Motherhood comes with a lot of propaganda these days, from the cast-iron sleep routines of Gina Ford to the brick-like tome of authority that is What To Expect When You're Expecting. There are a lot of experts out there ready to tell you everything they know about your baby.
But there is no law - yet, anyway - that says you have to listen to them. I didn't want to be drowned in schedules, rules or timetables. It's not a boot camp, I told myself (then had a slightly worrying vision of the feral children that awaited me).
Then I was lucky enough to come across First-Time Parent. `You may be bonkers, but you're not stupid,' says author and mother-of-three Lucy Atkins, `and in your baby's eyes you're the only expert that matters.' She goes on to cover everything you actually need to know, from what to pack in a nappy bag to how to swaddle a newborn, sprinkled with words of reassurance to the clueless - `your baby doesn't know any better than you do how he should be bathed or fed. The right way, in short, is your fumbling, inept, loving and slowly evolving way.'
I liked the sections on breastfeeding, how to establish a sleep routine from early on, and sixteen things to try if a baby won't stop crying. She also offers sound advice on things like long-haul flights and trips to the supermarket: `shop online. You know it makes sense.' And there's a brilliant chapter on how to keep your relationship with your partner on track: `one word: babysitters'.
In short, if you're after solid advice without the preaching, this is an excellent resource, complete with gorgeous photos of newborns. Like a lot of things, parenting is something you learn by doing, but practical, essential information, conveyed in an adult-to-adult tone, is invaluable.