When I found out I was pregnant I went on Amazon and ordered a stack of books that I thought would help me make sense of what was happening to my body and my life. Then the morning sickness hit, and I was nauseous when I tried to read. By the time that passed I was gearing up to start grad school.
My daughter's birth came and went and most of the books remained in a pile next to my easy chair, unread.
Following the pattern I set back then, I haven't read very many parenting books in the last 16 months. But of the few I read, these have been the most useful.
The Nursing Mother's Companion, by Kathleen Huggins
Breastfeeding was supposed to be easy. I had breasts, I had a hungry baby. No problem, right?
While I'm grateful that my breastfeeding journey was simpler than it turns out to be for many moms, it was not nearly as simple as I expected. I read this book cover to cover when my daughter was 3 or 4 days old, my nipples had blistered and cracked from an improper latch, and I had no idea how to tell if my milk had come in yet. I was desperate for information. This book answered all of my questions and did it clearly enough that I could understand it even in my shell-shocked and sleep-deprived state. If you are a new (or repeat!) mom and you plan to breastfeed, make sure you have this book in your house before the baby arrives. It may save you some sanity when you really really need it.
No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley
Sleep was another thing I thought was going to be so easy and then it wasn't. I thought we'd just sleep with the baby and everyone would be happy. I didn't really realize how often the baby would wake up and what that meant for all of us sleeping, or not sleeping, which was what was really happening. When I started hearing other moms talking about sleep training and co sleepers and what "sleeping through the night" really means (hint: not 8 hours), I decided I needed to know more about how babies sleep and what I could influence and what I needed to live with.
Pantley's book offered me information on baby sleep cycles and tips for easing sleep transitions, and didn't make any suggestions to let the baby cry, which I knew I would not be willing to do. It helped me understand better where she was developmentally, how much sleep she should be getting, and to be more clear about what was important to me about our sleeping situation. We actually didn't change where or when the baby was sleeping as a result of reading the book, but I felt a lot more at peace about our decision to co-sleep and we made some minor adjustments that helped me sleep better myself. When I became more confident my interactions with Bean around naps and bedtime and developed a better going-to-bed routine, the whole process got a lot easier.
Many months later, when I was finally ready to move her to her own crib, I re-read Pantley's book to help me figure out how to make that happen. It took about a week of bumpy nights, but Bean started sleeping better and more soundly very quickly.
Baby-Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
Several of the moms in my circle of friends were talking up this book when they started introducing solid foods to their kids, who were all a few months older than mine. After eating out with them a few times and being totally impressed at how well their babies could manage a wide range of foods, I decided to check it out.
I guess by not reading all those pregnancy books when I was pregnant I missed the instruction that you are supposed to start your baby on pureed food. I found the Baby-Led Weaning approach to be a perfectly logical way to introduce food, encourage healthy eating habits and help your child develop a wide palate of tastes and textures.
Food is a big deal in my house. I love to cook and to eat, and to share the tastes I love with my family. It turned out to be so much fun to let Bean try new foods mostly on her own terms and develop her own individual tastes. She has always been really clear about what she likes and doesn't, when she wants more and when she's done. And honestly, she'll try anything and enjoys some surprisingly strong-flavored dishes.
And I didn't have to buy or make a whole bunch of special food for her, so we all win!
Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman
This isn't actually a parenting book. It is a memoir, sort of, and one mom's research into the differences in parenting styles between French and American families. While the author has drawn criticism for over-simplifying both cultures and for focusing on families in a very narrow socio-economic range, I still found it fascinating.
I'm often slightly horrified by families where the kids seem to be running all over the parents. "Be the grown up!" I want to scold the parents. "How will your child respect anyone if you don't insist that he respects you?"
It was heartening to me to discover that the instincts that were leading me to set clear boundaries and have expectations for my child's behavior, even at a young age, we in line with parenting practices somewhere, at least. Although there are things I disagree with that are normal practice in France (early weaning, for example) there are also things that I'm very envious of that would make such a difference in the US (government funded early childcare and preschool).
Mostly it was a fascinating look at two different parenting styles and the potential pros and cons of each. I always think it is a good a idea to take the lid off of our customs and beliefs to figure out what they mean and why we do them, even if we choose to continue on exactly the same path we are on.
This is the newest book on my (virtual) shelf. Now that all the babies in our little circle of moms are toddlers, the emails in our group are often about a) What are you guys cooking for dinner? and b) how do I keep this kid entertained and prevent him from jumping off of the furniture??
This book, again, was recommended by one of our group. I've only just begun to delve into it, but I'm loving the suggestions so far. It has arts and crafts, learning, and play activities for both indoors and out and even suggestions for a Rainy Day Box that is a parent's secret weapon on those rainy or sick days when the day just seems to stretch on forever.
But best of all she has a whole chapter on how to organize for your toddler, including what you can save or re-use from around your house for various purposes. This is a fantastic resource for parents or caregivers of toddlers, especially the especially busy ones, like mine!
What are your favorite or lifesaving parenting books?