Robert A. Bradley MD

(b. 1917 - d. 1998)
Father of Husband-Coached Childbirth; one of LLL's early influences

It seems appropriate that that Dr. Bob Bradley died on Christmas Day. For many of his 81 years, Dr. Bradley had helped make the birth of a child a joyous experience for parents. Each child was a new miracle in his eyes. “He lived a long full life and died on his favorite day of the year, which was like a gift from God,” a niece, Carla Gene Swanson, told reporters.

Dr. Bradley pioneered a method of drug-free natural childbirth that became known as the Bradley Method. The publication of his book, Husband-Coached Childbirth, in 1965 sparked nationwide interest in his efforts to bring fathers into delivery rooms. This led Dr. Bradley to co-found the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth in 1970 to provide education and instructor training in the Bradley Method. He campaigned to bring fathers into the delivery room so they could give emotional support to their wives during childbirth and bond immediately with their babies. He encouraged fathers to take photos of the radiant mothers holding their newly born babies to document the joyful experience. He insisted that all mothers breastfeed their babies immediately after birth and frequently from then on for the benefit of both mother and baby. Dr. Bradley worked with women so they had the confidence to work with their bodies during pregnancy and childbirth. His popularity with parents helped trigger family-centered maternity care in Colorado and nationwide.

Dr. Bradley used to say that he never delivered a baby himself. He gave the credit to mothers. “I just catch babies,” he said. By the time he retired in 1985, after 33 years of fostering natural childbirth in his thriving obstetrical practice in Denver, Colorado, USA, he had caught 22,000 babies and influenced the deliveries of millions more. He also was an early advocate of breastfeeding at a time when most doctors were recommending formula over human milk.

I particularly appreciate his invaluable support of La Leche League. When I moved from Illinois to Colorado in 1960, I was six months pregnant. Naturally, I started holding LLL meetings in Colorado right away. I knew about Dr. Bradley because we Founders had heard him speak about natural childbirth at a maternity center in the Chicago area. So I knew just where to go for obstetrical care. Dr. Bradley welcomed me to his office with open arms. He began requiring all of his patients to attend LLL meetings and enthusiastically supported the establishment of LLL Groups in Colorado. At the time, each series of LLL meetings included a fifth meeting just for fathers. For many years, Dr. Bradley led those meetings. When the Denver Chapter of LLL hosted the third biennial LLLI Convention in 1968, Dr. Bradley's sessions for mothers and fathers were well attended.

Dr. Bradley was a popular speaker nationwide. He always mentioned LLL during his television appearances and lectures. Years before medical studies proved the cognitive benefits of breastfeeding, Dr. Bradley promoted breastfeeding as beneficial to both mind and body. He was also a member of La Leche League’s Professional Advisory Board for many years and spoke at LLL conferences.

My husband and I felt most fortunate to have been one of the many couples whose lives were greatly enriched by Dr. Bradley. He “caught” four of our babies as I delivered them. Then he enthusiastically helped us welcome them and appeared awestruck each time by the miracle of birth.

Dr. Bradley will be missed greatly by those who knew him and by those who knew of him. But his legacy lives on in vibrant newborns who come into the world naturally and bond immediately with their mothers and fathers. Dr. Bradley's leadership and courage helped bring about dramatic changes in how we all view the birth of a child.

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 3, May-June 1999, p. 84