That's exactly what The Baby Book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. does for parents. This husband and wife team has been handing out baby advice for several decades, and in that time their names have become a couple of the most trusted around. The Baby Book is carries the subtitle Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two, and is a very comprehensive guide to the first two years of your baby's life.
At 689 pages long, The Baby Book is chock-full of useful information for nearly every aspect of parenting you can think of. At the beginning, the authors present a bit of their background and then tell readers their generally parenting philosophy. This is interesting to read because many would-be parents might not even know that there are "philosophies" involved in parenting. Reading about what the Sears family believes makes you stop and give some genuine thought to the way that you would like to bring your child up.
The book also gives readers some tips about how to prepare their homes for baby's arrival. It's not enough just to have a nursery set up. There are many other things to consider, and here again there are tips that first-time parents might not otherwise think of on their own.
After that, the book is arranged in chunks that correspond to the developmental stages of normal, average babies. The text gives you an idea of what your baby should be able to do at certain ages, what kind of games and interactions are best at those stages, and what you can do to help your baby acquire new skills. In addition, a great feature of the book is its numerous pictures and diagrams. It's sometimes difficult to visualize what printed words are saying, but when the text is accompanied by relevant photos and diagrams, it's much easier to follow along.
Many fist-time parents have never spent much time around other babies before, so they don't know what kinds of things are normal occurrences and what kinds of things could indicate serious problems. That's where The Baby Book can really give you some peace of mind. Since it's written by a doctor and a nurse who have eight children of their own, you know that what you're reading is extremely accurate and is based on medical knowledge as well as experience. So when the authors say not to worry about those little white spots that might appear on your baby's face after a few months, then you know you can take their word for it and you won't phone your pediatrician every two hours.
Besides helping new parents identify developmental milestones and normal physical changes, The Baby Book gives useful advice regarding lots of other daily chores. For example, some parents might want to use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers, yet they might not know how to fold cloth diapers. The Baby Book takes this into account and devotes several pages to the subject of diapering your baby -- complete with step-by-step diagrams to help you through the process. The authors also show you how to swaddle your baby, massage your baby, and how to breastfeed your baby. As if that wasn't enough, they also tell you how to make your own baby food, give you tips on how to get your baby or toddler to sleep on a schedule, and even touch on toilet training techniques.
I found the overall layout and structure of the book to be wonderful. It's chronological, so expectant parents might want to read it cover to cover at first just to get a general idea of what to expect before baby arrives. There is also a quick-reference index that makes looking up specific subjects very easy. This becomes important for those times when you are holding a colicky baby in one hand and trying to find the Sears' advice for getting the baby to sleep with your other!
Sometimes when medical doctors try their hand at writing, they can lapse into jargon, but that doesn't happen in The Baby Book. The explanations are clear and concise, and the Sears' do a great job not only of anticipating the questions that new parents will have about their baby but also of comforting those parents with their sound advice without diminishing the importance of the parents' concerns or making the parents feel foolish about having those concerns.
If you are looking for a comprehensive reference book that will get you through your new baby's first two years, then I suggest you check out The Baby Book by William Sears and Martha Sears. It is so thorough and complete that it just might be the only parenting book you need for the two years that it covers!