Q. My husband and I have a 3-month-old baby, but since we neither babysat nor had brothers or sisters, we find that every day is a surprise.
While we do have friends with children, no one seems to know much more than we do and our parents live far away. What we want is someone or something to tell us what to expect and how to handle it.
There are so many questions: sitters and child-care arrangements (I'll be going back to work in the next year or two); television and books; discipline; nutrition (I thought I knew more than I do) and just the month-to-month development that is ahead. Also, I can't imagine where I'd turn in a crisis.
A. There is a great deal on the market and much of it is quite good, although it may be hard to find without a map.
Probably the best place to start is the new and wickedly expensive book The Whole Child by Stevanne Auerbach (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $18.95). It's a compilation of some -- but not all -- of the best books, magazines, newspapers, toys and games for a child, with a tad of advice, good checklists and many pertinent addresses.
For other suggestions, you'll do well to get The Complete New Guide to Preparing Baby Foods by Sue Castle (Doubleday, $13.95), was recently revised. You also may enjoy The Mother Baby Care Book by Barbara Sills and Jeanne Henry (Avon, $5.95) which will enlarge your network of "friends"; many mothers report on their solutions.
Another book -- this one on the almost forgotten subject of exercise for children -- is The Parents' Book of Physical Fitness for Children by Dr. Martin I. Lorin (Atheneum, $5.95). It goes from infancy through adolescence and tells you how your child should exercise and why. You even find out that your baby, like a hummingbird, needs so many calories to keep warm because she has more skin surface compared to her body weight -- something to think about when she screams for an extra feeding in the middle of the night.
Probably the best book on the development of a child is one you may never see on a pediatrician's list: Childhood and Adolescence by L. Joseph Stone and Joseph Church (Random House, $14.95).
This book is so solid and so authoritative that it is a textbook in many universities, and yet its direct, cheerful and well-written style makes it a book every thoughtful parent should have. It's Gesell and Spock and Brazelton rolled into one.
For regular advice on television (and books, movies, music, toys, games), please consider Parents' Choice, a bimonthly tabloid. It is the intellectual parents' guide for children's entertainment.
In this latest issue you'll discover that the popular children's books of yesterday must have created at least as many nightmares as some TV shows do today. You'll find out about Struwwelpeter -- one of young Freud's favorite authors -- who wrote, among others, "The Story of Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup":
Look at him, now the fourth day's come!
He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum!
He's like a little bit of thread,
And on the fifth day, he was -- dead!
As the reviewer said, this may explain something about Freud.
Parents' Choice costs $10 for 6 issues: Box 185, Waban, Mass. 02168.
Action for Children's Television, a consumer-oriented organization with a magazine and other literature, not only can help you keep up with television and work for better programming, but also teach you how to watch TV with your child. Send $15 for the magazine, and membership, if you want it, to ACT, 46 Austin St., Newtonville, Mass. 02160.
There is also Parents Magazine, improved enormously in the past few years. It covers pregnancy to age 13 with year-by-year columns on development, recipes without too many pre-fab ingredients and at least one or two first-rate articles every month: $9.95 a year, Parents, P.O. Box 7000, Bergenfield, N.J. 07621.
Child care -- the source of most crises for young parents -- is better solved near home. Parents with Careers may be just the place to do it.
This series of four workshops -- amounting to about 10 hours and costing $25 -- is run by two working mothers who will take you through all the pros and cons of child care and many other areas. In the process, you learn how to suit the needs of your family and how to use good management techniques at home.
To register for the course in September, call Rebecca Ashery (340-2294) or Michele Basen (251-0664), who give the workshops.
And if you still can't find the child care you want, you might talk your boss into calling Education Unlimited (759-5512). Child-care authors Judith Knotts and Lucy Daoust, the founders, help businesses and industries set up day-care centers at work, as well as help schools untangle problems.
For a short-term problem, any day of the week, call Grandparent Temps (291-1916). The service is a new part of the consulting agency of Meredith Peterson and Anita Ibbott, two home economics graduates from Howard. They have registered about 40 women between their late 40s and early 70s, who are all insured, have verified references and have taken a course in basic first aid. Help can be alerted on a 90-minute notice and will get to your house on their own to take care of your child (sick or well); housesit; wait for the carpenter or water the plants and walk the dog if you're away. The charge is $4.50-$6 an hour, depending on the needs, with no minimum time by day and a three-hour minimum by night.
Renting a grandparent might be almost as good as having the real ones.
And finally there is Mothers-In-Deed (379-5846), a 10-year-old business that provides help either on a live-in or live-out basis at $135-$200 for a five-day week, with an extra two weeks' pay to the agency.
They cook, market and take care of children and senior citizens too, but they don't give maid service.
Mothers-In-Deed also has a squad of temporaries who can work on a daily basis in case your own help goes on vacation or gets sick, although at $20-$50 a day, you would want her for a minimum of 3 days to make the $20 placement fee worthwhile.
This is just some of the help available. Like happiness and other good things, you have to look for it.
Marguerite Kelly is co-author of The Mother's Almanac. Questions may be directed to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post.