Early Spanking Increases Toddler Aggression, Lowers IQ

By Jennifer Thomas
Read more from Thomas at HealthDay

Children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who are spared the physical punishment, new research shows.

Though the negative effects of spanking were "modest," the study adds to a growing body of literature finding spanking is not good for children.

"Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child," said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. "Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children's aggression at age 2."

The study is published in the September/October issue of Child Development.

Berlin and her colleagues looked at data on 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families. The data included parents' reports about their children's behavior, their use of spanking, as well as home visits by trained observers to document parent-child interactions at ages 1, 2 and 3.

About one-third of mothers of 1-year-olds reported they or someone in their household had spanked their child in the last week, while about half of the mothers of 2- and 3-year-olds reported that their child had been spanked.

The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds was 2.6 per week, while the average for 2-year-olds was three spankings per week.

The study found that children who were spanked at age 1 had more aggressive behaviors at age 2 and performed worse on measures of thinking abilities at age 3.

Being spanked at age 2, however, did not predict more aggressive behaviors at age 3, possibly because the spanking had begun at age 1 and by the age of 2 the kids were already more aggressive, Berlin said.

Researchers also looked at the effects of verbal punishment, defined as yelling, scolding or making derogatory comments. Verbal punishment was not associated with negative effects if the mother was otherwise attentive, loving and supportive.

Researchers controlled for family characteristics such as race, ethnicity, mother's age, education, family income and the child's gender.

Previous research has shown spanking is more common among low-income households than high-income households.

Researchers chose a sample of low-income families because some child behavior experts have argued that when spanking is "cultural normative" -- that is, it's expected for parents to use physical discipline -- the detrimental effects of spanking may be lessened. "We did not find that," Berlin said. "Even in a sample of low-income people where presumably it's more normative to spank your kids, we found negative effects."

The study also found that mothers who said their children were "fussy" babies were more likely to spank them at ages 1, 2 and 3. But children who were more aggressive at 2 were not more likely to get spanked.

"The implication or the suggestion in past arguments is that some kids who are more aggressive or difficult to control might illicit more spanking, but that's not what we found," Berlin said.

Researchers found that black children were spanked and verbally punished the most, possibly because of cultural beliefs about the importance of respecting elders and the value of physical discipline, or because parents feel they have to prepare their children for a racist and potentially dangerous world.

Of all the debates over child-rearing, spanking "definitely touches a nerve," Berlin said.

"It's a parenting practice that has been around for a long time, and one that's also in transition," Berlin said. "In general, the use of spanking is going down. But there is also a contingent of people who really believe in it, who say that's how they were raised and it's a tradition they want to continue."

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, an associate professor in the department of human development and family sciences at University of Texas at Austin, said the study adds to a growing body of research showing negative effects of spanking.

"Almost all studies point to the negative effects of spanking," Gershoff said. "It makes kids more aggressive, more likely to be delinquent, and more likely to have mental health problems. The more kids are spanked, the more they are likely to be physically abused by their parents. This does not mean everyone who spanks physically abuses, but that risk is there."

Because children tend to mimic parental behaviors, it's possible spanking "creates a model for using physical aggression," Gershoff said. "Spanking is just hitting."

Less is known why spanking could inhibit cognitive development. One possibility is that parents who spank are less likely to use reasoning with their children, something that's good for development, Gershoff said.

DrMomma's Note: When we look at the cognitive functioning of human babies (i.e. those under the age of 36 months), and especially those who are not yet verbal, the brain interprets physical pain and emotional pain in the same way. Both hurt - badly. Aggression against a baby (whether from spanking, leaving a baby in isolation, leaving a baby to cry alone, genital cutting or other sexual abuse, and overall hostility) leads to a spike in cortisol and other stress hormones. When these 'negative' hormones are at an all time high, especially for days on end, it is impossible for the rest of the brain to focus and develop normally.

In addition, while this study neglected to factor in the feeding of babies - whether by breast or artificial feeding means - we know that cortisol spikes happen more often in both babies and mothers when breastfeeding is not a part of the mother-baby relationship. Babies are more likely to be described as 'fussy' and mothers are more likely to be irritated with their infant and/or use physical aggression in handling them. Being held at the breast (especially skin-to-skin) and the act of nursing, keeps hormones in check, releases oxytocin ('the love hormone') and other feel-good endorphins in both mom and baby. In the United States, lack of breastfeeding is correlated with lower socio-economic status, and ethnicity - fewer black mothers nurse their babies than Hispanic or white mothers. This reflects the findings and patterns of spanking in previous studies (sociologically, as breastfeeding decreases, spanking and other physical aggression increases). In addition, neurologically, a lack of human milk leads to lowered cognitive functioning. For all these reasons, it follows that a normal, baby-cued breastfeeding relationship may play a roll in the absence of spanking behavior and a baseline level of cognitive functioning.

Study Citation:

Berlin, Lisa, et. al. "Correlates and Consequences of Spanking and Verbal Punishment for Low-Income White, African American, and Mexican American Toddlers." Child Development. 80:5; 1403-1420.

Related Reading:

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain [book]

The Science of Parenting: How today's brain research can help you raise healthy, emotionally balanced children [book]

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost [book]

Our Babies, Ourselves [book]

The No Spanking Page alternative ideas to spanking

Why Do We Spank Our Babies?

Infant Pain Impacts Adult Sensitivity

How Spanking Changed My Life

Spanking Decreases Intelligence? 

