When a well-known pediatrician returns to the Lowcountry next week, it won't just be to speak about children's health. Dr. Bill Sears, famous for his attachment parenting philosophy, will share healthy tips for all ages -- from babies to seniors -- in a talk from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Hampton Hall clubhouse in Bluffton.
"(I'll talk about) how to help your body make its own internal medicine," he said. "Your body is a giant walking pharmacy. I'll show you how to open it."
It will be Sears' and his wife, Martha's, first trip to the area since their family left in the early 1980s. Sears was the primary pediatrician on Hilton Head Island at the time and was known for compassionate care for children and a willingness to treat them anytime, anywhere.
The family lived here from 1976 to 1981. In that time they taught Lamaze birthing classes, advocated for the addition of an obstetrics unit at Hilton Head Hospital, and participated in a breastfeeding promotion and support group that was part of La Leche League International. They wrote their first book, "Creative Parenting," here.
Martha Sears had one of the first home births on the island: a daughter, Hayden, in 1978. It was front-page news; the Sears still have a framed copy of the newspaper hanging in their California home. Hayden was their fourth child; they went on to have eight, including one through adoption.
"It was a special place for us," Sears said of Hilton Head. "We built our first house there. The kids learned to sail there. We just have wonderful memories of kids playing on the beach. It was a beautiful four years of family life."
They still think about Hilton Head every day. A large picture of their home on Dinghy Lane hangs in their bedroom.
A few years after the Searses left, they published "The Baby Book," which became the guidebook for their parenting philosophy. Attachment parenting centers on a mother's deep, innate, emotional bond with her infant. Its tenets include breastfeeding through infancy and toddlerhood, babywearing in slings or carriers, co-sleeping, and quick and appropriate response to a baby's various types of cries.
The philosophy is still alive and well. A 2012 Time Magazine cover story, complete with a shocking image of a mother breast-feeding a nearly 4-year-old son who was standing on a chair to reach her, examined how the philosophy, and Sears, "remade motherhood."
But Sears is no longer solely focused on parenting. After a battle with colon cancer in 1997, Sears realized he wanted to devote his energy to learning and teaching about health and nutrition. The latest of his 43 total books have focused on those topics.
"I learned so much about how the body heals itself if you take care of it. I'm just on a mission to teach nutrition to families really at all ages," he said.
Sears' talk, which he said will be "practical, humorous and offer a lot of take-home tips," is presented by Juice Plus, a line of fruit and vegetable supplements. Sears sits on the company's medical advisory board.
Though it will be a short trip -- just a few days -- for the Searses, they're looking forward to seeing how the Lowcountry has changed since they left and catching up with old friends.
"It was a big part of our life. It's a very special place, and we saw it when it was just growing," he said. "We're looking forward to getting back to those memories."
Follow reporter Rachel Damgen at twitter.com/IPBG_Rachel.