Remarkable as it may seem, we infants haven’t changed much. We still need the love and attention of our parents. People are finally convinced that breast milk is best for our gut and brain, and you can now sell breast milk to banks. Mothers do this to supplement their income rather than returning to work.
Oh yes, mothers and fathers now get paid leave to take care of us. Once research showed it to be cost effective, Washington became the first state to legislate an employment tax to provide 75 percent income for a parent to stay home and bond with us during the first year. Our Center on Infant Mental Health and Development provided the advocacy that finally got this issue before the voters. It was hard work, but with our e-mail network citizens got the connection between parent-child bonding and early caregiving. I think they voted just to turn off the messages!
One thing we all like is that they have eliminated shots for immunizations. Now, sprays deliver the agent into our throats, flavored with a taste that "smiling tests" showed over 75 percent of us liked. And remember those costly paper diapers? In the 1990s nurses were against them. Well, the faculty at the UW School of Nursing developed a new machine to take the work out of cleaning cloth diapers and the royalty from that invention, called Magic Diaper, now supports all the start-up research for the Family and Child Nursing Department.
The 1990s were the decade of the brain and there was a lot of effort to teach parents how to stimulate us. Now studies have shown that what our brains need most of all is to hear our parent’s voices and see their faces and body movements. Also, when parents have adequate money and time, they smile more with their babies. Science—isn’t it wonderful!!
Kathryn Barnard is the Spence Professor of Family and Child Nursing and founding director of the Center for Infant Mental Health.