Cultures, Social Behavior

Child and Baby Care : Evolving viewpoints

child and baby care

“There is no evidence that babies or infants attach less to other carers than the mother.”

This was shown by research on child and baby care done by Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson in Scotland back in 1964. Other research on child and baby care confirmed similar facts.

There is, we must conclude, nothing to indicate any biological need for an exclusive primary bond (with mother); nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.’

wrote Rudolph Schaffer in 1977 in his book Mothering published by the Harvard University Press.

This is off course a sharp contrast to the imprinting generalization on the human species.

And later research on child and baby care went even further. A baby can attach as much to another caring person than the mother even if she is the one staying most of the time at home with the baby. The research on child and baby care shows that the baby or infant can be as and even more distressed when the father, or grandmother leaves the place than the mother. The baby has the intellectual and emotional capacity to attach itself to several people just like adults and this from an early age on. By the time the baby is eight to twelve months it will have as strong bonds with and the mother and the father and siblings if all of them are fun to be with.

And there is the debate whether or not women can go to work when their children are very young and use child and baby care for example. In many countries child and baby care by others is still not encouraged. The reason given is often the emotional implications on the children. The people who feel a mother should be with her children still wonder why it is so important for certain women to go to work and can not understand they do not wish to stay at home with their children. They do not understand why it is necessary to take any chances or risks with other types of child minding when the stakes are so high. In their eyes, the risks are surely higher on one side than on the other. This child and baby care is surely more valuable and important than the employment for some extra years.

If sharing child and baby care would be proven harmful one would think these research data on child and baby care would be mediatized  and that it would be impossible for most women with the choice to even consider going to work and organize group child and baby care. But the data of the research on sharing care says the contrary and this since several years. It was not always so.

The sole condition of child and baby care

There is however one condition. The daycares or other forms of child and baby care need to be of sufficient quality. And a good carer with the right training seems to be able to praise, comfort, respond, question and instruct young children more than others. This is of utmost importance because this quality of baby care will influence positively language skills, intellect and emotional skills. It is also said that the quality of child and baby care is more determined by knowledge of childminding and less by experience. So all these things need to be taken into account whether group care or care by the father or by family members or friends is being debated. Once qualitative child and baby care is seen divergently from the mother, this will have an impact on how we organize as a society.

Child and baby care and Penelope Leach

Sharing care or child and baby care by other people than the mother was not always okay. Back in the seventies, full-day attendance at a day nursery, with mother excluded by her own outside job and/or by professional staff, was considered to do a child considerable harm. It was actually Penelope Leach, a loved British psychologist and bestselling author who was one of the first to debate this matter and the effects on sharing care, in Who Cares? A New Deal for Mothers and Their Small Children written in 1979. But even today and in her last books The Essential First Year (2010) and Family Breakdown  (2014), she is extremely cautious about child and baby care in the first year.

Leach has been criticized for her view that young children require one-on-one attention, ideally provided by mothers or family members and which cannot be provided in day-care.

It is no coincidence that most research on child and baby care showed the opposite of what was actually done in that same period. We now know when children can be taken care by other or more people besides the mother, it does not leave her at a disadvantage in employment, politics or other areas of public life, and does not impose excessive demands on them that can produce so frustration and unhappiness.

Women can get out or combine it with an activity for which they have studied or are passionate about, which gives them their identity and there backbone in questioning moments. Sharing care, child and baby care or group care (more here)are not longer judged and criminalized as before.

child and baby care
A Domestic Scene, Annibale Carracci, 1582-1584, Credit Line Purchase, Mrs. Vincent Astor and Mrs. Charles Payson Gifts, Harris Brisbane Dick and Rogers Funds, 1972


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