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4.7 out of 5 stars14
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2002
I ordered this book after hearing the author interviewed about it on 'Woman's Hour'. I had visions of her having travelled to all these far flung places to do her research. However instead 'Baby Wisdom' trawels through all the literature on baby care, both historical and anthropological. A disappointment? No, for this is no mean feat, and it certainly does a thorough job of it. Infact Deborah Jackson's book must be one of the most comprehensive overviews of its kind.
If you liked the Body Shop's "Mamatoto", you will love this. It's a similar idea, but gives us much, much more. I particularly valued the quotes which gave names and voices to women from around the world, rather than just relying on the anthropologists' reports.
The book sets out to describe the 'difference and sameness' between babycare practices around the world. It does this without giving way to the temptation to take the moral high ground over issues which we know are close to the author's heart. There is no preachy tone, just some witty, some humourous, and some thought provoking remarks. (Not least the revelation that in a Somerset hospital there was a correlation between birth weight and net chocolate weight of y=3349+0.52058x, where the chocolates were the thank you present.)
One regret is that Baby Wisdom is not illustrated. I have some of the books sourced, and find the old black and white photos the anthropologists took as fascinating as the texts. However, any interested reader could follow up the references if they wanted to find out more about the cultures featured.
One thing is for sure: however quirky your baby is, however far you stray from the health visitor's advice, you need not feel alone in the world. You can take comfort from the wisdom that somewhere in human evolution there's a reason for every baby's babyness.
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on 19 August 2004
I borrowed this book from the library a few days ago and I have probably read most of it already, though not cover-to-cover: I have been opening it at random every time I pick it up and have trouble putting it down! It has really made me think about a lot of the parenting practices we take for granted in the West because it shows so clearly how these are not universal. Things that we take for granted may be entirely unknown in another culture. Most importantly this book does not romanticise the ways other cultures do things -- it looks at both the good and the bad. Even if it doesn't change the way you choose to parent this book will give you a new appreciation of how babies grow and develop.
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on 6 July 2002
Deborah Jackson has been the most influential author for me as a mother since having my son four years ago, when I saw this book in the bookshop I automatically bought and it does not disappoint. As usual, Jackson has produced a book which encourages and celebrates a mother's instinct when caring for her baby and small child. The amazing variety of baby care practices from around the world are presented clearly and serve to encourage western mothers and fathers to examine the "wisdom" of some current baby care advice. I was struck by the way in which babies are viewed by the different cultures around the world, most seeing babies as normal, necessary participants in a family's/society's life, mothers and babies are generally not separated either from each other or from the society within which they live. I think we have a lot to learn in the west, where separation from all that is familiar and reassuring is the experience of many new mothers, it is no wonder that "routine, parent-directed baby care advice" has found such a ready market here.
If you want to re-examine western attitudes to babies, mothers and their care, read this book, it will help to set you free to be the mother/father that you instinctively want to be.
I am expecting our second child in October and this book has strengthened my resolve to do it "my way". With a back up of millions of other mothers around the world!
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on 3 September 2002
I did not read "Baby Wisdom". You cannot peruse such a rich non-fiction book from page one to page 500. I put it somewhere on my desk and, now and then, I open it at random. Each time I start reading I need a pen to take notes. The more I explore this inimitable source of information, the more I am amazed by the art Deborah Jackson has developed to widen our horizons. On the first page that caught my attention, I came across the story of a mother gorilla in a zoo who had been unable to give the breast to her baby until the day when she saw a group of breastfeeding human mothers. Via such a story you are immediately conditioned to interpret many current breastfeeding difficulties and to accept the key sentence in that page: "Western humans are born and raised in an environment as artificial as any zoo". You unreservedly agree that we cannot make assumptions about human infant feeding in general by looking at our very special cultural milieu.
'Baby wisdom' cannot be compared with any other book or manual about babies and child rearing. Let us take as an example the chapter about crying babies. Most baby books focus on recipes in order to calm a colicky baby. Deborah Jackson first helps us to realize that crying is the universal language of infancy. Thanks to her highly concise style she just needs one line: "Rhesus monkeys coo. Ape babies scream. And human infants cry". After that we are curious to know about the interpretation of infant crying in different cultural milieus. When our curiosity has been amply fulfilled, we are ready to accept that our western interpretations set us apart from most of the world.
Browse through 'Baby wisdom' and you'll learn about human nature from an authentic expert...the mother of three children.
Liliana Lammers
Doula and grandmother
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on 19 January 2007
Forget about the contended baby books. Read this book instead.

It made me realise that I was normal after all, and just going through what every new mum experiences.

It was a massive comfort to me in the early months after having my first child.
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on 29 August 2007
I borrowed Baby Wisdom from our library when I was 6 months pregnant with my first baby. I must say I was lucky to read it during pregnancy because it simply opened up my mind to how I would want to parent my child.
Deborah Jackson explores different parenting practices through time and space. She does not say that all "traditional" practices are good (throwing colostrum away was common practice in some cultures, and thanks to science we now know how valuable it is). On the other hand, following one's instinct and re-thinking what our modern society takes for granted are the main messages of the book. An important read!
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on 19 August 2013
Im a UK new mother living half the year in Borneo, I when I came back to Uk there are so many different routines they say to follow, let then cry? Dont do this? Dont do that? He'll have you eating out the palm of your hand.
This book was recomended by a friend.
It tells you about how things used to be, before commercialisation, obsesion with 'the right way' to bring up a baby. Good old fasioned just being a mum. With woven in facts from all over the world to show that how you care for your baby depends on lots of things including culture.
This made me feel so empowered! Going with what i feel right is why we were given the gift of intuition.
Funny, facinating & reasuring
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on 16 June 2012
I have read 2 other books by this author and this one lacks the substance the other two have. I have read "Three in a bed" and "letting go as children grow" and compared to them this book is a let down. On the plus side it is the sort of book you can dip into as and when wherease the other two are much deeper reads. It tells you about practices all over the world but does not go into the depth i thought it would do.
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on 21 August 2010
I bought this book as a gift for my sister-in-law as I have a copy myself and I love it! It is a fab book which details how pregnancy, birth and parenting is done around the world. I found it invaluable, detailing other cultures way of doing things, not just the clinical and commercialised western version.
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on 8 January 2014
We should never get too confident on the being parents front. There are practices all over the world that are just as effective, even if a little unconventional by our standards. This book throws interesting light on these.
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