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Mothers Know Best

May 26, 1991|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

My child is a brand-new teen, my nieces and nephews are toddlers, friends are expecting. To keep up, I consult the parenting pundits. Some experts adhere to the "doctor knows best and mother should be a good listener" school. Others recognize that motherhood hasn't turned my mind to mush. (OK, I admit there have been times...). The following is a mom's-eye analysis of four parenting shows, one episode each. It includes reactions from myself and another veteran in the trenches, the mother of an infant and a preschooler.

WATCHABILITY, HOSTS

"American Baby": Moderate. Matronly Judith Nolte, attractive and neatly coiffed, has a very pleasant smile. But why those stilted, cue-card goodbys to guests?

"Growing Up Together": High. Lovely Leeza Gibbons (also the show's creative consultant) talks to children, experts and viewers as if we all speak the same language. Except "cellulite" and "stretch marks" probably aren't in her vocabulary.

"Healthy Kids Show": Low. But "super-model" Kim Alexis makes sure the camera isn't cheated of her winsome, little-girl charm.

"What Every Baby Knows": High. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton epitomizes the kindly old family doc, soothing, compassionate, ever-smiling. Picture a cross between Mr. Rogers and Jimmy Carter. He wants us to believe that we and our children are capable, intelligent people.

WATCHABILITY, EXPERTS

"American Baby": Moderate. A stuffy, talking heads format.

"Growing Up Together": High. Smart, friendly and helpful. No one preaches.

"Healthy Kids Show": Low. It's unintentional, but the word comes down from the ivory tower to us child-like moms.

"What Every Baby Knows": High. Dr. Brazelton, both host and expert, manages to take the cliche out of feeling good about yourself.

EXPERTS CONSULTED

"American Baby":

Male: 2

Female: 0

"Growing Up Together":

Male: 1

Female: 2

"Healthy Kids Show":

Male: 3

Female: 0

"What Every Baby Knows":

Male: 1

Female: All the moms who appear on the show.

THE "AWWWWWW" FACTOR

"American Baby": Moderate. During the credits, turn the volume down on the syrupy song.

"Growing up Together": High. A rainbow of 2- and 3-year-olds at play, indoors and out.

"Healthy Kids Show": High. Lots of chubby babies, puppies and toddlers.

"What Every Baby Knows": High. Heartstring-tugging preemies and toddlers.

GRADING SPECIFIC INFORMATION

"American Baby": C. Judith Nolte introduces a segment about tests that are "routine for most pregnant women." Oh? Have you had your Chorionic Villussampling, a lpha fetoprotein sampling, percutaneous umbilical blood sampling and amniocentesis today?

Later a doctor says they may not be routine

"Growing Up Together": A+. The real stuff. A picture cut-out project for new preschoolers, day-care evaluation, how to leave your child, toddler hygiene and nutrition, clothing for active little ones--a practical guide; not a fashion show.

"Healthy Kids Show:" B-. Taking babies' temperatures rectally; a list of everyday household items that are toxic to children. Very useful. But too many topics, too little time.

An the pediatrician who repeatedly says "thermomether" for themometer will drive you crazy.

"What Every Baby Knows": A. Dr. Brazelton interacts with parents of premature babies and sick infants, exploring parent-child bonding. Its recognition in the birthing process has been important, he says, because it returns some control to parents that the medical profession had taken away.

INTEREST FACTOR

"American Baby": High. But diluted by stodgy, superficial treatment.

"Growing Up Together": High. One topic with related issues.

"Healthy Kids Show": High. But where's the depth?

"What Every Baby Knows": High. One topic. Real people in real situations.

CRINGE FACTOR

"American Baby": Moderate. Close-ups of sharp, pointy instruments in use.

"Growing Up Together": None.

"Healthy Kids Show": High. Wide-eyed host Kim Alexis figuratively sits at feet of male experts. And then there's that embarrassing Elvis impersonator...

"What Every Baby Knows": None.

THE LOOK

"American Baby": House Beautiful. Flowers, plants, wicker, candlesticks on the mantle. We're adults here. Leave the kids outside.

"Growing Up Together": At home with the host. Light and airy. Lived in; coffee table littered with kid stuff.

"Healthy Kids Show": Indecisive. A gallery with marble columns, a doctor's office, group therapy-type couches.

"What Every Baby Knows": On location. Doctor's office, hospital, lounge.

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