Bringing Up Baby: The Psychoanalytic Infant Comes of Age



This is an important text that synthesises diverse literatures and theories on infant development into a coherent framework that illuminates the essence of infancy for all those who have infants, study infants, teach about infancy, make policy with respect to infant welfare, and work medically or therapeutically with mothers and their infants. It brings together in one volume the principal theories of infant development, beginning with Freud’s vision of the Oedipal infant, moving through the post-Freudian conceptualizations of the infant of Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and the British Independents with Donald Winnicott as exemplar, then to the attachment theorists, the intersubjective theories, the cognitive developmental psychologists, examining the work of Jean Piaget and the neo-Piagetian cognitive theorists concluding with the modern infant of developmental neuroscience and an examination of the neurobiology of attachment, stress, and care giving.

Margaret Jacobs 

Rating1Rating2Rating3Rating4Rating5 (5 out of 5)

“This book is impeccably researched with academic rigour. It is presented in an accessible manner, taking the reader on a journey from the origins of psychoanalytic thought through theories of learning, attachment, development of cognition to neuroscience. It is such a clear cohesive summary of each theory with a psychoanalytic thread woven through the book. The case studies which illustrate different theories provide enjoyable reading, and the diversity of literature reviewed provides a broad basis for understanding each concept introduced. The use of the infant is the central anchor point as the reader also observes the “bringing up” of infant research; from earlier psychoanalytic thought to the author’s current thought and integration of influential theories of infant development to the modern day research. It is refreshing to read a clear and eloquent critique of each of the theories without demonstrating an obvious position or bias. This book is well worth reading.”

“Kenny has succeeded here in writing an intriguing treatise on child develpment from a mainly psychanalytic perspective. She covers the whole history from Freud until the focus of relational phenomena in today’s psychodynamic theory, and concludes by discussing findings in neuroscience. She relates pertinent aspects of psychoanalytic theories in a clear and respectful way, but this does not prevent her putting forward an uncompromising critique of issues that she finds to be mistaken. The result is vital and stimulating reading.”

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From the Foward

Studying and understanding infancy has always been a major challenge. Daniel Stern (1985), in his book, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, expresses this concern thus: Since we can never crawl inside an infant’s mind, it may seem pointless toimagine what an infant might experience. Yet that is at the heart of what we really want and need to know. What we imagine infant experience to be like shapes our notions of who the infant is. These notions make up our working hypotheses about infancy (p.4).

Professor Kenny has taken on an immense and daunting task – to attempt, through multiple kaleidoscopic lenses, to articulate infant experience. She states at the beginning of Chapter 1 that the two central constructs in her text are ‘infancy and psychoanalysis’. Yet this remarkable book offers so much more than that, covering as it does the major theories and ideas from the past century or more that have informed our thinking and behaviour concerning infants: how they should be known, understood and cared for so that they set off on the best possible trajectory for the rest of their lives. The intention is to promote high quality care for infants by setting out, for inspection and debate, the diverse views, sometimes influential despite the lack of quality evidence, in this vast and controversial field.

Parents know only too well what strong emotions issues related to infant care elicit and how everyone around them, including total strangers, will forcefully offer advice and instructions. Many readers of this book will, just as I did, want to argue about some of the author’s contentions, but will then pause and re-examine their own views and identify implicit cherished, yet anachronistic beliefs that are no longer supported by the evidence


Professor Bryanne Barnett AM

School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales

Perinatal and Infant Psychiatrist, St John of God Health Care, NSW

Karitane Early Parenting Services


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Early infant experience: Undifferentiated, merged, and autistic-contiguous or differentiated, dyadic, and dialogic  

In this short article, I hope to challenge readers to think about the evidence for the enthusiastic acceptance, if not passionate embrace in psychoanalytic circles, of the notion that early infant experience is undifferentiated, merged, and autistic-contiguous.

Download the Article by Dianna Kenny