Parents Adele and Matt Allen believe in an all-natural approach to bringing up their children – so much so they refuse modern medicine, traditional schooling and encourage full-term breastfeeding.
Adele, 32, and Matt, 33, from Brighton, call their parenting style ‘Off-Grid Parenting’ and their children Ulysses, 5 and Ostara, 1, are therefore both still breastfed, have never visited a doctor and will not attend a mainstream school.
When Adele, a writer, fell pregnant with her son, the couple’s controversial methods felt completely natural to them. ‘Off-grid is moving towards self sustainability and being a bit more free range and less institutionalised,’ says Adele.
‘We did collect a lot of information but essentially it was just this feeling,’ adds Matt.
Adele gave birth to both her children completely unassisted and with no medical intervention with only her husband Matt by her side. The mum said: ‘The thought of giving birth in a hospital just didn’t appeal to me because of many reasons – mostly the observer effect. Also, the interventions I think can be gently nudged on you when you are in a very vulnerable state.’
Adele and Matt also decided to have ‘lotus births’, meaning the placenta and umbilical cords were not surgically removed at birth. Instead, Adele carried the attached placenta in a cool bag – scattered with salt and rose petals to disguise the smell – until it fell off naturally.
‘I very much honour the postpartum period and I didn’t go out at all during that first week. So it was just a matter of transporting it to the toilet or to the kitchen.’
Adele feels very strongly about full-term breastfeeding and her 5-year-son still regularly feeds from Adele for comfort. ‘I think it’s up to him to decide when he wants to move on from it. It’s something that’s just as natural as a hug is, it’s a connection.’
Aside from a hospital trip with Ulysses following an asthma attack, the Allen children have never seen a doctor or received vaccinations.
Adele said: ‘I don’t see any need to inject any foreign substance directly into the bloodstream. That’s not how children will come into the contact with a germ naturally anyway, be it in the mouth or another way.’
Distrusting of modern medicine, Adele prefers to treat her youngsters’ ailments naturally, squirting breast milk in their eyes to cure eye infections and serving them lemon juice when they have a cold.
Adele and Matt also believe in attachment parenting methods, such as co-sleeping, and the family of four all sleep in the same room. ‘It works quite nice for us, ‘ says Adele. ‘Normally we put the baby down to sleep first. Uly pretty much picks up his own bedtime, but as we don’t have a school routine in the morning he is then able to wake up when it suits him.’
Ostara and Ulysses do not attend mainstream school and instead spend their days outside among nature, learning about plants. The mum-of-two says: ‘We basically spend lots of time in nature. It’s more important to us for them to interact with animals and plants and learn about the environment than it is for them to have big sets of plastic toys.
‘Ostara really likes to play with woodlice and in the mud. In the park, there’s a big herb patch and she likes to pick and eat the mint leaves. Already at this young age she is thinking about what she can pick from nature and eat.’
The parents accept that reading and writing are imperative life skills but do not want learning to be forced upon their children. Adele says: ‘I think home school kids are very successful entrepreneurs normally because they have been educated in that way that, they do want to build their own business and not to be a slave to someone else.’
Despite spending most of their time outdoors, Adele and Matt have decided not to smother their children in suncream the way parents are usually inclined to do. We don’t use sun cream. Not at all on the kids. We don’t believe it protects you from cancer,’ says Adele, who writes a successful blog on natural parenting. She and Matt are adamant, despite some negative comments, they would not raise their children any other way.
The family are currently saving to migrate to Costa Rica, to life an eco-lifestyle. ‘Our ultimate ambition is to move towards self-sustainability,’ explains Adele. ‘We’re looking at Central America; somewhere we can get a big plot of land and grow food. Have the space for freedom and access to wildlife in it’s natural state.’