From natural remedies and healthy eating to holistic parenting – it’s all fodder for discussion in the Crunchy Moms of Long Island’s Facebook group.
“Maybe you walk barefoot, maybe you breastfed your children for more than a year or maybe you bake all your own bread,” the group description reads. “Perhaps you don’t want to raise your children according to stereotypical gender roles or grow your own garden or you simply want to walk on your own path. This is a group to connect and help each other by sharing articles or recommendations and also a place to ask questions. We don’t judge. We help.”
Founded by Bellmore resident Jessika O’Sullivan in September 2016, membership has grown to more than 900 women. It is lauded by its members as a no-judgments alternative to the internet parenting landscape and a way to connect with like-minded mamas in the surrounding suburbs.
Posts range from discussions about homemade and natural flu remedies — aside from fire cider, many in the group swear by elderberry syrup — to how to get your children to eat healthier foods.
Erika Antinis-Giannetta, who lives in Lindenhurst, was invited to the group by a friend after looking at ways to live more naturally. When her youngest daughter, Brynn, was born six months ago, Antinis-Giannetta had a doula present and underwent a gentle C-section, in which the newborn is placed on the mother’s chest immediately after delivery — something she heard about from the group.
“People are trying to find other ways of doing things,” says Antinis-Giannetta, 33, a researcher at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. “Initially, you realize, ‘Some people actually think like I do.’ ”
O’Sullivan, 42, a photographer and teacher of online courses of subjects ranging from beginner biology to creative writing who moved to the United States from Sweden in 2004, said she felt the parenting groups she found online didn’t speak to the kind of mom she was.
“I’m looking for gentler, more child-based ways of raising a child,” says O’Sullivan, whose son is 8 years old. “Instead of maybe rushing to the doctor as soon as your child has a sniffle, it’s more that you should help your body to heal ... I raised my child in quite a Swedish way. There’s a saying, ‘There is no bad weather, there is only bad clothing.’ Ninety percent of the days we walk or ride our bikes, even if it’s raining.”
“I didn’t know the term ‘crunchy’ and what it meant until I saw it and I thought, ‘That sounds like me,’ ” O’Sullivan says.
When Jaclyn Rinaldi was sidelined recently by what she assumed was the flu, instead of heading to the doctor’s office, the Lindenhurst mom of two girls went into her kitchen and whipped up a batch of “fire cider,” a mixture that includes garlic, horseradish, hot peppers and apple cider vinegar.
She then headed onto Facebook, to thegroup, to sing the praises of the potent brew, believed to prevent infections and support the immune system.
“Wow, this stuff just kicked the flu right out of me!” wrote Rinaldi, 39, receiving a flood of enthusiastic responses.
“I make that stuff daily, one shot with hot water,” one member commented.
Tara Howe, 38, a stay-at-home mom of two boys from North Merrick, says the group is tolerant of different budgets and lifestyles.
“There’s only so much financially we can afford,” Howe says. “We can’t upgrade to all HEPA filters and water filters.”
O’Sullivan says she also believes in “sisterhood between women” — there are no men in the group, and O’Sullivan created a separate crunchy parenting group that includes dads.
Members say the group is harmonious and drama-free, particularly when it comes to hot topics such as whether or not to vaccinate kids.
“There is a wide range of opinions,” Antinis-Giannetta says, and the members of Crunchy Moms are “more respectful of opinions. People [in other parenting groups] are more likely to jump on you and say you’re endangering your children.”
O’Sullivan says, “It’s overall gentler, both toward children and toward moms.”
There are a few other private Facebook groups for Long Island parents with a similar focus, including Holistic Moms of Long Beach (NY) and Holistic Moms: Nassau County, LI North Shore Chapter, although Crunchy Moms of Long Island is more active — there often are several posts a day — and has more members.
The Crunchy Moms group inspired Rinaldi, who had worked for 14 years as a special-education teacher, to become an entrepreneur. She became a certified holistic health counselor, and she has recently opened Salt and Serenity Wellness in Massapequa. The space has a salt room with pink Himalayan salt on the floor and a wall-mounted halogenerator that circulates salt particles in the air, which is believed by some to help treat respiratory conditions along with providing a relaxing, spalike experience.
Some moms from the group recently got together at Salt and Serenity, and they also gather for play dates and hikes. For many, it has provided a way to meet like-minded friends.
“I feel like Long Island overall is a little conservative,” O’Sullivan says. “It’s nice to know that there are others like me out there.”
Other niche parenting groups
While it’s one of the most active Facebook groups, Crunchy Moms of Long Island isn’t the only specialized parenting group for locals on the social network.
For parents who look to natural remedies, there is also Holistic Moms of Long Beach (NY) and Holistic Moms: Nassau County, LI North Shore Chapter, which is for the active members of the Nassau County, LI North Shore chapter of the Holistic Moms Network.
Parents of children with nut allergies can join the No Nuts Moms Group of Long Island, NY, which has more than 700 members and organizes peanut- and tree-nut-free group outings.
The Long Island Special Education Parent Network is a support group for parents with a special-needs child and has more than 5,000 members and more than 10 posts per day.
Same-sex parents can join Long Island LGBT Moms and Dads, which has more than 140 members.
— LISA CHAMOFF