Project No Spank 

"Terrible Twos?!" Books for Raising Healthy Toddlers

Dr Sears: 10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child

Healthy Discipline Books and Resource Collection for toddlers and beyond 


The First Cut is the Deepest

A proposal to remove the foreskin of every infant boy in America on health grounds is pointless, illiberal and harmful.

by Ethan Epstein

Opposition to female circumcision has become something of an article of faith for international development organizations. While there are still great and unresolved debates among policymakers and intellectuals about the importance of promoting democracy, bestowing foreign aid and mandating international standards of criminal law, everyone seems to agree that female circumcision is abhorrent and needs to be stopped.

The consensus, for once, is right: female circumcision reduces – if not eliminates – sexual pleasure, provides no apparent health benefits, and violates individual autonomy. At its core, female circumcision is a degrading and brutally unfair practice.

All of this is true of male circumcision – the removal of penis foreskin – as well. Yet, as the New York Times recently reported, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an arm of the United States federal government, is now considering a plan to ‘promote [the] routine circumcision’ of infant boys in the US with the aim of reducing the spread of HIV (1). This proposal is as degrading as it is illiberal.

The scientific evidence that the CDC is relying on in considering the new recommendation is laughably weak. Consider, first, the people who were the object of the study: the population group surveyed was from sub-Saharan Africa, where sexual mores and cultural conditions are utterly different from those of the US.

The study found that adult circumcision led to a modest reduction in the transmission of HIV. However, the cited research found a reduction only in the incidence of HIV transmission as a result of sex between men and women. This is an extremely rare form of transmission in the US. Most damningly, even advocates of circumcision as a means of HIV reduction concede that circumcised men still need to use condoms to protect themselves. But this simply raises the question: why remove the foreskin in the first place, then? At best, therefore, the health benefits of circumcision are marginal.

Moreover, another recent study determined that circumcision does absolutely nothing to reduce the spread of HIV amongst men who have sex with other men – the group most likely to come into contact with the virus, at least in the US (2). Self-evidently, circumcision will do nothing to combat the spread of the disease among intravenous drug users, another group beset with HIV problems. And despite the claims of medical fearmongers regarding the supposed AIDS ‘epidemic’ in the US, fewer than 500,000 Americans are living with the disease in a country of over 300million people (3). To recommend universal circumcision is a wild overreaction to this problem.

While science gives us little reason to pursue this policy, it does tell us something important about circumcision: it greatly reduces sexual pleasure. To take just one academically determined example of what is quite self-evidently true, Gregory Boyle of the University of Australia has observed that the ‘inner layer of the foreskin comprises thousands of erogenous nerve endings’. He further determined that circumcised men enjoy ‘significantly less penile sensation as compared with genitally intact men’ (4). This makes plain sense: after all, the foreskin is an erogenous zone, and removal of said zone is bound have a deleterious result on sensation. To deny men a life of sexual pleasure because of highly dubious claims of ‘health benefits’ is ethically unjustifiable. To add insult to (ahem) injury, other studies have concluded that not only does circumcision deny males pleasure, it actually causes them pain as well (5).

More troubling, the plan to mandate circumcision betrays an insidious disregard for individual autonomy. Indeed, even if circumcision could be shown significantly to reduce the spread of HIV, the practice of circumcising infants would remain an affront to human dignity. It denies men autonomy over their own bodies. No right-thinking person would ever endorse the involuntary circumcision of adult males – indeed, even the most vehement supporters of the practice shy away from this. Why should the case of an infant male be any different? The detriments to his life he is likely to receive as a result of the procedure will only affect him when he is an adult.

Is there really any ethical difference between circumcising a baby against his will and circumcising an adult against his will? What kind of ethical framework is it that allows parents the right to deny their children future sexual pleasure?

Lamentably, many American elites have ridiculed and maligned opponents of compulsory cutting. Substituting mockery for argumentation, Hanna Rosin, writing in the influential Atlantic Monthly, referred dismissively to the circumcision ‘controversy’ (note the use of scare quotes) and accused opponents of being ‘hysterical’ (6). Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at the highly respected web magazine, Slate, characterized critics as ‘crazy’ and ‘on the rabid side’ (7). It is difficult to imagine two liberal women being quite so glib about opponents of female circumcision.

Of course, the impulse to regulate personal behavior in the name of health and safety has been ascendant in Western society for some time now. But that impulse, as we have seen time and again, can go too far. If we were really to pursue such an outlook to its logical conclusion, we would demand a ban on homosexual sex, since this would result in a far larger reduction in HIV transmission than circumcision. This, most people would agree, would be ridiculous, but if any regulation is permissible in the name of health and safety, then why not simply mandate this?

The safety impulse is the same one that has brought us public smoking bans, seatbelt laws, and fees on shoppers’ use of plastic bags. And now, left unchecked, that safety impulse is set to hit American men where it really hurts.

For more on this topic see:

**HIV/Circumcision Public Health Policy Site

**The Nuts & Bolts of HIV in the USA and Why Circumcision Won't Protect Men

** The Truth About Circumcision and HIV

** Female & Male Circumcision in the U.S. - The Similarities

**Here We Go Again: HIV & Circumcision

**Bloggerheads: Rosin, Bazelon & The NY Times

** Functions of the Foreskin: Why You WANT to Keep It!

** For a "lighter" look:
Penn & Teller Discuss the Latest

Ethan Epstein is a business writer living in Portland, Oregon.

