On… the best baby books

This is a post about baby books. So, if you are baby-free, then WOO! Don’t bother to read this, instead, put on something inappropriate and go have a stiff drink right now.

If you’re pregnant, come on in, take a seat, I’ll bring you a snack in just a moment.

And if you are a dude, you are probably my husband or my Dad. Hi guys.

Okay. There are a million ways to be a mother.

But there are only two ways to be a mother-to-be.

First: women who geek out and read everything as though there’s an exam coming, highlight the most important parts for their partners to read, and even type up and print notes summarizing the best tips (I did this, yep, don’t judge me) (actually, go ahead, judge me, I don’t mind, I would if I were you, too). We ask every mother friend for as much advice as possible (and while we’re here, thank you to all my friends for their awesome advice, thank you thank you thank you). We wash and iron all the baby clothes by the time we’re eight months pregnant and rearrange them every second day from then on. We watch swaddling videos on YouTube and practice on soft toys. We have five colic cures, ready to go, just in case, even though we’re not sure colic is really a thing, because you know, it might not be. We have excel spreadsheets. Like four of them.

Secondly: mothers-to-be who have a see-no-evil approach, make a point of reading nothing, say things like ‘how hard can it be? It’s just a baby!’ and then lose their shit when a baby turns up, and don’t sleep or shower or eat for like five months.

I was a bit of both. I was in a bad mood for the first six months of pregnancy and refused to read anything at all. Then I started reading, became obsessed with being The Most Prepared Mother In The History Of The Motherfucking World™, and now am rabidly pro-geek. Research makes everything easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think 98% of baby books are useless. Maybe it’s the illusion of controlling the unimaginable that makes it easier. Or maybe it’s just that immersing yourself in stories about babies makes it easier. Most of the books are nothing more than tale after tale about other people’s babies, and somewhere along the way, you pick shit up. I don’t know. Why am I still debating this with myself? This is not the point of this post.

The point is, babies are funny and silly and awesome and damn good company and not actually hard at all, as long as you’re prepared. These books are practical and brilliant. They will prepare you.

The Happiest Baby On The Block by US pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp.

This book teaches you how to calm your baby. End of story. Oh my God, I love this book. We didn’t actually discover it till about three or four weeks in, when teeny tiny cashew-nut-sized Errol was having seriously bad witching hour screaming fits, and the tips for calming a fussy baby worked so easily, and so fast, that we almost passed out with joy. Thanks to this book, Errol just stopped crying. Just stopped. I don’t know any parent who did his five Ss for whom it did not work. My mother-in-law came to stay with us soon after and kept saying ‘He hasn’t cried once!’ and we were all smug like ‘yah, we’re totally awesome’. We’re not totally awesome. The book is totally awesome. (His book about toddlers is also brilliant, by the way, as is this lovely book, but we’re not talking about toddlers, we’re talking about babies.)

Baby Secrets by British supernanny Jo Tantum.

This book teaches you how to teach your baby to sleep. (And yep, apparently they need to be taught; in the womb they’re in a sort of drugged-up perma-haze.) This book is AMAZING. The easy, gentle, flexible way to get your baby to sleep through the night. It’s all about counting wake time, not sleep time, and making sure your baby never gets overtired or overhungry. I could go into specific, routine-by-routine detail about why it’s better than ol’ bitchface Gina Ford or Babywise or anyone else, but I’d bore the shit out of you. Just trust me.

The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins.

This book teaches you how to breastfeed. I’m totally breastapo. I wish I wasn’t, as those militant udder-flashing hippies feeding their seven-year-olds on the cover of Newsweek are so awful, but I can’t help it.  I worried about finding breastfeeding impossible and traumatic, as some of my friends have (When Boobs Just Won’t Play Ball), and so I read as much as I could on it. Breastfeeding is not like turning on a tap, and even with all my geeking out beforehand, I found it difficult and needed extra help from a lactation consultant in hospital. This book was recommended by one of my favorite people for kind and wise mothering information and all-round-fun, Joanna, she also wrote an excellent and useful post about breastfeeding here, by the way.

Other useful websites are Kellymom and AskMoxie and MyBabySleepGuide– I still constantly refer to all of them. (See above re: geekdom.)

I hope that helps. I’m going to go back and read these books all over again now, in the hope that they help with the arrival of my second baby in a couple of months. Maybe they won’t. Maybe – probably – this baby will be totally different to Errol, maybe he’ll be a sleepless screaming hellspawn who comes out saying ‘SAY GOODBYE TO SANITY MOTHER’ and my blithe ‘darling it’s so easy this is ALL YOU NEED’ attitude will bite me in the ass. We’ll find out.

