Renowned pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton dies at 99

CHICAGO — Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, one of the world’s most well-known pediatricians and child development experts whose work helped explain what makes kids tick, has died at age 99.

Brazelton died Tuesday at his Barnstable, Massachusetts home. The cause was congestive heart failure, said Stina Brazelton, his youngest daughter.

A Texas native long affiliated with Harvard University, the plain-spoken Brazelton was widely lauded for changing the understanding of how infants and children develop. The pediatrician, television personality and writer was still spry into his 90s, having published his memoir in 2013, shortly before his 95th birthday, and remained active teaching, researching and lecturing worldwide.

“Oh golly, I don’t want to give up,” he told National Public Radio in an interview aired on Father’s Day 2013. “I learn every time I see a new baby, every time I talk to a new parent.”

Parents knew Brazelton best from his popular Touchpoints books, along with the long-running cable TV show, “What Every Baby Knows,” and his syndicated newspaper column, “Families Today.” He also spent a half-century working as a pediatrician in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After retiring from that practice in 1995, Brazelton estimated he’d seen 25,000 patients.

Doctors knew Brazelton for his Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, sometimes called the Brazelton scale, published in 1973. It is still used in hospitals and research to evaluate physical and neurological responses in newborn babies, and to assess emotional well-being and individual differences.

In 2000, he was named a Library of Congress Living Legend. He won a 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, appearing beside President Barack Obama at a White House awards ceremony on March 11, 2013.

In an interview that year with Boston radio station WBUR, Brazelton offered his simple advice for frazzled new parents: “I’d like for them to learn that they can understand that baby by watching the baby’s behavior.”

Brazelton “showed the world that babies are individual people from the very beginning,” said longtime colleague and friend Dr. Joshua Sparrow.

The first of Brazelton’s more than 30 books was “Infants and Mothers,” published in 1969 and translated into 18 languages. The title of his memoir, “Learning to Listen,” described his philosophy for understanding infants.

Brazelton believed that moments he called “touchpoints” helped define childhood, reflecting periods when children’s behavior seems to fall apart that signal an impending advance in development.

From crying outbursts when learning to walk to the temper tantrums of the terrible 2s to kindergartners’ nightmares, Brazelton’s thoughtful descriptions of “touchpoints” helped parents make sense out of these vexing moments.

His approach was influenced by Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s first widely read baby doctor who empowered parents to make their own decisions and respected children as individuals.

“Rather than compete, I always felt like I added the concept of looking at the child, finding out what the child is trying to tell you and let them lead you,” Brazelton said.

Stina Brazelton said as a parent, she read Spock — not her father’s books — and didn’t seek his advice until she learned that her son’s doctors were heavily influenced by her dad. She said one of her father’s lasting legacies is his encouraging other fathers to express their feelings for babies and young children and to be involved in their development.

Born in Waco, Texas, on May 10, 1918, Thomas Berry Brazelton grew up with his businessman father and civic-leader mother who established what was likely the first abortion clinic in Texas in the early 1940s.

Brazelton began his lifelong study of children when he was just a boy. Brazelton felt his mother favored his younger brother Chuck. But then his grandmother put him in charge of babysitting young cousins.

“So I had to learn how to get inside of each of these children’s brains to keep control … and it was wonderful to learn to watch their behavior,” Brazelton told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “I thought, well at least I can take care of other children.”

His book publicist liked to say “Brazelton” rhymed with “razzle dazzle,” but that was not his style. Despite a well-to-do upbringing and an Ivy League education, Brazelton was down-to-earth, and his low-key charm helped him easily connect with families from all walks of life.

Brazelton spent his undergraduate years at Princeton, earned his medical degree at Columbia and did postgraduate medical work at Harvard, where he later taught and was professor emeritus.

He founded the child development unit at the Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston in 1972. He also created two programs there: The Brazelton Institute, which trains professionals in using Brazelton’s newborn assessment scale; and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, which helps educators and social service agencies better serve families of infants and young children.

Dozens of sites nationwide have used the Touchpoints approach in helping parents raise healthy children, including programs on several American Indian reservations.

Sparrow said Brazelton told him several days before his death that he wanted to make a trip to Boston before a big birthday celebration planned there. Brazelton would have turned 100 on May 10.

“We will still have that party, and celebrate his life and celebrate his work,” Sparrow said.

Brazelton’s wife, Christina, died in 2015. He is survived by three daughters, a son and five grandchildren.

News Videos
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life Videos
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing