Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at 4:45 AM
Illustration by Robert Neubecker
Welcome to How Babies Work, the blog for my new book Baby Meets World. Why don’t you collapse over there on the futon? You’ve clearly been up all night.
First, let’s get this straight: I’m not here to help. Baby Meets World isn’t a conventional baby book. It has no advice to offer. Instead, it’s a new, off-center story about our first experience of the world. It takes a few fundamental activities in infancy (sucking, smiling, touching, toddling) and looks at each from a variety of angles: scientific, historical, cross-cultural, personal. Our understanding of infancy and parenthood tends to be very prescriptive and parochial. But the world of babies and child-rearing is gloriously strange. Rather than skip over that strangeness, Baby Meets World wallows in it.
Photo by Anya Bernstein
Over the next couple of months, while you’re sprawled out over there on the futon, I hope to do that here too. With any luck, this blog will tell you things about infancy you didn’t even know to be curious about. Those things won’t all come from me: I’m a writer who found himself with a baby, not an expert (although neither are all the experts). They’ll come from interviews with people who look at babies in new ways and from a wide range of perspectives—developmental psychology, history, biological anthropology, that sort of thing. I’ll try to avoid the deadening practicality of baby manuals (how to get your child to sleep!) and the breathless news of baby science (this fresh-from-the-lab, not-yet-replicated discovery about how your child sleeps!). There are more than two ways to talk about a baby. Here we’ll talk about some big philosophical things (like how you can see the foundation of human social cognition in an infant pointing) and some small weird things (like the history of humans nursing other species altogether). To start with, I’ll discuss the amazing new science of breast milk. Turns out you haven’t just been feeding your baby—you’ve been feeding the amazing bacteria in his guts.
I should add that I won’t be cannibalizing the book. Most of what I discuss here never made it into Baby Meets World. So don’t worry that you’ve read all the good bits already. And I’ll try not to give away the ending.