Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

Bringing Up Baby

The movie “Bringing up Baby” (1938), starred Carry Grant and Katherine Hepburn. In this fabulously funny antic romp Baby is a leopard. Nowadays movies and television address child-rearing in part because of the so-called baby boom. Though by now those babies are adults in their forties. Usually popular media present child rearing as light comedy. However, when faced with rearing one's own baby it is not a laughing matter. Pediatricians and child psychologists give firm advice and tell you how to deal with it; woe to the parent who listens to them. My son was born during the so-called "Schedule" era. This was followed later by its reverse, the so-called "On Demand" or "Permissive" approach. Because mothers are fearful handling their first baby they follow physicians’ recommendations. One example I encountered was the following: when a baby cries pick it up and find out why it is upset; perhaps it is wailing because of a dirty diaper or a pin pricking its flesh. If neither is the case then put the baby down. Do not spoil it, because baby will stop crying sooner or later. But the doctor did not know that my child seemed to cry indefinitely. Do not rock the baby carriage, the physician said. I was never told the rationale for this admonition. Feed only on schedule. I followed these orders religiously and had a baby on my hands who screamed lustily long before his feeding time. He also would rock his carriage as soon as he found out how, and was in constant danger of tipping it over. He would stop screaming when I cuddled him in my arms cuddling but as soon as I put him down he began to wail again. Why did I not rely on my motherly instincts? Animals have them and know how to follow their offspring's demands and to teach them when to rely on their own learned behavior. I imagine that humans have the same instincts, but let them be overruled by “good" advice. Fortunately one is more relaxed with a second child, and baby and family can enjoy one another.

I cannot quite forgive those professionals who, with “their good advice,” prevented me from enjoying my first-born as much as I could have. I should have listened to my mother.


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