As a few friends are now following us into parenthood, I thought it might be helpful to put down on paper some of the things we found most useful. In that spirit, here’s part 1: baby books that we liked. Many thanks to Nancy Kurylowicz, who first pointed us towards many of these books.
Pregnancy & First Months
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. The best all-around guide to pregnancy and health that we found. Much better than the fluffy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series.
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, 2009. For some people, breastfeeding can be a real challenge and a source of great stress. My wife was fortunate and had a really easy time, and our midwives were also extremely helpful in making it work. This book was also a useful resource along the way. Some people also quite like “glider chairs” for midnight nursing sessions with slow-feeding babies; ours was quick, and we rarely needed the chair.
Marc Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Sleep – for both baby and parents – is one of the biggest challenges in the first year. Having a good guide to “what to expect” and what really works was vital. We found it particularly useful to have a “target” of a type of daily schedule to aim for at various points, such as the “typical three-nap day” at six months. We also liked the point about picking a consistent strategy: either comfort after several minutes, or “cry it out” completely. (We went with the comfort strategy.) The book’s style is rather rambling, but there’s good content.
We were fortunate to have a very good sleeper. She moved from our bed to a bassinet next to the bed within two weeks, then to a crib two feet from the bed at about 2-3 months, then to a crib outside our room at about 9-10 months. She slept through the night for the first time at about two months, and started doing it 70% of the time by 3.5 months, with one night waking 30% of the time.
At one point in the early months when sleep was challenging, we did find Harvey Karp’s five S of newborn sleep helpful. Thanks to Miriam for passing on that tip.
Finally, making sure the parents got sleep was a very high priority. At some points, that meant Gravol as a sleeping aid for mom. With a 56-hour delivery, it also meant that dad took several breaks to sleep partway through, so he had some energy left to help after the birth.
Baby’s First Year
William Sears and Martha Sears, The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth Until Age Two, 2003 (recently revised). The best overall baby manual that we’ve encountered. Sears is known for his leanings towards “attachment” parenting, which has both zealots and detractors. The book itself, though, is quite moderate and reasonable, with a sensible level of “attachment” philosophy.
Penelope Leach, Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five, 2000 (newer 2010 edition available). This is the other “comprehensive” book that we’ve found really useful. It’s a minor update of a late 1970s classic, with a very text-heavy, high information approach.
Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett, Baby-Led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food, 2010. Kudos to Anna Maste for loaning us this book – we had great success and confidence with teaching our baby to eat a varied and vegetable-filled diet, and to mostly just eat what we were already eating. Much grief avoided.
Pamela Druckerman, Bringing up Bebe, 2012. This was mostly just a breezy and entertaining read early in the pregnancy process, to get in the “parenting” frame of mind. We did take away a few ideas: “le pause,” and a fixed “frame” within which a child is free to act and choose.