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The Afterlife Is Where We Come From
Alma Gottlieb
University of Chicago Press, 2003
When a new baby arrives among the Beng people of West Africa, they see it not as being born, but as being reincarnated after a rich life in a previous world. Far from being a tabula rasa, a Beng infant is thought to begin its life filled with spiritual knowledge. How do these beliefs affect the way the Beng rear their children?

In this unique and engaging ethnography of babies, Alma Gottlieb explores how religious ideology affects every aspect of Beng childrearing practices—from bathing infants to protecting them from disease to teaching them how to crawl and walk—and how widespread poverty limits these practices. A mother of two, Gottlieb includes moving discussions of how her experiences among the Beng changed the way she saw her own parenting. Throughout the book she also draws telling comparisons between Beng and Euro-American parenting, bringing home just how deeply culture matters to the way we all rear our children.

All parents and anyone interested in the place of culture in the lives of infants, and vice versa, will enjoy The Afterlife Is Where We Come From.

"This wonderfully reflective text should provide the impetus for formulating research possibilities about infancy and toddlerhood for this century." — Caren J. Frost, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
“Alma Gottlieb’s careful and thought-provoking account of infancy sheds spectacular light upon a much neglected topic. . . . [It] makes a strong case for the central place of babies in anthropological accounts of religion.  Gottlieb’s remarkably rich account, delivered after a long and reflective period of gestation, deserves a wide audience across a range of disciplines.”—Anthony Simpson, Critique of Anthropology

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Baboon Mothers and Infants
Jeanne Altmann
University of Chicago Press, 2001
When it was originally released in 1980, Jeanne Altmann's book transformed the study of maternal primate relationships by focusing on motherhood and infancy within a complex ecological and sociological context. Available again with a new foreword by the author, Baboon Mothers and Infants is a classic book that has been, in its own right, a mother to a generation of influential research and will no doubt provide further inspiration.

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Baboon Mothers and Infants
Jeanne Altmann
Harvard University Press, 1980

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Baby and Child Heroes in Ancient Greece
Corinne Ondine Pache
University of Illinois Press, 2004
In addition to their famous gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks also worshiped deceased human beings, including child and baby heroes. Although these heroes played an essential role in Greek religion, Corinne Ondine Pache's Baby and Child Heroes in Ancient Greece is the first systematic study of the considerable number of Greek babies and children who became enduring myths, objects of worship, and the recipients of sacrifice.
Examining literary, pictorial, and numismatic representations, Pache opens up a vast territory once occupied by children such as Charila, Opheltes, Melikertes, and the children of Herakles and Medea. She elegantly argues that the stories, songs, and sanctuaries honoring these heroes express parental fears and guilt about children's death. Pache further demonstrates that while the myths and rituals articulate basic human anxieties, their emphasis is ultimately on the beauty that transcends the gruesomeness of the narrative, turning their dread into poetry. By showing the continuity of child heroes in Greek religion, she is able to throw new light on iconographies that have previously defied explanation.

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Racism, Survival, and the Quiet Politics of Infant Mortality, from A to Z
Monica J. Casper
Rutgers University Press, 2021
The U.S. infant mortality rate is among the highest in the industrialized world, and Black babies are far more likely than white babies to die in their first year of life. Maternal mortality rates are also very high. Though the infant mortality rate overall has improved over the past century with public health interventions, racial disparities have not. Racism, poverty, lack of access to health care, and other causes of death have been identified, but not yet adequately addressed. The tragedy is twofold: it is undoubtedly tragic that babies die in their first year of life, and it is both tragic and unacceptable that most of these deaths are preventable. Despite the urgency of the problem, there has been little public discussion of infant loss. The question this book takes up is not why babies die; we already have many answers to this question. It is, rather, who cares that babies, mostly but not only Black and Native American babies, are dying before their first birthdays? More importantly, what are we willing to do about it? This book tracks social and cultural dimensions of infant death through 58 alphabetical entries, from Absence to ZIP Code. It centers women’s loss and grief, while also drawing attention to dimensions of infant death not often examined. It is simultaneously a sociological study of infant death, an archive of loss and grief, and a clarion call for social change.

