Baby care? Ask Mama Ruby

IN a dither over diapers? Perhaps you're expecting a baby and feel a bit panicked at the thought of impending parenthood.

Or maybe you've just had a baby and are feeling a bit overwhelmed.

If any of these is the case, Old-Fashioned Baby Care (Prentice Hall Press, $9.95) may be just the book for you.

Author Ruby Wright (``Mama Ruby,'' as she calls herself) is a native of British Honduras who lives in New York City and has been a professional baby nurse for the past 25 years. Ms. Wright takes her readers by the hand and guides them through the ABCs of baby care - starting with what you'll need for the layette, on through holding, burping, bathing an infant, and so on.

Wright shares her advice with the confidence of someone who knows her subject. As she assures her readers, ``I've had my hands on about a thousand newborns, so your new baby is in good hands with Mama Ruby.''

Mama Ruby's advice is down to earth. Here, for example, is some of what she has to say on that nemesis of new parents, the middle-of-the-night feeding:

``The rule I use is to have enough light to see what you are doing, but not enough light to excite the baby into thinking there is something worth staying awake for.''

She suggests leaving a night light on in the baby's room instead of turning on an overhead light or lamp during those wee hours. She also recommends keeping that particular feeding quiet - no TV, no radio, no singing or talking.

``I let the babies know someone is there who will change them and feed them, but that is all. I see to their needs, but I really try to make it as boring as I can for my babies ... once your baby doesn't have to wake up at 2 a.m. to eat, your baby will not want to wake up, because there is nothing to do.

``Then you can sleep for longer stretches and enjoy your baby when both of you are awake during the day.''

Mama Ruby's no-nonsense approach and engaging conversational style can be comforting to a new parent who needs a lot of reassurance. Written with the assistance of journalist Carrie Carmichael, ``Old-Fashioned Baby Care'' is good reading for those first days and weeks with a newborn.

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