An extract from Anne Karpf’s review in the G2 section of the Guardian, 5 January 2005:

The best parenting book you’ve never heard of
Anne Karpf had no time for babycare manuals until she discovered Naomi Stadlen’s revolutionary What Mothers Do.

What I love most about Stadlen’s book is that, although it is so warm and affirming that it made me feel that I wasn’t as lousy a mother as I often believe, it doesn’t sentimentalise motherhood either. Stadlen is not Pollyanna or Pangloss. She is brilliantly insightful, for instance, on why mothers can become defensive and competitive, or how those with high expectations of themselves can also demand more of their babies than they can deliver. She also appreciates how difficult a baby’s utter dependency can feel to women who have prized independence in their professional lives, and how – in a culture in thrall to busyness – what an enormous change is required to refrain from busying oneself with a long list of tasks in order to match the baby’s pace....

This is an author who believes that ‘rarely is it necessary to tell a mother what to do. It may demoralise her further, and it certainly does not help her to learn.’ Her profoundly moving account of how, slowly and with difficulty, mothers can come to trust their children and themselves, should be given (instead of those free packs of horribly scented wipes that make all babies smell the same) to every new mother – and quite a few old ones too.

Copies of What Mothers Do can be ordered online from and