BEST PARENTING BOOKS FOR NEW MOMS
It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. Yes, THAT 3 o’clock. The one that you had barely known existed until three weeks ago when a squirming, helpless, night-owl baby rocked your world. She was so sleepy in the hospital! Now she wants to be awake all. night. long. They really don’t prepare you for this in the birthing classes. Sure, you learned how to breathe and visualize and possibly push, but that’s just one day…
What do you do with the baby once he’s home?
You cry. You fret. You prop your tired eyes open for one more night feeding.
You read. Google is your best friend and your worst enemy. Your screen casts an unnatural glow in the dark nursery while your baby nurses, as you search for everything from “how do I get my baby to stop crying?” to “why does my baby want to eat every 30 minutes?”
I’ve been there. Twice. And, while my level of expertise was certainly higher with baby #2, I found myself searching for many of the same articles and advice.
I learn by reading, and I read voraciously during those first few months as a new mom.
For you, I want to take some of the guesswork out of things. I’ve curated a list of the best parenting books I’ve read, and a couple that I would still like to read.
But for the best parenting books to be effective, you also have to read them when they will help you the most. So, I’m organizing this list by timeframe: before the baby comes, in the first few months of life, and beyond.
BEST PARENTING BOOKS FOR BEFORE THE BABY IS BORN
THE HAPPIEST BABY ON THE BLOCK by Harvey Karp
To be honest, I think this is all you need to read before the baby comes. This book is the bible (although a much shorter read) for how to calm a crying newborn. And, believe me– that’s the only answer you will want to have in those first few weeks.
I didn’t read this until my colicky baby was about six weeks old, and it revolutionized my life. It makes sense out of the inconsolable crying, delves a little into the physiology of crying, and equips you with the skills to calm your newborn. The 5 s’s (swaddle, side, shush, swing, suck) are worth the book price alone.
If you are still pregnant after finishing this book, here are two more that can benefit you prior to baby’s arrival:
SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER by Tracy Hogg
This book was highly recommended to me before my first son was born. For me, it was invaluable in starting my baby on a schedule. No, not a regimented schedule. Rather, a life rhythm. She calls it the EASY method: eat, activity, sleep, your time.
I admit that the “your time” part always makes me laugh.
The philosophy, however, is crucial in the process of teaching your baby how to fall asleep on his or her own. Believe it or not, that’s not an innate skill. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer will help you begin to both anticipate your baby’s needs and learn their unique cries so that you can connect with and calm your baby before you are both frustrated.
BRINGING UP BÉBÉ by Pamela Druckerman
Bringing up Bébé is a memoir that reads like a novel. An American journalist is living in France when she first becomes a parent. She realizes that French moms seem more relaxed about parenting than their American counterparts. This is a fun escape at any time of parenthood; the reason I suggest it before baby is born is because she introduces an interesting concept for newborns called le pause. I remember wishing that I had read it earlier. Then read it again when your toddler is refusing to eat anything.
BEST PARENTING BOOKS FOR THE FIRST MONTHS
Y ou’ve survived the newborn stage and light begins to dawn. “Finally,” you think, “I’ve figured this baby thing out.” Sleep isn’t perfect, but your baby is in a better rhythm, and your hours of sleep are steadily increasing. Then, that horrible monster called the 4-month sleep regression hits you like a ton of bricks.
This often happens in conjunction with mom returning to work, if you are on the standard 12-week maternity leave in the U.S. (Don’t get me started on that…) Now, experts generally say to just get through these sleep regressions without doing anything drastic. However, it may be time to start reading about that hot topic of sleep training.
There are generally two schools of talk that seem polar opposite: the cry-it-out method, and the never-let-them-cry-and-let-them-co-sleep-until-college method.
I’m not here to debate that topic. You yourself will probably change your mind about it more times than you care to admit. I will say that my husband and I had decidedly different opinions. As a result, I read a lot of different opinions. Here are a few…
THE NO-CRY SLEEP SOLUTION by Elizabeth Pantley
Desperate as I was to find gentle ways to coax my baby to sleep, this book offered a lot of hope. There are certainly a lot of good tips here, and I think it’s worth the read. I felt that it required a great deal of consistency, and maybe more of a time commitment than I was willing to make. (I’m totally in the camp of, “just bring him to bed with us– I’m tired!”)
BABY BLUES COMICS by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott
Before you go any farther down the deep dark hole of sleep exhaustion, you need this book. These books, to be exact.
