T. Berry Brazelton, known as “America’s Pediatrician” died Tuesday, March 13 at his daughter’s home outside Boston, MA. Dr. Brazelton was just shy of his 100th birthday and his passing marked the end of an era. Along with the passing of DONA International two of DONA’s five founders, John Kennell in 2013 and Marshall Klaus last year, these three giants of infant behavior have left a legacy that has changed how we see babies, parents and bonding, and attachment. And we are all the richer for their life’s work. Dr. Brazelton will be remembered for his contributions to babies and families.

When I first became a parent in 1988, I felt lost. It was a time in which parents were told that babies were little lumps of clay, waiting to be molded by parents into who we wanted them to be. My daughter seemed to have a mind of her own and, luckily for me, I found T. Berry Brazelton’s television show “What Every Baby Knows” (1983-1995). Each weekday morning I watched it, my baby on my lap, drinking in Dr. Brazelton’s warmth and reassurance to the parents: “You know what to do and your baby will teach you the rest.”

A colleague of DONA Founders John Kennell and Marshall Klaus, Dr. Brazelton pushed the envelope at the time with his Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) of newborns. This assessment has become a clinical tool that is used time and again in studies of newborns around the world.

It was Dr. Brazelton who introduced us to the phrase “the irreducible needs of newborns.” These words are magic. They sum everything up in a neat package: your baby is not trying to manipulate you, he is telling you what he needs. I teach those words to every parent I meet and share their happiness that their baby is truly teaching them about who he/s/he is.

One of the many gifts Dr. Brazelton gave to all of us is found in the Introduction to his book –  “Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development”:

She must find her own way as a mother with her own special baby. Each mother and baby is an individual.“

Again, so simple. Yet, it is this simple truth that allows parents the confidence to realize that they are the expert on this baby and regarding their life as a family. They and the baby work it out.

As a doula, I honor the fact that Dr. Brazelton was the first person in my world to tell parents that babies are capable human beings and want to connect. Helping families appreciate their baby for who they are is some of the most important work in the Universe. How lucky we were to have Dr. Brazelton’s example of communicating with parents. I and all DONA International members express our deepest sympathies to the family of Dr. Brazelton, and to his friends and colleagues.

Ann Grauer, T. Berry Brazelton and Grauer Children. John Kennell is photobombing on the left back! © Ann Grauer

Books by T. Berry, Brazelton, MD include:

You can find these books and more of T. Berry Brazelton’s titles here. Dr. Brazelton’s amazing Touchpoints organizations, mission is to collaborate with partners nationwide to establish scalable and sustainable, low-cost, low-tech interventions that propel children’s healthy development and build the internal capacity of – and strengthen the collaborative relationships among – families, parents, caregivers, providers, and communities.

About Ann Grauer

Ann Grauer, AdvCD/AdvPD(DONA), BDT/PDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, IBCLC is in her 29th year of working with expectant and new families. She was the first doula to receive certification in Dr. Brazelton’s NBAS through the Brazelton Institute in Boston, MA. You can learn more about Ann on her website.