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Back to the Breast
Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America
Jessica Martucci
University of Chicago Press, 2015
After decades of decline during the twentieth century, breastfeeding rates began to rise again in the 1970s, a rebound that has continued to the present. While it would be easy to see this reemergence as simply part of the naturalism movement of the ’70s, Jessica Martucci reveals here that the true story is more complicated. Despite the widespread acceptance and even advocacy of formula feeding by many in the medical establishment throughout the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, a small but vocal minority of mothers, drawing upon emerging scientific and cultural ideas about maternal instinct, infant development, and connections between the body and mind, pushed back against both hospital policies and cultural norms by breastfeeding their children. As Martucci shows, their choices helped ideologically root a “back to the breast” movement within segments of the middle-class, college-educated population as early as the 1950s.
That movement—in which the personal and political were inextricably linked—effectively challenged midcentury norms of sexuality, gender, and consumption, and articulated early environmental concerns about chemical and nuclear contamination of foods, bodies, and breast milk. In its groundbreaking chronicle of the breastfeeding movement, Back to the Breast provides a welcome and vital account of what it has meant, and what it means today, to breastfeed in modern America.

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Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy
Penny Van Esterik
Rutgers University Press, 1989
"A new milestone in the literature on development. . . . Essential (and enjoyable)reading for a broad range of individuals including all those concerned with urban and rural development . . .; professionals and academics in . . . health, sociology, anthropology, and development economics; many women exploring gender issues and feminism; . . . food industrialists and marketeers; . . . and lastly, ordinary persons interested in how best to nurture babies."
--from the Foreword by Michael C. Latham, Cornell University

Penny Van Esterik takes the reader beyond the Nestle boycott and the activist campaigns against infant-formula manufacturers to the issues underlying the controversy. She shows how the controversy is embedded in the problem of urban poverty, the empowerment of women, the medicalization of infant feeding, and the commoditization of infant foods. She argues that the choice between bottle feeding and breast feeding has significant implications for developing countries. Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy raises a host of important questions: why has there been no consistent feminist position? How did infant feeding become medicalized in developing and developed countries? What mechanisms encourage the technology and taste transfer necessary for the expansion of bottle feeding? These questions are examined using documentary sources and interdisciplinary research in Thailand, Indonesia, Kenya, and Columbia.

For Van Esterik, the infant-formula controversy is a valuable case study for understanding the relations between women, the environment, and sustainable development. From this perspective, breast feeding has no long-term negative consequences. It depends on renewable resources, works on the principle that as demand increases so does supply, reduces the dependency of women on consumer products and multinational corporations, and puts pressure on governments to improve the health of mothers. On the other hand, the author argues that bottle feeding has definite long-term negative consequences. Her goal is not to have every woman breast-feed her child, but to create living and working conditions so that every woman can do so if she chooses.

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Birthing a Better Way
12 Secrets for Natural Childbirth
Kalena Cook
University of North Texas Press, 2010

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The Development of Behavioral States and the Expression of Emotions in Early Infancy
New Proposals for Investigation
Peter H. Wolff
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Peter H. Wolff, a world-renowned authority on infant behavior, helped lay the foundation for the field in the 1960s with his innovative studies of behavioral studies, motor coordination, smiling, and crying in infancy. Some twenty years later, as infancy studies have become increasingly specialized and fragmented, he calls for new theoretical perspectives and methods of investigation. Applying ethological methods used in field studies of animal behavior, Wolff first observes how babies behave in the "natural" ecology of their homes to catalog their species-typical behavioral repertory and then manipulates their behavior through informal experiments designed to examine functional significance.

Wolff argues that a coherent psychobiological theory of early human development must begin with knowledge about the infant's behavioral repertory under free field conditions. Many current theories of human development begin instead with assumptions about the organization of behavior derived from studies of psychological function in the adult; moreover, they appeal to instincts, maturational programs, or genomes to explain the apparent lawfulness in the development of these behavioral categories. Such a priori explanations, Wolff contends, beg the whole question of development. As an alternative to theoretical metaphors that portray the infant as a closed system and suggests that development is controlled by prescient programs that anticipate the mature steady state, Wolff proposes a metaphor of the infant as an open, self-organizing system with partial, mutative mechanisms of development. Applying this metaphor, he addresses the essentially unsolved problem of how novel behavioral forms are induced during ontogenesis.

Wolff presents a study of twenty-two infants who were observed for thirty hours each week in their homes during the first months after birth. He builds a week-by-week description of changes in behavioral states of wakefulness and examines how reversible state changes influence developmental transformations in social-affective behavior and sensori-motor intelligence. The observations and informal experiments emphasize expressions of emotion and the infant's changing relations to persons and things. Pointing out that movements are our only clue to what infants "feel" or "think," Wolff gives special emphasis to the systematic variations in spontaneous and environmentally evoked patterns of motor coordination as a function of behavioral state transitions.

Of great importance to psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and students of development in general, The Development of Behavioral States and the Expression of Emotions in Early Infancy offers a major empirical, methodological, and theoretical rethinking of the subject to which Wolff has made outstanding contributions.

