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.


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".

  • This is an old locution dating to the mid 19th century. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 24 '18 at 22:05
  • 1
    I don't think this practice is "oily marketing speak" at all. Watch Call the Midwife for tons of examples of how this language simply makes "baby" sound more like a person than a thing. – joiedevivre Jan 24 '18 at 23:23

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:

enter image description here

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.

Where's Mother?
--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.

  • How about "I'll take care of daughter this afternoon"? – Apollyon Jan 24 '18 at 22:20
  • Your examples are all about specific referents, but the examples in the OP seem to concern babies in general. – Apollyon Jan 24 '18 at 22:23
  • I will add other examples. And "raising daughter" is indeed used in this way, although not very often. To many native speakers it would sound quaint. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 24 '18 at 22:27
  • 1
    @Apollyon It would be quite common to talk about baby in language like the OPs example sentences before baby is born or right after baby is born but before he or she is named. An OB or midwife, for example, would be quite likely to make statements exactly like those. It doesn't negate your point that those are specific referents, but they are examples of cases where those sentences might very well be used with specific referents. – joiedevivre Jan 24 '18 at 22:35
  • 1
    And I've added an example where the word baby can be understood to mean "the baby each of you has....your baby." but when speaking to an assembled audience. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 24 '18 at 22:36

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:

  • Taking care of babies can be a challenging task. - To speak about babies in general, any baby.

In most cases I personally would prefer to include the article:

  • Taking care of a baby can be a challenging task.

Otherwise, we can rephrase it a little to turn it into a compound noun for instance:

  • Baby care can be a challenging task.

without the article "Taking care of baby" sounds more like a headline, a title to an article for instance.

  • "Feeding and taking care of baby" by Loving Mommy.

Notice that without the article the word "baby" can go with compound nouns - parts of baby,or related to him, or belonging to him.

  • Taking care of baby skin.
  • Taking care of baby teeth and gums.
  • 1
    Note that, although the compound nouns in this example don't need an article, it has nothing to do with the baby and everything to do with the second noun. skin is uncountable (no ndefinite article required) and teeth is plural (no indefinite article required).. Most compound nouns would require an indefinite article, for example "Organizing a baby shower" and "I need a baby buggy". – JavaLatte Jan 24 '18 at 15:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.