Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baby Swing: Mother's Helper or Separation Tool?

I'm not against using baby swings and seats, but I just saw a full-page Fisher-Price ad in Parenting Mag that made me think, "Wow, there are really a lot of tools to separate us from our babies."

Swing and exersaucer-using parents, I'm not criticizing the use of those tools- I used them too. But the ad in the magazine shows a montage in which a baby is never held by his parents. In the first shot, the baby is in a bassinet by his mom (God forbid the baby actually touch you while he sleeps). In the second shot, the parents are feeding the baby while he sits in a high chair (sometimes my baby likes to eat while sitting on my lap). In the next shot, the Dad is showing the baby toys hanging on the exersaucer the baby's sitting in (maybe the baby would like a little break from fabric pressing on her crotch). In the final shot, the mom and her friend are smiling and leaning over the baby, who's sitting in a gigantic swing (I thought people LIKED to hold babies).

I understand that this is an ad for those products, not a "how to parent" montage, but I think these images influence people's view of what's normal. I guess that's why FP puts these ads in... so first time parents think, "Oh cool, this is what I need to handle my baby. The baby is sure going to love sitting in this." Maybe some babies do. Mine never really did, although the exersaucer often got me 10 minutes of blogging time. Believe me, I am NOT saying parents should not take time for themselves. When the kid can't sit up to play on his or her own, these tools can be pretty damn handy.

Also, some people NEED these tools to contain their babies in a safe place while they care for other children or accomplish a task around the house. I'm not judging people who use swings and exersaucers and bassinets- we used them too.

But I also see in these ads a fear- a fear about a baby growing too used to your touch. And a feeling that is inconvenient to hold your baby with your own arms. Sure, sometimes it is. But they are only little for such a short time.

Also, that's why babywearing can be so nice- your hands are free, but your baby (or toddler) is snuggled right next to you. Rather than put Q in the exersaucer, I'd often wear him while I did laundry or put dishes away. It's not always the easiest on your back, so I'm not going to tell other parents to babywear if they don't want to. I do think parents should do what works for them, and if it's to put the kid in the swing, go for it.

However, this ad made me think about how a baby can be viewed as a threat- but if he can be contained, you can go about your orderly, adult-oriented life. I think that as a parent who wants to feel connected to their baby, you have to be aware of the subtle messages these ads send. It's one of the many reasons I do not love parenting magazines, and would rather read parenting blogs and websites, such as Phd in Parenting, Hobo Mama, and Amber Strocel's blog.

Taking care of a baby by yourself all day can be exhausting. Often these tools give a mother a much-needed break. Many of the new mothers I know, including me, do NOT have family in the area, so don't have a mother or mother-in-law nearby who could come and give her an hour break- much less a 20 minute break! A swing had to do that, and I think that is fine. I was just struck by the Fisher-Price ad, where people who clearly had free time, and free hands, were standing beside a baby in a piece of plastic.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Great post! Although neither of my children would have ever slept or gave me any mommy time to shower with out the swing.. I think these products are totally over used. And some of them are nothing short of JUNK! First time moms are convinced by those kinds of ads that they need all this crap when most of it serves no purpose!