Friday, August 1, 2014

No Leisure For Babies

A little drastic sounding, nonetheless, this blog comes after a little reading, a few months of observing (only one) baby and a bit of thought.

I have continuously been amazed at the difference between the adult world and the baby world, more so since almost everyday my baby meets people - outside on walks, around our neighbourhood, at home and elsewhere.

Adults seem to want, above all, babies that smile and coo.  Babies are not doves.  And as for smiling, they do plenty of it when they feel like.  But it's hard to smile when you are being prodded or clucked at or when a pair of fingers seems to endlessly appear at close range in front of your face demanding attention.  Under these circumstances, it is prudent to observe and be a little wary, that's what evolution has probably drilled into us, especially while dealing with strangers.  Babies also do not appreciate their thumbs being yanked out of their mouths by an unfamiliar set of hands, just because it is 'better that way' or 'to clearly see baby's face'.  It has taken a tremendous amount of neuromuscular coordination to get the thumb there and then to keep it in place, and it's done for a purpose.  In all fairness, adults are well meaning and feel they are entertaining the baby and trying to befriend it in these ways, but I can see that babies may not view it in the same light.

Which brings us to the question of entertainment and leisure.  I don't feel there is any word for 'leisure' in baby lingo.  This is because there is no word for 'work' either.  Life seems to be a series of experiences driven largely by instinct, the desire for comfort and curiosity.  At least that's the way it appears to me, as I watch this early stage of my baby's development.  He is not keen to play with toys except those he can use to coordinate his movements - things he can sling over his arm or kick at different angles or insert his fingers to varying degrees into.  He learns incredibly fast from 'mistakes' i.e. times that he is in uncomfortable situations (like putting his hand into crevices where his fingers get momentarily stuck), I have never seen him repeat such actions.  He spends most of his time trying to turn, move, explore his surroundings and talking in his own language (far more complex than the way most adults talk to him- in fact most adults are so busy talking to him that they forget to listen while he sits patiently waiting for them to finish so he can begin).

People also seem very keen to push babies into beginning solid food.  I have read about this terrific social pressure existing almost everywhere (i.e. in many parts of the world) and on many days I am asked by someone or the other when I am going to introduce my baby to the joys of baby cereals.  This includes doctors who feel the baby may want more.  I tell them that my  baby doesn't seem to be asking for more.  Nor does he seem to be nutritionally deprived (calorie for calorie, human milk is naturally more efficiently taken up by babies than any other food anyway.  Apart from which, breast milk changes composition to suit the baby's requirements and has a host of other incredible benefits, like passing on antibodies, gut bacteria and just a good feeling to the baby).  I did buy a packet of popular baby rice cereal but after reading the composition, returned it (to our immensely understanding chemist.  He actually brought out several baby food cereals but they all contained sugar, something doctors have forbidden for the first year of baby's diet.  Something seems to be very wrong here...).  This particular baby cereal contained 10% sucrose, a large number of vitamins and minerals, ash (??!) and other things.  (I learnt subsequently that animal studies have shown that high ash content provides immunity to babies.  But then, my baby is not a guinea piglet and anyway, he has been managing with my own transferred immunity very well so far).  So, if I don't have a problem and neither does my baby, why mess with his food (which is an important part of his life)?

Sleep is one argument most people give, in favour of introducing other foods (and drinks).  Right from the beginning people told me that the simplest way to keep the baby asleep was to feed him lots of water.  The mind boggles!  Is one's priority to keep the baby asleep or to keep him nutritionally healthy?  It is the same with babies who are given 'top feed' (additional, processed milk generally through bottles) - they generally cry less and sleep better (what is not told to parents is that the babies often go off breast milk, because sucking the bottle is easier for their muscles and also because there is a feedback mechanism in the mother's body - the less milk a baby sucks, the less is produced).  'Crying' is a little baby's only means of communication, it's important not to view it as undesirable - shrill and disturbing though it may sound.  As for sleep, there is an evolutionary drive for light and fitful sleep - it has helped babies survive for millions of years.  It's much easier to dope babies with foods their little stomachs cannot handle, with stimuli that daze them momentarily and to invent adult-designed toys to keep them from exploring their surroundings.  But babies don't really need any of this, busy adults do.

1 comment:

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