Friday, 22 June 2012

Review: The Other Baby Book

There is, as many parents and the media will happily tell you, a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) war going on in parenting.  On one side, we have the massed troops of conventional parenting with their heavy weaponry of routines and training (sleep, potty, behaviour etc); and on the other, we have the quiet ranks of natural, gentle parenting advocates and practitioners.  And therein lies the problem.  We are the quiet ones.  At playgroups and mothers' meetings, with friends and family, we keep schtum.  We listen to their tales of cry it out and naughty steps with lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes, but being a lone voice in the wilderness is hard.  So we keep quiet.

If we do raise our heads above the parapet, even with the soft suggestion of 'there is another way', we are invariably shot down in flames, derided and criticised so much by the other, louder side that we run for cover.  If we're lucky, as I was recently, we can find support, but the voices of convention are loud and strong.  Their hold on popular thinking holds fast, and we are mocked as outsiders, weirdos, 'hippies' who have opted out of 'normal' life, even thought our natural parenting beliefs and practices are as old as human time itself.

One of the reasons current conventional parenting reigns supreme is that its guidebooks are written in the vernacular, and are touted widely.  Walk into any bookshop, real or virtual, and browse the parenting section.  Gina Ford, Jo Frost, Rachel Waddilove, even the 'gentle' Tracy Hogg leap out form the shelves, the current voices of the mainstream, treading the path that Truby King, Ferber, Spock et al laid before them.  They recycle the same 'your evil baby will ruin your life without a routine' message, albeit in different ways, regurgitating the message passed down by the self-proclaimed [male] parenting experts of the 17th and 18th centuries, who wanted women back in the economy as soon as possible, and saw their innocent, helpless babies and children as a hindrance to that.

Not only do these modern-day parenting gurus toe the party line, they also give scared new parents and parents-to-be comforting messages: we understand you, we know you want to cling on to your life as it is, we know you want to control that wayward babe of yours.  Here's a plan, here's a way to suit you, here's a way to keep control, we're here to help.  The majority of expectant parents today are not used to being around babies, indeed many have never even held or handled a baby before they have their own, and they just don't know how to go about parenting.  So they turn to the experts and their guiding literature.

Unfortunately, our consumerist society has led people to believe that it's cars, phones, holidays and nights out that make them happy, and they have no intention of giving up any of that for this new tiny person in their lives.  Along comes an easily readable parenting guide by someone who sounds as though they know what they're talking about, and that's it - sold!  Nice, easy to read guides which fit with your current lifestyle and thinking = happy new parents.  And so the distant parenting advocates get their drivel in the bestseller lists.

On the other hand, natural parenting practices, so-called Attachment Parenting, wins the academic debate.  We have the well-researched, evidence-based tomes of McKenna, Liedloff, Chilton Pearce and Gerhardt, but, at the risk of offending my gurus, they aren't that readable, not to the average man or woman on the street anyway.  Heck, they don't even have the shiny pastel and white covers with a smiling chubby baby on the front!  You are also unlikely to find them gazing out at you from the parenting shelves in your local bookshop, these are the low sales books you'd have to order in specially.*

So not only do new and prospective parents not get to hear about alternative practices in the media, at NCT meetings and baby groups, they can't even really access the literature which backs Attachment Parenting up.  Any references to our 'funny ideas' are to show how wacko, screwed up, or downright dangerous they are.  Time Magazine chooses to show long-term breastfeeding in a provocative, sexual way; a friend of a friend is on This Morning next Monday to talk about co-sleeping, and we can probably predict how that's going to go; the Daily Mail seizes on every statistic it can manipulate to highlight deaths from babywearing, bed-sharing, and even baby-led weaning, with no real evidence, and seriously suspect research and reporting.

New parents therefore have little chance to find out the realities of natural, age-old practices which will enhance both their parenting, and their relationships with their children.  If new mothers, and indeed fathers, do feel inclined to follow their instincts there is a whole raft of beliefs, opinions, stories and literature to fight against.  But, wait a minute - are you ready to get your cradle rocked?

