The Book That Killed 1,000 Babies

The terrible true story of Dr. Benjamin Spock, MD

Christopher Kokoski
6 min readFeb 10, 2021

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Graveyard with gravestones for my article on The Book That Killed 1,000 Babies
Image by Author via Canva

In 1946, pediatrician Dr. Benjamin McClane Spock, MD, published a book of radical parenting advice that antagonized the status quo, provoked a country, and unleashed an infant death epidemic.

Every tragedy has an origin story and every story offers lessons for us to learn. The story of the book that killed 1,000 babies is no different.

This story starts with the genesis of a genius.

Disclaimer: This story is not meant to disparage Dr. Spock, blame him, or disregard the enormous amount of good he accomplished for generations of children. I also acknowledge that medical knowledge and advice evolves over time. This article is meant to highlight a sad section of history.

Origins of the bloody book

To know the book, you must know the author. Dr. Spock was born in 1903 in New Haven, Connecticut, to a wealthy family. He grew to a towering six foot four inches and attended Yale University, where he aided the school’s rowing team in winning a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

During his time at Yale, he also joined the exclusive Zeta Psi fraternity. Later, he accepted an invitation into the infamous secret society of wealthy erudites known as Scroll and Key.

His was no ordinary life.

Image of Dr. Benjamin Spock via Wikimedia with a creative commons lisence for my article, The Book That Killed 1,000 Babies
Dr. Spock, April 1976 — image from Wikimedia via Jan Arkesteijn with creative commons license

He finished his education as first in his class at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. After graduating, he practiced medicine from 1933 to 1947 while also teaching pediatrics at the Cornell University Medical College.

Little did he know that, in 1946, he would write a bestselling book that would lead to the unintentional deaths of thousands of newborns.

The book, Baby and Child Care, was an instant bestseller.

Radical advice that provoked a country

It may not seem controversial now, but the book flew in the face of established rearing approaches at the time. Spock’s book…

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Christopher Kokoski

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