I wrote this post ages ago but kept putting off posting it as you know, it’s a fairly audience-specific post. I keep imagining 26-year-old me reading it and being like ‘BORINGGGGG, where the fuck are my fags can we have a drink now please?’ But I keep sending these tips to pregnant friends who ask me about books, or talking about them in great detail with newly-babied-up friends, so why the devil not, hmm?

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On… Kevyn Aucoin Blood Roses


The only lipstick you will need this winter. Kevyn Aucoin Blood Roses. Seriously, for serious.

I’ve been playing with dark red-with-a-touch-of-brown lipstick for a while – MUFE 47 is good, Bobbi Brown Raisin is good but zero staying powder, Hourglass Icon is very very good but drying AF – but just get the Kevyn Aucoin one because you will never regret it. It’s more like red-with-a-touch-of-black. If I was one of those cool girls who can make a growling sound in her throat, I would make one right now.

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On… my bag problem

I have a bag problem.

The thing about my bag problem is that it’s the opposite of my lipstick problem.

I have a million lipsticks and, arguably, need none of them.

I have no handbags, and I need one.

I mean, I really do. Enough is enough.

Now, I know most women love handbags, but I don’t. I hate them. They’re heavy and ugly and bulky and annoying and urgh.

So for most of my life, I’ve only used clutches. Sometimes little hard perspex ones. Sometimes big soft grabby ones. For a long, long, long time I used a little yellow patent clutch from H&M that could fit all the essentials of every twenty-something: credit cards, cash, Oyster card (that’s the weekly ticket for the London Underground, for all you non-Londoners), phone, keys, eyeliner, lipgloss, a packet of Marlboro Lights, and a moderate-sized novel.  (I know, seriously, that clutch was fucking magic, it fit EVERYTHING.)

Then I tired of the sluttiness of the shiny patent, and replaced it with yellow neoprene clutch from Joe Fresh. The neoprene clutch was fine. I never really loved it. It got dirty superfast and I had to constantly replace it, but it was about $6, so no biggie. And then I started to wonder if looking like a student with a $6 bag, when I was by now fully grown-up and in my 30s with a husband and baby to prove it, was a bit sad.

So I took the plunge with a real bag, and for the past year I’ve been using this. The Alexander Wang Fumo.


It’s called a wristlet, apparently. Basically a roomy wallet with a little wrist strap.  It has enough room for cash, cards, keys, a lipstick or lip balm, and my Blackberry. I wear it everywhere. When I go to meetings, I carry my laptop and my wristlet. I can take it out to dinner and keep it in my lap so I never have to think about purse-snatchers. If I’m in the playground with Errol, I can secure it to the stroller with this lame-but-brilliant Mommy Hook thing. If I’m on the phone or holding Errol, I can loop it through my wrist. All in all, the Fumo and I have had a very happy 12 months together.

But yesterday I bought an iPhone. (I KNOW. I know. Let’s not get too annoyed at me for being so late to this party, hmm? We can all still have a good time.) And there is just no damn room for an iPhone in the Fumo. So suddenly I’ve got two things to carry. Plus a laptop for meetings. Plus I am a big snacker in pregnancy, you know, and carrying a ziplock bag of Fig Newtons for all the world to see is not cool.

I think I can get away with not having a handbag for a few months yet. It’s coming up to winter, so I can use my coat pockets. Fig Newtons in a coat pocket are just fine.

But then this baby will arrive. (Woo!) I will need something that will carry all my shit and keep my hands free so that if I’m out, and I need to, I can breastfeed (or as they say in New York, slightly primly, ‘nurse’), use the Ergo, manage Errol at the same time, blah blah blah. I need something I can sling across my body so I don’t need to worry about it falling off my wrist or shoulder. If it fits my laptop, so much the better. I need something stylish and grown-up so I can take it to meetings without looking like a mess. But I don’t want something that is huge. Or heavy.

So last night I went online to Topshop, ASOS, Zara, My-Wardrobe, Shopbop, TheOutnet, Net-a-Porter and Barneys. I looked at options from the sublime ($9) to the ridiculous ($3,200). I spent almost an hour looking, and I found nothing. Nothing.

See? I have a bag problem.


Update: bag problem is solved. For now.

I found these at Zara. They are soft squishy pouchy clutches that aren’t too small or too big. They look and – importantly – feel like they should cost way more than $99 (or in the UK £79). They can fit my wallet, iphone, keys and a snack, without looking overstuffed. They have a little strap thing so you can wrap them around your wrist, if you so wish, which I do, and they also have a long strap so you can wear them around your body, if you so wish, which I might one day. And they come in black and nude, which pretty much covers every sartorial eventuality I could ever have. I got one of each.




