Sunday, April 4, 2010
Review: Parenting Magazine's "Baby Must-Haves"
Parenting Magazine's "Baby Must-Haves" is just what it sounds like: a guide for parents about the most useful and necessary products for their babies. It gives a general outline of all sorts of baby gear - from cribs to co-sleepers, bottles to breast pumps, strollers to slings, and beyond. It really does hit all the many categories of gear, and that is one of its strong points. However, it hits them pretty shallowly. For each piece of gear, the book typically provides a paragraph or so of description, a few things to look for or keep in mind, any safety notes, and maybe one or two brands and prices - all of which is well-written, clear, and concise. But it doesn't include much deeper information that would take more than a search on Amazon to figure out - no meaningful comparison of the quality of various brands, no discussion on which methods are better for baby (cloth diapers vs. disposables, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, etc.), no section on special needs children, no ideas for DIY projects, no comparison of the safety of different brands and models, no comprehensive list of brands and prices or where to buy them. The main function of the book is basically just to provide a laundry list of all the different baby stuff out there. And to be honest? Even most new parents know that diapers are changed on a magical piece of furniture called a "changing table."
One of the better features of the book is its "$kip, $ave, or $plurge?" sections, which let you know whether you should invest in the créme de la créme, go a cheaper route, or skip altogether a certain item related to the category it's in. For example, in the "Bottles & Nipples" section, the items it addresses include bottle sanitizers and bottle warmers (both of which it deems skippable). These sections were well thought out and provided some genuine insight; I would have loved to see more of this type of thing throughout the book. Another fantastic feature of Baby Must-Haves is the "Mom Tips" sections that are scattered throughout the book. Sometimes these don't even have much to do with baby gear (for example, "When bundling my toddler on a cold day, I put his mittens on before his jacket: that way the cuffs of the coat keep the mittens in place"), but they are nevertheless a fun and helpful addition. Other helpful features included a guideline as to how many of each item of clothing should make up baby's first wardrobe, a safety gear checklist, a brief chart on which toys help develop certain skills, a shopping guide with single-sentence descriptions of various retailers, and several random "how-to" blurbs (like how to swaddle a baby). I would have loved to see these sections developed more thoroughly.
The book itself is very visually appealing. It is laid out quite well and is easy to read due to its font, colors, and organization; it's also large enough to read without straining the eyes, but small enough to carry with while shopping for baby products. It's all decked out in a lovely white, pink, and greenish-blue color palette and is full of pictures that are absolutely adorable, really aid in the understanding of certain products, are colorful and semi-glossy, and might even help inspire some design decisions.
Unfortunately, though, all the cute photos in the world can't make up for this book's poor construction! On my first read through, pages fell right out of the book! It started with just one or two, but now they're falling out all over the place. I'm gentle with my books and have never had this happen before. Yikes.
I read the bulk of this book over the course of one long lunch. I'm not really sure why I read so voraciously, though (maybe all the cute pictures...), because I don't feel like I learned all that much from it - but to be fair, I've already done my fair share of research about this kind of thing. For a parent-to-be who is having his or her first child and hasn't spent much time being around children or researching gear, this book would be an excellent place to start - a lifesaver! But for the majority of parents, this book should be treated as more of a review and a jumping off point for further research.