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Dr. Spock's baby book will endure

Spock graphic

March 16, 1998
Web posted at: 7:42 p.m. EST (0042 GMT)
(CNN) -- In the 1987 comedy "Raising Arizona," little Nathan Arizona went on a wild ride and could have been scarred for life had it not been for one thing: His many kidnappers always remembered to steal the book that came with him.

What was it? "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care."

That book has guided the care of babies and children for more than half a century, ever since the baby boom began in 1946, when Dr. Spock's book hit the shelves as a 25 cent paperback. It was everything parents wanted and needed to hear.

Spock died Sunday at age 94.

His strongest message for parents was simple: "Trust your instincts ... you know more than you think you do."

Joseph Zanga, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explains the long-lasting appeal in Spock's books. "He came to us at a time when we were a little unsure of our ability to parent. And he said to parents, 'Relax. You really do know what you're doing. Think about it. Have fun with your children. Enjoy and raise them the way you would like to have been raised.'"

Spock sparked a revolution in child rearing that gave parents license to express their affection and enjoy their children by challenging more authoritarian attitudes of the time.

Spock's strongest message to parents: "Trust your instincts... you know more than you think you do."

He believed in setting firm and consistent limits. But he was the first expert to say publicly that spanking children was wrong.

book cover

Over the years, his books have sold more than 50 million copies and have been translated into 42 languages. For many years, it was second in sales only to the Bible. Indeed, parents often refer to Spock's books as the gospel. "It was my bible for the first six months of their lives," says one parent.

Spock's monthly articles for "Parenting Magazine" continued even after his health began to fail. The final article will appear in the May issue.

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Janet Chan, says that Spock's authority and knowledge is timeless. "(His) advice has endured for so many years because it is common sense, and that really struck a chord with parents around the country."

Dr. Spock's advice

Spock dispelled the notion that babies should be kept on strict feeding schedules. Instead, he urged mothers to respond to their crying infants on demand.

On the matter of sleep, Spock advised parents to establish routines early on, and to move babies out of parent's rooms by age six months.

The books also provide answers on an array of common medical questions.

Spock updated his book over the years. The latest came in 1992, when he added chapters dealing with divorce and raising children in a troubled society.

The next edition of "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care" will be released on May 2, what would have been Spock's 95th birthday.


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