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The Other Baby Book: An Interview (Plus, a Giveaway!)

Although cloth diapering, breastfeeding, birthing naturally and at home, and feeding kids wholesome, organic foods may have been what everyone was doing a century ago, the parenting picture changed dramatically leading up to the 1980s and 90s -- when I was born ('84), and, throughout my adolescence, when I worked as a babysitter. The families I babysat for were educated, lived comfortably, and hooked their kids up with the best educational toys, the cutest clothes, and so forth, but only one family (out of, like, fifteen) breastfed, none used cloth diapers, and organic food wasn't really a 'thing' then. I have a hippie aunt and uncle who went 'back to the land' and came out ahead of the curve on pretty much every one of these natural parenting approaches, and more. And of course people like Ina May Gaskin and Bill Sears have been doing their thing for decades. But it wasn't until I hit college -- and, again, worked as a babysitter -- that I encountered pretty-much-mainstream families who practiced co-sleeping, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and more. Today, another five years later, natural parenting concepts and practices are even more widely-spread. In some circles, they've even become hip. Getting really good information on natural parenting topics, however, still takes some serious digging.

I do that digging because I'm a mom, and I learned early on that accepting the status quo, in today's world, often sells our kids short. In the beginning, I made some choices I regret not researching further, and then -- mostly because Kaspar had some health/allergy issues going on and regular doctors were of little use -- I learned to really research, to listen to my gut and to advocate for my kid.

Of course, not everyone has the time to read up on all manner of parenting stuff. (I did it on the job and late at night, back when. Now I get to do it for work.) And the thing about the increased interest in natural parenting is that there's a LOT of information out there. And a lot of it conflicts. But it's been shown that parents who have information on natural parenting choices actually, well, use it. I try to keep things simple and represent an accessible approach to natural parenting, on this blog, but I often have to wade through studies, statistics and extremist rants -- on both sides, of any topic -- just looking for the facts. There are also, of course, a ton of great books on any and all natural parenting topics, but I've often wished for one that comprehensively covers the big stuff new moms are concerned about, but that isn't super crazy long… something I could sit down and actually read, rather than use only as a flip-through reference (you know, in those "Why is my kid's poop green?" moments).

As it turns out, some other moms have been wanting this book, too. And they've gone ahead and written it. It's called The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby's First Year, and it covers the topics any expecting, natural-ish mom has probably caught wind of but might be wondering… what they actually mean (elimination communication, anyone?). It's also fun to read. As authors Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam Katz say, "we wrote our book, from the mom-in-the-trenches perspective, because we recognized that an alternative to the “traditional” Western baby book was needed. Most of what’s popular today focuses on training babies to use mainstream commercial tools such as cribs, diapers and baby food, many of which go against babies’ natures – and some of which cause problems down the road, like when it’s time for potty training or adapting kids to healthy grown-up food. Hence, the 'Other' in our title. We cover such topics as sex after birth, Elimination Communication, Baby-led Weaning, and greening your home for the children."

What I like best about this book is that it does the research for you (but points you in the direction of its sources -- and more -- if you're an info-junkie, like I am), and backs up its suggestions with good information, but ultimately respects moms' abilities to make sound decisions for themselves. Instead of insisting that one particular way of doing things is correct, that all families must approach family life in the same way, and that you need to adopt some new agenda and buy some new stuff in order to fall in line, this book presents a pretty calm picture of the first year of parenthood, and hands the reins back to the reader. Megan and Miriam also maintain an informative and fun blog, provide one-on-one coaching and consultations, and host a hopping (drama-free!) Facebook community. I've gotten to know Megan a bit through my parenting writing -- I've hit her up as a source several times -- and I'm excited to introduce her, and Miriam, to all of you. Check out my interview with these awesome mamas, below.

This is THE book I wish I'd had when I was pregnant/brand-new at this, and I'm totally planning to give a copy to every expecting and new mom I know, henceforth. And here's the giveaway part: Megan and Miriam have generously volunteered to give a copy to one of you, too! Leave a comment (thoughts, questions, etc.) below and you'll be entered in the running. I'll select a winner, randomly, next Monday (November 5) and announce the lucky reader here. Good luck!

