Photographer: Georgia Russell

By Chantel Quick

There is a word on the interwebs and beyond used to describe moms like me. That word is, “crunchy.”

According to Urban Dictionary, ‘Crunchy Mom’ is defined as,

A member of an increasingly growing group of moms who are neo-hippies. They generally believe (for varying reasons) that there is something bad or less beneficial about buying mainstream products or doing other common activities in the mainstream way.

Someone who is generally described as crunchy usually does at least one of the following, but usually more:

  • Breastfeeds beyond 6 months and often times beyond one year.
  • Cosleeps.
  • Wears their baby.
  • Attempts a natural birth.
  • Favors natural remedies for sickness.
  • Uses cloth diapers or practices EC (elimination communication).
  • Eats a healthy diet and avoids commercial junk food for herself and her family.
  • Is Anti Routine Infant Circumcision.

And the list goes on….

I really like that so many people are questioning common practices and choosing to do better for themselves and their families, so much so that this group of people has been given a special name. While crunchy things can certainly be trendy, such as amber teething necklaces and bulky Ergo carriers (for the record, I love my ergo), there are some things I find odd that we classify as “crunchy” behavior. Why is it that what I see as so normal and biologically necessary we call “crunchy?” I am not doing it to be a certain type of person or to belong to a certain group of people. I am simply doing it because it is what you do when you have a baby. I never liked being called crunchy for these reasons but accepted it at times in order to find people who thought more along the same lines as I did.

Here are 5 reasons why I do not consider myself to be a crunchy mom:

1) Because I do not see breastfeeding as a choice or a health trend. I see it as the next physiologically normative step in having a child.
Two people have sex, they conceive a baby,  the woman gives birth to baby and the baby feeds from the breast. It is why all women were given breasts, was to nurse babies. I do not breastfeed to be trendy. I breastfeed because according to nature, upon my child being born, my body and my child are expecting me to breastfeed. I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it is. I eat food, I poop it out. That is the biological process. Maybe sometimes I am constipated, maybe I get a hernia and have some road bumps along the way, but pooping should happen, none the less. I see breastfeeding to be just as a given as pooping. Inevitably there will always be someone who argues that not all women can breastfeed, and it is true. Given the way we live, what we eat and our levels of stress it is no wonder that some women’s bodies have a hard time functioning the way they are intended to and one of these ways is  having a hard time with breastfeeding. With that said, less than a third of women are still breastfeeding at the six-month mark. That is a devastatingly low number and should be seen as a public health concern. I do not believe that all those women could truly not breastfeed. I believe we greatly lack breastfeeding support and education in this country and with more of that the rates will improve.

2) Because mammals sleeping with their young is a biological imperative, not something you get to ignore in order to have a Thomas the Train nursery.
If you look around at the other mammals such as the primates who are most like us, they are not having babies and then putting them in a cute nursery with a pretty mural in a separate room across the forest. Naturally, they are sleeping with their babies. It is not something they have to think about, consider or ponder over. This happens just as naturally as breastfeeding. When you have a baby, sleeping with your baby is simply part of the process. There are many reasons why nature wants us to sleep with our babies. First, it has them feeling safe. They have just entered a big scary world outside of the womb and the safest place is with their mother. Second, it regulates body temperature. Third, it makes the expected breastfeeding relationship easier and more successful because babies have to eat at night, too.

According to Anthropology Director at The University of Notre Dame, James J. McKenna Ph.D.,

“But it’s not just breastfeeding that promotes bedsharing. Infants usually have something to say about it too! And for some reason they remain unimpressed with declarations as to how dangerous sleeping next to mother can be. Instead, irrepressible (ancient) neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation. In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practiced dangerously, sleeping next to mother is good for infants. The reason why it occurs is because… it is supposed to.”

