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Advice to New Parents

In the last 100 years, experts from fields such as pediatric medicine, psychology and child development have offered a plethora of advice to new parents. Beginning with the medically-based advice of Dr. L. Emmett Holt (1894) and the psychological counsel of Dr. John Watson (1925), we can see the seeds of more modern (and still relied-upon) works, such as those of Dr. Benjamin Spock (1945) and Dr. Penelope Leach (1979). Examined comparatively, these books provide a fascinating window into the ideas about children and childhood that characterized their respective eras. As such, this paper focuses on the similarities among and differences between the seminal works of these four experts, with specific attention to the ways they have influenced our understandings of the very experience of childhood.


At the end of the 19th century, pediatrician L. Emmett Holt created a short pamphlet on caring for children as a tool for teaching nurses. Although he did not originally intend for the work to be used beyond the hospital, by 1894 Holt had expanded, revised, and published the first edition of his "catechism" under the title The Care and Feeding of Children. Over the years, the book "became the infant bible of the nation" as it was translated into several other languages and underwent 12 revisions and 75 printings (Duffus, pp.116-17).

At the time of writing, parents and nurses were eager to have a reliable reference source, and the book was praised for its simple and straightforward style (Duffus, p.117). In a question-and-answer format, the book addresses subjects ranging from what and when a child should be fed to how a child should be kissed. Holt clearly writes from the standpoint of a doctor, consistently emphasizing the prevention of illness, injury, and disease, with little attention to emotional issues. Where emotions are addressed, it is in relation to health concerns. For example, Holt str...

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Advice to New Parents. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:00, June 16, 2019, from