Parenting, while being one of the most amazing things many of us will ever do is sometimes also fraught fear, frustration and sheer pull-your-hair-out confusion. For every single aspect of parenting, there's someone that will concur or contradict your findings, your experience and your belief. You'll hear one theory, follow it, then hear how bad it is for your child. So then you'll follow another theory and lo and behold, two months down the line new research comes out showing you either what you already knew, or, once again, how you've basically damaged your child, right? Well, the Essential Baby Care Guide isn't going to solve that problem - I'm totally refusing to use the words 'mummy wars' in this post - but it is a really good all in one guide for first time parents, parents who want to recap on the latest in child care and people who are simply just never going to sit down and read a book. Is it a good Christmas present? Yes! But read on to find out why!
The Essential Baby Care Guide* is produced by the Essential Parent Company. It is a set of four DVDs, with over 8 hours of content, neatly divided into the most common areas of child-rearing: Feeding, Care and Development, Sleeping and First Aid and Accident Prevention. It is a pretty comprehensive amount of information, covering everything from Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding to Introducing Solids to how to bath a baby, change a nappy, when an emergency is an emergency, suggestions for games to play with your baby to help develop them and so on.
One of the very first things I noticed about the DVD is that it is factual. It doesn't presume to tell parents which option is better than the next, but provides factual information. The aim is certainly not to guilt anyone or shame anyone or leave a new parent feeling guilty. One of the most emotive topics in parenting, for example, is how you feed your baby. The DVD talks about breastfeeding, and the experts that they use are actual experts who have an obvious passion for breastfeeding, and who talk about it in real terms. Move on to the formula section and there's no 'this is better' or 'this is worse' for your baby... just the facts about how to formula feed, mix milk, sterilise and so on.
I sat with the feeding DVD and a note pad and made notes of what they were saying, really paying close attention. I had hoped to go through all four DVDs and do the same, but in the end with a toddler and a baby, I didn't find myself able to do that.
What I was able to do, however was pop a DVD on while I was tidying up, or making lunch and have it on in the background, and dip into the sections that I felt were relevant to me on the day.
We attended six private antenatal classes when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, and while they were fantastic, and I took notes like a true student, I was exhausted by pregnancy and by the time the classes started at 8pm, I was ready for bed and I didn't take in everything that I could have. It's also really hard as someone who has never had anything to do with children to really be able to understand in real and realistic terms everything that you're taught in antenatal class.
This DVD set is, in my opinions, perfect for that. There were so many times after our daughter was born that I'd consult my notes for things like "When baby won't stop crying, check to see that they aren't hungry, thirsty, dirty, or cold." It sounds dead obvious to me now as a veteran mother, but as a newbie my notes were essential! These DVDs provide in-home expert advise, and rather than having to root through pages and pages of books, the headings are there, the topics are well marked and indicated, and you don't have to scroll through reams and reams of opinion before you get to something useful!
My initial reaction to this set was a negative one, because in my opinion no man will ever be able to truly understand motherhood, so why is it being narrated and led by a man, but there are enough female opinions and views in the set that it doesn't feel like a man trying to teach women how to mother. In fact, Dr Winston is soft spoken, gentle and in the parts that I have dipped into, I've been pleasantly surprised. I also love that they've made use of such services as St John Ambulance, The Royal College of Paediatrics, and UNICEF to lend credence to their efforts.
- The box set is well presented and big enough to sit on the average book shelf, but the content would fill bookshelf if you had it all written out.
- You have a panel of 'experts' in your living room and at your disposal day and night.
- You can dip in and out of it as you enter new phases or if you want to remind yourself of what you've learned
- It's non-judgemental, not prescriptive and they really dug deep and found actual experts in child care - remembering that you are the expert in your child, but the 'experts' have experience in general that you can draw from.
- You can watch chunks while feeding a baby in the early days when it's not as easy to sit trying to read a book.
- You can watch a few excerpts from the DVDs on Youtube.
- Nothing appeals to everyone, and with the benefit of hindsight I can see that the section on solids would have been off-putting for me as a parent. We followed baby led weaning, and apart from a few pouches when we were travelling, neither of my children have been fed on purees, we've always done Baby Led Weaning with both of them. The puree feeding section of the DVD would have put me off BLW, I think, and that is unfortunate.
With the caveat that your baby is the only true expert on his or her needs, and that by following your infant's lead, I truly believe you have an easier time as a parent, and that an expert in his or her field does not make them an expert on your child, I think this is a really good set and I think it's a really useful gift for first time parents to be.