(1) Officials Weigh Circumcision to Fight H.I.V. Risk, New York Times, 23 August 2009

(2) Large US study finds circumcision doesn’t protect gay men from AIDS virus, Los Angeles Times, 25 August 2009

(3) HIV and AIDS statistics by state, AVERT

(4) Boyle, Gregory J; Svoboda, J Steven; Goldman, Ronald; Fernandez, Ephrem (2002). Male circumcision: pain, trauma, and psychosexual sequelae. Bond University Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

(5) American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision (March 1, 1999) Circumcision Policy Statement, Pediatrics 103 (3): 686–693. doi:10.1542/peds.103.3.686. ISSN 0031-4005 PMID 10049981

(6) Lose the foreskin, The Atlantic, 25 August 2009

(7) Should the CDC push circumcision?, Double-X, 27 August 2009

Ill Baby in Southeast Michigan NEEDS DONATED BREASTMILK

If you or someone you know is willing to donate even a little breastmilk for this local baby in SE Michigan - she needs your immediate help. I received this letter today from doula, Courtenay.

Hello friends and family!

I am writing (perhaps again for some of you) to ask you whether you or
somebody you know (friends, family, clients) might have frozen breast
milk you are willing to donate, or whether you (or they) would be
willing to pump even just one time a day to donate to a very sick baby
in our community. Her name is Jayden and I will give you some of her

Jayden was born cocaine and alcohol addicted, with congenital
syphilis, at 31 weeks gestation. She had no skin on the palms of her
hands or feet and had to have skin grafts. She was the fourth child to
be taken from her mother, and was taken at birth and brought directly
to the NICU. The birth mother's parental rights were terminated within
12 weeks, which is very fast in Michigan. They could find no formula
that Jayden could tolerate well, but settled on the one that she had
the "least severe reaction to."

When she was about eight weeks old, she was assigned a foster parent,
who came to do kangaroo care with her for eight days before she took
her home, as Jayden was completely blind and profoundly deaf, and
would need to be accustomed to "mom's" smell and touch before they
sent her home. When she went home, she was the most critical discharge
they have ever had from that NICU, which routinely sees the sickest of
babies. Basically, with tears in their eyes, the nurses sent Jayden
home to die. Jayden was insulin dependent (with critically unstable
blood sugars, typically either below 60 or above 400), on oxygen 24
hours a day, and set off her apnea monitor 6-10 times a day. In order
to set off a monitor, she would have to not breathe for many seconds
at a time. She had gained and lost the same three ounces since birth,
and was no more than four and a half pounds. Her foster mother asked
over and over again of anybody who had authority why this baby
couldn't be on breastmilk, shouldn't this baby be on breast milk, what did she have to do to get this baby on breastmilk?

Over and over, she was basically told that this was a medicaid baby and that the state
wouldn't PAY for banked milk (which costs between 1-2 dollars an
ounce, and has been pasteurized) for a MEDICAID baby. Finally, one
day, when Jayden was literally actively dying, an infectious disease
doctor looked at her foster mom (who is a friend of mine because of
foster work and doula work) and said, "I won't tell you NOT to give
her breastmilk. We know that it would give her the best chance!" So,
we got her some frozen breastmilk.

With her first bottle of human milk, Jayden's blood sugar regulated.
She is typically somewhere around 120 now. Within the first three
weeks, she regained her sight and hearing. Her new pediatrician says
that when somebody is actively dying their brain will shut off all
non-essential functions--and hearing and sight are non-essential
functions. The first week on breastmilk she started to only set off
her apnea monitor during the night's deepest sleep...and only then
typically once a night. Within three weeks, they took it off of her
completely, because she just didn't set it off any more. The first
week she gained and KEPT ON four ounces. The next week three. The next
week SEVEN. Now, she has gained nearly four pounds (eight weeks
later). We now have full cooperation with her new pediatrician and the
state to give her human milk, no questions asked.

We have tried her on formula again, and on "extra calories" breastmilk
boosters several times, to see what would happen should we run out of
breastmilk. The baby immediately goes into cirsis again. Formula is
NOT okay. She is showing strong allergies to cow's milk proteins, soy
proteins, and corn and corn derivitives, which pretty much eliminates
every form of artificial milk we have available. This baby was
literally dying (the new pediatrician looked at her stats on intake
and stood up and hugged foster mom saying, "If you hadn't started this
baby on human milk a week ago, she would be dead today--you are a
Hero!"), and now has a chance at life.

My friend's freezer is nearly empty of the frozen milk we were able to
collect and the baby drinks significantly more fresh milk than we are
able to get pumped weekly by the several donors we have been blessed
to find to pump one pumping a day for her. The foster mom is now
looking into "milk share" which is an online community of pumpers who
donate for the cost of supplies. However, if we can get donated milk
from our immediate community, this would make life a lot simpler! We
have pickups in Madison Heights on Monday/Tuesdays, in Troy on
Wednesdays, and would be willing to have another pickup on Fridays in
another part of town (perhaps more north?).

Please, if you or somebody you know who is breastfeeding would be
willing to continue to save a baby's life, she, her foster mother, and
all the people who have come to love Jayden would be eternally

Again, we are looking for any freezer stashes that might need to be
culled, and also for freshly pumped milk...even one pumping a day is
gold to us right now!

Thanks so much for reading, considering,and passing this on to as many
people as you can. With interest or questions, please contact me at

Courtenay Grabowski


International Babywearing Symbol by Natural Mother Magazine

Let's get our babies out of buckets and up 'close enough to kiss.' Babywearing does so much good for our little ones - and for us as parents as well!

Wearing your baby:

* Increases neurological development and brain activity

* Increases calm alertness

* Increases oxygen flow

* Increases the flow of oxytocin and other 'feel good/love' hormones (for BOTH Dad/Mom and baby)

* Improves sleep at night and nap times

* Improves and regulates cardiovascular health

* Improves and regulates respiratory health

* Improves breastfeeding (and Mom's milk supply when she baby wears)

* Improves gross and fine motor development, strength and ability

* Regulates body temperature especially in small babies (when baby has a fever, babywearing skin-to-skin with Mom/Dad will lower his temp; if baby is too cold, skin-to-skin will raise baby's temp)

* Decreases fussiness, colic and gastrointestinal problems

* Decreases cortisol and other stress hormones (for BOTH Mom/Dad and baby!)

