Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Bringing Up Baby - update

Channel 4's Bringing Up Baby (see my earlier Bringing Up Baby - theatre or bad science?) had its second episode this evening. Meanwhile, on the Channel 4 forum, the commissioning editor Hamish Mykura has responded to criticisms.
      It appears that various experts were consulted, and the couples in the programme were free to modify the methods they chose, and the Ch4 microsite confirms this: As our expert Harvey Marcovitch points out, "it's important to be aware that the three methodologies [used in the programmes] were modified somewhat in light of modern medical opinion".
      Nevertheless, the light of modern medical opinion doesn't come across very prominently. Hamish Mykura writes: "We did not intend to promote any particular theory, but hoped this would be an interesting way to stimulate a debate on the pros and cons of each method". This reeks of manufactured controversy. The bottom line is that while parenting techniques are subject to discussion and revision, there is no need to stimulate a debate about the Truby King method any more than there's need to stimulate a debate about the pros and cons of sending children down the mines. It's not only discredited, but advocates practices that are now generally agreed to be damaging to infant development. It is not responsible to offer it non-judgmentally as a viable option to try out.
      The same goes for the Channel 4 microsite. If you believe the summary at Which is the best method for bringing up baby?, the only critics are "parents who like spontaneity and flexibility" and believers in Attachment Theory (which they don't bother to explain). Nor is there anything in the Pros & Cons section reflecting the body of research over the last few decades into the known effects of infant isolation - one of the Ch4 forum posters linked to a taster here - and this is the most potent argument against Truby King's ideas.

Addendum: the Nursing & Midwifery Council has just published a complaint - NMC response to Channel 4 series, Bringing up Baby - about one of the mentors' use of an unrecognised job description, "maternity nurse".

Addendum #2: from the Times, Maternity expert Claire Verity is asked to stay away from Baby Show as mothers threaten protest. The fallout from the unpopularity of her advice has led to a cancellation of an invitation to appear at the forthcoming Baby Show at Earls Court.

Addendum #3: from the Times, October 27th. TV’s toughest nanny and the string of qualifications that do not exist, one of a number of newspaper reports revealing further difficulties with Claire Verity's fitness to give babycare advice. Channel 4 are launching an enquiry.
      While this is interesting, it's too late and not terribly relevant. There should have been investigation long since, purely on grounds of the criticisms that were being made, and ignored by the programme makers, after the first episode in the series.

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