Vaccines, Fluoride and Breastfeeding: A Primer to the Parenting Fights of Portland

Your guide to the most divisive issues in Portland parenting.

In a city already as sanctimonious as Portland, it probably comes as no surprise that the child-rearing scene is a minefield of enlightened folks ready to tell you that your precious little hump dumpling will not grow up to be a Harvard Ph.D.-holding MacArthur Genius who saved an endangered species of monkey during his stint in the Peace Corps. No! He will be a meth-addicted convicted felon living in your basement, because YOU USED THE WORD "NO"/FORMULA-FED/TOXIFIED HIS VIRGIN SKIN WITH CHLORINE-SATURATED PAPER DIAPERS.

Most of these judgments will take place in the regionally passive-aggressive-appropriate forum of Facebook posts and comments directed at complete strangers in the grocery store, but even if you're not the immediate recipient of such well-meaning advice, know that all eyes are on you at all times. Judging.

On that note, here are the top 10 ways you, as a Portland parent, are probably screwing up.

1. Your neighborhood public school.

Proponents say: Sending your child to your neighborhood school—warts and all, regardless of test scores, absentee rates, ambivalent principals and overcrowding—is the only way to attain true equity across the entire district and improve neighborhood schools as a whole. Defecting to a charter school, a language-immersion program or, God forbid, private school, is akin to throwing your neighbors to the wolves, and makes you a horrible human being.

Opponents say: I'm not going to sacrifice my child's educational prospects for a nebulous greater good.

Typical insult: "Parental involvement is what makes the difference when it comes to school. And don't you want your child to experience diversity?"

2. Vaccines.

Proponents say: Remember polio?

Opponents say: The government doesn't get to tell me what to inject into my child. Plus, herd immunity!

Typical insult: "Fuck you."

3. Breastfeeding.

Proponents say: Breast milk is the only food specifically designed for your baby and contains crucial disease-fighting antibodies, plus it releases hormones that promote mother-baby bonding.

Opponents say: Contrary to popular belief, most women—especially in Oregon—do make an effort to breastfeed, and there are many reasons it doesn't work out. There's no evidence that formula-fed babies are any worse off than those who were breastfed.

Typical insult: "Breast is best!"

4. Cloth diapers vs. disposable.

Proponents say: Disposable diapers not only place synthetic chemicals next to your baby's skin, they're terrible for the environment in just about every way possible.

Opponents say: I have to do how many loads of laundry per week? With soap that costs how much?

Typical insult: Simply displaying your baby in an expensive, ostentatiously bulky prefold cover is usually enough.

5. Visiting hands-on play spaces (OMSI, Children's Museum, Swap n Plays) with a runny nose.

Proponents say: My kid always has a runny nose. If we stayed home every time she did, we'd never leave the house. Besides, exposure to germs builds immunity!

Opponents say: If your kid has a runny nose, she is probably contagious. Even if it's just allergies (which are extremely rare in kids under 3), snot is gross. You've also now made the space unsafe for anyone immuno-compromised.

Typical insult: "Do you think he might recover faster by resting at home?"

6. Epidurals.

Proponents say: "OUCH! HOLY SHIT! OW, OW, OW, MAKEITSTOP!"

Opponents say: Mainlining toxins directly into the spine not only has a negative effect on natural birth-related hormones, the toxins pass into your bloodstream, and thus your baby's.

Typical insult: "I had a natural birth."

7. The One and Only Correct Method™ of discipline.

Proponents say: Traditional schools of discipline are outdated and cruel, so enlightened parents only use gerunds/do not use timeouts/loudly affirm their child's feelings instead of immediately reprimanding behavior.

Opponents say: I turned out OK, didn't I?

Typical insult: "We don't use the word 'no.'"

8. Staying home vs. working.

Proponents say: Parents should always be accessible to their children, especially during the early years.

Opponents say: Unless you're a trust-funder, odds are you can't survive on one income in Portland, not to mention the long-term mental and financial ramifications of putting a hard-won career on pause.

Typical insult: "I don't want strangers raising my child."

9. Fluoride.

Proponents say: Unlike in most cities, Portland's water does not contain fluoride, a scientifically proven tooth-decay prevention agent. Which means if you want to avoid cavities and promote lifetime dental health in your kids, you as the parent will need to administer/dose it yourself.

Opponents say: Fluoride is a neurotoxin, so why would I put it in my child's body?

Typical insult: "I'm not a dentist or doctor, but…"

10. Having only one child.

Proponents say: Parenting was a thousand times harder than I thought it would be/we were physically unable to have another/this is none of your business/IVF is expensive, yo.

Opponents say: You're depriving your child of what could be the most defining relationship of his or her life.

Typical insult:

"She seems lonely."


Portland Bars Where You Can Bring Kids

Portland's Best Kindie Musicians

A Free-Range Mom Talks About Why She Refuses to Helicopter

A Primer to the Parenting Fights of Portland

I'm Not Your Granny, Bitch

The Social Baby: The Ethics of Posting Kids' Pictures Online

Thrift Stores for Kids in Portland

The Big People's Guide to Hanging Out with the Little People

Portland Kids' Calendar 2016

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.