Where do you work?
Prince of Wales Private Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Women, I am a Consultant Neonatologist. I am the past Director of Newborn Care at the Royal
for over 20 years.
How long have your practiced in the Eastern Suburbs for?
What was your motivation to specialize in neonatology?
I always loved and been fascinated by babies. But I didn’t realize how much I loved them until I did my first paediatric neonatal job in Africa. Unlike
many other branches of medicine babies bring so much joy, and there is a strong emotional component to the work which is very satisfying.
Your popular book Baby on Board was published in 2003 what was the motivation for you to write such a book?
There did not seem to be a baby book that was based on the baby’s evolutionary biology. The baby books available all seemed to be about what happened
to work and what didn’t, rather than looking at the biological needs of the baby from the baby’s point of view.
In my second book ‘Your Cherished Baby’ published in 2014, I extended the horizons out to when they were older, focusing more on how management of
babies impacts on them down through the years and not just within the first few months.
I try and explain that what happens in a baby’s first year or two rings down through the years. This impacts on their ability to deal with stress and
calm themselves, to whether they will find learning easy or hard and whether they will have a capacity for happiness as they grow up.
These aspects of their development have to be installed by the parents and loved ones, and there is this window of opportunity under the age of two
years old to do this. This is the era when the baby is receptive to learning how to love and be loved.
How much has parenting changed since your first started out in pediatrics?
It wasn’t until the early 90s that the evolutionary aspects and neurobiological science of babies started to become mainstream and that had a massive
impact on how we appreciated baby’s needs and how our management strategies changed.
Before that advice about parenting was generally routine based, and after that, responsive-based.
How has our understanding of babies changed?
We now understand that our babies are ‘fetuses on the outside’. They cannot appreciate routines, they cannot learn to change their needs, and they
cannot be spoilt. They need to be cared for as one would care for a fetus in a continuously nurturing, responsive, and protective environment.
How instinctive is parenting? Do you think in modern day living we have lost our way, are we overthinking it all?
Of course parenting is instinctive. Our evolution has been honing and selecting for good parenting sine the dawn of the mammals 60 million years ago.
The instructions are all there as long as we were parented satisfactorily and we have the confidence to let go and answer our inner voice. Sure some
of us overthink it and Dr. Google is no help at all here. I’d like to say that we are doing better and better.
But alas there is still a tremendous amount of bad, old fashioned advice making the rounds out there.
If you are an expectant parent how much reading should you do? What is your advice for expecting parents what are the basics they should know?
They should read ‘Baby on Board’ and that’s it!
The media often report that baby wearing, co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding are a parenting fad. What are your thoughts on this?
The media is not interested in telling the truth, it is interested in selling the media. Of course it’s not a fad.
We are just realizing that we need to get back to basics. Paleo-parenting (without the disease, malnutrition and wild animals) is the way to go.
You are a recently a grand parent to two new grand children, what advice would you give to new grand parents?
I would suggest you read my recent blog “Guidelines for Grandparents 1 and 2!
Three tips to survive the first year with your baby?
1. Accept that your life, your point of view, and your motivations will change irrevocably in unpredictable ways.
2. You will not get as much sleep as you think you need, but you will get enough.
3. Do not be inclined to think every difficulty is catastrophic. Generally when things are not going well and you are getting near the end of your
tether, things will improve. Babies change week by week and day by day.
Dr Howard Chilton is based at the Royal Women’s Hosptial Randwick, he is the author of Baby on Board and Your Cherished Baby which can be purchased at www.babydoc.com.au
Each Thursday at 10.15am he does a talk at Royal Women’s (Level 3 Tutorial Room) for new parents to “reassure” them about their new journey into parenthood.