I’m a reader. Was conceived by a couple of readers. Married a reader. Together, the Professor and I started reading to Hiccup when he was just two months old (Sherlock Holmes: A Sounds Primer from the BabyLit collection was his first favorite book, and the “hounds howl” page still gets a smile out of him). So it is no surprise then that when faced with anything new, challenging, or uncertain – I read about it beforehand. Below is a comprehensive list of everything I and/or the Professor read, pre- and postpartum, that genuinely helped us through the nine months of pregnancy and our first year of parenthood.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way – Yes, we took a Bradley Method birthing class, but before I lose you or you start to feel unnecessary guilt about your epidural, let me explain why I recommend Bradley books and classes even if you’re planning to get the drugs or schedule a c-section. The one thing a Bradley book/class does better than anything else out there is prepare you to handle the pain of childbirth – and there will be pain whether you get the drugs or not (that’s the dirty little secret your OB may not be telling you).
It may be worth noting that what caused me to consider Bradley in the first place was actually listening to other women’s birth stories. When polling my mama friends about their labor and delivery experiences I noticed a striking difference in their accounts depending on how they had prepared for the birth. When asking those who had either taken another type of birthing class or who – gasp – had not taken a class at all, their stories were all different with one common line: “The pain was so bad even with the epidural, I would never have been able to do it without the drugs!” Whereas, my friends who had prepared themselves for a natural birth using Bradley all had stories that ended like this: “It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done! It’s a lot of hard work and there’s definitely some pain, but I loved it.” I’m not kidding. Search online amongst the many other mom-bloggers out there and I think you’ll find something similar. I’m not actually going to tell you whether or not I succeeded in having a drug-free birth, only that I had a very positive and empowering birthing experience: it was a lot of hard work and there was definitely some pain, but ultimately – I loved it.
Husband-Coached Childbirth – Written by Dr. Bradley himself, this book is meant for the daddas to help them help you. In twelve short weeks, the Professor went from knowing almost nothing about pregnancy and childbirth to knowing more than some women.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – This is the La Leche League International’s tome on the subject – probably the only book you really need on breastfeeding. Having known very few women myself who exclusively breastfed their babies, I found there were a lot of erroneous assumptions I had been making. For example, thinking that supplementing with formula was always necessary (admittedly not a very intelligent assumption when you realize how many mamas there are in the world without access to this synthetic form of nutrition, but I had just never thought about it). Another was that I would inevitably have trouble producing enough milk because of my little ballerina boobies. Ha! I could have fed twins. Apparently when it comes to milk production – Size. Doesn’t. Matter.
Not only did this book answer every question I had on breastfeeding plus all the ones I didn’t know enough to be asking, it actually made me excited to try (and keep trying). Not sure whether breastfeeding is for you? I’d recommend at least skimming it. If you decide breastfeeding is still not for you, you can feel confident knowing you made a fully informed decision.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting – I think nearly everyone is given a copy of this by someone they know after announcing they have a bun in the oven (I was given two). If not, you can access all the info and more at www.whattoexpect.com. Also, there’s a movie version (currently available on Netflix). While not a replacement for the book, it is cathartically humorous. Enjoy along with a healthy portion of whatever you happen to be craving!
The Happiest Baby on the Block – Easy to remember tips on how to help your newborn feel secure (and by “feel secure” what I mean is “cry less”). You need this book. In my opinion, the science behind the tips is a bit muddled by all the silly caveman illustrations the author felt the need to include, but regardless of that – the tips work. If you’re pregnant, start practicing your swaddling now! Do not wait until the first night you’re home from the hospital like we did (you don’t need that kind of drama in your life and neither does your baby).
The Baby Book – For when you bring that baby home! This is a great searchable reference book covering the many symptoms and milestones you’ll be encountering the first two years of your baby’s life. The topical index in the back makes it easy to search one-handed while breastfeeding in the middle of the night. The information on silent reflux (which I hadn’t found anywhere else) helped clue us in to what was causing Hiccup’s frequent waking and trouble eating, which led to our asking better questions at his next check-up so that his pediatrician could accurately prescribe something that finally brought our little guy (and us) relief.
The parenting style presented in The Baby Book is a sort of customizable brand of attachment parenting – one you can tailor to fit your modern life. As a working mom who had no choice but to return to her job, I drank in the advice on how to maximize the bonding time I did have with my baby and put into practice as much of it as I could with great results.
Attachment theory definitely calls for taking the “long view” of parenting, so if you’re dead set on sleep training your child at six weeks old, this may not be the book for you. My two cents? I value taking the long view on most things. Parenting is a long, hard road. Advice that promotes immediate gratification in one area may come at the cost of something greater later on. That being said, the absolute best thing for any baby is to have parents who don’t go bananas; do what you can and don’t worry about the rest.
Baby Led Weaning – There are three things I ask myself before making a decision where Hiccup is concerned. Is this loving? Is this healthy? Is this affordable? (and that is how I ended up an attachment snuggling, long-term breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mama.) When it came to introducing solids, BLW just made perfect sense to me and this is the book that helped define the movement (which is really just a return to an older way of doing things). When it comes to nutrition you should definitely consult your baby’s pediatrician, but I highly recommend checking out this book beforehand so you can ask the right questions. It’s worked well for our little guy. You want to know something else? Between not having to buy formula, diapers, or baby food, we’ve saved at least a thousand dollars this first year.
The Five Love Languages of Children – Growing up, did it ever feel like your parents just didn’t “get you”? Did they say “I love you” but then act in a way that made it hard for you to believe them? Wouldn’t it be great if your children’s answer to those questions was no? The information in this book can help you identify and speak your child’s love language(s) in a way they will be able to hear and believe. You could probably put off reading this one until your child is older, but reading it now will help you both start out on the right foot.
AskMoxie.org offered the best advice I could find on how to decide what strategy to take at bedtime and why CIO might not be the one-size-fits-all miracle solution some parents claim. (Hint: if it worked for you and was easy then it also probably wasn’t necessary – you just have a baby who’s a natural self-soother. Congrats. You won the baby lottery. Now be quiet while I rock my one-year old to sleep.)
Speaking of sleep, I’d also recommend checking out information on 90-minute sleep cycles for babies. Understanding when to begin soothing or laying your baby down to sleep based on when they last woke up will save you from wasting a lot of time trying to get them to sleep when they’re brains just aren’t ready.
Also look into the concept of “wonder weeks,” explaining when and why your baby may experience sleep regressions with advice on how to see them through those times as smoothly as possible.
Let’s see…I think cloth diapering has earned its own post.