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Natural Parenting: Back to Basics in Infant Care
Regine A. Schön, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. (Corresponding author)
Maarit Silvén, Department of Psychology, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.

 
Abstract:
This review examines an age-old approach to parenting recently rediscovered in Western industrialized societies and known by names such as natural parenting, attachment parenting, and instinctive parenting. Its leading principle is utmost sensitivity to the child’s innate emotional and physical needs, resulting in extended breastfeeding on demand, extensive infant carrying on the caregiver’s body, and cosleeping of infant and parents. The described practices prevailed during the evolutionary history of the human species and reflect the natural, innate rearing style of the human species to which the human infant has biologically adapted over the course of evolution. An overview of research from diverse areas regarding psychological as well as physiological aspects of early care provides evidence for the beneficial effects of natural parenting. Cross-cultural and historical data is cited to reveal the widespread use of the investigated parenting style. It is concluded that the described approach to parenting provides the human infant with an ideal environment for optimal growth both psychologically and physiologically. It is yet to be determined how much departure from this prototype of optimal human parenting is possible without compromising infant and parental wellbeing. The review also invites a critical reevaluation of current Western childrearing practices.
 

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Keywords:
natural parenting, attachment parenting, infant carrying, breastfeeding, bed sharing, prototype of optimal human parenting.

 
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