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Why do babies cry when they are born? Why is the newborn covered in grease? How soon does the navel heal? Why do babies yawn when they are born? Why are some babies born hairy? What are the baby's vital statistics? Why does a baby have a soft spot on its head? Why do the eyes of babies have large pupils? How soon do the baby's teeth appear? How strong are newborn babies? How well can babies see? How well can babies hear?

How well can babies smell? How well can babies taste? How do babies react to a loss of balance? How well can babies control their temperatures? Why do babies cry? How well can a mother recognize the crying of her own baby? What comforts a baby? Why do babies weep? What makes a baby smile? What makes a baby laugh? How do babies suck? How often does a baby feed? Which kind of milk is best for the baby? How were babies weaned before there was baby food? Why do babies burp? How do babies indicate that they are fully fed?

How long do babies sleep? Where do babies sleep? Do babies dream? Why do babies like to sleep with a treasured possession? How do babies play? How soon can babies crawl? How soon can babies walk? How well can babies swim?

What is a spoilt baby? Are babies intelligent? Are babies left-handed or right-handed? How important is the mother to her baby? Why are babies swaddled? Why do babies like being rocked? How is a baby transported? How soon can babies be toilet-trained? Why do most mothers cradle their babies in their left arms? How do babies learn to talk?

What makes babies so appealing? Do men and women react differently to the sight of a baby? Why do some mothers have twins? Why do babies cry in aeroplanes? Why are babies circumcised? Why are babies baptised?

Why are baby boys dressed in blue and baby girls in pink? Why was the baby's arrival celebrated with a birthday cake? Why was the stork said to bring babies?

When a baby is hurt, why do we 'kiss it to make it better'? Why is a baby called a baby? It is not exaggerating to say that the human infant is the most remarkable life-form ever to draw breath on this planet. Small, vulnerable and wordless though the baby may be, it is at the same time power-packed with astonishing potential. Programmed by a million years of evolution to transform its sophisticated parents into doting protectors, it radiates irresistible appeal.

But how deeply do we understand its true nature? How much do we really know about its behaviour and its reactions to the world around it? Have we, perhaps, sometimes been misled by old traditions - entrenched ideas that tell us more about the adults that support them than they do about the babies themselves? It is time to set the record straight, time to tear away the veils of superstition, fashionable distortion and adult-centred bias, and look again with an unprejudiced eye at the baby itself.

This is not easy. They are such charmers that it is difficult to maintain an objective approach. One gurgling smile from a tiny face and even the hard-nosed scientist is undone.

A special effort is needed to keep a clear head, but if this can be achieved some fascinating facts come to light, and a revealing new picture of the baby's world begins to emerge. After studying human adults for many years, I have decided in Baby watching to focus my attention exclusively on the first twelve months of human life - the official period of babyhood, before walking and talking arrive on the scene.

The subject may be familiar, but with an observer's eye I have tried to bring a new approach to bear on a number of the most intriguing and frequent queries: Why, for instance, do human babies enter the world with such difficulty, when the young of other animals arrive so simply? And why do they cry so much more than the young of other species? How well can babies see, hear, smell and taste? Close examination reveals that they are much more sensitive to the outside world than was once believed.

How do they feed, sleep, dream, play and crawl? Why do they alone weep, smile and laugh? Just how intelligent are they? Can babyhood be rushed, or must events proceed at their own fixed pace?

Is it true that newborn babies can swim under water? And can sleeping mothers really distinguish the cries of their own babies from those of others? In the past, adults have sometimes wrongly looked upon the baby as a 'blank canvas' on which anything can be imposed, or as a little lump of insensitive flesh, barely reacting to the outside world except in a few very basic ways. One Victorian commentator summed up this condescending attitude with the remark: 'Here we have a baby.

It is composed of a bald head and a pair of lungs. In reality, the baby is highly responsive to its environment, right from the moment of its birth, and it is endowed with an immense capacity for stimulating its loving parents, and for monitoring and influencing their behaviour. Contrary to certain opinions, babies are almost impossible to train. Throughout their entire babyhood they only respond badly to attempts to chastise them or to over-regulate their lives.

Unless their parents have been indoctrinated with inappropriate regimes, they will escape this fate. And so they should because a secure babyhood provides the basis for a successful adulthood.

No baby can be loved too much. It is a way of looking at infants so that we can see the world from their point of view instead of ours. The more we can think like a baby, the greater our chance of becoming good parents. This applies to fathers as well as mothers, and if the chapters that follow sometimes seem to ignore the father's role, this is only because in the past so much of our information has been gleaned from observations of maternal behaviour.

Babies not only bring intense joy, they are also our genetic immortality. If we rear them well it is they who will continue our genetic progress through time. Because of our spoken or unspoken awareness of this continuity, the arrival of a new baby is a profoundly rewarding experience, no matter how familiar the event may have become. As Charles Dickens once remarked: 'Every baby born in the world is a finer one than the last. Some authors use 'he' or 'she', but both methods exclude half the babies in the world.

The English language is awkward in this respect. So I have settled for the rather impersonal 'it'. No insult to babies is intended, as I am sure the text that follows will confirm.


Desmond Morris - Baby Watching

Why do babies cry when they are born? Why is the newborn covered in grease? How soon does the navel heal? Why do babies yawn when they are born? Why are some babies born hairy? What are the baby's vital statistics?


Morris hits at 'brutal' babycare books

Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape and one of Britain's best-known zoologists, will publish his own baby care guide next week because, he said, too many help books for parents advocated 'unnatural' and 'brutal' childcare techniques. You could say that I have a personal axe to grind. Morris was born in when the theories of American baby expert John Watson were in vogue. Watson, who believed parents should break the spirit of their infants in the same way that trainers tame a horse, called for babies to be put outside in their prams, regardless of the weather, and ignored if they cried. After that, my mother decided to abandon the teachings of the day and trust to her maternal instincts.



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Desmond Morris combines his skills as a zoologist and manwatcher to take a close look at the most remarkable life-form ever to draw breath on this planet - the human baby. In a revealing portrait of life from the baby's point of view, Desmond Morris answers the questions that parents ask: How important is a mother to her baby? How well can babies hear, smell and taste? Why do babies cry? And what makes a baby smile? Do babies dream? Desmond Morris was born in

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