Finding Humor in Dr. Sears

Taking a second look at "The Baby Book," finds that, just maybe, some of it might be meant for a laugh

William Sears has taken a lot of flack over the years, most recently from Erica Jong, whose Wall Street Journal op-ed last month slammed his parenting bible, "The Baby Book," and concluded that attachment parenting is a crock of spit-up homemade baby food—"a prison for mothers," that makes us feel guilty with its unrealistic, retrograde expectations.

Any mother who relied on "The Baby Book" to help navigate those first years must agree with Jong at least a little bit. After all, who wouldn't feel a little overwhelmed when Dr. Bill and his wife/co-author Martha ever-so-gently insist that you nurse on demand, make your own baby food, and bravely forego sleep training, lest your infant develop "issues." I know I do.

But I also think that the book has the most thorough, easy-to-understand info on infant development and medical issues of any baby book out there. So with my second baby now on the scene, I find myself frequently pouring over their attachment parenting tome once again, frantically trying to check exactly what the R in the BRATY diet stands for or trying to predict when teeth number three and four will arrive.

Only this time around, it's suddenly dawned on me—Dr. Sears isn't trying to make us feel guilty with his most over-the-top advice, he's joking around! Right? I mean he has to be. It was probably just the sleep deprivation with my first baby that caused me to read his comedic gems and indignantly think, "You've got to be kidding me!" without actually appreciating his dry wit.

Now I realize that the book is liberally peppered with all kinds of hilarious jokes. Like these: Wondering how to coordinate co-sleeping and, uh, conjugual relations? It's really a snap, says Dr. Sears:  "If baby is sleeping in your bed when the mood hits, you'll discover that every room in the house is a potential love chamber." Of course—just leave your little darling in the bedroom while the two of you scamper off to the miniature replica of Plato's Retreat you've created in your den. Good one, Dr. Bill!

Dealing with an infant who'll only nurse on one side?

"You may feel a bit lopsided for a few months, but your body is never going to be the same after birth anyway."  Ha, how true! Who cares if your breasts match now that your belly is so flabby?

Finding it hard to nurse on demand while also raising a toddler?

"Sit down on the floor with your back against the couch and as you feed your baby, play with your toddler…throw a ball, stack blocks, or read a book." Bah-ha-ha. No problem. And while you're at it, you could also puree the organic carrots that you planted and harvested in your down time. Or spin some cotton into thread, which you can then weave into cloth diapers during the next feeding—which will probably be in about 15 minutes.

Feeling a little self-conscious about all the breastfeeding you have to do in public?

"For discreet feeding, a patterned, loose sweater-type top that can be lifted from the waist is best." Exactly! No one will notice your nipples, because they'll be so distracted by the fact that, in 2010, you're dressed like Bill Cosby.

So you see, there's no reason to ever feel guilty or think that your threshold for sacrifice is shamefully low again when reading "The Baby Book." Whenever you get to a section that makes you question your own stamina as a mother, stop, take a step back, and re-read it.

You'll see that the Searses are just trying to cheer you up with a little laugh. Now do you get it?


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