04/20/1981 at 01:00 AM EST
by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.
The explosion of how-to-parent manuals has long outlasted the baby boom, but this volume is not the sort where you look up what to do about chicken pox. Instead, Brazelton, 62, a Boston pediatrician best known for his book Infants and Mothers, has provided a largely anecdotal survey of parent-child interaction from pregnancy through the first months. The text is disarming in admitting how much medicine doesn't know about infants, and invaluable in pointing out there are few, if any, absolutes in the baby business. Parents and children can train each other better by experimentation, he implies, than by scouring Spock and his spinoffs. Brazelton also understands the more subtle burdens of parenthood. Writing of parents competing for baby's affection, for instance, he recalls his wife's pregnancies with the last two of their four children. He used his stethoscope to listen to her abdomen, but not just for medical purposes; he was so jealous of his wife's contact with the fetuses he at least wanted to hear their heartbeat. There are some annoyances—the book is sloppily edited and there are several typographical errors—but Brazelton's compassion helps explain some of the strange magic of the baby-parent relationship, without making it seem any less magical. (Delacorte Press, $ 14.95)