Amy Suarez | |
No docs, teachers, social workers

California March 2nd — Redlands mom Lara Carlos is part of a parenting movement that bucks the mainstream.

Her three children, ages 7, 6 and 4, have never touched fast food. They were breastfed well into toddlerhood, carried close to their mom in a sling and are home schooled.

The Carlos kids, whose father, Kerry, is an acupuncturist, have never been seen by a medical doctor or taken antibiotics. Discomfort from illnesses is eased with herbs and chiropractic adjustments, never Tylenol. The youngest was born at home with a midwife, as will a fourth baby due any day, and the boys are not circumcised. The family sleeps together in one bed.

“It’s about going back to the way things were,” said Lara Carlos, 30, a childbirth educator. “There are a lot of people trying to get away from feeling like they (do not) have control of their health or their families.”

Traditional thinking about child rearing is being turned on its head by the Carlos family and a growing number of others intent on natural, healthy lifestyles. Known as holistic parenting, this new generation of moms and dads are eschewing convenience and common practices in favor of toxin-free, earth-friendly living.

Not everyone favors such an approach, especially when it comes to some parents’ decision to avoid having their children vaccinated because of concern over safety and toxins.

Holistic is the idea that all natural systems – including the mental, physical and biological – are connected and function as a whole.

The trend is driven largely by well-read women who want to live responsibly, despite occasional disapproval of their choices by their extended families and society. The popularity of holistic parenting is evident in numerous support groups nationwide, and has followed the growth of similar industries such as natural products and organic foods.

Lara Carlos co-founded the Barefoot Mamas’ Network four years ago to find like-minded parents. The 150-member group meets monthly at The Wellness Loft in Redlands, with speakers on topics such as baby weaning and childbirth options. The group helps by taking meals to members with newborns.

“It’s provided that sisterhood that’s been lost in our culture. It’s a place for someone who doesn’t know what to do, their baby is crying, they’re having trouble breastfeeding or they just want to talk about some of the decisions parents have to make, like vaccines,” said Lara Carlos, who hopes to take the group national this year.

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Responsive parenting

Another group, the Holistic Moms Network, has 120 chapters nationwide and 14,000 followers on Facebook. The Temecula Valley chapter has a dozen members and meets monthly to discuss topics such as homeopathy and cloth diapering.

Many holistic parents also belong to organizations such as Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League, which also promote responsive parenting.

While holistic parenting revolves around balanced living, its proponents follow different paths, said Nancy Massotto, who founded the Holistic Moms Network in New Jersey in 2002. Some may eat only out of their organic gardens while others just try to not eat fast food, and some may live off the grid while others choose to not use plastic baggies in their kids’ lunches.

Their common bond is disillusionment about what’s going on in society, she said.

“A lot of today’s parents are disappointed in the way our lifestyle has become very commercialized. The generation before us embraced things that were high-tech, new and trendy, Western medicine and junk food, to make our lives more convenient but also very disposable,” Massotto said.

Like many others, Massotto said when she abandoned processed foods and moved to a whole diet she noticed her allergies eased and her immune system strengthened. That led to other holistic traditions, like chiropractic, for her, her husband and two sons, ages 5 and 10.

She makes her own cleaning products out of white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice to avoid toxins. Her children’s sandwiches are wrapped in reusable fabric and they drink organic milk to avoid growth hormones and antibiotics.

Shunning vaccines

The anti-vaccine stance by some is perhaps the most controversial of holistic parenting practices. It counters recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says vaccines are generally recognized as safe with minor side effects and protect against serious diseases that can lead to meningitis, seizures, deafness, brain damage and death. Severe reactions are rare.

Children should receive as many as 28 vaccines before age 2 under recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Stopping immunizations could lead to a resurgence of disease. From 1989 and 1991, a U.S. measles outbreak struck primarily people who had not been vaccinated or were inadequately vaccinated, according to the CDC. The epidemic killed 120 people.

“What’s happened is we’ve lost our institutional memory of what things used to be like before we had the measles vaccine, when otherwise healthy kids would get measles and end up in the hospital with pneumonia, or a case of chickenpox would cause a sore that became infected with strep,” said Dr. David Becker, a UC San Francisco professor and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

“It’s hard for families to keep in mind because they don’t see it any more.”

Wildomar midwife Coley Douglass-Allen and her husband, Wayne Allen, a stay-at-home dad, decided not to vaccinate their 17-month-old daughter, Remedy.

“The likelihood of her being exposed to something life-threatening is really low,” Douglass-Allen said. “Certain things we vaccinate for, like measles and mumps, even if she got it, she would get sick, she’d get better and move on.”

Besides, vaccines are not 100 percent effective and children can have adverse reactions, she said.

The Allens plan to home school Remedy and believe in boosting her immune system by feeding her organic foods from their garden, including steamed zucchini, broccoli, corn and berries. They also avoid medications, instead giving homeopathic remedies such as chamomilla for teething and colic.

“Teething is part of their growing process,” Douglass-Allen said. “It’s nice to be able to help a little with the pain with the homeopathic, but I think it’s just something that needs to be. Tylenol has its own bad things. You don’t know how your child is going to react.”

