T. Berry Brazelton

T. Berry Brazelton’43D

T. Berry Brazelton, a December 1943 graduate, pediatrician, and child development expert who revealed that newborns communicate from the start and insisted on the importance of early mother-infant bonding, died March 13, 2018, at age 99. 

From an early age Dr. Brazelton had an uncanny ability to understand and communicate with infants, a skill he first honed calming his young cousins in Waco, Texas. Asked in an interview for an alumni profile in this magazine if a pediatrician needed to be in touch with the child in himself, Dr. Brazelton quipped: “A friend of mine says I’m the tallest 2-year-old he’s ever known!” 

His lifelong research in early child development helped doctors and parents realize that individuality is there right from the start and that if we listen carefully, newborns can tell us what they need and want. “That’s something that I’ve spent my whole life aware of,” he said in the interview. “I can look at a child, a newborn, and tell you just what he is trying to say without words.” 

The Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale he developed in 1973 (known as “the Brazelton”) is now used worldwide as an evaluation tool to assess the physical and neurological responses of newborns as well as their emotional well-being. The author or editor of some 40 books and a regular child-rearing column in Family Circle magazine, Dr. Brazelton also applied his knowledge, skills, and child savvy as host of an Emmy Award-winning TV program, “What Every Baby Knows,” that ran for 12 years. Dr. Brazelton began a private pediatric practice in Cambridge, Mass., in 1950, continuing to see and consult with patients and their parents for many years. He later joined the pediatrics faculty at Harvard Medical School. In 1972 he helped found the Child Development Unit, a pediatric training and research center at Boston Children’s Hospital. The Brazelton Center for Infants and Parents, another unit he founded at Harvard Medical School, trains health care professionals worldwide in the effective use of his Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale. Harvard established a named chairmanship in pediatrics in his honor in 1995. He also received the World of Children Award in 2002, a Presidential Citizen’s Medal personally awarded by President Barack Obama in 2013, and many other honors. 

Preceded in death by his wife, Christina, he is survived by three daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Peter Wortsman