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Open Letter to NBC

The Natural Child Project
February 27, 2008

NBC Viewer Relations

Viewer Relations Dept:

As a parent, child psychologist and family counselor, I am deeply concerned about the premise of your new show "The Baby Borrowers," and for the present and future emotional health of the babies and young children whose lives will be so strongly affected.

Sudden removal from their parents and placement with strangers for long periods of time is from a baby's point of view no different than a kidnapping. It has been well-established that babies who suddenly lose their primary caregiver can quickly go into mourning and emotional depression. They have no sense of time and no way to know that they will ever be returned to the only family they have known. They will inevitably express their fear and confusion in the only way they can, with tears, screams, and regressive behavior. Will their cries and behavior be understood and respected by teenagers with little or no experience with babies and their critical need for compassion and reassurance? I fear not, because anyone who understands the potential for the lifelong repercussions of such a situation would never participate in this type of show.

Babies do not have the mental capacity to anticipate the return of a mother who has gone; they cannot use imagination or project into the future. Research consistently shows that babies separated from their mothers have skyrocketing cortisol levels. This is neurotoxic, damaging brain tissue in the prefrontal lobe areas that regulate emotion, leading to a lifetime vulnerability. When cortisol is produced due to emotional stress, the next stressful experience creates an even larger surge of cortisol. By the time a stressed child reaches adulthood, he is likely to overreact to all stressful situations, making it harder to cope with life's challenges. For all these reasons, babies and young children should be kept as stress-free as possible, to protect their future psychological and physical health.

As traumatic as this experience will surely be for these babies and children, the effects will not end when they return home. Will their parents then understand and empathize with their inevitable sadness and regressed behavior? Probably not, because few parents are aware of the critical importance of early childhood experiences. There is every reason to believe that this kind of trauma will have long-term effects, making it harder for these children to trust their parents or indeed, anyone else. This kind of emotional trauma can have lifelong effects, limiting their ability to have mutually fulfilling relationships with others in adulthood. Nothing is more precious than one's ability to love and trust others fully.

The first months and years of life are absolutely critical for establishing the capacity for love and trust. Babies are human beings who deserve to be treated like human beings, not objects to be callously exploited for "entertainment". I urge you to read the enclosed article on the critical importance of parenting in the early years, and to find a way to entertain your audience that does not jeopardize anyone's mental health and happiness - especially the most emotionally vulnerable members of our society. Babies and young children deserve our utmost love and compassion!

For more information, please see:

"The Science of Attachment: The Biological Roots of Love"


Jan Hunt, M.Sc., Director
The Natural Child project

Related links:

Letter to NBC (Wendorf)

Letter to TVNZ (Porter)

Fury as TV teenagers play house with real babies