When I go to meetings I’ll just carry my stupid laptop.

Until I can afford my dream bag from Celine without feeling like I’m evil for spending so much on a dead cow, these will do perfectly.



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On… Lip Syncing

I know you’ve probably seen this. But just in case. I’ve watched it every day for a week and it still fills me with joy.

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On… eating in New York

Everyone, thank you so much for your email suggestions about what I should blog about. It’s like the perfect to-do list. Even better: you all, it seems, share my fetish for reading restaurant menus and planning imaginary meals. So for all you menu-lovers out there, here are my three favorite meals from the past couple of weeks…

The Pork Belly Sandwich from Back Forty West in Soho 


Where oh WHERE has this sandwich been all my life? It is the best thing I have ever eaten. Ever. I had it last week and I think I might go back today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, foreverneveramen. Fox had the burger, and it just might be one of the best burgers in NYC. We’ll have to go back to PJ Clarke’s first to check. And Corner Bistro. And the secret-but-totally-not place in that hotel in midtown.


The bratwurst and rosti at Cafe Select in Nolita


Fox has a thing for mittel-European brunch. Normally, ie, when not pregnant, it’s just not my thing. I sigh, order bircher muesli or scrambled egg whites with smoked salmon and a skinny latte, watch him scarf all the yummy fatty calorific foods and steal bites when I can, like every other annoying woman on earth. But to hell with that. I’m pregnant! Bring on the sausage and the fried potatoes and fried onions! Can I get a side of ice-cream with that?

Bianca al Prosciutto Pizza at Gnocco in the East Village 

We had dinner here the other night. The pizza was excellent. Just excellent. Dinner generally isn’t a great meal for me when preggers – I’m much more likely to be sick at night for some stupid and annoying reason – but I wasn’t! High five, Gnocco, for not making me sick. Also, bonus for having a name that sounds like one of the goblins from The Labyrinth.

I can’t find a photo of the pizza. But that’s okay, it just looked like pizza. So here is a photo of a goblin from The Labyrinth.


It’s okay! Shhh, it’s okay. It’s only a puppet.

Just as a little bonus: an extra photo of David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King from the Labyrinth.



Brainwave! I am totally going as Jareth the Goblin King to Hallowe’en this year. Fuck it, why not. I already know all the words to THIS.

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On… babies

So, we had the six-month scan this week. I goddamn love scans. They are exciting and magic and weird. A monthly reminder that there is a reason I am STILL throwing up (I even threw up in a taxi going up Madison on the way to Mt Sinai). Here is a scan of my womb-mate.


And here’s the 3-D scan.


Isn’t that WILD? (I just gushed for a few lines about how perfect and gorgeous he is, but then I remembered that I used to be tres vocal about how totally fucking boring I found Facebook baby updates that didn’t have a point/joke, so I decided to shut up. If you are bored by babies… I get it, I’m sorry. What can I say? I’m self-involved! Let’s talk about ME.)

I wasn’t crazy about 3-D scans when I was preggers with Errol. I thought they all looked like underwater alien babies. But now I think they’re so goddamn cool. Like a tiny glimpse into the future. Look at this six-month-in-the-womb 3-D scan of Errol…


… and look at Errol aged two. Not too dissimilar, huh? Big chubby cheeks in a thoughtful frowny little face. He came out with worry wrinkles. So adorable.


Just an extra bonus scan, in case scans are your thang: Errol, at about 16 weeks, sucking his thumb. CUTE.



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On… good books

Very. Good. Book.

GIRL by Blake Nelson. 


The sequel. So far, also very good goddamn book.

DREAM SCHOOL by Blake Nelson.


PS Sorry for not posting in so long. I actually lost my WordPress password and couldn’t remember what it was. And I am the kind of person who goes ‘ah, to hell with it, I have nothing to blog about anyway, the world won’t be a whole lot worse off without some more blahblahblah from me’. I know. I have low self-blogging-esteem. Seriously, you guys, what should I blog about? What would you like to read? My life isn’t that interesting. My opinions on most things are not particularly valuable. I spend all my time writing, and playing with Errol and Fox in gorgeous New York City in autumn/fall (I can’t say ‘fall’ without feeling like a fake American, but I can’t say ‘autumn’ without feeling all prim and English, either, so now I say both), and applying for my Greencard (yay!), and being six months pregnant (it’s a BOY! Just by the way. Yah, so surreal, am making a willy IN MY STOMACH), and, um, Pinning. Oh, how I love to Pin. Come pin with me! And, oh yes, email me what you want me to blog about. gemma@gemmaburgess.com

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