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Anzieu-Premmereur, C. (2008). Talking To Babies, Healing Words on a Maternity Ward, Myriam Szejer, Beacon Press, Boston, 2005, 257 pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 68(2):202-204.

(2008). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 68(2):202-204

Talking To Babies, Healing Words on a Maternity Ward, Myriam Szejer, Beacon Press, Boston, 2005, 257 pp.

Review by:
Christine Anzieu-Premmereur, M.D., Ph.D.

Myriam Szejer is a French psychoanalyst who works with new mothers in a maternity ward in the Paris area. She uses the psychoanalytic technique of careful listening and talking with parents and babies who are suffering. She made the hypothesis that newborns need words and need to be talked to about the specific situation into which they are born. Her book shows how talking can help infants, even in maternity wards where medical and high-tech interventions are common. She demonstrates that post partum depression, post traumatic syndrome, and failure to thrive in babies can be approached and treated with a human quality and that the psychoanalytic understanding is useful there too.

Myriam Szejer is a child psychiatrist who had been trained in the Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and was inspired by the very influential child analyst Francoise Dolto. So language as the organizer of the psyche is the starting point of her theory and practice. Rene Frydman, the head of the department of Gynecology and obstetrics at Antoine Beclere hospital in Paris, is well known for being on the cutting edge at treating high-risk pregnancies and offering a neonatal ward combined with the maternity: those are “kangaroo units” where mothers are allowed to visit their baby. Inside one of the best medical systems replete with high technology, a psychoanalyst is to speak to newborns who are suffering.

Newborns suffer from many troubles: eating problems, digestive disorders, crying continuously, respiratory, tonus or weight troubles; Mothers react as they can, but they need help. The psychoanalyst

must open her ears and attempt to hear the baby, his mother, his father…When I enter a room where a mother has called me in, for herself or for the baby, I begin by arranging things so that I can see both protagonists, all three if the father is present … The first free speech organ will be the eye…It means being a witness, looking at the mother, looking at the child, being looked at….

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