I’ve started receiving baby magazines in the mail. This means that about once a month, I get to sit and laugh and bitch and boggle at the ridiculousness that is modern commercial baby care. Since I know you’re dying to read my whining about baby magazines, welcome to Baby Bellyaching, a (hopefully) monthly bitch-fest about the crap in these magazines.
This month, I got American Baby (Dec 2010) and BabyTalk (Dec/Jan 2011).
Special Note: Other than this note, Baby Bellyaching is exempt from any sort of disclaimers, examination of privilege, or acknowledging people’s different reasons and situations. This is just a space for me to bitch.
Let’s check out American Baby first!
The main thing that always astounds me about baby magazines is the number of products they’re offering and problems they’re trying to fix that I just don’t understand. This month’s “baby booty” includes shoes for babies and shirts that help you hide that you’re breastfeeding. Frankly, I can’t wait to whip my boobs out in public, so maybe it’s me that’s strange. But shoes for babies? That just sounds like a waste of money to me. Another item was a bowl especially for baby food. Huh? Assuming I was going to give my baby special baby food (which I’m not), why would it need its own bowl?
Breeding Fear: There are always little fear nuggets in these magazines, of course, so each month and for each magazine I’ll be able to fill the Breeding Fear section. This issue sported warnings of ER visits if you leave your kid in a carseat on a surface like a table, encourages you to keep your kid away from dog food lest they get Salmonella, and suggests avoiding wire lined holiday ribbons so your kid doesn’t electrocute ouself[1. It’s hard to talk about babies without using pronouns, and since you don’t know the gender of the child in question, the available pronouns really bug the shit out of me. So, I’m finally jumping off the cliff and picking a gender-neutral pronoun. I’ve decided to go with ou, which has the benefit of not being completely made up. Look it up if you like, and expect to see more of it around here] with them. This issue also had a whole article on weird shit that your kids do to their bodies, like eat Christmas ornaments and put crayons up their noses, and also a whole article on protecting your baby in the winter cold. Whew. That’s a lot to be worried about. Or not.
Dubious Reporting on Studies: Apparently, “A study…finds…tots who received the most affection turned out to be happier than…those who got less.” The tiny blurb starts off by claiming that this is a reason to hug your baby. This is dubious because it’s being presented as “hug your baby more and ou’ll be happier,” instead of, say, “families who make happy babies also tend to be touchier”. I highly doubt that hugging your baby three times a day by rote (and doing nothing else differently) is going to increase the happiness of your child. That doesn’t stop this magazine from suggesting that you do it anyway.
One GOOD thing: To the question “Can I have a cocktail if I’m nursing?” the reply is basically yes, you can have up to 2 drinks a week, just wait a couple of hours after drinking to nurse. It’s so rare to see a reasoned opinion when talking about babies and alcohol. Plus they also dispel the “pump and dump” silliness.
And how did BabyTalk stand up to my bellyaching?
There’s a small article on how dad can connect with the baby that’s a little condescending, but not the worst I’ve seen.
There’s a big article on how your baby’s communication develops. I generally enjoy these kinds of articles, because they help keep me fresh on childhood development stuff I learned years ago. However, I’m always a little annoyed by the advice given to help these skills along. For example, in the 3-6 month range, the article suggests echoing your baby’s sounds back at ou as well as making new ones. Who really needs this suggestion? Who doesn’t do that with their babbling baby? It always seems to me like the advice can be summed up as, “Like your baby, spend time with ou, and have a positive relationship.” Everything else follows.
Ooh, this one is fun: In the article “Is my baby ready to…?” doctors give advice for your “pressing concerns”. Let’s hear my answers instead! Is my baby ready to snooze on her tummy? Nah, she’ll want to sleep on her back or side most of the time, because she’ll fall asleep in your bed nursing. Ready to ditch the bumpers? What bumpers? Oh, you mean in a crib? Hahahahaha. Sleep through the night? No. Hardly anyone does this ever. Don’t you sometimes wake up to pee or wake from a bad dream or get a little chilly and snuggle in more or briefly wake to change positions? Let your baby be a real person, too. Ride in a stroller? No, you’ll carry ou, and after that ou will be ready to walk. Needless to say, my answers are a bit different than the ones in the magazine.
Breeding Fear: Did you know that you you shouldn’t use a drop-side crib? Or one with slats that are too far apart? Or one that’s too old. Or, or…! Tell me again why sleeping with your baby is supposed to be so scary? Besides the crib stuff, there’s a scary little paragraph on the return of whooping cough and a laundry list of fire hazards.
The other half – ADS!:
There’s never actually that much content in these magazines. Half of the “content” is stuff you should buy, and half of the magazine is actually ads. So, I took an ad tally while I was reading. I counted both magazines together and only full or half page ads (not the little ones in the back). I left off ads for stuff that wasn’t specifically kid-related, like Wal-Mart or car insurance. After that, here’s what was being advertised to me:
- Parent Replacement Items: 14 ADS. This was the biggest category. It includes bottles, cribs, heartbeat and nightlight stuffed animals, monitors, strollers, pacifiers, etc – a whole host of things that replace direct parental care and explain why people think babies are expensive.
- Health/Beauty/Cleaning: 12 ADS. This next biggest section includes things like stretch mark lotion, baby nasal spray, disinfecting wipes, and cord blood banking. It’s all annoying and offensive, because it’s all based on either “The world is scary!” or “There’s something wrong with you! (or your baby!)” or both.
- Diapers/stuff: 8 ADS. This section bugs me because of the unexamined notion that you’re going to dispose of all that garbage. Not a single one of these ads was for cloth diapers or cloth wipes.
- Inappropriate/inferior food/supplies for babies: 6 ADS. This included formula (of course) and also that mushy, overpriced “baby food” with an infant in the picture (WTF!) Separately, 2 ADS for breast pumps or pumping supplies.
- Misc. non-bothersome stuff: 5 ADS. The smallest category was the non-offensive stuff, like carseats and toys.
As a special bonus, here’s one particular ad from this month. I categorized it under Parent Replacement Items, because in addition to the crib, a nursery kind of counts as a replacement item all on its own. This picture absolutely horrifies me and embodies all the ways in which I don’t want to parent.
I wonder if January will bring any new bitching or if it’ll all look the same month after month? Wait and see!