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<i>Baby Owner's Manual</i> Provides Advice on First-Year Maintenance - 2003-06-14

Father's Day is just around the corner (June 15), and while mothers are usually considered the main caregivers to their babies, two fathers, Dr. Louis Borgenicht and his son Joe, have tried to demonstrate that fathers can also help maintain their offspring. The Borgenichts' experience resulted in a baby care book titled 'The Baby Owner's Manual: Advice on First Year Maintenance.'

'Before beginning this manual, please inspect your model carefully and check all the standard parts. If any of these parts appear to be missing or inoperational, it is recommended that you consult the baby's service provider immediately.' That's how pediatrician Louis Borgenicht and his son, Joe, a writer and TV producer, prefaced their book. Joe Borgenicht says they wanted to write something that had a different format than other baby-care books and plenty of simple diagrams and charts. "It is written like the owner's manual that you'd find in a new car or a VCR. Something that you can just open quickly to the end of the table of contents, and figure out how to reprogram your baby's internal clock, if he mistakes night for day or day for night," he says.

The idea of writing a book on baby care came to Joe Borgenicht one morning, early, at 3:00 a.m. "My first and only son was about 2 weeks old. I had woken up to his cry before his mother and ran into his room to be the hero and get him calmed down and back to sleep before his mom woke up. When I removed the front cover of his diaper, it was like a radiator cap released on me. He was angry and crying. His mother was awakened, she came in and pushed me aside and had him wrapped up in two seconds. I figured something must be wrong. I called Grandpa Dr. Lou," he says.

"I said, haven't you read the manual? Of course, the manual had not been written yet, but that was the impetus," says his father Lou.

Joe Borgenicht says that when he and his father decided to write their manual, they were aware that dozens of baby and childcare books already existed. "There were a number of books my wife had handed to me to read. But the difference was that with a lot of these books, you have to go through the entire chapter to figure out what and how to feed your baby a bottle," he says.

The Borgenichts say it is mainly the accessibility of the information that separates their book from most others.

Dr. Borgenicht believes that such accessibility explains the continued success of Dr. Benjamin Spock's world famous Baby and Childcare book, which was first published in 1946. "He was a professor at my medical school, I knew him in person," he says. "His book has never really gotten outdated. It has one of the most detailed indexes, so you can look at a particular minor problem and find it there. Someone has asked me, 'Is this the New Dr. Spock?' and I said, 'Nobody can be Dr. Spock. It is just a different approach to baby information in the first year.'"

The authors admit that on the surface, their book may appeal primarily to fathers, but they insist that The Baby Owner's Manual was written for both fathers and mothers.

Dr. Lou Borgenicht says living in a hi-tech society might make child care different, but not necessarily easier. "Parents have many more decisions to make than they had before. And the issue is for parents to understand and learn to be able to trust their own instincts," he says.

Father and son, and co-authors, Louis and Joe Borgenicht spent a year and a half writing their Baby Owner's Manual: Advice on First-year Maintenance. Even though they belong to different generations, and sometimes disagreed, they both say they enjoyed the experience.

Joe: "We worked very well together. My father's expertise, as pediatrician for thirty years, obviously gives me access to a wellspring of knowledge. And as timely experienced as a new father, with a new baby brought everything very much to the present. It was a pretty smooth process to create the Baby Owner's Manual.
Lou:"The interesting thing for me was when Joe asked me a question and I'd say; 'It depends.' then, I had to start to figure out what do we really need to say here. Because on one hand, you can do this, on the other hand, you can do that. So, we certainly wanted to find a middle ground between us."

Included in The Baby Owner's Manual is a discussion of ways parents can bond with their newborn babies, such as touching, holding, playing, and singing. Now, Dr. Lou and Joe Borgenicht say they've found a way to continue that bonding, writing this father-son book together.