The Amazing Infant (Book Review)

Author:  Field, Tiffany
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Reviewed By: Karen Zelan, Vol. XXVII, No. 4, p. 57

The Amazing Infant by Tiffany Field, was written for anyone immersed in infant development: psychology students, clinicians specializing in helping young children and their families, and especially ordinary parents of infants and young children. The word, “infancy,” Field tells us, means “without language.” Happily, the text is based on the author’s personal interactions with her own child as she observed her infant develop in the earliest months.

Developmental Stages

Field identifies developmental stages informatively and invites the reader to integrate detail with theory. After explaining how infancy research is conducted, the author leads us stage by stage from “Being a Fetus,” for example, to “Taking Turns with Peers.” She depicts the fascinating changes typically occurring in the young child, including those in the emotional, social, cognitive, and linguistic spheres.

Development and Early Learning

The author recognizes that early infant development depends on learning. With parental care, learning and development are not only intertwined in the early weeks and months, but the two processes are also supportive of one another. In difficult transition stages, when the young child may become anxious or confused—“disequilibrated” to use Piaget’s term—parents ideally respond with empathy and support. To quote a parent I once knew, “My daughter is going through something, I know not what, but we’re with her, full steam ahead, until she resumes her happy, carefree self!”

Field reports that the prenatal infant learns to recognize the mother’s voice, enabling the infant to locate parental voices after birth. The infant’s early orientation to the mother’s, and presumably the father’s, face encourages the parents to continue relating to the child. The parents are likely to respond by cuddling, cooing, and talking to the infant. “Baby talk” is replaced by regular speech as the baby becomes ever more responsive to mature language.

Auditory Sensitivity

In addition to responding to language early on, the infant also reacts to music even before birth. Field (and probably countless other mothers, including the author of this review) notes the connection between the prenatal infant’s kicking and listening to music. The minute Field turned on the radio, she felt her baby’s feet going. I experienced something similar as I sat at the piano when pregnant with my first-born. Once I had to stop playing because his kicking was so vigorous.

Field writes that newborns have musical preferences, some preferring the singing voice, others instrumental music. I have found that they can be lulled to sleep by a mother’s soft humming, by a father’s gentle, lilting “baby talk,” or by a symphony’s slow movement.

Mothers and Fathers

The mother’s effects on the unborn and the newborn are not always felicitous. A mother’s anxiety tends to increase fetal stress, not to mention the accompanying anxiety in the newborn. Although the author writes more about mothers than fathers, she does allow that fathers are helpful in moderating maternal depression. It is they who often come to an anxious mother’s—and the infant’s—rescue as the father takes over, walking the baby and cuddling him or her in his warm embrace.

The Amazing Infant informs parents of what to expect during pregnancy and early infancy by describing developmental milestones, often illustrated by photographs of babies engaging in typical exploratory, often lovable behaviors. Tiffany Field’s readable book is a valuable addition to any parent’s child development library.

References

Piaget, J. and Barbel Inhelder. The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books,
1969.
Mussen, P.H., Jonas Langer, and Martin Covington (Eds.). Trends and Issues in Developmental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, l969.

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