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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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Reader Comments (6)

Interesting! Glad to be making babies in somewhat more progressive times. I noticed that he's cited as the Dionne doctor and I thought: the Dionne quintuplets? Couldn't be! But he was. And sounds like he was a great influence on them too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionne_quintuplets

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCaroLyn

CaroLyn! Holy crow! This guy was a real gem, wasn't he?

"Across the road from their birthplace, the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery was built for the five girls and their new caregivers. The girls were moved from the farmhouse to this nursery at the end of September. The compound had an outdoor playground designed to be a public observation area. It was surrounded by a covered arcade that allowed tourists to observe the sisters behind one-way screens. The facility was funded by a Red Cross fundraiser. It was a nine-room nursery with a staff house nearby. The staff house held the three nurses and the three policemen in charge of guarding them. A housekeeper and two maids lived in the main building with the quintuplets. The buildings were surrounded by a seven foot barbed wire fence. The sisters were brought to play there for 30 minutes two or three times a day. They were constantly being tested, studied, and examined with tedious records taken of everything. The Dionne sisters, while living at the compound, had a somewhat rigid lifestyle. They were not required to participate in chores. They were privately tutored in the same building as they lived, and had occasional contact with their parents and siblings across the road. Cared for primarily by nurses, the children had limited exposure to the world outside the boundaries of the compound except for the daily rounds of tourists, who, from the sisters' point of view, were generally heard but not seen. Every morning they dressed together in a big bathroom, had doses of orange juice and cod-liver oil, and then went to have their hair curled. They said a prayer before breakfast, a gong was sounded, and they ate breakfast in the dining room. After thirty minutes, they had to clear the table, even if they weren't done. Then, they went and played in the sunroom for thirty, took a fifteen minute break and at nine o'clock was their morning inspection with Dr. Dafoe. Every month they had a different timetable of activities to do. They bathed every day before dinner and put on their pajamas. Dinner was served at precisely six o'clock. Then, they went into the quiet playroom to say their evening prayers. Each girl had a color and a symbol to mark what was hers. Annette's color was red with a maple leaf. Cecile's color was green and her design a turkey. Emilie had white and a tulip, while Marie had blue and a teddy bear, and Yvonne had pink and a bluebird.

Approximately 6,000 people per day visited the observation gallery that surrounded an outdoor playground to view the Dionne sisters. Ample parking was provided and close to three million people walked through the gallery between 1936 and 1943."

June 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

Also refreshing to see that profiting from the exploitation of multiples isn't just something new, right? Dafoe and the government had these girls in a terrarium for the public.

June 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

Seems the good doctor is a prime example himself of what happens when children are not shown affection...
Maybe he just needed a hug!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHow sad

That is just awful! Not being able to hold your baby!!!

I agree with how sad, he just needs a hug!!

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayce

Yes, he needed to be showered with kisses and hugs. ;)

June 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill
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