Book Review: David Chamberlain: The Mind of your Newborn Baby

Published by North
 Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, ISBN 1 55643 264 X

This is a clear, well-written and important book. David Chamberlain is a clinical 
psychologist who has been working in this field for over twenty years. At present 
he is the president of the Association of Pre and Perinatal Psychology and
 Health(APPPAH). In this book he demonstrates that newborns are fully cognitive 
human beings with the ability to discriminate and experience the world in
 sophisticated ways. Not only do they perceive and understand their births, but they
 can hear, feel and act while still in utero.

The book is divided into four parts the first of which looks at the newborn 
considering such things as the way they learn, their mind, their memory and how
 they communicate. In the last twenty five years research on the newborn has
 flourished and the territory of life before birth has been charted as never before.
 This part of the book brings home the importance of the prenatal environment. For
 example the earliest experiences of sound in the womb can have a stimulating or
 discouraging effect on the baby’s desire to listen and communicate. Humming, 
singing and speaking softly are recommended.

The next section of the book is about birth memory. David Chamberlain was 
introduced to birth memory by his clients having learnt clinical hypnosis in 1975. 
By 1980 he had worked out a method to prove these memories were reliable by
 comparing the memories of mother and child pairs in hypnosis. In this book he first 
of all gives us a bird’s eye view of the history of birth memory looking briefly at 
the work of Freud, Rank, Janov, Fodor, Grof, Sondra Ray and Leonard Orr. He
 shares some of his own research case studies and gives us a sense of birth as babies 
see it.

Difficult experiences during the birthing process can leave negative imprints. As
 long as babies were thought to have no emotions, no developed senses, and no
 thoughts, concern about birth trauma attracted little attention. Now that babies are
 known to be intelligent, sentient beings, their mental and emotional vulnerability 
must be reconsidered. We have to get discriminating about babies.

They are not what we thought they were. He looks at the impact of such
 experiences as rejection, hostility, fear and criticism. Again, the material is 
enriched through the use of case studies.

Part Three shares with us five different experiences of birth and bonding in more
 depth. These are fascinating to read.
 This book was originally published ten years ago and at that time was called
 Babies Remember Birth. Towards the end of the book Chamberlain gives us a tenth 
anniversary perspective. He mentions three areas where scepticism still exists,
 even as evidence continues to mount. These are the understanding of memory, the understanding of infant pain and the importance of early bonding.

There are two helpful appendices on abortion and on parental guilt. Extensive
 sources for additional reading are provided. In my view this book is essential 
reading.

We were privileged to welcome David Chamberlain and his wife to Dublin in mid
 September. He came at the invitation of Amethyst and gave two well-attended 
lectures on the Wonders of Life in the Womb and the Lifelong Impact of Birth.

Anne Gill