I’ve lost track of how many Baby Blues books I laughed through while in the season of perpetually broken sleep. They make parenting seem so… real. Relatable. Take a break from worrying about whether or not you are doing it right, and just laugh about the fact that you are doing it at all. Trust me.
SOLVE YOUR CHILD’S SLEEP PROBLEMS by Richard Ferber, M.D.
Ah, Ferber. He gets such a bad rap in the sanctimommy world. When all of the “gentle” methods weren’t working for our first child, my husband was all for letting him cry. There was NO WAY I was going to agree to that before doing a ton of research on it first. So I went to the king proponent of “controlled crying,” Dr. Ferber.
I admit that I was shocked how much I enjoyed reading this book. Dr. Ferber goes into some depth about the physiology of sleep, and really makes sense of it all. It’s worth the read, no matter what your philosophy about sleep training is.
(This is the method that worked for our first son, with surprisingly little crying. I couldn’t find it, but I swear I have a picture somewhere of the detailed spreadsheets I made of each day’s cry times, soothing times, bedtime, naptimes, etc. Crazy first-time mom. 🙂 This method WOULD NOT have worked for our second son. It just goes to show that parenting, if nothing else, must be flexible.)
THE SLEEPEASY SOLUTION by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack
By far, the best thing I like about this book are the age-relevant sleep guidelines (i.e. how much sleep should an 18-mo-old child be getting?) and the possible roadblocks to sleep at each age from birth to 5 years old. So nice to have a reference when your child seems to throw another monkey-wrench into the works. Yes, mama, it’s normal!
BEST PARENTING BOOKS FOR THE YEARS AHEAD
T his parenting thing– it’s a lifelong gig. Getting through the first year is just cutting your teeth. Strong connections are what will make the difference in the years to come. How to handle discipline, how much your child will confide in you, how satisfied you feel with your role as a parent… all of these things boil down to building connection. Here are some top-notch parenting books to help lead you on that path.
RAISING YOUR SPIRITED CHILD by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
I bought this book before I knew what a spirited child was. Truth. When my second son came along, I thought, Geez– I know nothing!
Regardless of whether your child is “spirited,” or if you are just at your wit’s end about how to deal with her, this book has great information and tips. Meltdowns, mealtimes, power struggles, transitions. Transitions are the key to coping with so many toddler struggles. This is a good resource.
PARENTING WITHOUT BORDERS by Christine Gross-Loh
Through global eyes, this book looks at the parenting practices of different cultures and analyzes child outcomes in a very readable fashion. It sheds light on the positive and negative effects of practices such as co-sleeping, hover-parenting, and our emphasis on self-esteem. It goes into our habits of accumulating stuff vs. delayed gratification.
An enlightening read about cultural parenting and why “the way it’s always done” isn’t always a good enough answer.
This book is on my TBR list, but I am already a fan of the philosophy. My husband, a licensed professional counselor who loves researching brain development, swears by Daniel Siegel’s work. Once you get past the cry/no cry dilemma, you’ll be thrown right into the how do I discipline my child? dilemma.
No-Drama Discipline gives you the framework for this. Going far deeper than the surface methods of time-outs, reward-based, corporal punishment, etc, this book delves into the physiology of brain development and its manifestations in your child. A toddler simply does not react to events the same way an adult does. Realizing how his brain works, and knowing how your responses can encourage healthy brain development and children who thrive is life and habit-changing.
If this appeals to you, continue your education with Siegel’s books The Whole-Brain Child and Parenting From the Inside Out I also love the Facebook page Hand in Hand Parenting. Such a wonderful resource for connected, whole-brain parenting! Start with this article.
CONNECTING WITH OUR CHILDREN by Roberta Gilbert
I read Roberta Gilbert’s book Extraordinary Relationships a few years ago, and have since recommended it to several people looking to mend their spousal and family relationships. Based on the Bowen system of family therapy, this book takes a different approach to connecting with your children. It speaks to the issues that really keep you up at night: how do I keep my kids from doing drugs? will he be an alcoholic like my father was? how will my divorce affect my kids?
As your children grow up in a world fraught with pitfalls, this book will give you the resources and the confidence to connect with them throughout all of their stages of development and maintain that connection into adulthood.
Raising a child takes a village. It takes the wisdom of the ages. Know this, mama– you are not alone. Whether or not you have a BFF to vent to about how hard this job is, you are surrounded by a hoard of parents who are in the same place as you are. I hope that these resources help you be your best self with your children.
I know that you worry about whether or not you can be a good mom. Guess what? If you are reading this post…
YOU ALREADY ARE.
Which books helped YOU the most in your parenting journey? Let me know in the comments!