As my daughter is approaching the age of solid foods, I have found myself binging on parenting books. It is scary to enter a new stage of babyhood and I don’t feel quite prepared, so I have turned to the wisdom of written experience. These books have comforted me with stories of moms who share my struggles and fears. These books have inspired me to think of parenting differently. These books have given me tools to make this journey a little easier and to help raise my daughter as a well-adjusted human being. So, I am going to share some of these parenting books I have found most helpful. (The ones in the picture I own, and the rest are picture-less because I borrowed them from the library.)
HOWEVER, I want to preface this blog post with a caution. Be careful of parenting books. I had to stop reading them for a couple of months because they were stressing me out. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information there is available about how to parent, and I was confused with all of the conflicting advice. When I recently felt the need to gather parenting information again, I remembered something I had reading in the book from the La Leche League: “choose only what feels best for you and your family, and leave the rest behind.” (xxiv Intro) These are the books that I have taken pieces from that fit me and my family, and if they help you as well, then wonderful. If they don’t, then discard them and remember you as the mom knows best!
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg & Sandee Hathaway; 3rd edition
This was my go-to pregnancy book. Each month, I looked forward to reading the update on what my baby was doing and what he/she looked like inside of me at that point. I also found many of the questions in “What You May be Concerned About” really helpful, such as how much caffeine I could have and whether the constant itchiness in my third trimester should concern me. (I did purchase the “What to Expect the First Year” but have not found it as helpful as the pregnancy book.)
“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” La Leche League International; 8th edition
Before having my daughter, the idea of breastfeeding freaked me out. I couldn’t fathom the idea of my body producing a fluid that could sustain a child, and I felt weird about the idea of some little being sucking on my boobs all the time. This book normalized the idea of breastfeeding for me by giving some great tips, providing lots of information about how to breastfeed, and helping me to visualize doing this with my daughter when she was born. One of the tips I found most helpful was the knowledge that breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt all the time, so when it was excruciating for me I knew to seek help instead of just stopping. I had to change feeding positions, learn a good breast hold, and put on nipple butter constantly for about 2 weeks before the pain disappeared completely, but the tips in this books helped me to hang in there. *If you choose to stop nursing or you can’t nurse, then put this book away because it will not be helpful for you. You make the decision as to what is best for you and your baby. This book is very, very pro-breastfeeding to the point that you will feel guilty if you don’t breastfeed, so this book is not for everyone.* There were many, many things in this book that I discarded as it is much more of a “natural”, “traditional” approach to birthing and parenting than the route I took, so there are entire chapters of the book that I skipped because I did not find them helpful for me.
“The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp
This book should be given to every pregnant woman. If you only read one book before having a child or in the early days of parenthood, this is the book to read. It is an absolute life saver. Karp details how to calm crying babies and help your newborn sleep longer. However, this book is most relevant for those first 3 months of your baby’s life. After that point, the 5 S calming methods don’t work as well because your baby is out of the “fourth trimester” of development. (You could still pick up Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep”, which is relevant up to age 5. It has some great tips on helping your baby to sleep better.) I would read a chapter while feeding my newborn daughter, and end up implementing the new technique that night. For a while, she calmed quickest being chest to chest as I rocked quickly from side to side while making a loud “ssh” noise. Then, it changed to placing on her side on my legs while swaying them from side to side and “ssh”ing. This book gave me the arsenal of methods I needed to help calm my crying baby and get her back to sleep quickly at nighttime. It also helped to create good sleep habits for my baby, which I am still benefiting from today.
“Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman.
I just read this book recently and it transformed my thinking about my parenting. I wish I had read this one earlier on in my mothering journey. I like how Druckerman presents her discoveries about French parenting but doesn’t force their ideas onto you. She even admits that she is not implementing every idea she comes across, but mixes it with her own American upbringing. I had already been doing “The Pause” with my baby when she cried, but having the term described helped me to implement it even better. I would stop and observe her cry to determine what she needed before running in to rescue her from her crib. Sometimes, she was just coming out of a sleep cycle and still learning to put herself back to sleep. By leaving her, she would go back to sleep within a couple of minutes instead of being fully woken by me rushing in assuming she needed to be comforted or fed. Druckerman’s writing style flows well and is easy to read. I was caught up in her quest to find the best methods of raising children, and grateful that she shared her discoveries.
“The 7 stages of Motherhood” by Ann Pleshette Murphy
This book provides some great advice about how to raise kids at different stages, but more than anything, it is a book that celebrates the highs of mothering and that comforts in the shared lows of raising children. I enjoyed following Ann as she recounts stories of her daughter and son at different ages; and seeing through her eyes how her children changed and grew into the full-grown human beings they are now. It was also helpful to hear accounts from other moms, so a wide range of parenting styles and children’s personalities were given voice. I finished this book feeling inspired to be a better parent and to enjoy my time with my daughter not just trudging through each day. I also felt encouraged to explore who I am as a person and not feel guilty about putting time and energy into the non-mom parts of my identity; I believe that this reinvestment in me will also help me to be a better mother.
There are still so many more stages I will go through with my daughter, and I am grateful for the books, such as those listed above, that provide guidance and community. If you’re a parent, I hope these books will be helpful for you. If you’re not a parent, I hope this post inspires you to pick up a book to guide you and comfort you on whatever journey you are on. (For example, I’m in the middle of reading “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington; a great book on how to live life more fully and productively.) Happy inspirational reading!