I'm wondering whether the following sentences strike you as odd, with baby in its bare form:
Taking care of baby doesn't mean having to sacrifice one's social life.
Taking care of baby can be a challenging task.
I'd appreciate your help.
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It is certainly normal to use an article with baby. but increasingly marketing and self-help information targeted at parents use the word as if it were a proper name,, which does not require an article:
We know that you want the best for baby...
There is even a book called "Taking care of baby"
If you don't want your sentence to sound like oily marketing speak, I recommend the use of an article "a baby" or a possessive pronoun "your baby".
I'm wondering whether this strikes you as odd, with baby in its bare form:
- Taking care of baby can be a challenging task.
It strikes me as unusual, but not necessarily as odd. That is, I wouldn't expect to see it often, but I'm not bothered when I do run across it.
More importantly, though, I'd want to know more about the context where I heard it. If it was found in a self-help parenting book, such as What to Expect the First Year, published in 2009:
And listening to what baby tells you not only makes your job easier (you can provide what baby wants promptly, rather than figuring it out through trial, error, and tears)...
then I would not bat an eye, because I'm well aware that this convention has been used in literature for quite some time – like in this magazine ad from 1920:
However, if I was at my neighbor's house, and her baby started crying, and she said:
Listen to that fuss! I wonder what baby wants.
then I might find that a little unusual, because mothers more typically say, "my baby", "the baby", or use the baby's name:
Listen to that fuss! I wonder what Samantha wants.
Mother/Mama/Mom and Father/Papa/Dad and even Baby are terms of address which get used as quasi-generic nouns because of the normalcy and near ubiquity of the so-called "nuclear" family pattern.
--She's in the nursery, giving baby a bath.
It is often recommended to allow baby to cry himself or herself to sleep.
We'd like to welcome all of you first-time parents to this class on taking care of baby.
Taking care of baby is an old construction, not something to be attributed to recent ad-speak. It's attested in the mid 19th century.
It happens in other contexts too.
What gift should we give Coach at the awards banquet?
When nurse comes, tell her that doctor said your incision could do with a fresh bandage.
This phenomenon is related to role nouns.
In addition to JavaLatte's answer I wish to add that to speak about general stuff we use the plural and this isn't an exception here either:
In most cases I personally would prefer to include the article:
Otherwise, we can rephrase it a little to turn it into a compound noun for instance:
without the article "Taking care of baby" sounds more like a headline, a title to an article for instance.
Notice that without the article the word "baby" can go with compound nouns - parts of baby,or related to him, or belonging to him.