Holistic parents often rankle their families with their choices. Douglass-Allen’s father-in-law regularly sends them newspaper clippings about vaccines and asks them to reconsider, she said.

“It’s hard,” she said, “that’s why it’s nice to have the Holistic Moms Network and a couple other groups I’m in. It’s nice to have that support.”


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7 Responses to “Holistic parenting”

  1. Paris

    Wonderful information. We co sleep still at 6. I co slept with my parents up until 4th grade. My brother who is 18 perfers to be close to my mom still by sleeping on the floor now that they outgrown the California king. I work with a holistic pediatrician in Orange County who supports the holistic parenting & choice to opt out on vaccines (:

  2. Amanda@BlindedByTheLight

    Thank you for your post and the comments are interesting…..

    I am currently on the path, living a holistic lifestyle and parenting that same way.

    I understand these people (Paul, Diane, Catherina) that have commented are very passonate in their beliefs, as am I, but I think it’s important to be supportive of other parents no matter what their choices are. We are all on different paths. Come from a place of love and always be mindlful of your intentions and words.

  3. madrona

    My children are grown now, but I’ve lived most of what’s recommended here, including home birth, some home-schooling, and nursing til age 3. Vaccination is a tough call. I got some vaccinations for my kids, but only gave my younger daughter 2 of the 3 pertussis shots because she got so feverish after receiving each shot. Then she got caught in a wave of whooping cough and I was stunned by the severity of the disease. It’s not like the flu. It’s pretty terrifying, watching your 7-year-old lose so much weight, become so weak, cough til she throws up. Her immune system took more than a year to return to normal, following those weeks of illness. After seeing that, I became persuaded that public health is actually a good thing that society does, and it saves lives.

    Oh, and @Diane, for what it’s worth, my personal experience was that sleeping with your kids does no harm whatsoever.

  4. Paul

    Yes, yes, yes!! All great info! The more I learn about a holistic lifestyle, the more I see how bad the system is, and also how there is a resistance from the people (people are very sensitive to controversy of vaccines, breast-feeding, education, etc…). I didn’t see much mention in this article about pregnancy or even pre-pregnancy lifestyle (though I assume the subject is discussed in the group), how vital it is to be prepared as a planning mother (yea, okay. I’m a guy, who am I to give advice, right?). From what I’m learning, it’s crucial to rid the body of toxins & chemicals, be in a clear and positive mental and spiritual (not to be confused with religious) state (meditation, chakra balancing, chi flow). I learned the umbilical cord can be tested to have 250+ (industrial) chemicals in it.

    I strongly agree with eating organics, and home-grown too. Also vital is the water. Yes, plastic bottles are toxic to the environment, manufacturing plastic bottles are also toxic, but a simple suggestion of using tap water won’t suffice. This needs further explanation. Yes, it was an environmentally detrimental process to reroute and dam water for urban use. Very important to know tap water has chlorine, fluoride, pesticide and pharmaceutical runoff in it. These must be filtered. The body absorbs as much toxins from a 15-min hot shower as drinking 1 gallon of tap water. Filter and clean your water!

    Home-school your kids! Public schools teach nothing useful, just preparing kids to be obedient, manageable “workers” in life. Teach them the truth about the real world so they know why not to eat fast food. Teach them about our government and it works (and how corrupt it is – Federal Reserve – private corporation, Corporate lobbying, IRS – private corporation, UNITED STATES – in all caps is a private corporation, your name in all caps is a fictitious “person” – look it up, truth behind birth certificate, drivers license, etc… All controversial (just like vaccines), but all part of knowing the truth and empowering yourself for a healthy happy life.

    Great documentaries I recommend (if they’re not on YouTube, you can watch them on

    “Waiting For Superman” – about the education system
    “Don’t Swallow Your Toothpaste” (on YouTube) – about fluoride
    “The Greater Good” – about vaccines
    “Marketing of Madness” (on YouTube) – about Big Pharma
    “Constitution Class” by Michael Badnarik (on YouTube) – teaches the US Constitution – so crucial!!
    “The Creature From Jekyll Island” (on YouTube) – about how the Federal Reserve started.
    Watch the YouTube videos and read the website of Dr. David Getoff. Wealth of info on water quality and health.
    “Thrive” – awesome, awesome documentary!!
    “Ayurveda” (on YouTube)
    Read about Chris Kresser and “The Healthy Baby Code”. Great info
    And above all – raise your kids to be independent! There are far too many 30 year old dependent adolescents around. Teach them to share, empower, be complete and whole, and be themselves (not live in the image of someone else’s image). And don’t “should” on your kids’ passions. (There, that’s enough of me telling you how to raise your kids, lol)

    If all this is “too hard” for you, don’t worry. Just sit back, relax, have some Prozac, watch the news on TV, go to work, get a flu shot, and trust in your government; they know what’s best for you.

    Smile. Life is meant to be lived. :)

  5. Catherina

    the chances for little remedy to catch measles or mumps are so low because so many parents are vaccinating their kids. Remedy’s parents are free riding herd immunity, which usually works until their community gets too large and someone takes their kids on holidays to France.

  6. Sonny

    Diane, is your opinion based off the stigma or some known negative impact on the child?

  7. Diane

    I am completely supportive of all said with one exception, the children should not sleep with the parents!