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Don't Kill Your Baby
Public Health and the Decline of Breastfeeding in the 19th and 20th Centuries
The Ohio State University Press, 2001
How did breastfeeding—once accepted as the essence of motherhood and essential to the well-being of infants—come to be viewed with distaste and mistrust? Why did mothers come to choose artificial food over human milk, despite the health risks? In this history of infant feeding, Jacqueline H. Wolf focuses on turn-of-the-century Chicago as a microcosm of the urbanizing United States. She explores how economic pressures, class conflict, and changing views of medicine, marriage, efficiency, self-control, and nature prompted increasing numbers of women and, eventually, doctors to doubt the efficacy and propriety of breastfeeding. Examining the interactions among women, dairies, and health care providers, Wolf uncovers the origins of contemporary attitudes toward and myths about breastfeeding.

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The Essential Lapsit Guide
A Multimedia How-To-Do-It Manual and Programming Guide for Stimulating Literacy Development from 12 to 24 Months
Linda L. Ernst
American Library Association, 2015

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Great Expectation
A Father's Diary
Dan Roche
University of Iowa Press, 2008
In Great Expectation, Dan Roche gives a man's perspective on what it means to start and expand a family relatively later in life. Through a series of diary entries in turns humorous, angst ridden, and full of hope and joy, Roche describes his own thoughts and concerns during the nine months of his wife's pregnancy.

With five years of parenting his irrepressible daughter Maeve under his belt, Roche, already forty-five years old, and his wife, Maura, face the prospect of another arrival and the myriad of emotions that come with a second child. From revelling in the joys of pregnancy such as Maura's delight at "having cleavage" and being able to eat whatever she desires; to assuaging the parental anxieties of choosing the right obstetrician, correcting the mistakes one made with the first child, and sending children to college in the future; to navigating the unforeseen, experiencing the unexpected death of a parent, and feeling trepidation toward the thought of having a son, Roche records his emotions with unusual candidness and intimacy.

Reflecting on day-to-day events and their significance in his family’s life together, Roche wonders what he is getting himself into and how much deeper he can immerse himself into parenting. Together, he and his wife face the bittersweet intersections of death and new life, menace and hopefulness. With sincerity and a mature wit, Great Expectation stands as a wise recounting of nine months’ time, with all of its chaos and charms, and offers a fresh perspective for first-time and veteran parents alike.


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Its Place in Human Development, With a New Foreword by the Authors
Jerome Kagan, Richard B. Kearsley, and Philip R. Zelazo
Harvard University Press, 1980

Here is a major new work on human infancy written by one of the country’s leading developmental psychologists and two distinguished colleagues. At its core is the long-awaited report of the authors’ six-year study of infant day care. Important in its own right, this experiment becomes the occasion for a wide-ranging discussion of cognitive and emotional processes in infancy, of the effects of early experience on later growth, and of the deep-seated cultural and historical assumptions that underlie our views of human development.

For those concerned with social policy, the book provides the best empirical assessment now available of the effects of group care on the psychological well-being of infants. It also supplies a blueprint for quality daycare that may well stand as a model for future nurseries. For those interested in the course of cognitive and emotional development, the book provides rich information about the major growth functions that characterize human infancy. It also outlines an explanation of these growth functions that links changes in emotional behavior to the maturation of underlying cognitive processes in a new and provocative way. And for everyone interested in human nature, the book of offers a controversial thesis about the discontinuity of psychological growth that challenges some of our most fundamental assumptions about the nature of individual development.

For this paperback edition, the statistical summary has been removed from the appendix to shorten the work and make it even more appealing to the general reader.


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Robert B. McCall
Harvard University Press, 1979

In the past few years, a new breed of baby-watchers has discovered more about infancy than has ever been known before. Infants brings this knowledge out of inaccessible academic journals and makes it available to everyone in direct language.

Written by a child psychologist who has studied the developmental progress of infants for many years, the book describes and interprets the fascinating capabilities of infants in their first years of life. It covers the ability of the newborn to see and hear their parents, their natural disposition toward getting to know caregivers, and the growth of love and attachment between parent and baby. It explores the changing mental abilities and social skills in the first and second years, and tells readers how they can observe these stages in children.

At a time when parents are increasingly beset by contradictory advice about infant care, many will find it useful to have a sensible and caring book that presents the latest information on understanding the behavior of babies. Parenting can then become the emotionally fulfilling and intellectually stimulating responsibility it should be.


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The Infant’s World
Philippe Rochat
Harvard University Press, 2004

What do infants know? What do they feel, and how do they come to understand what’s happening around them? How do they begin to construe others as persons with feelings and intentions? These questions inspire this remarkable new look at the infant’s world. The short answer? Infants are much more sophisticated perceivers, feelers, and thinkers of their world than we may think.

