Monday, 14 July 2014

It's childcare, Jim...

It was 58 years ago today that Dr Benjamin Spock (no, not that one!) published his landmark book, 'The Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare'.

It was an instant success: in the first six months it sold over half a million copies and has been selling ever since. It was blamed by various preachers and politicians for the permissive society, political unrest and paternalism, as well as other crimes that don't begin with 'p'.

But all he did - and in a reassuringly conversational tone - was to tell parents to trust their own instincts and to put the child first. It's pretty standard stuff today (although his views on some things, such as placing sleeping babies on their front, have since been proved to be bad advice). The book still sells well (at the time of Spock's death in 1998 over 500 million copies... if only my modest efforts in the genre could match that!). It has been translated into almost 40 languages and - aside from the Bible - is the biggest-selling US book of the twentieth century.

I wish...

Prior to Spock the main approaches to childcare tended to ignore children's emotional needs and usually followed a rigid timetable (two years and a day? Time for potty training!) That most parents (and parenting authors) now appreciate that children develop at different rates and have important emotional needs is largely thanks to Spock. 

It's childcare, Jim, but not as we knew it.


  1. "Proved to be bad advice" is a bit of an understatement; it's estimated that tens of thousands of babies died because of his recommendation that babies sleep on their fronts. It's used as a classic example of why evidence based medicine is so important – it seemed common sense to say they should sleep on their fronts, but doctors shouldn't recommend *anything* without evidence to back it up.

  2. Mr Tumble!! (My daughter adores him!)


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