* Decreases blood pressure and hypertension (for BOTH Mom/Dad and baby!)

* Develops healthy, secure attachment (for BOTH Mom/Dad and baby)

* Decreases physiological development issues (such as Plagiocephaly, Tortocollis, and 'flat head' that we see so often in what the AAP calls 'Bucket Babies' - those left in carseats/strollers)

Babywearing Resources: 

The Babywearing Group: Facebook.com/groups/WrapMyBaby

Babywearing: Proper Positioning

Babywearing International [website]

Babywearing International Resources for Professionals

The Benefits of Babywearing

American Academy of Pediatrics on "Bucket Babies" and SIDS
What are "Bucket Babies"? You've seen babies carried around in car seats at knee-height...being lugged around everywhere they go. These babes rarely leave their carseat/stroller 'bucket'. Life for them is lived at a lower level (literally). They are not up at eye-level with mom and dad and the rest of the world. They are not talked with the same as slingin' babies. They are not at kissing/hugging/holding level. They are not heart-to-heart with mom. They do not have easy access to her warmth and her milk. These are babies that have been sadly termed "Bucket Babies" and they face many additional risk factors for health problems - SIDS being one. Let's bring them up to where they belong.

Car Seats Are For Cars: Babies are Born to Be Worn

Dr. Sears on Babywearing [website]

The Importance of the In-Arms Phase 

Rock-a-bye Baby 

Attachment Parenting: A Practical Approach For the Reduction of Attachment Disorders and the Promotion of Emotionally Secure Children

Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. 

AAP: Car Seats Lower Oxygen Levels for Babies [does not occur with worn babies]

Cardiorespiratory Stability of Premature and Term Infants Carried in Slings (AAP)

Infant Carriers and Spinal Stress

Babywearers of the Animal Kingdom

History and Science of Carrying [Translated from German]

History of the Ring Sling [photo essay by inventor]

Kangaroo Care Benefits [Prematurity.org]

Babywearing Benefits [Dr. Sears]

How Did Sacagawea Carry Her Baby? 

Babywearing (2005) by Maria Blois {Book}

A Ride on Mother's Back: Babywearing Around the World {Kid's Book}

Beloved Burden: Baby Carriers in Different Countries (2009) by Itie van Hout {Book}

The Mamaponcho - great for cold weather babywearing! Talented mothers - Knit Your Own 'mamaponcho'!

Peekaroo Baby Fleece - another cold weather babywearing item

Babywearing Coat Alterations Instructions

Back Wrap Cross Carry with 43lb Preschooler (Demonstration)

The Babywearer.com

Babywearing Forum

Annual Babywearing Conference

Babywearing Safety [on Facebook]

Real Men Wear Babies [Peaceful Parenting Photo Gallery]

Babywearing Books [and other supplies] peaceful parenting Amazon Collection

Attachment Parenting International on Babywearing

La Leche League International on Babywearing

Positional Plagiocephaly and Tortocollis (does not occur with slinging babies)


If you have photos of a great man in your life wearing your baby, and you'd like to include it in the REAL MEN WEAR BABIES photo collage, send to Born2BWorn@gmail.com. Include any information you would like (name/location/baby's age/type of sling/wrap) or you can send anonymously without any info.

The purpose of this collection is to demonstrate that fathers DO frequently wear their little ones as well as mothers, and to encourage other dads to give it a try.

Babywearing has been shown to significantly impact attachment, bonding, and trust between fathers and their children - a social bond that lasts into the teenage years and beyond. Father babywearing as also been shown to decrease stress hormones and lower blood pressure and hypertension in both men and their babies.

Let's get Dad involved alongside Mom!

HIV Increases in Africa Where Most Men Circumcised

This is not a big shocking surprise to anyone who knows about the immunological and protective functions and purposes of the prepuce (foreskin) or the hard, cold facts that when you circumcise men, you increase rates of all STDs (including HIV). Countries where 99% of men are intact have the lowest rates of HIV. The United States, with the highest number of circumcised adult men, has the highest rate of HIV among developed nations. Condoms prevent the spread of HIV, not circumcision. This is not a difficult equation to figure out. But apparently we must wait for the 'experts' amputating foreskins in Africa to tell us this.

Although circumcision has been touted as one of the ways to prevent HIV infection, recent findings show an increase in HIV infection in regions where most males are circumcised.

Recent findings show an increase in HIV infection in regions where most males are circumcised.

By Arthur Okwemba

As thousands of young men in Nyanza Province troop to health centres to be circumcised in hopes of fending off HIV, new studies show it might be too early to claim victory. Although circumcision has been touted as one of the ways to prevent HIV infection, recent findings show an increase in HIV infection in regions where most males are circumcised.

According to findings of the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (Kais) released last week, North Eastern and Coast provinces, where 97 per cent of males were circumcised, registered an increase in HIV prevalence.

Within a span of five years, HIV prevalence in North Eastern and Coast provinces increased from 0 to 1.0 per cent and from 5.8 per cent to 8.3 per cent respectively. In the same period, HIV prevalence in Nyanza Province, where about 60% of men are intact, stood at 15 per cent, the lowest in the country.

