Thank You, Dr. Brazelton
Child development expert Dr. T. Berry Brazelton passed away March 13, 2018.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I read Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s book Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development. It was groundbreaking at the time it was published in 1969, but it was also relevant when I read it in 1987, and is still relevant today. Long before neuroscientists recognized the complexity of infant brains, Dr. Brazelton was writing about biologically based temperament and the intricacies of infant development. Based on years of observation, the book follows three babies through their first year. It shows that even though babies develop differently, they are all “normal.” Rather than being prescriptive, it was descriptive, warm and respectful.
Dr. Brazelton showed parents that infants are real people, who communicate, feel emotions, and are complex little creatures from birth. He supported mother-infant bonding and family leave legislation. Dr. Brazelton recognized that parents need support and good information. While today we may take these things for granted, Dr. Brazelton brought intricacies of infant development into the mainstream. He explained how parents could pay attention to their baby’s behavior to help them learn the “language” of their child.
Today, most of us recognize that our babies have unique temperaments, and how those temperaments affect our interactions with them. My hypersensitive baby didn’t want to be overwhelmed and over-stimulated, while my more easy-going infant was easy to sooth. Dr. Brazelton helped me understand that a crying baby doesn’t mean that I was a failure as a mom. He also explained how a child’s behavior might become more difficult during times of rapid growth or development. His book Touch Points describes these milestones, and helped me understand – and be prepared for – what was coming.
Dr. Brazelton died Tuesday at the age of 99.
I am grateful to Dr. Brazelton because he made me a better parent.