Of course, this isn’t always easy because while we are meant to be sleeping with our babies, we were also meant to not raise children alone. Tribal living ensured that the demanding job of raising children wasn’t solely on the shoulders of one person. It is no wonder that parents sometimes find themselves resorting to unfavorable actions in order to get a decent night’s sleep so that they can be a decently functioning parent during the day. I recommend finding what works for your family by still doing your best to meet the very real and legitimate needs of your child. If bed sharing isn’t working then put a foam mat on the floor or a bassinet next to your bed. Have the other parent help out at night if that is an option. Eat a healthy diet and exercise to make up for energy lost at night. Above all, I think we should live simpler lifestyles and reduce our stress during the day in order to have more peaceful nights.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Zooey

    I love this article. It’s not “crunchy”, it’s biologically normal, it’s what’s best for our kids, it’s healthy, it’s natural. Thank you!

    1. says: Stephanie

      I second this! Thank you for writing this! What type of country are we becoming if we think that breastfeeding, co-sleeping and trying to get the healthiest nutrition for our family is were! Sigh. Nameste

  2. says: Evangelina

    This is such a great article. I had a mom ask me if I was breastfeeding, and I was like well yeah (no brainer right?) and she was like, oh that’s right you are semi-crunchy. I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t realize nursing my kids made me a “certain” person. Sam with circumcision, and all of that. I classify as a hippie for my spirituality and beliefs, not the way I feed and care for my children. Well written! THANK YOU !

  3. says: Lauren

    This article made me cry with laughter. You have captured natural parenting so well and I look forward to sharing this with all my different kinds of mom friends. Its such a societal thing to label things we don’t truly understand, such a shame really. Well done for being an awesome mom and a funny mom!

    Love “Brownie” mom!

  4. says: Ashley Lungi

    Thank you I totally dislike labels, and I too often find myself using them to relate to others and find mom’s that think similarly. I wholeheartedly agree that’s it’s just natural And since we have strayed from the natural for so long, people feel don’t understand it &/or the need to title it.

  5. says: Roberta Nehmer

    Thank you. I truly believe we can be prepared to do what our bodies need to do. Love how honest and straight this article is. And yes, I believe that when your spirit and soul are in conflict it will manifest in your physical being. Stress, problems, judgment are maim factors of high risk illnesses, and more including birth.

  6. says: Michaela Hutchison

    THANK YOU! I loved this! People think I’m crunchy but…people have strayed so far from “natural” and ”normal” that people don’t even remember what the natural or normal thing to do is anymore.

  7. says: Kate

    “Crunchy Mom” is a new term for me to be honest, in the UK where I live most of those things on the list are just normal so I was very surprised to see them listed as “Crunchy”. The US is the only country I know to routinely circumcised babies that’s not for medical need or religious belief and sleeping in the same room is literally the advice given when we are discharged from the hospital.

    Our NHS even recommends breastfeeding to a year at least.

  8. says: Sarah S.

    I’m one of those who will inevitably say “not all mothers can breastfeed”, because I couldn’t. Because the pain of it was so extreme for me, and I had PPD so badly that I just could not live with the pain. I pumped for as long as I could, but also, extremely painful. I wanted so badly to be a natural mama and do everything the beautiful way. I just bawled constantly and thought about death a lot. And I’ve found it impossible to escape judgment ever since.

    1. says: Rachel

      Sarah, this stung at my heart.
      In case you haven’t heard it today, YOU ARE ENOUGH. You’re doing a good job.

      Intrusive thoughts after having a baby aren’t uncommon. You’re thrust into motherhood and all of the “advice” and subsequent judgments come along.

      Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re enough.

  9. says: Kari

    I had a hospital birth with induced labor at 39 weeks because I had gestational diabetes (so did my mom) and they said the baby would be too big at 40 weeks, but I went in prepared to decline an epidural and Pitocin because I had seen “The Business of Being Born” in my human development course a decade ago. I had my husband watch it, too so he could help me advocate for myself. I agreed to a low dose of Pitocin to help with the induced labor, but the nurses were sneaking up the dose behind my back, literally! My husband saw the numbers on the IV behind me going up and spoke up. Everything went smoothly after they took the Pitocin down from a 9 to a 4, and I’m sure my husband saved me from an emergency C-section.

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