These are sobering statistics for young men who have rushed to get circumcised in he belief that doing so would provide complete protection from HIV infection. The new findings of growing HIV prevalence among circumcised males indicates the practice cannot protect an individual from HIV infection unless it is combined with other practices including using condoms, being faithful to one partner, or abstaining from sex.

Health officials acknowledge that getting people to look at circumcision in the larger context of other factors and strategies can be challenging. “The figures from these two provinces are sending a warning that circumcision alone is not the magic bullet to controlling the disease. Other methods have to be used in combination,” said Dr Ibrahim Mohammed, Head of National Aids and STD Control Programmes in the Ministry of Medical Services.

The increase in prevalence in communities that circumcise indicates there are other factors that contribute to the spread of the disease among males. Multiple sexual partners, low condom use and alcohol and drug abuse are some of the factors.

“Unless we address all the reasons predisposing people to HIV infection, we might not make much headway,” said Judy Adero, who has lived with the virus for nine years. But scientists still believe circumcision will result in the lowering of HIV prevalence in provinces such as Nyanza.

Dr David DeCock, director of the Kenya office of the US Centers for Disease Control, said he has no doubt that circumcision prevents HIV infection. His study shows that the rate of HIV prevalence among circumcised men was 3.9 per cent compared to 13.2 per cent among the intact men. Buoyed by these differences, the government and other organisations have opened 200 circumcision centres.

More than 30,000 men have been circumcised since the call first went out; the target of 100,000 circumcised men is expected to be reached by year’s end (2009).

Meanwhile, female activists have criticised the way the whole operation is being carried out, arguing that it is making women more vulnerable as men engage in sex with multiple partners secure in the [false] knowledge that they are 'safe.'

The decision to adopt circumcision as one method in the HIV prevention strategy has been informed by research findings of three trials done in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya which showed circumcision to reduce the risk of HIV infection in 2006.

This was followed by World Health Organisation and UNAids issuing recommendations for increased male circumcision rates in countries where the HIV prevalence is high.

Of the 1,546 men who were circumcised, 20 became infected with HIV while 49 of the 1,582 intact men became infected.

The findings made the South African scientists undertake large-scale male circumcision as a possible strategy for preventing two million HIV infections and 300,000 deaths in their country over the next 10 years. In December 2006, the Data Safety Monitoring Board that was overseeing the Kenyan and Ugandan male circumcision trials announced the operation was a safe and effective.


**See This Public Health Policy Site

**The Nuts & Bolts of HIV in the USA and Why Circumcision Won't Protect Men

** The Truth About Circumcision and HIV

**Here We Go Again: HIV & Circumcision

** For a "lighter" look: Penn & Teller Discuss the Latest

Babies Voice Their Objections to Circumcision

More on Circumcision and Neurological/Brain Impact Studies:

Circumcision Pain Studies End Early Due to Infant Trauma

MRI Studies: Brain Permanently Altered From Infant Circumcision

Infant Pain Impacts Adult Sensitivity & Perception

Mothers who witnessed their son's circumcision speak about their experiences here.

To learn more about the many important functions of the foreskin, please read this book excerpt from Drs. Fleiss and Hodges.

Article: Protect Your Intact Son: Expert Medical Advice

Mothers Observe Sons Circumcision

Stories collected at the Circumcision Resource Center

If you have a story to share, please let us know. If you are a parent who circumcised your first son, wish to keep future sons intact, and would like to talk with other parents who have done the same, please drop me a note. I will connect you with others you can talk to who have walked down that same road and kept future babies whole at birth. There is also a Facebook page you may be interested in: Keeping Future Sons Intact (parents here have both circumcised and intact sons, or they plan to keep future sons/grandsons intact). There is also a group of like parents: 2nd Son, 2nd Chance: Parents who say never again to circumcision.

To learn more about the functions of the foreskin and the many reasons the prepuce organ is vital to all babies and adults, see here.

For additional information on intact care, the prepuce, and circumcision, resources (books, sites, articles) can be found at: Are you fully informed?


The typical hospital circumcision is done out of view of the mother in a separate room. However, a few are observed by parents, and many Jewish ritual circumcisions are done in the homes of the parents and observed by family and friends. Although some parents may report that this is a positive experience, this is not always the case. Women are more likely than men to report distress from hearing an infant crying. (1) Regarding circumcision, the father is more likely to deny his son’s pain because it could remind him of his own circumcision feelings. Therefore, witnessing the circumcision and the infant’s response can have a particularly shocking effect on the mother. Only recently have some parents been willing to describe their agonizingly painful experiences at their son’s circumcision. Though further research is needed to tell us how common these responses are, the fact that they exist at all is reason for concern and reflection.

Some mothers have written about their experiences with circumcision during the previous year. “It was as close to hell as I ever want to get!” one wrote. Another related this memory:

My tiny son and I sobbed our hearts out. . . . After everything I’d worked for, carrying and nurturing Joseph in the womb, having him at home against no small odds, keeping him by my side constantly since birth, nursing him whenever he needed closeness and nourishment—the circumcision was a horrible violation of all I felt we shared. I cried for days afterward. (2)

Melissa Morrison was having a difficult time seven months after she had watched the (nonritual) circumcision of her son:

I’m finding myself obsessing more and more about it. It’s absolutely horrible. I didn’t know how horrific it was going to be. It was the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in my life. I told the doctor as soon as he was done, if I had a gun I would have killed him. I swear I would be in jail today if I did have a gun. (3)

Two other mothers have reported to the Circumcision Resource Center that watching their son’s circumcision was “the worst day of my life.” Another mother noted that she still felt pain recalling the experience about a year later. She wrote to her son:

I have never heard such screams. . . . Will I ever know what scars this brings to your soul? . . . What is that new look I see in your eyes? I can see pain, a certain sadness, and a loss of trust. (4)

