Dr. Benjamin Spock began practicing pediatrics more than a half-century ago when there no antibiotics, polio was a dread disease and few mothers wanted to breast-feed.

The world-famous baby doctor wrote in a Redbook article that he began his practice at the depths of the Depression in 1933 in New York City."There were no wonder drugs at all," he wrote. "When a child developed an ear infection or pneumonia, there was nothing a doctor or parent could do but `force fluids' and pray.

"The most dreaded disease was polio - there was no polio vaccine then. A small epidemic in California was enough to terrify parents on the East Coast, and vice versa."

Tonsils and adenoids were commonly removed in the 1930s and '40s for reasons that ranged from colds to mouth breathing.

Spock described the very different well-baby practices of the times.

Few mothers were interested in breast-feeding, and their physicians did not encourage them to do so.

Infants were to be fed exact amounts of formula on rigid four-hour schedules. Solids were most often started at 5 months and toilet training at 6 months - sometimes as early as 3 months.

"Pacifiers were thought to be filthy and disgusting by proper parents," Spock wrote. "Thumb sucking was considered a bad habit to be promptly squelched.

Would-be pediatricians were not taught child psychology. Spock, who wanted to understand everyday psychological problems such as thumb sucking, resistance to weaning and toilet training, added a year of psychiatric residency to his pediatric training and studied for five more years while in pediatric practice.

He was first asked to write a book on baby care after five years of pediatric practice but refused because he didn't know enough yet. Five years later, in 1943, he agreed to write "Baby and Child Care."

As for today's problems, from skyrocketing crime rates to teenage pregnancy, Spock wrote in Redbook:

"I still think that one principal answer to such problems is for parents to emphasize spiritual values much more than they now do, including the spiritual aspects of sex and marriage."