Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bringing up baby

Last night I forced myself to watch a new series on Channel Four called Bringing up baby. I say ‘forced’, because I knew there’d be much of it that would be emotionally harrowing and I’d rather spend my time engaged in something more productive. However, I chose to watch it because one of the people on there is someone I know and wanted to support her bravery of going into the mainstream with a concept that is so at odds with our parenting culture.

Bringing up baby is an experiment in child rearing based on three very different ways of parenting. Six families are mentored by three ‘experienced’ women who scrutinise their first three months of parenting. Each family has agreed to follow one particular method.

Method one: mentored by a woman the voice-over described as the Cruella De Ville of the parenting styles. Personally, I’d have thought that was too mild a description. Her routine, military-based approach, was popularised the 1950s, though devised in 1913 by Frederick Truby King. This style is especially suited for people who, actually, don’t really want to be parents. They want a career, wild parties and not to have a moment of their life impacted by a little creature, even if it was conceived by them.

The mentor, Claire Verity, (now there’s an irony, Claire means Light, and Verity means truth) charges families £1000 a DAY for her ‘specialist’ advice, which goes like this:


Why? Because babies, according to her, are manipulative creatures. They’re either attention seeking or tired. She says to ignore both reasons! She’s not a mother herself and is so detached from emotion that I can’t believe people actually find comfort in her presence or treat her ideas as gospel.

She advocates four hourly feeds. I can assure you this woman doesn’t eat or drink at four hourly intervals, yet she expects a newborn baby, with the stomach the size of a raspberry, (read: empty in 20 minutes) to go for such a huge stretch of time.

This experiment by the producers of the programme, sadly, isn’t an experiment, so much as a public viewing of TORTURE. I can only hope there’ll be a massive outcry and complaints to the official broadcasting standards authority. If it was a documentary ‘exposing’ such a practice, that would be different. This is the deliberate setting up and staging of child abuse.
The babies from two families were swaddled from head to toe, a lump of rubber (a dummy) gagging them from expression, and then left ALONE for four hours outside in the cold (in a pram). This would be considered torture, bodily and psychological harm, if inflicted on an adult. HOW IS IT ALLOWED TO A NEWBORN BABY? Where are its human rights?

This practice is a pernicious influence, like a cancer, spreading mutated cells into the world of baby/child development.

The show is following these families for 3 months to see how it goes. Where will the producers be in 3 years, 30 years, when these poor babies are in care because they weren’t loved, weren’t cuddled, weren’t given eye contact…but WERE ABANDONED??? We’ll all be paying the cost for this torture and cruelty. These babies will almost certainly be dysfunctional as adults, and not capable of healthy intimate relationships.

If a dog or a cat had been similarly treated, the whole country would be up in arms. BAN THEM FROM KEEPING AN ANIMAL FOR LIFE…but no, on this show, it’s celebrated. Yahoo, the parents can sit and have a glass of wine on baby’s first night at home!

The older sibling of one of the ‘tortured’ babies said, “I want to cuddle the baby. Why can’t I cuddle the baby?” Dad replies that they’re not allowed to. There was a moment of irony when the mother of said baby started crying as she heard it SCREAMING in desperation for her over the monitor, and Claire Verity touched her arm and offered ‘comfort’. Made me want to vomit! Why was her trauma acknowledged, and not the baby’s?

This parenting ‘style’ (torture) is a second cousin to the treatment of babies in eastern European orphanages. Studies have shown that babies who are never held actually DIE from lack of touch. It’s an essential human NEED.

Any prospective parent who feels ‘inclined’ towards this way of parenting ~ do the world a favour, don’t have children! DON’T HAVE CHILDREN. Leave the creating and raising of the next generation to those people who really want and love them, and are prepared to honour their most basic needs, which include affectional bonding, love, touch, and EYE CONTACT.

A fabulous career, double ‘must have’ income, brilliant parties, should never be more important than raising a child according to its biological needs.

There’s no place for selfishness in parenting, only surrender. Let’s be clear on something though, surrender isn’t about ‘giving in’ or giving up. In this case it is about melting into parenting. It’s about recognising that mother and child are one. Surrender does not mean sacrifice. A BONDED mother would never leave her baby in a cot, give it a bottle of formula, or leave it untouched anymore than she would dictate its feeds.

A baby isn’t something to put on your cv…it is a human being with exquisitely sensitive feelings.

One of the baby’s births was shown on the programme ~ a typical western birth where babe is handled like a lump of meat i.e., roughly, with no respect for its incredible sensitivity and the shock adjustment it has to make to the world of light, gravity and unmuffled sound. The poor little soul hit a world of violence from the word go.

