In The Gutenberg Galaxy McLuhan wrote about how the split between visual and acoustic that comes with the phonetic alphabet and print technology is responsible for the ’splitting’ of the (Western) individual from the so-called ‘tribal‘ group.
I’ve been thinking about how this might apply to parenting – how Western parents are encouraged to fight the baby’s inherent association between feeding/comfort/sleep or rocking/comfort/sleep, by putting the baby to bed in a cot, in its own room, alone, to sleep through the night (as soon as possible; as soon as the baby can be taught this skill). There are various techniques for getting the baby to accept these terms, e.g. the ‘cry it out’ method (where the baby is left in the cot, regardless of its wish to be picked up and cuddled back to sleep) and some softer techniques e.g. ‘pick up put down’ (where the baby is picked up, soothed and then put back down – repeat as often as necessary, until the baby submits).
Our bub has her own cot in her own room, but during the day I often take a nap with her and some nights this works best too. This is known as ‘co-sleeping’ and is passionately defended by proponents of ‘attachment’ parenting but frowned upon by those who believe that it is unsafe for the baby, or that you are never too young to learn independence. I am fairly middle-way about such things but in one respect I think it’s brilliant: she wakes less, so I get a much better sleep and so does she. I’m sure, too, that it’s only in rich Western nations that the notion of babies having their own rooms has eventuated – elsewhere, whole families share a room and there is no question of the baby being left on its own at night.
You could say that ‘acoustic’ parenting describes the attachment parenting style (in which the baby’s needs for comfort are respected as such), while ‘visual’ parenting describes the various methods of getting the baby to sleep independently (in the cot!) on a more or less fixed schedule.