Other mothers clearly remember their son’s circumcision after many years. Miriam Pollack reported fifteen years after the event, “The screams of my baby remain embedded in my bones and haunt my mind.” She added later, “His cry sounded like he was being butchered. I lost my milk.” (5)

Nancy Wainer Cohen recalled her feelings connected with the circumcision of her son, who is now twenty-two:

I heard him cry during the time they were circumcising him. The thing that is most disturbing to me is that I can still hear his cry. . . . It was an assault on him, and on some level it was an assault on me. . . . I will go to my grave hearing that horrible wail, and feeling somewhat responsible, feeling that it was my lack of awareness, my lack of consciousness. I did the best I could, and it wasn’t good enough. (6)

Elizabeth Pickard-Ginsburg vividly remembered her son’s circumcision and its effect on her:

Jesse was shrieking and I had tears streaming down my face. . . . He was screaming and there was no doubt in his scream that he wanted mother, or a mothering figure to come and protect him from this pain!! . . . Jesse screamed so loud that all of a sudden there was no sound! I’ve never heard anything like it!! He was screaming and it went up and then there was no sound and his mouth was just open and his face was full of pain!! I remember something happened inside me . . . the intensity of it was like blowing a fuse! It was too much. We knew something was over. I don’t feel that it ever really healed. . . . I don’t think I can recover from it. It’s a scar. I’ve put a lot of energy into trying to recover. I did some crying and we did some therapy. There’s still a lot of feeling that’s blocked off. It was too intense. . . . We had this beautiful baby boy and seven beautiful days and this beautiful rhythm starting, and it was like something had been shattered!! . . . When he was first born there was a tie with my young one, my newborn. And when the circumcision happened, in order to allow it I had cut off the bond. I had to cut off my natural instincts, and in doing so I cut off a lot of feelings towards Jesse. I cut it off to repress the pain and to repress the natural instinct to stop the circumcision. (7) (italics added)

After several years, Pickard-Ginsburg says she can still feel “an element of detachment” toward her son. Her account is particularly revealing. That she “cut off” feelings toward her son by observing his circumcision suggests that her son may have responded similarly toward her by experiencing his circumcision. Furthermore, because she was willing to feel and communicate the intensity of her pain, we have a clue to why more mothers who observe their son’s circumcision do not report such pain. Denial and repression may keep this extreme pain out of their awareness.

Observing their son’s circumcision has left some parents with a deep feeling of regret. The following quotes are typical:

I am so sorry I was so ignorant about circumcision. Had I witnessed a circumcision first, I never would have consented to having my son circumcised. (8)

Always in the back of my mind I’ve thought, “I wish he hadn’t been cut.” I have apologized to him numerous times. (9)

If I had ever known, I wouldn’t have done this in a million years. (10)

I felt as if I might pass out at the sight of my son lying there, unable to move or defend himself. His screams tore at my heart as his foreskin was heartlessly torn from his penis. Too late to turn back, I knew that this was a terrible mistake and that it was something that no one, especially newborn babies, should ever have to endure. A wave of shock coursed through me—my body feeling nauseatingly sick with guilt and shame. All I could think of was holding and consoling my child, but his pain felt inconsolable—his body rigid with fear and anger—his eyes filled with tears of betrayal. (11)

Some mothers who did not witness the circumcision have since regretted allowing it:

The nurse came to take the baby for the circumcision. I have relived that moment over and over. If I could turn back the hands of time, that would be the one moment I would go back to and say, “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I need another day to think about it” and just hold on to him because I wasn’t sure. I think if I had held on to him it might have turned out differently. I just shouldn’t have let him go when I was so ambivalent. After they took him I went into the shower, and I cried. (12)

When they brought him back to me, I could see that he had been crying and had a glassy, wild look in his eyes. I think it was terror. I didn’t know what had been done to him, but I could tell whatever it was, it hurt. I’ll never forget that look. They probably shattered every bit of trust he had. I’m very angry about it. I would never have done that to my own son. No mother would take a knife to her child. When I looked at his penis, I was again instantly sorry that I had allowed it to be done. (13)


(1) Frodi, A. & Lamb, M., “Sex Differences in Responsiveness to Infants: A Developmental Study of Psychophysical and Behavioral Responses,” Child Development 49 (1978): 1182-8.

(2) O'Mara, P., ed., Circumcision: The Rest of the Story (Santa Fe, NM: Mothering, 1993), 75-6.

(3) Telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

(4) Friederich, L., letter in O'Mara, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story, 79.

(5) Pollack, M., “Jewish Feminist Perspective,” paper presented at the Third International Symposium on Circumcision, College Park, MD, May 1994.

(6) Interviewed at CRC office, 1994.

(7) Romberg, Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma, 78-84.

(8) Sexty, L., letter in O'Mara, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story, 84.

(9) Cohen, N., interviewed at CRC office, 1994.

(10) Northrup, C., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1994.

(11) Raisbeck, B., “Circumcision: A Wound Which Lasts a Lifetime,” Healing Currents, 1993, 21.

(12) Dion, J., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

(13) Miller, C., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

Baby Belly Painting

A pregnant woman and her baby belly is simply one of the most beautiful forms on earth!

In their empowering, often healing birth book, Birthing From Within, Pam England, CNM, MA, and Rob Horowitz, PhD write:
One kind of learning comes from books. But the learning necessary for you to participate completely in your birth must come from you. In making birth art or journaling, just bringing an image to light can be surprisingly revealing (and sometimes healing). Listening to it speak to you can tell you even more. Dreams, reverie and art all carry messages from the unconscious…

An active, gentle exploration process not only brings overlooked resources and strengths to conscious awareness, but identifies obstacles and inhibitions that might prevent you from using them.