100% Natural Parenting: What is the book's primary purpose? (What's the #1 thing you want moms who read it to walk away with?)

Megan and Miriam: In all of our research and trial-and-error new parenting experiences, we found a gap in the baby-care resources. We desperately wanted a one-stop shop where we could read about parenting practices that felt most natural for mom and baby to pursue as a team. The Other Baby Book is the product of that realization. The main purpose of writing the book was to offer a simple, accessible resource for those who, like us, want something that feels natural, is grounded in science and and reflects the deep love we feel for our babies. 

At its core, The Other Baby Book is a journey back to basics, so moms and babies can love their first year—together. The book is designed to be a catalyst for reflection and experimentation. As we wrote in our Introduction: 'The goal of our book is not to have you adopt and master our every word. If something doesn’t resonate with you, no matter how many studies back it up, we encourage you to follow Emerson’s lead: “Trust thyself—every heart vibrates to that iron string.” '

100% Natural Parenting: Tell me a little bit about what inspired the book, and what your process was like in writing it.

Megan and Miriam: During pregnancy, as we began to think about birth and parenting, we both felt unsettled when considering some common baby care practices. We knew there must be alternatives--with evidence to support them-- to the cultural “wisdom” of leaving our newborns alone to ensure “independence” or feeding a quick bottle of formula to get the baby “used to it." After our babies were born, we had even more questions. Thankfully, newborns are sleepy and like to nurse, so we had plenty of time to read and investigate. 

Our paths converged a few months after our girls were born, at a local Attachment Parenting mothers' group. We quickly realized we were walking the same journey of questioning the status quo--and we didn't know anyone else traveling with us! By the time our girls were six months old, we’d made some amazing discoveries and wanted to shout our findings from the rooftops: moms need to be empowered!

We thought we'd write a short book about just our experiences with these practices, but as we talked to other moms (we had a panel of over 100 moms who answered daily questions for several months), we realized there was a need for something greater. Something evidence-based. So we teamed up with a slew of experts in their respective fields, and were blown away by the positive response and generosity of gurus like Dr. James McKenna, Nancy Mohrbacher, Dr. Lawrence Cohen, and Attachment Parenting International co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, who wrote our foreword. 

100% Natural Parenting: Why do you think more people are beginning to question the status quo these days?

Megan and Miriam: We have a wealth of information readily available to us--which can be a burden and a blessing. Modern parents have more resources available to us than ever before – medical tools that are acclaimed as modern miracles, and convenience products like cribs that have been accepted as essentials. Yet, as issues like SIDS, formula contamination and the alarming rate of Autism appear in the news, many feel compelled to learn more. While convenience is nice, modern innovations can have unintended consequences, and it’s often up to the parents to do all the sleuthing. We're excited to see new research reports published that not only provide us with more information about the consequences of certain actions, but confirm many benefits of simpler practices, which generations of mamas only knew experientially. Through all our research and interviews, we've discovered a growing number of parents throwing off the reins of modern society and embracing a back-to-basics approach. 

100% Natural Parenting: Is this style of parenting available to everyone, or only to parents with endless supplies of time and money?

Megan and Miriam: We’ve written this book in an accessible and compassionate voice that appeals to moms from all sorts of backgrounds, and with varying degrees of resources. Practices like nursing, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, baby-wearing, elimination communication, and playful parenting actually require far less money, and often less time, than their mainstream counterparts. For example, parents who practice baby-led weaning save money AND time--just offer your baby large chunks of your own (healthy) meal, and forget jarred foods or blending your own foods. We’ve found that this book is the most helpful to those “mainstream” moms who haven’t been exposed to some of these practices.

100% Natural Parenting: What have you learned through this process (whether writing the book, or launching the blog and Facebook community)? 

Megan and Miriam: Moms are brilliant and wonderful. And all are so very different. But one common thread is that we crave support, a safe place to ask questions, and respect when we make the best decisions for our families. We are so proud of our Facebook community, which has truly risen to the occasion of providing this nurturing and informative community. We've had respectful, insightful discussions about circumcision, co-sleeping, vaccinations, and family planning. It's really touched our hearts to see parents consider new ideas, and then watch others come on board to offer support and resources to walk that new path.