2 October 2007
Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH)
Subject: "Bringing up baby"
Social experiments by health professionals must satisfy ethics committees that they are both useful and harmless. Yet a TV company can make a series described as settling "the right way to care for babies", by recruiting six pairs of pregnant parents and mentoring them to follow one of three historical methods.
Twelve parents and their seven babies could not usefully contribute to child care debate and the show is clearly harmful to those taking part as the weeping mother and shocked father of the howling newborn, shut away at the mentor's insistence, alone until the next feed was due and then to be fed with no eye contact and held well away from mother's body, made clear. And the show will harm children of watching parents, too. These Truby King recommendations bedevilled the lives of our great grandparents. They have long been recognised as damaging to babies' development and to their relationships with parents, so advocating them on mass media is irresponsible. Claire Verity, the mentor, was unmoved by the distress she had orchestrated" People pay me £1000 a day to put their babies into a routine... That's what I firmly believe in". Claire Verity has no more right to prevent parents responding to their own babies and preach the rightness of doing so than a psychiatrist would have to insist that a bridge be built to his sketch rather than to an engineering specification.
"Bringing up Baby" is not the first TV series to use the difficulties of volunteer parents and their volunteered babies to entertain the rest of us, (think "Baby Borrowers" or "Help I'm a Teenage mum") but it is the worst and should be the last, says the Association for Infant Mental Health. If television production companies and networks cannot police their own ethics and promote accurate information that viewers can trust, and Ofcom, their regulator cannot make voluntary codes effective, we need compulsory standards and an ethical review process for TV and radio programmes planning manipulations of Infant Care.
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