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Segal, H. (1951). The Ordinary Devoted Mother and her Baby. Nine Broadcast Talks (Autumn, 1949): By D. W. Winnicott, F.R.C.P. (London: Distributed privately. Copies obtainable by post only. Apply 'Pamphlet', 47 Queen Anne Street, London, W.1. Post free, 1 s. 2 d.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:327-328.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:327-328

The Ordinary Devoted Mother and her Baby. Nine Broadcast Talks (Autumn, 1949): By D. W. Winnicott, F.R.C.P. (London: Distributed privately. Copies obtainable by post only. Apply 'Pamphlet', 47 Queen Anne Street, London, W.1. Post free, 1 s. 2 d.

Review by:
H. Segal

This little book which is a record of broadcast talks will be extremely valuable to those who have to deal with uneducated mothers. It introduces complicated analytical concepts about the child's inner world and phantasies and his relationship to his mother in very simple and understandable language.

To me the value of this contribution is especially due to the fact that there is no oversimplification of the psychological picture; though the terms 'phantasy', 'ambivalence', 'instinct', etc., do not appear in the text the concepts are introduced almost from the start. Situations are described in terms of internal as well as external reality. The feeding situation for instance is described as one in which the baby's phantasy of an ideal breast meets the reality of a good feeding breast. By showing the constant interaction of the phantasy of the baby and the reality of what mother does, the author tries to give a plastic picture of the mother-baby relationship.

I particularly liked the seventh and eighth chapters, 'The World in Small Doses' and 'The Innate Morality of the Baby'. Both these chapters show with great simplicity the complicated interaction of the child's inner and outer reality.

Though the author insists that his job is not to give advice, there are quite a few useful hints about the helpful attitude to feeding, weaning and the 'training' in cleanliness, as well as some warning against current types of misleading advice often given to mothers. There are also a few suggestions about common difficulties due to mothers' own unconscious anxieties. The author contrasts the mother who knows her food is good with the mother anxious about the goodness of her own food in a situation in which the child treats the food as though it was poison. He shows how the mother's own anxiety makes it difficult for her to tolerate such an attitude in the child and increases the child's own suspicions.

I said that the book will be particularly useful for the uneducated mothers. The more educated lay mothers might resent the obvious effort to use only one-syllable words and describe things in the simplest possible terms. And that takes me to my own only serious criticism of the book and that is its tone.

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