- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2000

Four million babies are born in the United States every year, leading to 8 million new parents with hundreds of millions of questions.
BabyZone was created in 1996 by one of those new parents, Jeanine Cox, when she went on line and could not find quality information during the early stages of her pregnancy.
From those early days to now, the cyber-stop has grown through the contributions of experts, staff and visitors, including new and experienced parents from around the world.

BabyZone

Site address: www.babyzone.com

Creator:

Ms. Cox started BabyZone from her home in southern Florida and initially hired expert writers to contribute content, and work-at-home moms from around the country to help publish content and manage message boards and chat areas.
In 1999, Ms. Cox's husband, Lew Bednarczuk, a seasoned Internet marketing executive, joined the company as president and CEO. BabyZone has grown to 15 employees and is now located in Watertown, Mass.
Creator quotable: "BabyZone is a resource and community created by parents for parents," says Ms. Cox, co-founder and publisher. "We help new and expectant parents find the information and support they need, all the while staying true to our original intent of making the site fun as well as informative."

Word from the Webwise:

BabyZone offers a comprehensive resource for every aspect of a new parent's and child's life through 16 zones of information organized into six main topic categories: "Preconception," "Pregnancy," "Parenting," "My BabyZone," "Regions" and "Community."
Couples considering having or adopting a baby should begin in "Preconception" for information on infertility, pregnancy preparation and adoption. The section covers choosing a doctor, offers a chart on pregnancy symptoms and includes one woman's journal on adopting a child.
I was disappointed that women considering pregnancy were not advised to take vitamins before conception, especially after my wife pounded into my head the importance of folic acid, which has been proven to help prevent the birth defect spina bifida.
Next, "Pregnancy" contains a fantastic week-by-week analysis of what happens to the female body during gestation, accompanied by a color illustration. Buried deep within this section, is an Interactive Birth Plan.
This empowering device gives an expectant mother the opportunity to create a working, printable document to discuss how junior will come into the world, first with her labor coach, and then with the doctor. She can specify preferences about the labor room environment and routine procedures such as fetal monitoring, pain relief and episiotomy. Possibly a bit more important, the birth plan also allows for the parents to specify preferences for medical interventions such as labor induction, emergency Caesarean sections and post-delivery baby care.
Of course once the bundle of joy comes into the world, scour "Parenting" for hints on everything from getting baby to sleep through the night to building your child's vocabulary skills to starting a play group.
The other sections rounding out BabyZone include the personalized "My BabyZone," which offers mom an on-line avenue to chronicle her pregnancy and first-year milestones; "Regions," which provides 21 areas across the United States with information on local events; and "Community," which presents a great set of hosted chats and message boards.
One final area to peruse, with links available on most pages, is "Fun Stuff," which contains freebies for mom and baby, lists and surveys of popular children's names, baby horoscopes, shower ideas, pregnancy calendars and calculators.

Ease of use:

Sometimes sites are so filled with stuff, it becomes difficult, if not impossible to find the same information again. BabyZone is the perfect example of a site too big for its pages.
In trying to relocate the section on childbirth choices, neither the site map nor the search function were helpful. In fact, the search engine returned error messages on four consecutive days using two browsers.
Visitors may become quickly overwhelmed by the avalanche of pages that are difficult to navigate. The site also offers no continuity in its page design.
Additionally, banner ads that wreak havoc with my computer and pop up in their own windows really make for an annoying on-line experience. Yes, it would be nice to win $1 billion, Mr. Advertiser, but what I really want is information on why baby is constipated.

Don't miss:

A sidebar to the article "Creating Family Rituals" found under the "Toddlers" area of the "Parenting" section, lists ways to enhance the family holidays, including creating traditions that children can understand and instructions on making a tradition storybook.

Information grade: B+ for the information, C- for the difficult navigation.

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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