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The First Year Of Parenting

Millions of pregnant women have turned to the book "What To Expect When You're Expecting" for nice, practical advice to help them get through those nine months. Now there is a new edition of one of the follow-up books: "What to Expect the First Year."

Why did author Heidi Murkoff decide to do an update 15 years later? Well, babies have not changed that much but there have been big changes in how we parent them.

"More and more moms are choosing to breast-feed and breast-feed for longer," notes Murkoff, "so I've included a new chapter on that that covers the basics and then some, because it is a natural process but does not come naturally. You need all the help you can get in the beginning.

"More families are choosing to co-sleep, and that's a controversial practice they find when the 3:00 A.M. feeding rolls around. There are certainly specific safety issues to consider."

How does she handle such a controversial issue?

"Present both sides, because it's a personal decision," explains the author. "You present the facts and let them figure it out."

She also points out that these days, more fathers are participating in parenting.

"Not just mama's little helper any more but more likely to be more of an equal partner," says Murkoff. "Look how many are signed up to be the primary caregiver while mom returns to work. Sometimes, it's easier, because dad's career is more easily put on hold or earns less money than mom does. Sometimes it's just because he's better at it or enjoys it more."

How does Murkoff help parents wade through all of the information? Her book is 800 pages. What new mother has time to read it?

"You only read one chapter at a time, and you actually use it as a reference, so you look up what is worrying you that morning or in the middle of the night or whatever," says the author.

Information, she explains, empowers new parents, "when someone has thrust a brand new baby into your arms for the first time. But too much information or information that's conflicting, that can be overwhelming or confusing. Instead of leaving a parent feeling empowered, it can leave them feeling insecure. Everyone is a parenting expert and tells you something different.

"Parents forget to tap into the most valuable resource, which is their own instinct, because when it comes to…your child, you're somewhat of an expert. If you listen to yourself and your baby, chances are you know more. Babies don't come with instructions."

And finally, Murkoff advises parents to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

"We all make mistakes," she says. "We learn from some of them, hopefully, and we're going to repeat some over and over again. And that's perfectly OK, because it comes with the territory of being that human and, thus by definition, a perfect parent."

Murkoff is the co-author of the "What to Expect" series with her mother, Arlene Eisenberg, and sister, Sandee Hathaway. In addition, she runs the What to Expect Foundation, which she co-founded with her mother. Murkoff, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., with her husband and two children, also writes monthly "What to Expect" columns for Baby Talk and Parenting magazines.

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