Gaps in the market in parenting literature would appear to be a rare thing, with thousands of new titles being published every year, but Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam Katz have found a glaring one, and plugged it admirably.  This is the other voice the parenting world has been lacking for so long, this is The Other Baby Book


I can't tell you how excited I am about this publication.  It is just such a wonderful book, and long, long overdue. It is neither preachy nor condemnatory, and it is written in a breezy, accessible style, backed up with lots of research and personal stories, and it dares to say to all parents THERE IS ANOTHER WAY.

Massaro & Katz have done all the tough reading for you, they've done the research, they've investigated all the whys and why nots of attachment parenting practices, and disseminated it down into this highly readable book.  They manage to discuss and teach about everything from natural pregnancy and birth, to positive discipline with everything in between.  But there is no judgment here, indeed the authors themselves chose different variations of the AP practices they highlight, and they suggest only that each family takes what works for them and leaves what doesn't.  Their aim is solely to suggest ideas, the theories and thinking behind them, and ways they might be put into practice.  They then point readers in the direction of other more in depth writing on the various subjects, if required.

The book is divided into simple chapters headed Birth, Touch, Milk, Sleep, Potty, Relate, Eat and Flow.  Yet within those there is a wealth of information, much of which turns conventional thinking on modern parenting on its head.  What would happen, they ask, if you were to observe and tune into your baby from day one; to trust them to communicate their needs for sleep, milk and toileting; to genuinely be attached to your child.  This is the why and the how, and its presentation is faultless.

The message is, if the extent of your Attachment Parenting is to wear your baby in a sling rather than shove them in a pram at every opportunity; or if you decide to give elimination communication a go; or if this book is a total revelation for you and you embrace all of it, whatever you do, that's great!  The hope is that by putting this book out there, alongside all the naysayers and the sleep trainers, parents may start to listen to their instincts.  With this information, and the beginnings of AP hitting the mainstream, maybe that nagging voice in your head that gets pushed to one side as baby cries itself to sleep in another room, or begs helplessly for milk outside the appointed three hour schedule, will be listened to.

I love this book, and the accompanying website and blog.  It is well written, witty, and delightfully easy to read.  The chapters are short, well laid out and to the point, with sections you can dip in and out of, perfect for referring back to with a baby in one hand and the book in the other!  I just hope it will join the ranks of required reading for new and prospective parents, because it truly deserves to.


This really is The Other Baby Bookand should be an essential buy (or gift) for all pregnant mamas.  No-one is trying to ram anything down anyone's throats; no-one is saying conventional-style parents can't be connected to their child; no-one is suggesting you have to give up your job, your mortgage, your electricity supply; and 'go crunchy'.  What they are saying is here are some alternative ideas.  Not cranky, not weird, not wrong, just different to that practiced in the Western world today.  And maybe, just maybe, if you read about them and know how well they work, if you're even lucky enough to see them in practice, then maybe these are ideas which could work for you and your family too.  You don't have to do all of it, you may want to try out one or two aspects part-time, but please just open your minds and your hearts and give Attachment Parenting a chance. The Other Baby Book is the perfect way to find out more.  I urge you to read it today.


* One exception to this is the highly readable books written by William and Martha Sears, which have proved a useful way-in to AP for many, but a lot of people would regard them as AP-lite.


And don't forget to enter our competitions!


7 comments :

  1. Lovely blog, first time I've seen it and I'm going to start following! I was a bit of a strange child and started reading books by Jean Liedloff and the like when I was in my early teens. I studied child development at university and now I'm pregnant with my sixth baby. I have loved practising attachment parenting and can't imagine bringing my children up any other way. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

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    1. Thank you, lovely to have you here! What an amazing start you had on your AP journey, not many teenagers would settle down with Liedloff! Thanks for following and commenting, it's much appreciated, Lx

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  2. Thank you, thank you for this wonderful review! We so appreciate your support and kind words, and all that you do to share the good word about gentle parenting. =) ~Megan

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  3. WOW a very well written review! A mum of many talents - you should write reviews for newspapers/magazines! Thank you!

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