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*Your Pregnancy Quick Guide: Labor & Delivery - What You Need to Know About Childbirth* by Glade B. Curtis & Judith Schuler

 *Your Pregnancy Quick Guide: Feeding Your Baby the First Year* by Glade B. Curtis & Judith Schuler


Your Pregnancy Quick Guides: Feeding Your Baby the First Year and Labor & Delivery
by Glade B. Curtis & Judith Schuler
187/169 pages Da Capo Press November 2004 Paperback    

These books are part of a series that Da Capo calls Lifelong Books. It includes works that cover the biological span in all its aspects and, like these two, have a durable shelf life. The authors are experts who have contrived to produce handy, educated guides that don’t rush through the subject, or talk “baby talk,” and yet can be understood by most readers.

Both books are compact – this allows expectant parents to easily carry them along to those crucial appointments, such as the one in the delivery room and to the first pediatric visit. Labor and Delivery begins with the earliest pregnancy preparations, the first doctor visits of an anxious mom, from knowing your own medical history at the initial visit to what signs to look for when labor begins later on. Feeding Your Baby takes parents from the first moments of the newborn’s life through solid foods and common food-related illnesses.

Modern parents get to choose where to give birth (in some areas, being at home is a safe option; in others, a birthing room offers all the comforts of home combined with the swift constant care of the hospital facility). They can choose, in consultation with their physician, to have a Caesarian section under some circumstances, so the birth date will be known in advance (unless Mother Nature decides differently). Of course, nearly all American and European mothers will learn the sex of the baby beforehand unless they opt not to find out, because of ultrasound testing. This allows for buying the “right color” clothes and getting that newborn enrolled in the best university!

Some choices are easy. Others are more complex. Tests may show that a woman will tend to go into labor prematurely, or that she is pre-eclamptic. These risks can be dealt with by strategies including complete bed rest, but still by mother’s choice. Other tests may determine potential birth defects, opening up yet another range of choices. Once labor is underway, mothers can choose the pain-control method she feels best about – and this is a decision most women want to make in advance, with the right information to guide them.

Labor and Delivery concentrates on precisely what can happen once the mother goes into labor. In a way, these facts can be comforting, and everyone should be aware of them for their own safety. There is advice for fathers also, as they share in and monitor the progress of the pregnancy. Some women (and men) may feel concerned and frightened when they read all the details of labor, including risks. The authors begin by advising parents-in-waiting to “relax.” This isn’t always easy, but it is the only sane way to get through the daunting prospect of bringing a new child into the world. That and remembering, as Curtis and Schuler remind us, “women have been having babies for a very long time.”

Thinking about Feeding Your Baby would seem to be less fraught with fears than Labor and Delivery, but some babies don’t eat well, some fail to thrive, and some get colicky (that word seems to have disappeared from the scientific vocabulary, but not from common parlance). Premature babies have special eating problems. Mother’s milk can be affected by her physical condition. Asian and African American babies may be lactose-intolerant. There’s a lot to consider.

Of course, the major choice for all new mothers and even some second or third-time ones is between breast or bottle. Everyone knows breast milk is best – it’s free and offers the greatest health benefits to the baby. It also contributes to the bonding process and helps mothers recover faster from the after-effects of labor. So there’s a lot of pressure on moms to choose that method. But though it is most natural, it has its pitfalls. It’s exhausting to the milk machine (mother), requiring that she and she alone handle feedings. It may not be an option for working mothers. A baby who seems to be starving at the breast may leap for the bottle.

The authors translate all of mother’s anxieties about feeding into soothing, simple technical talk: “If you want to make sure your bottles are OK to use, don’t heat them in the microwave.” “Your baby can still get all the love and attention and nutrition she needs if breastfeeding is not possible for you.” And you’ll love this one: “When a baby spits up enough to propel the stomach contents several inches, it is called vomiting.”

Surprisingly, the authors don’t address the method used by many Hispanic mothers, as I learned when I worked in a large OB/GYN clinic for two years: a combination of breast milk and formula from a bottle that allows maximum freedom and seems to work quite satisfactorily.

The authors have written more than 10 other books about pregnancy that are listed at the Pregnancy™ website. These works include the bestselling Your Pregnancy Week by Week.

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