Memoir of the much-admired pediatrician and prolific author.
Brazelton (Emeritus, Pediatrics/Harvard Medical School) opens with frank comments about his own unhappy childhood, his distant relationship with his parents and his early talent for taking care of small children. He skims through his medical education and naval service and hits his stride when he turns to the years when he began to combine the practice of pediatrics and psychiatry. A more accurate title for this book would be Learning to Observe, for Brazelton became a keen observer of newborns and from these observations developed with his colleagues the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, a comprehensive scale for understanding the temperament of newborns that is still taught and used today. He also explains Touchpoints, a theory of the forces that drive child development that is taught to professionals at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and to parents in a series of popular books. For general readers—i.e., those who are not new parents—the most fascinating parts of the memoir are most likely to be his accounts of his experiences studying newborns in other cultures: Mayans in southern Mexico, Guatemalans, Kenyans, urban and rural Japanese, Chinese, Navajos in Arizona and Greeks on the island of Thera. The author is not shy about his accomplishments, and he appears to take special delight in telling of encounters with vocal admirers, of his put-downs of those less respectful, and of his brushes with the famous.
Readers familiar with Brazelton’s books and articles on babies and children may relish this close-up look at the man who guided them through the vicissitudes of parenthood; others, not so much.