(The BritMums reviewer was provided the product free to test and review. All opinions are the reviewer’s own.)
Babyopathy – Relaxed Mum, Contented Baby is Angela J Spencer’s first book, which looks at ‘how to combat stress using sensory techniques…[for] a positive and relaxed pregnancy and birth [and] a relaxed and contented baby’.
Divided roughly into the trimesters of pregnancy plus baby’s first year, Babyopathy (Spencer’s own term for ‘baby led sensory development’) advocates getting back to nature and providing a wide range of sensory experiences to boost babies’ wellbeing.
Each section provides tips and advice and a ‘Contented Mum Checklist’ at the end – which is much less prescriptive than it sounds. Overall, Spencer rubbishes the idea of perfection and objects to all of those terrifying parenting manuals that outline how mum and baby must be in a strict routine by week one.
Based on the above, I had high hopes for the book. I recall panic-buying and speed-reading Tracy Hogg’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer in my son’s first weeks when I couldn’t remember my own name, and feeling even more overwhelmed and petrified afterwards. Some parents worship Hogg and Gina Ford but to me, their manuals put a ridiculous amount of pressure on new mums, at a time when they should be concerned solely with keeping baby alive and eating biscuits.
Overall though, I was left disappointed by Babyopathy. While there is a range of nature-based sensory experiences recommended in the book, a large percentage of it focuses on the use of essential oils and crystals, with readers encouraged to purchase not only the oils that Spencer sells under her Babyopathy brand, but also her range of online courses.
The book therefore didn’t feel wholly standalone in parts, more a supplement to these courses. Perhaps I’m not target market: I’m currently expecting my second child and have much less time to dedicate to ‘baby prep’ than I did first time around (sorry, baby 2). Between work and looking after a toddler, swotting up on the benefits of essential oils isn’t top of my priority list.
That said, I enjoyed and agreed with several parts of the book: there are some lovely tips on encouraging exploration, for example, with prompts and questions that can be incorporated into everyday activities. The short section on cranial osteopathy – something I’d looked into when my son was an angry and colicky newborn – is interesting, and the ‘Dad’s Army’ section is a nice touch when many baby books completely ignore dads.
However, some of the advice and anecdotes Spencer offers seem off the mark. Early on the book, she appears to make a connection between stress in pregnancy, such as stress caused by parents arguing before baby is born, and autism. Less controversial, but irritating, is her stance that ‘the more relaxed throughout your pregnancy, the more likely your newborn baby will be relaxed and contented’. As above, my own colicky baby was far from contented, despite my textbook, stress-free pregnancy. Had I read Spencer’s book as a brand-new mum, this assumption may have upset me.
There is also advice on weaning that goes against standard guidelines: Spencer recommends introducing foods before six months for example, believing that a delay in offering solids can impede speech development. She also suggests offering water to babies, seems to be against the popular baby-led weaning approach and recommends avoiding dairy in baby’s first year.
Overall, Babyopathy could make a welcome gift for a first-time expectant mum with an interest in aromatherapy, crystals and ‘alternative’ therapies. I enjoyed its key message of avoiding stress and how ‘everything’s a balance’; it’s a refreshing antidote to those scary, prescriptive baby manuals. But its emphasis on Spencer’s Babyopathy brand add-ons, coupled with some questionable advice turned me off somewhat. I think I’ll stick to my own parenting rule: namely, don’t follow baby books to the letter and navigate your own way through the lovely madness of parenting.