2009-11-12 / Local & State

Pa. Moms Follow Holistic Approach To Parenting

By GERI ANNE KAIKOWSKI

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) – Becoming a parent for the first time three years ago, Kim Murphy tried to do everything the way she was raised by her parents and from what she read in pediatricians handbooks, but it just didn’t feel right.

“I bought all the things you were supposed to like a crib, playpen and swing set,” she recalled. “You were supposed to put the child down and have it just be a part of your life. But it just didn’t feel right to me.”

Nor did the fact that her infant daughter spent her first night home from the hospital crying in her crib.

What did feel right to Murphy and her husband, Tim, was listening to their own instincts. For the new mother, that meant bringing Gwen into her arms and later her bed, where the infant slept soundly for 12 hours.

“With our second daughter, Arden, my husband and I did the bed sharing, tried cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding and I pureed all the food,” said Murphy, of Forty Fort.

Murphy soon realized that neither way of parenting was wrong, but that there were probably more parents out there just as confused and as eager to try new ways of raising their children.

She went online and discovered the Holistic Moms Network, a nonprofit organization connecting parents who are interested in holistic health.

The mother of two daughters already had formed a small holistic group with about 20 friends called Mommas LC, which stands for Mommas around Luzerne County. “We just kind of did play dates and got together and talked,” she said.

Today, Murphy is eager to allow other moms to follow their similar instincts as she forms a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network.

“When you first hear the holistic term, you get scared,” admitted co-leader Christina Nichols of Honesdale. “I was always interested in green living, but I became even more interested after the birth of my first child. We really distanced ourselves away from the Earth, and I wanted to return to the natural way of doing things.”

Nichols – who with her husband, Jason, is the mother of sons Josh, 6, and Orion, 2 – is pregnant with her third child. She recently began home schooling her oldest son and is eager to learn from other moms who have already taught their children.

“It’s important when you parent outside the mainstream and you’re just learning, to talk to others who have had similar experiences,” she said. “Everyone has been at that same point of beginning at one time or another. You can only read about a topic or learn online so much. It’s really so beneficial to actually talk to and learn firsthand from someone who has been there. It can be so reassuring.”

The national organization offers advice on a variety of topics, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, natural childbirth, healthy eating, positive discipline, alternative medicine and all aspects of green living. Members say they have discovered natural remedies for their children’s asthma and fever and tried recipes for making their own non-toxic cleaners.

Murphy said the main focus of the Wyoming Valley Holistic Moms Network is making informed decisions. “We don’t judge anyone,” she said. “We respect other people’s opinions. Remember, there is always a reason why somebody does something.”

As a matter of fact, the mother admits that even she has learned to be less judgmental over the years. “I remember how I used to get bothered by women breastfeeding in public,” she said. “I never thought of it as a woman feeding her child. Now I see it differently.”

Murphy encourages mothers to look at all the information available regarding healthier living and parenting, especially with controversial topics like childhood vaccinations. Her own personal preference is delayed vaccinations. Daughter Gwen was first vaccinated at age 1 after Murphy and her husband real ized that most children today were getting more immunizations than they had as children. “But we won’t tell you whether we’re for or against it,” said Murphy. “We encourage you to look at all the information and go with your gut.”

It’s what Nichols calls a “buffet approach” to learning. “You take what appeals to you and you leave what doesn’t,” she said. “There is a wide variety of items available and there is so much to learn.”

As her daughters, ages 3 and 1, grow older, Murphy’s focus is expanding into having them stay away from fast food in favor of healthier fare.

The mother admits she was skeptical about chiropractic medicine, especially for children, until she met a member who specializes in pediatric chiropractics. Today, both her young daughters get adjustments to help them with earaches and other maladies.

“We are not against mainstream medication, but we are open to other options,” said Murphy. “We have some members who are totally holistic and some who just want information first.”

While most members are the parents of newborns and children up to age 10, some members have adult children. There are even grandparents and aunts and uncles who have joined.

The Holistic Moms Network first organized in New Jersey in 2003. There are now about 150 chapters across the U.S.

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