I have recently emailed this to three different new parents, so I’ve decided to post this here for everyone. After having read dozens of books, there are a few gems out there and they’re not the bestsellers. Here’s my list of my favorite parenting books. I have no idea why these aren’t bestsellers, except that I think too many people just reach for the most easily accessible book, instead of the best.
- Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden, Be Prepared: A Practical Guide for New Dads. This is hilarious & helpful & nicely-illustrated with cartoons that made every new parent I know fall over laughing. I still quote his advice, for instance, when you take your baby camping, just let her get dirty: it will help prevent sunburn. Simple, true, helpful, and funny.
- Armin Brott, The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year. Somehow, I like dad books better than mom books. Less fuss, good clear advice. Brott is a little new-agey, but reasonably assesses lots of fads, and I like him. I especially like his book for expectant fathers, actually – but pregnancy advice books would make another list.
- Denise Fields, et al, Baby 411. Practical, concise, reasonable, especially good on health information. Written by doctors. If you only buy one book, this is the one to get.
- Elizabeth Pantley, The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Indispensable for babies who aren’t perfect sleepers – which I think may be pretty much every baby.
- Annabel Karmel, any of her cookbooks. First Meals seems to be the newest, but what we have and use almost-daily is an earlier edition, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner. It looks like either one will work. She’s a professional chef with good ideas for homemade kids’ food.
Also, as long as you’re bookshopping, I highly recommend some CDs:
- Priscilla Herdman’s “Stardreamer”
- Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
- Various 90s independent bands, “For the Kids”
- and, if you can stand it, anything by The Wiggles will make long car-rides go by faster, but those lyrics will never ever get out of your brain. Willaby wallaby woo.
I’m skipping some of the classic baby advice books. Here’s why.
I found the What to Expect series to be paranoid & micro-managing. I couldn’t stand the pregnancy book, advising me to tape pictures of healthy babies on my fridge to remind me to eat well, as if I might forget, and going on for pages about whether to be scared of the microwave. The answer, finally, is that there’s nothing to fear from your microwave – but after reading pages of discussion, you’ll be paranoid too.
I found the Dr Sears’ basic book to be guilt-inducing, even though I follow most of his advice: baby-wearing, co-sleeping, extended nursing, etcetera. I think Dr Sears took too long to say everything, and had too many declarations of “You’ll ruin your child forever if you are so lazy that you neglect to wear her in a sling for hours every day…” kinda things. So I’m not recommending it either. Armin Brott or Gary Greenberg can tell you all you need to know about raising a happy & reasonable child, leavened with some health advice from Baby 411.
Other books were too strict (babies MUST be on a schedule, and MUST be taught the word “no”…) or too loosey-goosey. Or too tangential, going off on whole chapters about how to have decent self-esteem despite stretch-marks. The father’s books didn’t have those patronizing tangents. That’s one reason I preferred the dad’s books.