Birth art doesn't have to be pretty, colorful or carefully planned. It is as raw, honest and spontaneous as birth itself. 

It is important to notice how you approach making art, because it is a metaphor for how you approach doing things in your life, especially things you are unfamiliar with, such as birthing. Do you say, "I don't know how to do this!" and hesitate, or give up altogether (leaving it up to 'the professionals')? Do you find yourself comparing yourself and competing with others? Or can you be curious and say, "Let's see what I can do!"?

Your art, like your labor, doesn't have to be perfect. Just give it your best effort. 

One expressive form of pregnancy and birth art is belly painting. What a fun celebration of the life growing within!

If you have a painted (or henna) baby belly photo you'd like to share here, we'd love to see them! Upload to the peaceful parenting Facebook page or drop them to us in an email at PeacefulParents@gmail.com

Happy Baby Growing!

Flu Shot 2009: 18 Reasons Not to Give to Children

by Bill Sardi
posted with permission

This year it is more important that you protect your children and loved ones from the flu vaccines than influenza itself. Here are the reasons:
1. This flu is simply another flu. It is not unusually deadly. In fact, the H1N1 swine flu in circulation is less deadly than many other influenza outbreaks. The first 1000 confirmed swine flu cases in Japan and China produced zero deaths. The Centers for Disease Control alleges 36,000 Americans succumb to the flu each year, but so far, since March through August of 2009 (6 months), the swine flu has been attributed to ~500–600 deaths in the US. The swine flu of 2009 has already swept through the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season without alarm. Only exaggerated reports have been issued by the World Health Organization regarding hospitalizations required during the flu season in South American countries. Getting exposed to influenza and developing natural antibodies confers resistance for future flu outbreaks. Artificially boosting antibodies by exposure to flu viruses in vaccines is more problematic than natural exposure. Americans have been exposed to the H1N1 swine flu throughout the summer of 2009 with far fewer deaths and hospitalizations than commonly attributed to the seasonal flu.

2. Health authorities tacitly admit prior flu vaccination programs were of worthless value. This is the first time both season and pandemic flu vaccines will be administered. Both seasonal flu and swine flu vaccines will require two inoculations. This is because single inoculations have failed to produce sufficient antibodies. Very young children and older frail adults, the high-risk groups in the population, may not produce sufficient antibodies in response to the flu vaccine. This is an admission that prior flu vaccines were virtually useless. The same people who brought you the ineffective vaccines in past years are bringing you this year’s new vaccines. Can you trust them this time?

3. In addition to failure to produce sufficient antibodies, this swine flu vaccine is brought to you by the same people who haven’t been able to adequately produce a seasonal flu vaccine that matches the flu strain in circulation. In recent years flu vaccination has been totally worthless because the strains of the flu in circulation did not match the strain of the virus in the vaccines. Authorities claim the prevalent flu strain in circulation in mid-September ’09 is the H1N1 swine flu, which appears to be milder than past seasonal influenza in circulation. If this data is correct, why receive the season flu shot this year?

4. The vaccines will be produced by no less than four different manufacturers, possibly with different additives (called adjuvants) and manufacturing methods. The two flu inoculations may be derived from a multi-dose vial and in a crisis, and in short supply, it will be diluted to provide more doses and then adjuvants must be added to trigger a stronger immune response. Adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost production of antibodies but may trigger autoimmune reactions. Some adjuvants are mercury (thimerosal), aluminum and squalene. Would you permit your children to be injected with lead? Lead is very harmful to the brain. Then why would you sign a consent form for your kids to be injected with mercury, which is even more brain-toxic than lead? Injecting mercury may fry the brains of American kids.

5. This is the first year mock vaccines have been used to gain FDA approval. Mock vaccines are made to gain approval of the manufacturing method and then the prevalent virus strain in circulation is added just days before it is actually placed into use. Don’t subject your children to experimental vaccines. Yes, these vaccines have been tested on healthy kids and adults, but they are not the same vaccines your children will be given. Those children with asthma, allergies, type I diabetes, etc. are at greater risk for side effects. Children below the age of 2 years do not have a sufficient blood–brain barrier developed and are subject to chronic brain infections that emanate into symptoms that are called autism. Toddlers should not be subjected to injected viruses.

6. Over-vaccination is a common practice now in America. American children are subjected to 29 vaccines by the age of two. This means a little bit of disease is being injected into young children continually during their most formative years! Veterinarians have backed off of repeat vaccination in dogs because of observed side effects.

7. Health officials want to vaccinate women during pregnancy, subjecting the fetal brain to an intentional biological assault. A recent study showed exposure flu viruses among women during pregnancy provoke a similar gene expression pattern in the fetus as that seen in autistic children. This is a tacit admission that vaccines, which inject a little bit of influenza into humans, causes autism.

8. Modern medicine has no explanation for autism, despite its continued rise in prevalence. Yet autism is not reported among Amish children who go unvaccinated. Beware the falsehoods of modern medicine.

9. School kids are likely to receive nasally-administered vaccines (Flu-Mist) that require no needle injection. But this form of live vaccine produces viral shedding which will surely be transmitted to family members. What a way to start an epidemic!

