Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bringing up baby

Channel Four has been showing a series called Bringing Up Baby, which features six sets of parents trying three different baby care methods.

  • The 50s method of Truby King which is all about strict routine, seems similar to Ferber or BabyWise methods.
  • The 60s method of Dr Spock - trust your instincts.
  • The 70s continuum concept - basically hard core attachment parenting, wearing the baby all the time, co-sleeping, etc.

The parents were supported by mentors who espoused these approaches. Each of these women was completely nuts on her own approach, so although this was called an experiment it was really about pitting these opinionated women against each other. It was supposed to stir strong feelings, and it did. (For example, two of the three mentors though that breastfeeding in public - even discretely, was simply beyond the pale.)

The 50s method, which involved only cuddling your newborn for 10 minutes a day and letting the baby cry it out from birth, and leaving the baby in the garden for "fresh air" for four hours unattendend made people on my British parenting forum go insane. And rightly so. To me it seemed like the sort of treatment doled out in Romanian orphanages. But if you keep the baby to a strict routine but painful routine at first, apparently you can get it to sleep conveniently from 7pm to 7am and take naps and generally not cause too much bother. That does sound tempting in a way, but the whole thing strikes me as a bit pointless. Why did you have a baby if you were simply planning to shut it up in some other room like some pet you don't like?


One of the things that's surprised me about the whole child rearing lark is that there actually isn't any consensus on the best approach. That it seems like doctors and health visitors and everyone else have a variety of conflicting information that they'd like to force upon you. Feeding, schedules, weaning, bedtime routine. There are no answers. I know that every baby is different, but we have been having babies for quite some time and we've also had the scientific methods of observation and even experimentation at our disposal for a while now, too. So why haven't we actually put the two together to come up with some decent answers. It seems like the only thing there is some scientific clarity on is breast milk is the best thing you can feed a baby - advice which most of the population in the English speaking world ignore. Of course, that's probably because you get so much conflicting advice about what's the best way to go about it.

Anyway, I've decided that it's probably more about what the parent finds appropriate than what the baby will thrive on. After all, the little mite knows no difference.


Furrow said...

Eww. That 50's approach sounds scary. Sounds like a BF Skinner thing. Didn't he keep one of his kids in a box or something?

I'm glad to know that the mommy wars junk isn't just an American thing. Because, you know, misery loves transatlantic company.

Chris in Oxford said...

Good post, Vol. We've been watching that Bringing Up Baby program as well. Sinead occasionally veers towards the scary 50s lady when we're frustrated. But generally we're just confused about the 90 million different methods that are out there. Our method like most folks, is just winging it.