The method of Infant Observation created by Esther Bick in 1948 represents a fundamental
moment in the training for all professionals dealing with infancy and for those who are confronted
with primitive and infantile mental states. This training equally permits professionals, who do not
ordinarily work with children, to reinforce their capacity to understand deep archaic levels of
psychological functioning in all patients.
The observation of babies confronts us with the mystery of the origins of psychological life and
its first manifestations, with the body language of babies, with the impact of the arrival of a
baby in a family organization and into the psychological life of each family member.
With its clinical applications, this method has represented a great opening in baby care centres
(maternities, crèches, nurseries …). Indeed observation, because of its richness, is a method which
permits working groups to elaborate and think about the “raw” material of the observations and
to use these observations to develop and deepen their understanding.
One can also emphasize the scientific contribution of this method to the understanding of the
baby’s psychological development and in the prevention of developmental problems that
emerge in infancy such as autism and attachment disorders. This method has also brought new
understanding of severe pathologies such as autism and psychosis. It has opened the way to the
psychotherapy of the parent-baby relation.
For the first time the International Conference of Baby Observation will be held in an African
country. Senegal is a pioneer in the experience of baby observation on the African continent.
Within this Conference we want to give special attention to babies in developing countries;
babies, who are often exposed to the violent changes that their family lives in the passage from
a traditional culture to a “modern” culture.
Maternal traditions, which were so vital in African families, have a tendency to be lost, especially
in urban setting with the disappearance of the extended family and housing conditions which
greatly reduce the possibilities for toddlers to satisfy their vital needs.
We believe that making this method better known and available in Africa will participate in the
development of public health and facilitate a greater respect for the rights of children, women
Each baby confronts us with a past cultural heritage (ours and that of our ancestors) and a future
which can be rich in promises…