Top positive review
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An overview of world babies
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.