Reading between the lines: baby books

Baby books…there’s nothing so guaranteed to cause an argument at baby group. Some are devote follows of one particular school of thought, others think another ‘method’ set out in a weighty tome is the ONLY way to raise a happy, healthy baby who sleeps through the night, never cries, feeds well and can complete a rubik’s cube aged two.

There are of course many mothers who think baby books are the work of the devil and that if you aren’t able to just trust your instincts and go with the flow you are a very uptight, routine slave who probably schedules nap-time using Outlook and sets an iphone reminder for each feed.

Buried in another corner is a rather frantic woman in a slightly grubby top desperately leafing through an entire library of books searching for the magic clue to sleep/weight gain/how to get little Jimmy to roll over. She rocks back and forth gently whilst repeating under her breath ‘what to expect when the baby whisperer, contented little no cry sleep solution, attachment parenting ;ioh’obht’qoitn”QPin’.

Somewhere in between these stereotypes you may recognise yourself (or what you suspect you might be like when faced with an actual baby rather than a bump).

I’ve always been a reader, so was delighted to have another excuse to max out my credit card in the local bookshop and force my husband to carry home ten tons of closely printed advice, remedies and ideas. I loved reading all the schools of thought in advance – finding myself convinced by each when reading it and then lurching towards another favourite as I turned the next cover. One minute I’m picturing myself walking bare breasted with my baby in the sling constantly until she was at least a year and then next I’m moving blissfully from one carefully segmented portion of the day in to the next, with barely a whimper of disagreement from my very amenable infant.
Of course, the truth is that babies are all different and we are all different parents to the ones we expected to be. If you don’t want to read any baby books, just don’t. You don’t have to, none of them tell you much you can’t work out for yourself and if it’s facts you are after the internet can be really helpful (just try not to become obsessed with googling ‘my baby has one small pink patch on her right palm, does this mean she has a terrible, incurable disease’).

If you like the idea of a bit of research in advance, many women find it useful to pick a couple of books from opposite ends of the spectrum and see what they feel comfortable with. You’ve got Gina Ford at one end of the routine continuum and something like Janet Balaskas’ Natural Baby at the other with Tracey Hogg’s Baby Whisperer hovering somewhere around the middle ground.

My favourite book was The Mumsnet Guide to Babies. It isn’t a baby religion you need to follow, just a collection of other mothers’ experiences and often wildly different pieces of advice. It’s very ‘dippable in to’ (thus the only one I’ve actually looked at since my daughter was born) and is frequently side-splittingly funny. You can use it as a pointer to other resources/books/ideas and it doesn’t have much of the frankly terrifying ‘your baby should be juggling wooden spoons by the time she is six months old or she’s probably got huge developmental problems’ that lots of the baby handbooks seem to have.

In the end, despite my love of a good book (and the fact I’m going to keep talking about various books on this blog) the best forum for ideas and troubleshooting is other new mothers. Oh, and your friendly, local Doula of course!

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