"This book is about the continuous battle between our genes and our culture," so begins Dr. Sharon Heller in the introduction of _The Vital Touch_. And with that lead-in you can only guess where things go from there! _The Vital Touch_ was required reading for my DONA-approved post-partum doula training so I read it when my daughter was about five months old. While the book spends plenty of time on newborns, it is an appropriate (and I would say, important) read for anyone with a baby under 1 year. Disclaimer: _The Vital Touch_is almost 20 years old and while I would normally steer clear of recommending older resources, I feel very strongly that the knowledge it contains is both relevant and crucial for new parents to access.
As the title would tell you, Heller offers plenty of evidence in support of being physically and emotionally engaged with your baby. But one of the strongest aspects of the book I think is in her comparison with how the US compares with other countries in terms of how we care and respond to babies. For example: Heller tells us that American babies are among the least held babies in the world. Knowing how the US ranks in terms of infant mortality, I think this statistic, while almost twenty years old, is likely still true, sadly. With stories, facts and figures, Heller gently prompts us to look closely at what is lost when babies needs are ignored or attended to in less a way than they should be. Frankly, it is fascinating.
And there's no easy answer here. As I've said before here and here, here too is that we need to redirect fault away from mom and toward a society which doesn't set new moms up with the tools that we need for success when our baby is born. That's a problem. I believe that most moms make decisions that they believe are best for their child. So while Heller addresses many of the issues that I've discussed before in terms of the culture of absence that new moms are born into, there isn't the same call to action that Katrina Alcorn offers readers in _Maxed Out_. I'm okay with this, however, because: 1) Heller's strength is really that of an anthropologist and educator and she does such an outstanding job in these areas and 2) in 1997, there just wasn't a concerted effort or public urgency around organizing for societal change for moms that we see today.
_The Vital Touch_is a truly must-read for any new parent. But it feels especially relevant for new parents who are curious about child development in their baby. Heller is accessible, compassionate and curious...all of which make _The Vital Touch_not only an engaging but a relatively easy one too.
Is there a book that you are curious about that you'd like me to review? Leave me a comment below.
Update: I did email Dr. Heller and ask if she planned to do an updated version of The Vital Touch and she wrote back with this: "no updated version. Publishers don't do this unless books sell volumes and unfortunately this one hasn't. But thanks for reaching out & for your support!" Never hurts to ask. :-)