I’m enjoying my first few weeks of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, and I have to say, it’s been a different experience than the last time I was pregnant. Between being more aware and educated on what to do with a newborn, and the wonderful lack of colic this time around, I have actually had time to rest and reflect on things.
One of those things (and veteran parents know this) is that when you or the mother of your child becomes pregnant, one of the first things people will do – besides terrify you with horrifying birth stories – is recommend pregnancy and baby books for you to read. When this happened to me, I started to read some of these books, but each one seemed to have a specific parenting angle they were working. Not to mention that there were usually a plethora of products endorsed by the authors that were hawked for sale. It started to be a red flag to me if someone passed along a book and at the front or end were instructions to go to a website in order to buy products to use to carry out the advice in the book (slings, oils, creams, CDs, cosleepers, you name it!).
Midway through my first pregnancy I’d finally found a set of books that worked for me. They were no-nonsense, based on science, and backed by recognized health and medical organizations. So for you, dear readers, I’m passing along my recommendations for the best baby books that will give you the facts, only the facts, and won’t lead you down the rabbit hole to huckster products and new parent guilt:
- The Mayo Clinic Guide to A Healthy Pregnancy: This book was truly invaluable during my first pregnancy and I used it occasionally as a reference guide during my second. Written by doctors who are also parents, it spells out in just enough detail what is happening to both the developing baby as well as your body in a week-by-week format. The book has a great glossary and helpful tips to managing most of the discomforts of pregnancy (and dear god there are a lot!). It also allows you to look up potential strange symptoms and complications and lets you know when you should relax and when you should call your doctor.
- The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy: OK, so this one isn’t really scientifically backed, but if you’re looking for a book that will provide you no-nonsense but empathetic pregnancy advice, this is it. The author takes a light tone as she walks you through each month of pregnancy and the “other” issues you’ll encounter during that period. People touching your belly? How do you buy a nursing bra? What do you do when you’re beyond exhausted and nauseous but don’t want to tell people you’re pregnant? The author addresses all of those issues in a fun way. When I read this book during my second trimester I nearly cried thinking, “thank god! I’m not alone!”
- Caring for Your Baby And Young Child | Birth to Age Five: This was recommended to us by the hospital pediatrician and it has been my bible as a parent. It’s published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and is incredibly helpful for parents, no matter how many children you have. The infant section of the book goes week-by-week, then month-by-month letting you know what developmental milestones and potential medical illnesses to keep an eye out for. For kids ages 1-5 the book follows them year by year with the same information. There’s tons of helpful info like sample menus for each age group, handling behavioral issues, what various childhood diseases and conditions look like, as well as reminders about AAP policy on various issues. I refer to this book at least once a month for questions and advice on a variety of topics.
- Heading Home With Your Newborn | From Birth to Reality: Also published by the AAP, this fills the gap of those first few weeks where you are fumbling you way through new parenthood. This book goes into more detail of those first few days and weeks than Caring for Your Baby And Young Child does. It really is a beginners guide for babies. Wondering about swaddling? The soft spot? How to bathe a baby? It may seem like basic stuff, but if you’re a first-time parent, sometimes you need some help with the basics. It’s also helpful that the authors of this book are doctors who are also parents.
- Sleep | What Every Parent Needs to Know: I actually debated including this book. While the advice is helpful, the tone of the book can be a bit paternalistic or lecturing at times, which was something that turned me off of it. Regardless, the information in it is valuable. Shortly after you get your little one home, one of the first things you’ll become obsessed with is sleep. How much, when, where and why, or rather, why won’t they sleep?! The book lays out what’s normal, what to expect and coping strategies for parents dealing with infants and toddlers that fight sleep. It’s also published by the AAP and has sections reminding parents of the AAP’s policies on safe sleep.
So there you have it! These are my five “can’t have a kid without them” books! I’d like to stress that I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. I bought all of these books out of my own pocket change and the authors and organizations affiliated with them had no idea I was going to write about or recommend their books.