Your Friendly 1936 Neighborhood OB Says 'Don't Kiss Your Baby'

Sometimes it feels like previous generations have no idea what the women of childbearing age are doing with all of this crazy baby-holding and baby-walking-around-with and cuddling that seems like coddling. Surely the child just screamed in the store because he his spoiled from all of this attention! The young women with their conscious births and “bonding” and wearing of the babies— they’re mad!

Today would be as good a day as any to let their criticism and fears about parenting, out-of-hospital birth and breastfeeding roll right off like water off a duck’s back. This guy might have been their obstetrician, and they might have placed great weight on his advice. He was a doctor, after all.



Children and Parents

By Catherine Mackenzie

New York Times, September 17, 1939 


There ought to be a law against fondling and kissing the baby! This goes for uncles, aunts and grandmothers, according to Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the Dionne doctor, who spoke his mind on the subject at last week’s American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland. Give a baby a chance to get started, he said, before passing on infections.

Father and mothers of young babies do not need to be told that he speaks for modern pediatricians. “No kissing for the first month”—at least near the baby’s mouth—is one of the “don’t” recommended by the New York Lying-In Hospital when mother and baby leave for home. Up to that time fathers see the baby only through glass; mothers wear masks when nursing the baby; mothers’ visitors must put on sterile gowns. From the medical standpoint, there is no compromise in this matter of safeguarding the newborn against the dangers of infection.

But what about showing the baby affection? Grandmothers have sighed with relief since the hands-odd doctrine of infant care went out of fashion; it’s a pleasure, they say, to be allowed to pick up a baby again. And the new school of thought holds that grandma’s instincts were right all the time.

Dr. Mabel Huschka, consulting psychiatrist at the pediatric division of the New york Hospital, says that maternal stresses and strains in children did indeed result from the hard-and-fast rules of a decade or so ago; that deliberate neglect is never for a baby’s good. Parents should remember, she says, “that babies have real worries,” that they should not be left to cry too long, even if they are not hungry or have no pin sticking in them; that they have mental as well as physical needs. But Dr. Huschka doesn’t think that the young baby will feel neglected is he is not indiscriminately kissed.



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