In this lively book, Philippe Rochat makes a case for an ecological approach to human development. Looking at the ecological niche infants occupy, he describes how infants develop capabilities and conceptual understanding in relation to three interconnected domains: the self, objects, and other people. Drawing on the great body of contemporary “competent infant” research, Rochat offers a thoughtful overview of many current, controversial topics, from neonatal imitation to early numeracy, to the development of self-awareness. In a provocative conclusion, he describes infancy as a series of key transitions—so dramatic that they are sometimes called “revolutions”—and maps out the processes that impel development.

Offering a unifying theoretical vision of the vast research of recent years, The Infant’s World is an inspiring introduction to the liveliest area of modern psychology.


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Mothers and Medicine
A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890–1950
Rima D. Apple
University of Wisconsin Press, 1987

In the nineteenth century, infants were commonly breast-fed; by the middle of the twentieth century, women typically bottle-fed their babies on the advice of their doctors.  In this book, Rima D. Apple discloses and analyzes the complex interactions of science, medicine, economics, and culture that underlie this dramatic shift in infant-care practices and women’s lives.
    As infant feeding became the keystone of the emerging specialty of pediatrics in the twentieth century, the manufacture of infant food became a lucrative industry.  More and more mothers reported difficulty in nursing their babies.  While physicians were establishing themselves and the scientific experts and the infant-food industry was hawking the scientific bases of their products, women embraced “scientific motherhood,” believing that science could shape child care practices.  The commercialization and medicalization of infant care established an environment that made bottle feeding not only less feared by many mothers, but indeed “natural” and “necessary.”  Focusing on the history of infant feeding, this book clarifies the major elements involved in the complex and sometimes contradictory interaction between women and the medical profession, revealing much about the changing roles of mothers and physicians in American society.

“The strength of Apple’s book is her ability to indicate how the mutual interests of mothers, doctors, and manufacturers led to the transformation of infant feeding. . . . Historians of science will be impressed with the way she probes the connections between the medical profession and the manufacturers and with her ability to demonstrate how medical theories were translated into medical practice.”—Janet Golden, Isis


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A Mother’s Spiritual Dialogue, Meditations, and Elegies
Mary Carey
Iter Press, 2023
Key insights into women’s multi-dimensional roles as wives, widows, and mothers during the seventeenth century.

Lady Mary Carey (c. 1609–c. 1680) was a noblewoman who examined her life and expressed her views in a handwritten manuscript that she intended for self-reflection and for sharing with restricted audiences of family and friends, rather than for print publication. Her poetry and prose, composed and revised between 1650 and 1658, were important enough to her inner circle, however, that her autograph manuscript was carefully copied by another hand in 1681. In addition to providing us with key insights into women’s multidimensional roles as wives, widows, and mothers during the seventeenth century in England, Carey’s work teaches us a great deal about a woman’s deepest emotional and spiritual states while confronting the hardships of life—from the fears of childbearing to the sorrows over child loss to the terrors of war.

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The Parents’ Guide to Baby Signs
Early Communication with Your Infant
Leann Sebrey
Gallaudet University Press, 2009

Experienced ASL instructor Leann Sebrey champions two-way sign communication between parents and their infants who are just months old as a way to bond more closely and reduce frustration, while also maximizing the children’s intelligence and emotional quotients.

Sebrey’s book The Parents’ Guide to Baby Signs: Early Communication with Your Infant lays out an easy, step-by-step process that will instill confidence in parents who have never signed before. She begins by explaining why ASL is best for all children, both deaf and hearing. Sebrey also recognizes the different ways young children learn, encouraging parents and caregivers to sign with infants at all times as a natural part of their interaction. She reveals the first indications of when a baby is ready to communicate, and includes a list of signs to provide parents with a good starting point. Sebrey discusses the moments when infants are most receptive to learn signs and outlines numerous practical techniques with plenty of helpful hints to speed the process. She describes the pleasure of seeing a baby’s first sign, and tells parents how to interpret baby signs, including what to do when a baby uses the wrong signs. Full of easy-to-grasp illustrations of child and family-oriented signs, The Parents’ Guide to Baby Signs is the best how-to book for parents, caregivers, and educators to teach early communication to infants.


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'She said she was in the family way'
Pregnancy and Infancy in Modern Ireland
Edited by Elaine Farrell
University of London Press, 2012
She said she was in the family way' examines the subject of pregnancy and infancy in Ireland from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. It draws on exciting and innovative research by early-career and established academics, and consider topics that have been largely ignored by historians in Ireland. The book will make an important contribution to Irish women’s history, family history, childhood history, social history, crime history and medical history, and will provide a reference point for academics interested in themes of sexuality, childbirth, infanthood and parenthood.

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