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?
Recommended Reading List
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.
Bonus: Quality Blogs
- Sarah Ockwell-Smith – Sarah is author of a series of books on Gentle Parenting, several of which are on my personal reading list.
- Darcia Narvaez, Moral Landscapes on Psychology Today – Darcia offers well cited articles on a wide variety of parenting topics
- Ahaparenting.com – The site of Dr.Laura Markham is something you might start looking into after those first hazy days when you start thinking: What’s my parenting philosophy? How do I want to raise this person? Good stuff.
- KellyMom.com – Breastfeeding questions and no time for a book? This is a good site written by a lactation consultant that will not lead you astray.
Overwhelmed? Join us for an overview of baby development and care at one of our Beyond the Bump workshops.
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