Monday, November 03, 2008

A Baby Book That Won't Make You Worry

When a woman announces she's pregnant for the first time, within weeks she's almost guaranteed to receive some kind of pregnancy and baby advice books from friends or relatives. Most of these books focus on what can go wrong, what you can do wrong, and ways you can screw up your baby for life. It's a little intimidating, to say the least.

Even though my second child is no longer a baby, I was still very excited when Parent Bloggers asked me to review the book Amazing Baby by Desmond Morris. I've never read anything by Morris, but I remember watching his series The Human Sexes on TLC and loving how he explained complex scientific concepts in simple details that helped make sense of how and why people behave the way they do. His social anthropology skills and ability to translate it to the common person are impressive.

Amazing Baby takes a look at the incredible biological process of infancy, from gestation to two years old. All topics of infancy are covered, including physical development, bonding and attachment, emotional development, learning, play, and eating.

There are no scary "what if's" in this book, save one simple one on the last page: a child who is given a loving, stimulating environment has a much better chance of growing up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult. And if you had read the book up to that point, you'd discover that it's really pretty hard to mess that up.

Babies are designed to adapt to life. For as fragile as they seem, their DNA has the foundations to accomplish most of what needs to be done to grow and adjust. They have survival skills that could rival many survivalists. For example, did you know that babies are born knowing how to swim? It's an instinct they lose as they get older, but if you placed a very young baby in water face-down, he would automatically know to hold his breath and would try to propel himself forward by coordinated movements of his arms and legs without panic, eyes open to take in his surroundings. (Obviously, I'm not recommending you try this at home. It's not like the baby can pull himself out of the water or anything, and while I believe in the concept, I'd worry too much to try it.) Babies also can recognize their mother's scent within hours after birth, and their mother's touch can soothe them in many situations.

The book is beautifully laid out, with full page photographs of babies filling every other page. Some pages have a thin overlay page over a picture, with the overlay showing drawings of the inside the baby's body, and the photo underneath providing the outline of the body to place it in context. I really loved these - there were ones showing the muscles of a baby, the parts of the brain and eye, the bones, and the lymphatic system. This book would serve as a beautiful coffee table book to look through even long after your baby's first two years.

Because I'm a nursing student, I've read much of the information in this book before. But even knowing much of it, I was still fascinated to read Morris' conclusions of how perfectly designed a human baby is. His descriptions are vivid and easy to understand, and all of the data he relays is interesting as well as informative. After skimming the entire book once, I've already found myself drifting back through parts of it again, just to read more in-depth while remembering my own daughters passing through those stages of development.

Amazing Baby is the perfect name for this book, and Desmond Morris does a fine job of proving just how amazing the human baby really is. This would be the perfect gift for a first time mother, because it doesn't focus on everything she has to do to make her baby "perfect" (which does nothing but cause more stress), but instead gives her a sneak peak of what to expect from her baby in a non-frightening method. Had I read this while pregnant with my first child, I would have been even more excited to meet her and less nervous about screwing her up from the start.

The book has a retail price of $40, but I checked Amazon and they're currently selling it for $26.40.

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