My husband and I sat in stunned silence, tears rolling down my cheeks. The few words that were mentioned can’t be repeated here because of the laws of libel.

Hats off to Claire Scott, the Continuum Concept mentor. Her intelligence, passion, compassion and empathy were obvious. I admired her help in getting breastfeeding established and for saying what I’m always yelling from the rooftops: BREASTFEEDING DOESN’T HURT IF IT IS DONE PROPERLY!!
I’m so grateful that wasn’t edited out in post-production!

The Continuum Concept is at the heart of The Mother magazine’s ethos. The book’s author, Jean Leidloff, lived with the Stone Age tribe, the Yequanna, in South America. Here she saw first hand how different these children were to those in the west. They rarely cried, were actively part of (and welcomed into!!) their parent’s and community’s lives. Their bodies were relaxed and the children were happy. Just before I met my husband, I’d heard about this book through a Wellness course I was doing. I’d been trying to track it down. When I met my husband, and we were moving in together, he handed me a book and said, “You might like this.” Our parenting style was sealed before we even met. We both knew that a baby’s biological needs had to be met no matter what time in history we were living in, or what the culture presented as the norm. I’m so thankful for the book, and even more thankful for having made babies with a man who ‘understood’ and has never stood in the way with ego-based jealousy. Which brings me back to Claire Verity. How is it that a woman can be so far removed from a biological instinct? I know several men who are more suited to mothering.

I can’t recommend highly enough an article we have in our current issue of The Mother magazine, by Joseph Chilton Pearce called Birth and bonding. The information on the heart’s electromagnetic field is vital information. The Truby King method is the antithesis. Joseph’s book, Magical Child, will open your eyes to how important it is that the baby is held, has eye contact and constant exposure to her mother’s face. A Truby King raised baby has none of that.

I’m delighted to announce that the magazine’s publisher, The Art of Change, will be hosting a Jean Leidloff tour to the UK in April 2008. Contact for more information.

It’s probably no surprise the Bringing Up Baby series is sponsored by a disposable nappy company. Treat your babies like crap, and then have their crap be responsible for dioxins in a landfill for 500 years or more.


Isil Simsek said...

Thanks for writing about the programme.I have heard about it but we don't have TV so couldn't watch it.
I can't really understand why people the so called gurus thoughts. How come can she know without being a mother? I am sad to see that in UK a best seller parenting book dictating feed and sleep routines etc. can be found in every store. However you can't find Sears, Jean Liedloff or Pearce.
I sometimes see newborns crying in prams in stores. I look at the mother, she is simply not interested. It makes me feel like crying:while the baby is crying she is speaking to a sales person, or looking at the shelves ...

Eva Fernandes said...

Hi Veronika
Fantastic article. Interestingly the production company contacted me when they were about to film as they were having difficulty finding new mums for Claire. We live in strange times. Looks like it's up to us to lift the blindfold, who else is going to. Great news about Jean's tour. Let me know when they happen.

flutterby said...

i'm glad i didn't watch it. nige mentioned it as we got into bed as he'd heard that the continuum concept was one of the methods featured but then he said, i didn't tell you as i assume one of the other methods will be barbaric and it'll just make you cry!

why why why why why i just don't understand the ability to not care. even an unwanted baby spent 9months growing, how can you not at least develop some feelings towards it. why is it that we supress our instincts more and more and listen to utter crap about what we're supposed to do with our babies.

i'm astounded that the claire verity method (can't remember the creators name, sorry) isn't classed as child abuse and that parents following this aren't having their children removed from them. maybe gordon brown should be petitioned and all forms of child abuse should become illegal (i can't believe i just wrote that, you'd think all forms of child abuse would be illegal...) i suppose it's just that so many still think this isn't child abuse.

i'm not sure that made sense, i'm ranting, hopefully Veronika you and fellow commenters will understand what i mean.

Jackie said...

Thanks for raising this issue. I cannot stop thinking about the poor baby who was abused for the sake of entertainment in this programme. I complained to the channel, but got the usual pat response - 'we were responsible, everyone was in agreement' etc etc - I'm sure that wee soul didn't agree! What kind of society are we to allow this to happen? I think there is a big pattern emerging in your blog posts, Veronika. Please keep it up.

Laura McIntyre said...

I have not yet watched the show although i have got it recorded, im a little nervous now as its sure to cause some horrible feelings. I loved hearing your thoughts on it

Harmonious Living said...

