Babies’ brains – Studying the psychology of children, parents from conception to birth |

Babies’ brains – Studying the psychology of children, parents from conception to birth

Suzie Daggett

Suzie Daggett interviews David Chamberlain, Ph.D, psychologist, psychotherapist, author, and a founding faculty member at Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Dr. Chamberlain is a pioneer and expert in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology.

What got you interested in psychology?

In college, I gravitated toward psychology and took all the classes I could. Counseling was the part of the field that really attracted me. I wanted to become skilled at helping people. In 1958, I earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University. Much later, I became fascinated with the psychology of newborn babies and of babies in the womb.

How did you develop an interest in prenatal or baby psychology?

It all happened in 1974 when I was trained in clinical hypnosis. From that I was able to discover startling information. We were taught to ask clients in hypnosis to go back to whenever a pain or problem started. Among the situations they would tell me about was their birth – in graphic and specific detail. One woman, with a phobia of flying, took me to the moment of her birth. I asked her how things were going and she answered fine, and then, all of a sudden she exclaimed “I was dropped!” For her, the fear was actually of crashing, and after this she was able to fly happily.

What is prenatal and perinatal psychology?

Broadly, it is the psychology of parents and babies from conception to birth. When I was in school, there was no such field. Babies were not expected to have any emotions or thoughts – an idea that still lingers. However, because of the information my clients shared with me in hypnosis, I knew that babies possessed an extraordinary consciousness and could communicate. In 1980, I conducted original research with 10 mother and child pairs in hypnosis. The memories of the same birth, recorded separately from mothers and child, dovetailed, proving that birth memories were real, not fantasies. This was controversial because babies were not supposed to have enough brain at birth to remember all this. Since then I have published over 50 scientific articles and the book, “The Mind of Your Newborn Baby,” which is in 10 languages. I am a founding faculty member of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute where students can earn advanced degrees in prenatal psychology. I also helped to found the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health, a professional group of 500 worldwide.

Can you explain the consciousness of a baby?

Consciousness refers to the awareness and knowing we carry deep inside. A lot of what we know is unconscious but can be brought to the surface and validated as true. I learned from babies that they had this awareness. They do amazing things that we never expected. For instance, at birth, they seem to be thinking about everything that’s happening. They are critical of obstetrics – the way they are pulled out of the womb or are separated from their mothers after birth. They know they should be with her, not with strangers. Some babies (as adults working in hypnosis) have recalled the conditions surrounding their conception – something that should be impossible, yet it is in their consciousness. They recall upsetting events in the womb and try to communicate with their parents – not in language, of course, but one mind to another. Babies have taught me a lot!

How do people benefit from your work?

Some of the mental, physical, and emotional events people suffer from in life stem from past traumas, including those in the womb or at birth. These are problems that baffle them because they go too far back to recall consciously. I can usually help them arrive at a larger frame of meaning and understanding. It is an exciting kind of therapy that goes to the heart and soul of the person.

What do you get out of your research with babies?

I really enjoy discovering that babies are far more than we thought they could be. We are just learning about their intelligence and wisdom, just realizing the richness of their senses. And there is the joy of introducing parents to the fact that their babies – from the beginning – are eager to communicate with them.


David Chamberlain can be reached at his office in Nevada City, 470-0649. He is editor of the Web site

Suzie Daggett is the host of Healing Insights on NCTV, Channel 11, and the publisher of INSIGHT, a directory of the healing arts practitioners,

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