The Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health believes that it is the responsibility of our organization to speak up and convey what the reality of this “social experiment” is for the babies involved. We know that babies have thoughts, feelings, and emotional responses to separations from the people who love them. They also have thoughts, feelings and emotional responses about the strangers who then feed, bathe, and care for them in unfamiliar environments in the absence of their parents. Everything familiar to these babies is gone. Their reality is turned upside down.
We see babies become disorganized by this experience. In the first episode of this series, the babies cry, refuse to eat, shut down, protest, and seem frightened. These responses signal distress in response to being left with strangers for three days. The babies appear helpless and unable to comfort themselves or be comforted. They cannot bring their parents back, unaware that this “experiment” will only last for three days. From the babies’ perspectives, this loss is forever.
This reality show is for the entertainment of viewers, with no sense of reality for the babies (or for the families). In the weeks following the reunification there will most likely be an increase in the babies’ clinginess, sleeplessness, inconsolable crying, feeding difficulties, and other behavioral demonstrations of what this separation has meant to them.
NBC’s intent was to give the teens a dose of reality. What we saw was reality at the expense of the social and emotional well-being of the babies involved.
We urge each MI-AIMH member to take a stand. Feel free to use this text to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can go to the ZERO TO THREE website ( www.zerotothree.org ) for more information. You can contact those that advertise during this program (see listing below) to protest. Please use your voice to speak up on behalf of babies.