10. This triple reassortment virus appears to be man made. The H1N1 swine flu virus of 2009 coincidentally appeared in Mexico on the same week that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France visited Mexican president Felipe Calderon, to announce that France intends to build a multi-million dollar vaccine plant in Mexico. An article written by Ron Maloney of the Seguin, Texas Gazette-Enterprise newspaper announces a "rehearsal for a pandemic disaster" scheduled for May 2, 2009. The article says: "Guadalupe County emergency management and their counterparts around the country are preparing for just such a scenario…" This means county health authorities across the U.S. had been preparing a rehearsal for mass vaccinations prior to the announced outbreak in Mexico. Virologists admit this part swine flu/part avian flu/part human flu virus must have taken time to develop. But it somehow wasn’t detected by hundreds of flu monitoring stations across the globe. On April 24, 2009 Dr. John Carlo, Dallas County Medical Director, alludes that the H1N1 strain of the Swine flu as possibly being engineered in a laboratory. He says: "This strain of swine influenza that’s been cultured in a laboratory is something that’s not been seen anywhere actually in the United States and the world, so this is actually a new strain of influenza that’s been identified." (Globe & Mail, Canada)

11. Recall the swine flu scare of 1976. In a politically charged atmosphere where Gerald Ford was seeking election to the Presidency, the swine flu suddenly appeared at a military base. Vaccine was produced and millions of Americans were vaccinated. But the vaccine was worse than the disease, causing hundreds of cases of Guillain Barre syndrome and a few deaths. In a replay of the past, the White House is directly involved in promoting the H1N1 2009 swine flu vaccine. The federal government will use federal funds to pay off schools to administer vaccines, promote vaccination via highway billboards and TV advertisements, and conduct military-style mass inoculations in such rapid fashion that if side effects occur, it will be too late. The masses will have been vaccinated already. Over $9 billion has been allotted by the federal government to develop and deliver an unproven and experimental flu vaccine. Don’t be a guinea pig for the government.

12. Researchers are warning that over-use of the flu vaccine and anti-flu drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza can apply genetic pressure on flu viruses and then they are more likely to mutate into a more deadly strain. US health authorities want 70% of the public to be vaccinated against the flu this ’09 season, which is more than double the vaccination percentage of any prior flu season. This would certainly apply greater genetic pressure for the flu to mutate into a more virulent strain.

13. Most seasonal influenza A (H1N1) virus strains tested from the United States and other countries are now resistant to Tamiflu (oseltamivir). Tamiflu has become a nearly worthless drug against seasonal flu. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, among 1148 seasonal flu samples tested, 1143 (99.6%) were resistant to Tamiflu!

14. As the flu season progresses the federal government may coerce or mandate Americans to undergo vaccination. France has already ordered enough vaccine to inoculate their entire population and has announced that vaccination will be mandatory. The US appears to be waiting to announce mandatory vaccination at a later date when it can scare the public into consenting to the vaccine. The federal government is reported to be hiring people to visit homes of unvaccinated children. This sounds like the Biblical account of Pharaoh attempting to eradicate all the young Israelite baby boys. Must we hide our babies now?

15. Public health authorities have cried wolf every flu season to get the public to line up for flu shots. Health authorities repeatedly publish the bogus 36,000 annual flu-related deaths figure to scare the public into getting flu shots. But that figure is based on the combined deaths from pneumonia in the elderly and the flu. Maybe just 5000–6000 or so flu-related deaths occur annually, mostly among individuals with compromised immune systems, the hospitalized, individuals with autoimmune disease or other health problems. As stated above, the swine flu in full force has only resulted in ~500–600 deaths in the first six months in circulation and it is far more dreaded by public health authorities than the seasonal flu. The Centers for Disease Control issues a purchase order for flu vaccines and then serves as the public relations agency to get the public to pay for the vaccines. Out of a population of 325 million Americans, only 100 million doses of flu vaccine have been administered each year and no epidemic has erupted among the unvaccinated.

16. The news media is irresponsible in stirring up unfounded fear over this coming flu season. Just exactly how ethical is it for newspapers to publish reports that a person has died of the swine flu when supposedly thousands die of the flu annually? In the past the news media hasn’t chosen to publicize each and every flu-related death, but this time it has chosen to frighten the public. Why? Examine the chart below. The chart shows that the late flu season of 2009 peaked in week 23 (early June) and has dissipated considerably.

While every childhood flu-related death should be considered tragic, and the number of flu-related pediatric deaths in 2009 is greater than prior flu seasons as a percentage, in real numbers it is not a significant increase. See chart below:
According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, for week 34 ending August 29, 2009, there were 236 hospitalizations and 37 deaths related to the flu. That would represent just 5 hospitalizations and less than one death per State, which is "below the epidemic threshold."

17. Public health officials are irresponsible in their omission of any ways to strengthen immunity against the flu. No options outside of problematic vaccines and anti-flu drugs are offered, despite the fact there is strong evidence that vitamins C and D activate the immune system and the trace mineral selenium prevents the worst form of the disease where the lungs fill up with fluid and literally drown a flu-infected person. The only plausible explanation as to why the flu season typically peaks in winter months is a deficiency of sunlight-produced vitamin D. Protect your family. Arm your immune system with vitamins and trace minerals.

18. Will we ever learn if the flu vaccine this year is deadly in itself? In 1993 the federal government hid a deadly flu vaccine that killed thousands of nursing home patients. It was the first year that flu shots were paid for by Medicare. The vaccine-related mortality was so large that this set back the life expectancy of Americans for the first time since the 1918 Spanish flu! Mortality reports take a year or two to tabulate and the federal government may choose not to reveal the true mortality rate and whether it was related to the flu or the vaccines. You say this couldn’t happen? It did in 1993!

For more information on Vaccines & Vaccinations, see these decision making resource books.

Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a frequent writer on health and political topics. His health writings can be found at www.naturalhealthlibrarian.com. He is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore.


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