Sort of OT: 'Telly's good, innit?
I'm going to prove Ms Liedloff's point now, by linking everything into everything else - my mind seeks to do that a lot and this is a great excuse to indulge it. But although I've always instinctively worn and co-slept with my babies, the first I heard of her book was when Jax told me about it on the previous incarnation of this blog, about two years ago. I never was one for reading the manual. I've kept meaning, ever since, to buy/borrow a copy and read it but it hasn't happened yet. From what I've gathered so far though, I suspect that when I do get around to reading it, much will resonate with my experiences of baby- and childcare.
What's this got to do with t'telly? You'll have already guessed if you watched the first episode of Bringing Up Baby on Channel 4 last night. The programme aims to compare three distinct methods of babycare: Dr Frederic Truby King's Strict Routine Method, Dr Benjamin Spock's 'balanced' method, and Liedloff's Continuum Concept, which it attributes to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s respectively.
It's actually aiming to discover which method 'works best' and judging by my experiences and last night's programme, if Liedloff's method doesn't come out on top then there's something seriously wrong. Actually, do any of us stick purely to one set method of babycare? I tried a bit of all three and probably bits of several others (albeit only a tiny bit of Truby King when I was very young and silly) with my five without even properly realising which and whose methods they were, but babyslinging, breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping is, I found, the natural rhythm into which both I and the babies settled the best.
The only problem I've ever had with it is with wearing a baby on my back, which is really what's required if one is to undertake any serious physical jobs whilst wearing a slightly older than newborn baby. I'm happy to wear a toddler on my back, but can't get used to not being able to see and quickly access a younger child. This makes life a little more difficult when they get to the age our baby is now - about 8 months. She's crawling but still needs carrying a lot, preferably by me, and yet sadly I don't live in a primitive tribe or even a reasonably useful extended family network (apart from one willingly useful and involved Zara) so am stuck with most of the housework, house maintenance work, gardening etc., whilst trying to carry a very heavy baby on my front instead of my back. This is quite exhausting but co-sleeping helps, because at least we sleep fairly well, which is contrary to what Claire Verity was trying to imply would be the case on the programme last night.
I should go and see my lovely friend Tracy, of BabyArmadillo fame. Tracy kindly donated my first ever - and indeed only - proper baby sling, which has been perfect for our requirements, even now. My previous slings were either home-made (two bedsheets stitched together end-to-end) or the Mothercare-type version (Hey, why don't they sell them any more? Hmmm... fear of losing lucrative pushchair sales..?) with stitched leg-holes etc. The home-made ones were much easier and more comfortable than the Mothercare ones, but the one Tracy supplied is absolutely ideal. She'd give me a lesson in back-carrying if I asked her, I think.
Anyway, I enjoyed the programme apart from the Truby King parts, which were surely a blatant travesty of all things human, let alone the poor mites' basic human rights and which were personified by that system's 'mentor', Claire Verity when she said: "I admit that I'm a complete bitch. It is sleep training, but it works," and more blood-curdling platitudes along those lines. The system requires that a baby be held away from the body when [bottle of course] fed "in case it starts to feel comfortable and falls asleep", woken for feeds and left on its own to cry all night. This made horrendous viewing. They kept showing bits of a debate with the three mentors, in which Dreena Hamilton of the Dr Spock method and the Continuum Concept network's Claire Scott were trying to persuade Ms Verity to reasonably justify her method, to no avail, and were both showing remarkable restraint. Ms Verity's shallow explanations and apparently flustered, nonplussed and vacuous responses to their arguments aptly demonstrated the significant lack of intellect required for the Truby King method to be so wholeheartedly embraced.
Other programmes I'm watching these days are:
Bruce Parry's Tribe - I especially enjoyed the Layap this week, in which Bruce attempted to employ the Buddhist concept of "what anthropologists call religious synchronism" (acceptance?), which bizarrely culminated in him persuading some tribesmen to drag some very reluctant yaks over an impassable mountain ridge before realising he couldn't force the success of this venture, giving up and returning to the village. I've learned some religious lessons the hard way myself, but that was pretty extreme even by my standards.
Tommi Miers and Guy Grieve's The Wild Gourmets. Wow, this programme is good. They're making their way up the UK with a Landrover full of cooking ingredients, catching, cooking and eating wild, free food as they go. They were doing amazing things with pike last night. (Did you know a pike can live for 50 years?)
And, in a continuation of this fabulous hunter-gatherer zeitgeist: Ray Mears' brilliant Wild Food. Ray Mears has been an acquired taste for me, but I've finally fallen for him with this series, in which he takes Professor Gordon Hillman ("an expert in the use of plants through the ages") around, exploring at first-hand the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The professor is a real treat: he gives the impression of never having left his study and yet knowing absolutely everything there is to know about every plant in existence, how it's ever been used and why. Ray Mears just gets on with the job of killing and cooking while the professor gently and humbly pontificates to a breathtaking degree about the history and science of it all. This was hilariously summed up in an exchange they shared over the eating of a razorfish this week, in which the professor said something like: "Oh yes, now I wonder whether one can differentiate the various components of the body...?" and Ray Mears cut in with: "Just shut up and enjoy it."
Oh yes, now I wonder whether one can ascertain the deeper economic, social and politican connotations of this present trend in programme scheduling?
Just shut up and enjoy it.