A really common question: What books do you recommend for new parents?
Yeah, it’s overwhelming. I don’t even want to look up the number of parenting and baby books available on Amazon.com What’s more, recent studies have shown that all this advice is not only overwhelming, it’s making us depressed.
According to The Conversation, “[t]he problem is that these there is a potential mismatch between expectations of what the books offer and the reality of being a parent.” Many baby books promise long stretches of sleep and predictable behavior if you simply follow their schedule and method. But often, baby doesn’t read the book. Since the behaviors promised are often not developmentally typical, parents end up at odds with their babies and feeling like a failure.
But in an age when many new parents have little to no experience with baby care and are far from family and support networks, we need to turn to somewhere to learn right?
Many baby care books are heavy on the advice and light on the science and citations. These may not be the most common baby shower gifts, but are my favorite references because they are evidence based, cited, and declare their author biases (affiliate links):
If you are looking for a manual of all things baby care and concerns that might come up in the first few years, the American Academy of Pediatrics book is pretty good.
Get the most recent version since advice changes as new science is published (and be aware that authors toe this line on AAP policy recommendations, including sleep safety.)
Want to know what’s going on inside that adorable little baby you were just handed? This is a good one on brain development and why responding to baby is so important. This is not a practical manual, but still an excellent read.
Disclaimer: I don’t actually care for his perspective on sleep, but at least he admits that how it reads – as an overview of inadequate science with a justification of his personal preferences – is actually what it is. There isn’t scientific agreement on sleep and baby development at all and Medina put this section in the book reluctantly because of that.
This La Leche League classic was last updated in 2004, which sounds like a long time ago, but babies and breastfeeding is actually pretty timeless. It’s organized in a very helpful prenatal-to-weaning format and including lots of first person stories from real families facing real struggles and triumphs. It covers a wide variety of topics for breastfeeding families including some basics on sleep and the baby sleep myths that are unhelpful, going back to work and pumping, introducing solids and more.
An easy, well-illustrated read covering the prenatal and early antenatal development, reflexes, and perceptions of babies.
This child development book is refreshingly devoid of parenting advice. It’s organized by month and quite comprehensive.
The 5-S’s method of baby soothing has become both a cliche and cottage industry, with a series of spin off books, videos, and other products (including a $1000 bed, yikes), but Karp’s advice in the Happiest Baby is solid.
I especially like the way Dr Karp encourages parents to look at the world from the baby’s point of view and adapting soothing techniques to match baby’s needs and expectations (hint: that works better than expecting the reverse to happen).
For an alternative take on bed sharing with lots of great advice for parents, Sweet Sleep is my top recommendation. As the subtitle indicates, this book is really focused on the breastfeeding family and the advice goes well beyond early infancy.
Many sleep books focus on night weaning and spreading out feeds in order to maximize sleep. Unfortunately, this goes against biology since babies are designed to eat pretty frequently and mom’s body is designed to deliver milk that often. Some babies (and moms) do just fine with long stretches of no breastfeeding, but lactation consultants will tell you that again and again sleep training is often one of the factors when mom presents low milk supply between 4-12 months and baby’s growth has slowed.
Is the current conventional wisdom – scheduling and sleep training – the only option? Nope. This book provides real family examples and tons of strategies for getting sufficient sleep while supporting breastfeeding for as long as baby/mom/family want to continue.
This simple how-to manual by sleep researcher Dr James McKenna is for parents wishing bed share to or deciding whether bed sharing is appropriate for their family. McKenna covers the pros and cons and how to bed share most safely. Since some 60% of parents end up with baby in their bed at some point, even if the aren’t planning it, bed-sharing safety is important for every family and this makes my “must read” list.
Overwhelmed? Join us for a quick 2-hour overview of baby development and care at one of our Beyond the Bump workshops.
Amazon Affiliate Link Disclaimer: Breathing Space is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
Breathing Space Family Yoga children’s yoga instructors often use books in class as storytime before relaxation, to spark discussion, or as inspiration for an entire theme. Books can help illustrates yogic values – peace, love, friendship, feelings, compassion, honesty – or enhance children’s physical and emotional awareness.
