I would highly recommend this to new mothers, a lot of the myths addressed are still alive today. Some "stuffy" academic types might complain that he writes in a somewhat popular style, but that does make it pretty readable. The book is structured as a sequence of questions and his answers, which makes it easier perhaps to read to your burning interest of the moment, if in this case you are so inclined to read topically rather than from page 1 to the last. The chapter readings are typically maybe pages long There is an index, but no bibliography.
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Why do babies cry when they are born? Why is the newborn covered in grease? How soon does the navel heal? Why do babies yawn when they are born? Why are some babies born hairy? Why does a baby have a soft spot on its head? Why do the eyes of babies have large pupils? How strong are newborn babies? How well can babies see? How well can babies hear? How well can babies smell? How well can babies taste?
How do babies react to a loss of balance? How well can babies control their temperatures? Why do babies cry? How well can a mother recognize the crying of her own baby? What comforts a baby? What makes a baby smile?
What makes a baby laugh? How do babies suck? How often does a baby feed? Which kind of milk is best for the baby? How were babies weaned before there was baby food?
Why do babies burp? How do babies indicate that they are fully fed? How long do babies sleep? Where do babies sleep? Why do babies like to sleep with a treasured possession? How do babies play?
How soon can babies crawl? How soon can babies walk? How well can babies swim? What is a spoilt baby? Are babies intelligent? Are babies left-handed or right-handed? How important is the mother to her baby? Why are babies swaddled? Why do babies like being rocked? How is a baby transported? How soon can babies be toilet-trained? Why do most mothers cradle their babies in their left arms? How do babies learn to talk? What makes babies so appealing? Do men and women react differently to the sight of a baby?
Why do some mothers have twins? Why do babies cry in aeroplanes? Why are babies circumcised? Why are baby boys dressed in blue and baby girls in pink?
Why was the stork said to bring babies? Why is a baby called a baby? It is not exaggerating to say that the human infant is the most remarkable life-form ever to draw breath on this planet. Small, vulnerable and wordless though the baby may be, it is at the same time power-packed with astonishing potential.
Programmed by a million years of evolution to transform its sophisticated parents into doting protectors, it radiates irresistible appeal. But how deeply do we understand its true nature? How much do we really know about its behaviour and its reactions to the world around it? Have we, perhaps, sometimes been misled by old traditions - entrenched ideas that tell us more about the adults that support them than they do about the babies themselves?
It is time to set the record straight, time to tear away the veils of superstition, fashionable distortion and adult-centred bias, and look again with an unprejudiced eye at the baby itself.
This is not easy. They are such charmers that it is difficult to maintain an objective approach. One gurgling smile from a tiny face and even the hard-nosed scientist is undone.
After studying human adults for many years, I have decided in Baby watching to focus my attention exclusively on the first twelve months of human life - the official period of babyhood, before walking and talking arrive on the scene. And why do they cry so much more than the young of other species? How well can babies see, hear, smell and taste? Close examination reveals that they are much more sensitive to the outside world than was once believed.
How do they feed, sleep, dream, play and crawl? Why do they alone weep, smile and laugh? Just how intelligent are they? Can babyhood be rushed, or must events proceed at their own fixed pace? Is it true that newborn babies can swim under water? And can sleeping mothers really distinguish the cries of their own babies from those of others? Most important of all, how much love and comfort do babies need from their mothers? It is composed of a bald head and a pair of lungs.
In reality, the baby is highly responsive to its environment, right from the moment of its birth, and it is endowed with an immense capacity for stimulating its loving parents, and for monitoring and influencing their behaviour. Contrary to certain opinions, babies are almost impossible to train. Throughout their entire babyhood they only respond badly to attempts to chastise them or to over-regulate their lives. Unless their parents have been indoctrinated with inappropriate regimes, they will escape this fate.
And so they should because a secure babyhood provides the basis for a successful adulthood. No baby can be loved too much. It is a way of looking at infants so that we can see the world from their point of view instead of ours. The more we can think like a baby, the greater our chance of becoming good parents.
Babies not only bring intense joy, they are also our genetic immortality. If we rear them well it is they who will continue our genetic progress through time. Because of our spoken or unspoken awareness of this continuity, the arrival of a new baby is a profoundly rewarding experience, no matter how familiar the event may have become.
The English language is awkward in this respect. No insult to babies is intended, as I am sure the text that follows will confirm. After writing this book I have even more respect and admiration for that most extraordinary of all living things How do babies enter the world? Often with great difficulty, as many women can testify. But why should human birth be such an effort, when so many other animals appear to produce their offspring with so little trouble?
There is no ambulance to rush a mother giraffe to hospital when she is about to produce her six-foot tall calf. There are no doctors or midwives to assist an orangutan mother as her baby edges its way into the outside world. Again the whole procedure seems remarkably relaxed and simple. When the family cat hides away to deliver her litter of mewing kittens she does not appear to be racked with pain. She goes through birth after birth with quiet efficiency and little fuss. Has our species become somehow inefficient at giving birth and if so, why?
It is often argued that the frequent agonies of giving birth are the result of the fact that human beings, uniquely, spend their lives walking around on their hind legs. This bipedal position certainly puts some conflicting demands on the female pelvic girdle, which must be both a vertical locomotion support and a birth passage. The baby has to emerge through a ring of bone that must, of necessity, be a compromise between its two main functions.
But although this factor may play a part in making human birth more difficult than birth in other species, it cannot be the whole answer for one very simple reason: primitive women did not have ante-natal clinics, hospitals, drugs, anaesthetics and obstetricians for expectant mothers.
Desmond Morris - Baby Watching