Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sort of OT: 'Telly's good, innit?

According to Jean Liedloff's Continuum Concept (which I have never read but have now heard and read enough about to know this:) every part of our lives is integral to every other part, so describing my current TV viewing habits, while not strictly about home education, is not totally unconnected. It's not anyway - the programmes I'm watching all have some link to something or other the children are doing and probably learning from. But in the absence of a blog called Sometimes It's Pertaining to t'Telly, this post will have to go here.

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.


Blogger Elaine said...

I am Mythbusters, time team, any thing investigative

8:52 am, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Lisa G said...

Claire Verity scared me to death, I thought her 'babycare' methods were tantamount to child abuse! I also felt, although informative, the programme was a bit 'icky' in that it was using babies as experimental subjects for the viewing public, I felt uncomfortable at times and not sure if I'll watch again.

9:23 am, September 26, 2007  
Anonymous Clare said...

The Claire Scott woman wasn't a brilliant advocate for the continuum concept, unfortunately. She's not an 'expert' and her bfing advice was awful! My colleague and I were texting eachother in frustration LOL. Stupid programme, horrible experiment - poor, poor babies :-(

10:46 am, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Elaine, yes I quite like those too.

Lisa, the thing that I found creepiest was it being sponsored by a - what was it? A nappy company or something? I don't really *see* adverts but I did notice that. Makes me wonder whether its 'findings' will be pre-decided and if so, how they'll rig it.

Clare, yes I flinched too at her BFing advice. That particular scene was pretty bad, wasn't it?

1:22 pm, September 26, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

I've really enjoyed Tribe and Wild Gourmet too :)

I couldn't watch the 'bringing up baby' programme as I know I would've been screaming at the telly.

1:39 pm, September 26, 2007  
Anonymous Helen said...

I couldn't watch it after seeing the trailers as I knew it would send my bloody pressure through the roof. Television programmes ability to do the most unethical things at will astonishes me. As a psychologist I've struggled to get ethical approval from the NHS ethics commitees to send out a questionnaire to former patients asking about their experiences. There is no way you'd get ethical approval for a study like this so I don't understand why television companies can just do as they please.

5:47 pm, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Lisa G said...

Gill, I'd put money on the 'findings' being pre decided, I'm sure it's already been edited in a certain way to make sure of that. That's another reason why programmes like that are so rubbish, they already have a set agenda and obviously given the Pampers? ads, I'll bet it's going to be pretty mainstream, so they don't upset the sponsors.
I really really like Tribe though, especially last week's with all the Buddhist enlightenment, I hope they don't edit that series too 'creatively', I would be so dissappointed!

7:37 pm, September 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gill, I have to comment as I read through otherwise I'll loose my train of thought about your fascinating post.

Similar thing with The Continuum Concept ... I've had enough people assume that I've read it (and even direct others to me for a synopsis) that I've finally borrowed a copy and begun to see what it is about ;-) Have also strayed into many methods and bits of methods, in my attempt to innovate and find my way ... and the continuumy stuff seems to fit most with respecting the feelings, ideas and physical needs of my infants/children/teenagers/friends/etc!

couldn't have watched the programme about childcare you mentioned (missed it anyway as I'm an accidental TV ignorant) .... too painful!

I was fascinated by that layap episode (I have to tape Tribe for the kids, so I know about that programme at least LOL!) I was slightly surprised to see that very human side of Bruce Parry. I was pretty shocked by his actions and then reassured by how humbled he was by it. It was quite a lesson in itself (maybe I tend to idealise people, and it is good to see someone warts and all still be able to respect them in all their imperfection.) This weeks episode was another surprise as he became quite political and I noticed in the credits he DIDN'T thank the related government.

(Have been diverted by Heros! ... so much for TV ignorance ... but it is the only other thing I know about ... alerted by DH. LOL! Will read rest of your post later.

9:00 pm, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Wobblymoo said...

This was a scary program , not least because people are prepared to alter their experience with their precious babies for the sake of fame.

10:27 pm, September 26, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

I have never heard of or read about any of them. I didn't see the programme either but some of the holding babies way from you stuff was what I was told as a nurse when feeding the babies. It was a strictly getting milk into them exercise an no close holding was allowed. My mother used the scream all night idea in the 60's. Awful:(

12:32 am, September 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People really do think they are going to give babies the idea that they can manipulate/coerce their parents (and we wouldn't like them to 'become manipulative and coercive' ... read: spoilt)!
Well, let's hope they can 'manipulate and coerce' us, otherwise how would they communicate their needs to us when we are so busy listening to 'experts' and ignoring the very people who know exactly what babies need (babies, that is :-)

There is often a misguided common sense logic to some of that stuff that can trip you up (when you are 'young and stupid') because it might logically apply to someone who largely has impulse control and may be using screaming/uproar to consciously coerce (still depends on your perspective).

However, it is more than inappropriate to apply the theory/practice to babies who only survive and thrive by having their impulses/instincts taken seriously, physiologically behave as if they are going to starve/die/are abandoned if not attended very quickly, particularly when crying (begin quickly to go into a kind of physiological shutdown to conserve nutritive resources), and have no concept of 'future' or time that might allow them to think that there is a hope of their unmet needs ever being met.

I only have to imagine the panic I would experience if I had no concept of time/change and was refused food, warmth, or an end to loneliness. What a terrifying and bleak prospect that would be.