A key benefit of yoga for children is how the practice helps them develop better emotional regulation skills. Incorporating books like The Way I Feel by Janan Cain and My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss sends the message that strong feelings are ok even if acting on them might not be.
At least every couple of months, I do a dance theme in my preschool yoga class, after which I feel compelled to read Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson. I love that Hilda figures out a way to express that dance that is in her soul no matter what obstacles may seem to be in her way.
One of my favorite books to read in preschool yoga class is Jamberry by Bruce Deegan. The story follows the fancifal journey of a bear and his boy through what is clearly jam country. The kids love identifying the animals and actions in the story and it’s fun when they figure out the fantasy elements: skating on jam, rabbits playing a brass band, etc. But the signature characteristic of my reading is most definitely that (in our household at least) Jamberry must be sung.
I recently stumbled on a reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and realized that I’d found a kindred spirit.
For older children, I love using more complex stories, such as The Rabbit in the Moon and Diamonds Rubies and Pearls from Storytime Yoga, to build entire classes and encourage children to write their own yoga class stories. We use the opportunity to talk about what makes a good story and who is and what are the attributes of a hero.
make nice discussion starters.
Older children and tweens are defining themselves and are often eager to discuss issues related to their place and possible contribution to the world. Story books can help set a safe context for such a discussion.
Breathing Space Family Yoga has collected many of our favorite kids yoga books, story books and other resources in one place with links to Amazon.com. We’ll keep adding to it, so please let us know what’s missing in the comments.
Growth of yoga for children being offered in school has paralleled the explosive growth of yoga for adults being practiced in studios, gyms, and community centers around the country.
Even elementary school kids deal with a lot of stress these days. As I let my 3rd-5th grade after-school yoga class into the room this past Wednesday, one of my students had near-panic written on her face. Before she even walked through the door, she asked if she could do her homework instead of participating. "I'll never get it all done tonight," she pleaded. I cocked my head to one side and looked at her. "Yeah, you're right. I need the yoga," she said and headed for a mat.
The highly controversial book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards by the New York Times' William Broad summarizes the studies on benefits of the practice for adults. A similar book on studies about the benefits to kids would be mighty thin. Parents and teachers who witnessed those benefits will tell you that yoga is great for kids.
Preliminary research on child-specific benefits include reduced problem behavior, test anxiety, and anger and increased feelings of well-being, self-regulation, and focus. The video below discusses the results of a pilot study with 4th and 5th graders in Baltimore.
Yoga classes offered in studios may be structured very much the same as a class offered in a school, but they are often very different. Michelle Kelsey Mitchell from Yokid wrote a very nice blog post on the subject after hosting a writer from the Chicago Tribune at one of their classes. Yoga classes in schools tend to be noisier and more chaotic and the environment often isn't ideal, but the objective and results are very much the same:
"Studio: students who achieve a quieter mind, enjoy relaxation and appreciate the time “away” from their busy and stressful lives. Students who get that much closer to their True Self……. School: the exact same thing."
While many of the poses will look familiar to adult yogis, there's much more emphasis on games and social interaction in a kids class.
We always do a physical warm up to get the body moving and calm the mind. Then we might play a game, act out a story, or do partner exercises. Toward the end of class, we'll wind down with some more poses and do a final relaxation or guided meditation.
In that 3rd-5th grade class I mentioned above, we focused on stories this past week. After we warmed up, I told The Magic Pear Tree from Sydney Solis's Storytime Yoga. We identified the characters and actions and assigned yoga poses to the story and then we acted them out.
After that story example, I passed out yoga pose cards and the students worked in small groups to write their own story. We could have done this exercise for much longer than the time availabe. It was quite the hit last week.
In other classes, we'll get silly and try to pass a hula hoop around the group while everyone holds hands, pass a balloon using only their feet, or blow cotton balls across the floor.
I love the photo of the girl "meditating" in this post because I recognize the attitude and it could easily be one of my kids. Upper elementary school kids are starting to put up emotional walls as they near adolescence. Approval from peers becomes more and more important. When everything is working in yoga class, they get to let their guard down a bit and just be.