturing night’s sleep for the whole family. That sustained breastfeeding provides Ewan with antibodies and nutrition as well as valuable bonding and reassurance as he ventures further into the world. The list goes on…
We have much to celebrate about modern life, yet much to learn from the wisdom of our ancestors. The further removed we are from our babies the further removed we are from ourselves and our planet. It is time to rediscover how we parented in Stone Age times, for the good of all of us.
The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. Jean Liedloff. Penguin Books.