Good (and Bad) Books for First Time Parents

Good books for first time parents

When I was pregnant, I was very clear that I did not want to read any instruction manuals masquerading as parenting books. I didn't want to get hung up on rules or timelines or timetables; I wanted to approach parenthood in a largely intuitive manner (yeah - my internet search history will tell you exactly how that went...).

However, I like books and I like reading up on the things which interest me and certain parenting tomes were purchased. Here are all of the parenting books I've read and what I made of each of them:

First-Time Parent by Lucy Atkin
When I Read This: December 2014 (24-25 weeks pregnant)
Why I Chose It: I didn't want any very rigid instructions about how to raise our child but I did want something other than Google to refer to in the middle of the night. Most of the reviews on Amazon said this would fit the bill.
Initial Reaction: Lived up to expectations. Covered all the basic areas I could think of (why the baby might be crying; what to feed babies; how to dress babies; what alarming things babies do which you don't need to freak out about etc) without ever coming across as strict or judgemental. It's not a new book so some of the information about parental rights and benefits is out of date but otherwise it was calm and reassuring.
Would I Recommend It Now?: Yes. Steve and I both referred to this time and time again during the first couple of months of Matilda's life. I disagree with the bit about controlled crying (vehemently) but otherwise good no-nonsense information.

How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing Your Cool by Jenny Scott
When I Read This: December 2014 (24-25 weeks pregnant)
Why I Chose It: I almost didn't. The mobile phone on the cover put me off. But I wanted a book which didn't assume I would turn into a completely different, stressy, frumpy person the moment the baby was born.
Initial Reaction: Like reading a parenting fanzine both in look and style. I enjoyed some of it; I was bored by some of it (it does go on a bit about how great running marathons is); I was intensely frustrated by all the typos. I didn't feel like I learned anything and I could have found essentially the same stories on parenting blogs but it was enjoyable.
Would I Recommend It Now?: It would make a good gift for expectant mums who like the lo-fi fanzine look but there's not a lot to it so I probably wouldn't recommend buying it for yourself.

The Madness of Modern Parenting by Zoe Williams
When I Read This: January 2015 (27-28 weeks pregnant)
Why I Chose It: I was getting frustrated by a lot of the very preachy parenting advice I was finding on the internet - this looked like it would be a good rant about parents' abilities to make up their own damn minds about most things.
Initial Reaction: Very short but full of facts, figures and feminist rhetoric about things like whether to bother avoiding certain foods and drinks during pregnancy, the practicality of breastfeeding and the intensity of our current education system. This is in no way - no way - a parenting book but it was interesting and irritated and exactly what I wanted to read at that point.
Would I Recommend It Now?: If you're feeling irritated (rather than scared) by all the terribly strict pregnancy advice, this is quite cathartic. So: yes.

BabyCalm by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
When I Read This: April 2015 (39-40 weeks pregnant)
Why I Chose It: The more I listened to friends with babies talk about the early months, the more I realised that for the most part people I consider calm had more positive experiences of parenting than people who tend to stress. As much as I like to consider myself a laidback person, I figured it couldn't hurt to read something about keeping a cool head.
Initial Reaction: This appealed to me a lot. The author is open about having her own preferences (babywearing, co-sleeping, baby led weaning etc) but encourages parents to trust their own instincts and figure out what works best for them and their child. I found the parenting advice reassuring; the section about coming to terms with a traumatic birth could have waited until after I'd been through my own labour, though! Eek!
Would I Recommend It Now?: Yes. The more I learn about parenting, the more firmly I believe that a calm approach leads to happier family members all round. This is such an important message that I've bought the follow up book, ToddlerCalm, too.

The Mindful Mother by Naomi Chunilal*
When I Read This: April 2015 (39-40 weeks pregnant)
Why I Chose It: Well, largely because I was offered a free review copy. I had already bought BabyCalm and probably wouldn't have bothered with a second book on the same topic right away. That said, with the baby due any moment, advice about coping with labour was appealing.
Initial Reaction: Oh, so negative! I liked that the author was upfront about parenting being tough but, unfortunately, that was all - I didn't feel that there was any useful advice for coping with that; I thought this was too basic for people with a knowledge of mindfulness and too vague for beginners; I found the author's general "it's all on Mum and everybody else in your life is a nuisance" attitude dated and unhelpful. Generally, I felt that the author came across as extremely unhappy and that's not what you want in a book aimed at supporting new mothers, is it?!
Would I Recommend It Now?: No.

Good books for new parents

The Wonder Weeks
When I Read This: June 2015 onward (8+ weeks old)
Why I Chose It: A friend with a slightly older baby recommended it. I was still sceptical about strict timelines so I bought the app (which was about £1 at the time) rather than the full book.
Initial Reaction: The Wonder Weeks claims to tell you when your baby will be grumpy/needy and what amazing skills she's developing which are making her so irritable. I found the timing off by a couple of weeks (even allowing for it going by the due date rather than birth date) but the information about Matilda's behaviour and new abilities seemed accurate.
Would I Recommend It Now? Yes. So often, I read about the skills Matilda's about to learn and think, "No! She's miles away from doing that yet!" only for all these new abilities to suddenly appear a week or two later - I find that fascinating. It's also reassuring to have something to blame her bad days on and to be told that the next very cheerful stage is not too far ahead.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian
When I Read This: August 2015 (16+ weeks old)
Why I Chose It: A friend and I had been having a jokey conversation about babies doing yoga - a few days later, I came across this and it was too funny to pass up. Plus, it looked cute.
Initial Reaction: Kind of twee - lots of "poses" which are really just singing your baby's name or cuddling them. However I liked that the book had suggested routines for different stages (newborn, almost sitting, almost crawling etc) and, as Matilda was trying very hard to crawl at that stage, I figured we'd try a few of the strengthening poses.
Would I Recommend It Now?: Yes, I've recommended it to several friends. I've no idea whether or not it makes babies stronger but Matilda really enjoys most of the exercises - it's a fun thing to do together. The only problem I have with it is that Matilda generally falls into more than one stage (almost crawling and almost walking, for example) so I end up ignoring the suggested routines and muddling together my own - but I probably would have done that anyway.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe*
When I Read This: September 2015 (20+ weeks old)
Why I Chose It: In the hopes of getting some good tips for more eco-friendly parenting.
Initial Reaction: It was more about getting kids out into nature than I had realised - I think it will be great inspiration when Matilda's a little bit older and able to understand projects. As for the environmentally friendly aspect, it's the only book I've read which mentions that baby milk cartons can't be recycled (the main reason we use the stuff which comes in a tin) but, otherwise, there was no new information here. I actually think this would be better as two books - one for new parents (aiming to be environmentally ethical) and one for parents of older kids (who want to get outdoors more) however I did like the author's "just do what you can and don't feel too guilty about it" attitude.
Would I Recommend It Now?: For parents of slightly older kids, yes, it's got some fun ideas.

Baby Play for Every Day
When I Read This: October 2015 (5-6 months old)
Why I Chose It: Because I knew Matilda was ready for more sophisticated play but I wasn't sure what (beyond these ideas).
Initial Reaction: There's a little padding to take it up to 365 ideas, but I was reassured to see that I was already doing most of the things it suggests and I got a few good ideas from it, too.
Would I Recommend It Now?: Yes. I mean, there's always Pinterest, but if you like your inspiration in book format, too, you could do worse.

Are there any parenting books you would recommend?


*Provided by publisher or agent for review

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