So like all new parents I have no idea what I’m doing. I was fortunate enough to get a relatively easy-going baby (as these things go) and a naturally easy-going attitude towards parenting, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t want to Look Things Up, if only to know whether or not I’m doing them right. (Because there’s one right way to parent, right? Right?)
So I got a wide selection of baby care manuals from the library, and skimmed them all. I did not read any in their entirety, so if you’re an adherent to any one of these and you are incensed by something I overlooked, sorry. I have a three-month old baby. I can’t read 2000 pages or so just for the sake of being thorough in a blog post.
The Mother of All Baby Books (Ann Douglas) – The only Canadian entrant on the list, MoaBB has mostly common-sense baby rearing advice, including a helpful section on what developmental milestones to look for, when to be worried your child has fallen behind, and when to call the doctor/go to the ER in case of illness. However, the directions on changing your baby are needlessly complicated, taking up almost 2 pages of a trade paperback. This honestly made me question the rest of the advice. Written in a somewhat jokey but brisk style.
The Baby Book (Sears and Sears) – Given the flap about attachment parenting that exploded in the feminist blogosphere a couple of weeks ago, I approached this one with a large helping of salt. There are some pretty hateable things about the Baby Book – the gender essentialism, the tin-eared hand-waving approach to wage-earning mothers (he seriously suggests that, if you are unable to stay home with your baby for financial reasons, you should borrow money from your parents. Um…), but a lot of his recommendations make sense. For example, Cecil spends a good part of his day either being carried around or in a sling, because what else are you going to do when he’s awake but not eating, being changed, or playing? Put him in the sling and get on with your day. And Sears has one really valuable core insight that can’t be overstated: that babies are people who have legitimate needs, and it’s your responsibility as a parent to meet those needs.
That being said, Sears has something of a one-size-fits-all approach to problems. Whatever the problem the answer is almost always “Breastfeed and cosleep”. If you’re already doing/have already decided against doing those things, that advice is not much help. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the section on vaccination to be science-based and reasonable, as many adherents to attachment parenting are also anti-vaccine.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Traci Hogg plus a ghostwriter) – I admit, I have read the least of this one, because it’s written in a nauseating style, kind of like a weight-loss infomercial. A cursory glance shows that she recommends scheduling feedings and limiting time on the breast for babies as young as four days old, which goes against current medical advice. I didn’t read enough of the sleep section to get a strong sense of her sleep recommendations, but she appears to advocate a milder form of Cry It Out, which is also against current medical advice (though this is more controversial than demand feeding). The phrase “begin as you wish to continue” seems to crop up several times, and makes little sense to me. There are many, many things I do now – breastfeeding, babywearing, sticking a finger in his diaper to see if Cecil’s peed – that I don’t plan on continuing indefinitely, because children and their needs change as they grow.
However, I do know people who’ve gotten good results with this book, so YMMV.
Your Baby and Child (Penelope Leach) – I think this was my favourite of the four books. Written in a somewhat serious style, it contains a lot of good advice without hewing to one parenting style in particular. The Sears and Hogg books were both advocating for particular method; Leach presents information about different options and ideas for solving problems. If I do buy one I think I’ll get this, with possibly the Sears book as an alternative.