Baby-book boom offers Spock options

February 10, 1993|By Orange County Register

Move over, Dr. Spock, there's a new generation of books about pregnancy and parenting out there.

From "The Miracle Year," a guide to the six months before and after the birth of a first baby, to "When Good Kids Do Bad Things," a guide for the parents of teen-agers, and everything in between: "The Six Vital Ingredients of Self-Esteem and How to Develop Them in Your Child," "The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers" and "Raising Your Type A Child."

There's even "Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children" and whole bookshelves more -- a boomlet of baby books to keep pace with the boomlet of babies.

Penned by pediatricians, psychologists, journalists and parents, these books offer parents and parents-to-be information, support, solace and advice on everything from breast-feeding to burping to bedtime rituals.

Booksellers and publishers say the reasons for the book boom are simple.

"There's a baby boom going on. It's what the consumer wants right now," said Claire Zion, associate executive editor at Pocket Books.

Linda Caine, division merchandise manager for the Waldenbooks chain, agrees.

"I see an awful lot of pregnant women walking around in malls," Ms. Caine said, noting that sales of books on pregnancy and child-care were up slightly last year over 1991 at the 1,100-store chain.

"It's no longer so that people have children between the ages of 20 and 30 and then they're done," Ms. Caine said. "There's an awful lot of people extending the time they have children right up to the age of 45.

"For that reason I think we're seeing an awful lot of interest in this subject."

Many of the new books focus on the adjustments that couples face when baby makes three. Among them is "Things Just

Haven't Been the Same: Making the Transition from Marriage to Parenthood" by Brad E. Sachs (Morrow; $20).

Such books didn't exist a generation ago, said Merloyd Lawrence, who edits a highly regarded series of books by pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton for Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

"It seems now that pregnancy is planned way ahead, and so people pay a lot of attention to the time when they're going from being independent free spirits to being tied-down mothers. And they take a lot of time to decide about something that wasn't so much a thought-out decision 20 years ago," she said.

The world of baby books can be divided into two distinct eras: BS (before Spock) and AS (after Spock).

It was Dr. Benjamin Spock who pioneered baby books. His influential"Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care" (Pocket Books; $6.99) has been the top parenting handbook for nearly 50 years. Originally published in 1946, it has sold 40 million copies in 39 languages.

It's the second-best-selling book behind the Bible, according to the publisher -- and is looked upon by some almost as reverentially.

"Spock's book certainly dominated the field, and I think people still say 'Spock' the way they say 'child care,' " Ms. Lawrence said.

"Spock was the first out, and he was very big and still is," Waldenbooks' Ms. Caine said.

Since diapers aren't the only things that need changing in child ++ care, Dr. Spock's book has been continually updated. The 1992 edition covers topics such as single parenting, remarriage and blended families, traveling with children, and talking to your child about sex, contraception, homosexuality, alcohol and drug abuse and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

And Dr. Spock has been joined by other experts in child care, including Dr. Brazelton, Penelope Leach and Sheila Kitzenger. Each has a distinctive style, but all follow Dr. Spock's mixture of common sense and psychological ways of raising children.

In addition to Spock-like comprehensive handbooks, the shelves are filled with books that focus on specific issues -- from single parenting to what to eat during pregnancy, from fatherhood to autism to raising black children.

These specialized books spring from the needs of today's busy parents, who are often juggling babies, bottles and briefcases.

"My whole philosophy of publishing for parents is that parents are the busiest people in the world," Ms. Zion said. "They don't have a lot of time to read. They like books that address their specific concerns.

"They don't want long books, but if they are long, they should be well-organized so parents can skim them."

That the proliferation of child-care books will continue unabated is difficult for some to imagine.

"It's not a huge growth area; it's maintaining," Ms. Caine said. "I think that people will continue to have their families. I don't see it necessarily as a big growth area."

But as today's babies get older, their parents may need advice on a whole new range of topics.

"For a number of years it's been sort of received wisdom that people only buy books when they're in the first throes of the new baby," Ms. Lawrence said.

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