Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 05/22/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/22/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT


From the moment Baby comes home from the hospital, new parents find their lives reordered by that tiny, helpless bundle of needs. This 27-minute video, subtitled ed Cure and Comfort for Parents of Newborns, operates on the theory that there are plenty of books and videos available on how to care for the child but few to help the parents hang on to their strength and sanity—and each other.

Hostess Jeanne Driscoll is a Boston-based therapist and registered nurse with a reassuring manner. Much of the production is taken up with a group discussion by four sets of new parents. It quickly emerges that every parent experiences similar problems, from sleeplessness to feelings of helplessness to loss of friends.

Driscoll offers wisdom for the first-time mom and dad. For instance, she suggests hanging a "crummy, ratty bathrobe" next to the front door. When unwanted visitors show up (mostly in those first months), put on the robe and open the door, trying to look your absolute worst. If they ask how you are, she says, tell them: "This is the closest to death I've ever been."

Driscoll sums up Diapers & Delirium with this admonition to spouses: "You were there first; make sure you're still there." (Lifecycle Productions, $24.95; 800-242-1520)


After the Korean War, American POWs told about their captors' brainwashing techniques. Sleep deprivation, perhaps the most fiendish, wasn't invented by the North Koreans but by newborn babies.

This 24-minute video is a parent's commonsense guide to getting as many of those precious Z's as possible. Hosted by Joanne Greene, mother of two young sons, the tape concludes that babies awaken during the night because they can't tell day from night and they want to eat. It suggests a four-day program to teach a baby between the ages of 2 and 5 months that waking up for food in the middle of the night isn't going to get him anywhere. Nighttime feeding, says sleep expert Marcia Keener, stimulates the baby's digestive system—the last thing parents need in the predawn hours.

The video advises letting babies learn to soothe themselves to sleep. If you use the techniques in this practical tape, the answer to "Is your baby sleeping through the night?" doesn't have to be a helpless, red-eyed stare. (Healing Arts, $29.95; 800-722-7347)


Among children under 14, 42 percent of all deaths are caused by injuries. Fifty years ago, that figure was only 10 percent. To reverse this alarming trend, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved this 60-minute video, in which Bill Cosby's TV wife, Phylicia Rashad, dispenses tips on preventing deadly accidents.

Many household injuries can be prevented. For instance, never serve a whole hot dog to a child under age 4—even bite-size pieces can block a child's breathing pipe. Instead, skin and dice a hot dog into very small pieces. Preschoolers should not be allowed to eat peanuts, hard candy, carrots or any food that could lodge in their throats. If a choking child stops breathing, pediatricians Joseph Greensher and Steven P. Shelov demonstrate some lifesaving methods, though they advise parents to take classes in CPR and American Red Cross techniques.

Making your home and car safe is the theme of Baby Alive. Information on the use of cribs and car seats is presented. Grandparents, as well as parents, should childproof their homes by securing cabinets containing poisonous products, covering all electrical outlets, lowering their hot water heater setting to 120-130 degrees, installing smoke detectors throughout the house (including the child's room) and planning escape routes.

The doctors instruct parents on how to stop bleeding, wrap wounds, treat burns and react promptly in the event of poisoning. They also list necessary items for a family first-aid kit. "Smart parents," says Rashad, "know the time to prepare for an emergency is before it strikes." (Video West, $19.95; 800-453-7300)


If, at birth, your precious bundle of joy looks like a pickled cherub, don't panic. It's common for newborns to arrive with spotty skin, bowed legs and wrinkled ears. After all, it can be a bumpy ride from womb to world. Within days, says pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, your baby will begin to blossom. That is but one soothing bit of advice prescribed in Infant Health Care, a first-rate video designed to take some of the jitters out of first-time parenthood. Viewers will meet an assortment of other brand-new mothers and fathers who chat about the initial wonders and woes of parenting. Well written and edited, this 60-minute presentation shows as much as it tells.

Pediatric nurse-practitioner Pat Jackson reviews the fine points of breast-and bottle-feeding, as well as diapering, and gracefully guides viewers through the daunting chore of baby's first bath. (Her demonstration includes how to cleanse the eyes, wash the head, protect the umbilical stump and keep junior from getting chilled.) The tape also covers such subjects as recognizing illnesses, choosing a pediatrician, surviving your little one's sleep cycles, proper dressing (always cover your infant's head when outdoors and never expose his or her delicate skin to the midday sun), introducing baby to solid foods and child-proofing your home (cover sharp edges with foam padding, use safety gates at stairways).

Though brief, Brazelton's appearances are as comforting as a pacifier. He approaches the problem of colic, for example, from the babe's point of view. Untempered crying is brought on by an overload of the infant's immature nervous system. Face to face with a squalling tot, Brazelton clutches a tiny hand and shakes a rattle near her ear. This technique, he points out, helps the child center on a sound outside its own and thus regain a feeling of control. Sponsor Johnson & Johnson gets a gold star for not using this video to peddle its products.

The second tape in the series, Infant Development, focuses on your baby's growth within its first year. In this production we see more of Brazelton along with pediatrician Stanley Greenspan, author of First Feelings, both of whom spend much of their time on the floor making goo-goo faces with a burping choir of little ones. From first smile through first step, parents are taught what to look for as their baby adjusts to its big, bright, noisy, new world. Instructions are offered on how to recognize dominant temperament types, how to coax a shy baby to respond and how to instill self-esteem early. Parents' changing emotions as they learn to cope with their new charges are not neglected either in this well-conceived hour-long production. (Johnson & Johnson; $24.95 each; 800-537-2336)

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