Timed crying/feeding/holding, therefore, seems no less cruel for a small baby than leaving them day and night to cry, starve, and feel alone and vulnerable.

Why does that seem so logical in many cultures and yet not in ours? I'd say it is economics ... interesting to see that the commissioning of parenting manuals began with industrialization. Now we have to have them to undo the damage with more manuals.

4:23 pm, September 27, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

I didn't watch the baby programme, as I thought it would be too upsetting.

My mum was born in the 1930s and her mum, who had been brought up in care, read the Truby King book and tried to follow its advice in caring for my mum. My grandmother told my mum how hard it was to follow the advice - how much it hurt. I suspect that she gave up on a lot of it - as she and my mum had a wonderfully warm and loving relationship. I think that most of us end up muddling through with what feels right for us and our babies - and that is probably how it should be.

6:16 pm, September 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont watch TV as I think it is brain numbing,and I dont like being told what to do or think,as for children watching the tv I think you should vet what they watch carefully. Autonomous TV watching in my opinion is showing a lack of parental responsibility.

2:42 pm, October 03, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Is this a serious comment? Put your name and your blog address to it and I'll treat it as such, if it is.

5:29 pm, October 03, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Nikki - bet you know this. What's the one about the tribesmen who come to England to see how we live, and when is it on, please? I've heard about that and it sounds really good too.

Helen, yes it's very ethically dodgy.

Lisa, it's Huggies - I checked last night. Sooo.. what are the odds on Continuum Concept coming out 'last' then? :-(

Sally, our Tom keeps trying to get me into Heros too! Does nothing for me..

Denise, excellent point.

Sally again, yes very much my thoughts too. I don't know though - might this programme introduce some thinking to people about different ways of doing things that they might have previously been unaware of? I noticed the Continuum babies were sleeping soundly in last night's programme :-) Economics, definitely. It's at the bottom of many of the mad things our so-called society inflicts on itself IMO.

Allie, yes I definitely agree about muddling through. My mother used Truby King methods on me though and it hasn't done anything for my relationship with her. We just never bonded properly I don't think. As for long term effects, I have great difficulty in forming trusting relationships. I don't know how much of a factor the babycare I received was in causing that.

5:37 pm, October 03, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Erm - I have a feeling that it's on on a Tuesday or Thursday - probably Thursday and definetely on C4. I missed the one last week due to work - but the first episode was fantastic.

9:07 pm, October 06, 2007  
Blogger mamadillo said...

Having a blog catch-up night (chat scene's a bit quiet, lol) and I've read from the bottom of the page to the top here so I don't know if there's any more on Bringing Up Baby. So please excuse if I'm stating the bleedin' obvious or repeating others' points. Also I've skimmed the comments here, I expect I will feel similarly to most people...

Firstly I'll echo the rant several of my friends have about The Continuum Concept and its application as a method in the programme. It's not a method, it's a ramble about the author's experience of living with the Yequana in South America. This is the tribe that Ray Mears had to teach how to make fire without matches :| The concepts it discusses, meeting the physical and emotional needs of the tribe, are interesting but taking it as a method leaves one open to the kind of headf*** that Deborah Jackson experienced and describes in 'Letting Go As Children Go' and I experienced on ceasing to attempt to breastfeed dd1 having read the older GB/NZ specific edition of 'The Art Of Breastfeeding' It's hard to describe what getting sucked into One True Way-ism and then finding it utterly impossible *because you're too crap at it is like unless one has been there, I think. Anyway, that's totally by the by. The main point here is that Liedhoff never wrote a method, she wrote a book.

*Obviously it wasn't because I was too crap at it, and I knew that it had all been down to the lack of understanding of prem and newborn babies' abilities, responses and needs exhibited by the scbu staff and the other people involved in dd1's early care and the lack of support I had for continuing to try to breastfeed going forward. But that didn't stop me pitching into the abyss of situational PND.

Truby King, who did write a method, was adament that babies should get breastmilk and was nowhere near as harsh as Claire Verity. Please do not insult Dr King's ill-informed-but-well-meaning writings by suggesting that Ms Verity is following his method. Personally I would like to see her arrested for wilful endangerment or dereliction of duty or something because her methods really and truly are neglectful, obviously emotionally but physically too. Oh and if anyone read the article in The Times from before the series was aired, check out the comments from Mrs K Martin and Tracy Oldfield, that's me and my friend who is one of the least Peace-Camp-inhabitant-looking women you will ever see, lol.

There's a live chat with Clare Scott on Mumsnet, it seems that her segments have been heavily edited, she contacted LLL and they had extensive phone conversations and a home visit with a couple of Leaders that were all filmed and simply not shown or even discussed. Oh and the sling she designed, the Close Carrier, is impressive but has limitations (like most slings ;) ) that I'm happy to discuss if anyone's interested in the nitty-gritty...

I haven't watched the show and I won't watch the show, partly because the laptop is required for me to work on and the tv cost far too much to risk the potential damage ;) but mostly because the babies weren't consulted, haven't given informed consent and are being used for ratings, and I am being a conscientious objector and declining to add my number to the ratings.

2:02 am, October 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Blimey lass, you know some stuff :-)

Will google for the Times page but meanwhile have you got a link for us? Would like to read it.

Didn't know that about Ray Mears and the Yequana!

7:54 am, October 09, 2007  

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