Well done for caring enough to watch. Fraid I pulled back from it. I had a feel that I would feel so angst and frustrated and I didnt want that before bed!
From your report, it sounds as though it was gross! and as ever a total violation and degradation of mothers and babies!
Reminds me of the interview shazzie had with some jerk of a womon on super foods.
Ones power is in ones radiance - the voice has little power out there is such idiocy and ignorance.
BUT well done for talking it how it is syster. as ever blessings and appreciation for alllll you do, all you be, all you are.
x ruth.

Yenekale said...

I had intended to watch the programme but forgot that it was on,which by the sound of it was just as well.People were talking about it at work and I hadn't realised that it was a series.I won't watch the rest because I think I would feel very uncomfortable with it. If people watch it are they not guilty of colluding? The only thing that would influence Channel 4 would be a mass switch off. I have enough problems with programmes like SuperNanny.

mighty acorns said...

how bizarre. i wonder if this will make it to NZ TV? There is a growing number of us following continuum type parenting but still lots of Babywise disciples here. Yuk. Didn't work for me - not that I actually had the heart to try it! Anyway, as I write I am awaiting my 20 month old son stirring, it's 11.20 pm and my husband has just said to me ' he'll be wanting a feed from you, don't even try to resettle him without it'. Yay for enlightened Dads!

Rekella said...

hi just a short note i watched the second episode of this programe this week as i missed the first episode and i wanted to know what it was about. i knew some aspects of the show would have raised my hackeles but obviously i had underestimated how much it would. as i read you account of the show i recognised similar statements being made that only last night i said to my mom about the said parenting 'abusing' style; 1. it was basically child abuse, and that anyone found to be knowingly refusing to stimulate a child in the most basic way could have their kids taken away but not these lucky parents who have the protection of a large media mogul. 2. this sort of treament as you quite rightly wrote about has been widely frowned upon by the nation which was all up in hands about it when it was first high lighted years ago in romania orphanages. my husband promptly told me off for watching said programme when he heard me ranting to my mum about it. he said why would you watch a programme like that, but i really didnot realise that i was about to witness bullying abuse in such an open way. this show left me unable to sleep after watching it. and i have all intentions of letting channel four and any other bodies of influence know how i feel about this programme.

Yenekale said...

It said in the paper today that the maternity nurse in the programme charges £1000 a day to the rich and famous!!! Surely this can't be right? Apparently couples in the programme have continued to employ her after the series ended.I am just utterly amazed by the whole thing! I am not sure why they have children in the first place.

laura said...

Thanks so much for this post. I am not familar with Mother magazine, and can see that I need a subscription. I'm a big fan of the Continuum Concept.

I keep waiting for Margot Sunderland, the British brain researcher who is one of my heroines, to weigh in on the Bringing Up Baby controversy, but since I haven't seen any commentary from her, I'll do my best to fill in, and describe the effects on the baby of this kind of treatment.

Babies depend on normal human interaction -- cuddling and comfort -- for their brains to develop normally. When you deprive an infant of physical affection and soothing, you deny it the stimuli necessary to develop the neural networks that will later allow the child to soothe itself, empathize with others, and love. Babies develop cortisol receptors in response to being soothed, which are critical in regulating stress hormones to deal with anxiety and depression throughout life. Limiting touch to ten minutes a day may even be actually life-threatening; we know that babies die from lack of touch, as you pointed out.

The nervous system pathways that are formed in infancy cannot be created in later life. Infants who are deprived of the normal doting that all mammals offer their young are later impaired in all their social and intimate relations.

The celebrity parents who hire Verity apparently like her ability to let them off the hook as parents. (In the old days, at least the baby had a wet nurse to feed and cuddle her!) But the truth is, you can't buy your way off the hook as a parent. These parents hold the responsibility for damaging their children, and making it likely that they'll suffer from attachment disorders, anxiety, and clinical depression for the rest of their lives.

Oh, but hopefully Channel 4 will be paying for their meds.

Dr. Laura Markham

Johanna said...

I have been trying to look up the study you referred to about the orphanage babies who were experimentally left un-cuddled and fed through slats in their cribs who, as you mentioned, died due to lack of human contact. Do you have anymore information about who may have conducted this experiment and where/when it occurred?
I'd really appreciate it!


Veronika said...

dear Johanna
Renee Spitz (1946/1965) documented that infants isolated in cribs with little or no physical contact and physical affection can die from an emotional wasting away, which he called marasmus, even the medical and physical care were normal.
See also the work of James Prescott Early Social Deprivation, Chapter 4, in Perspectives on Human Deprivation: Biological, Psychological and sociological

Ashley Montagu ~ Touching: The significan of hukman skin (columbia university press)

Hope that helps