Becoming Brilliant, Bringing up Boys, Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Heading Home With Your Newborn, Healthy Sleep Habits/Happy Child, How Babies Talk, Loving Our Kids on Purpose, The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, Touchpoints, What Mothers Do, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Your Pregnancy and Childbirth
I know that no book can ever prepare you for what pregnancy and parenthood is really like, but I gave it my best shot. Here are the books that I read cover-to-cover or just thumbed through and my opinion on their helpfulness.
The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine
This book was passed on to me from my sister-in-law, and I LOVED it. I read it cover-to-cover, occasionally roaring with laughter and trying to explain what was so funny to my husband through my tears and gasps. In addition to being funny, the information was straightforward, well organized, and presented the nasty details with honesty and a calm assurance that you’re not going insane. This is a book that I will definitely give to any girlfriends who have a happy announcement. For your reading pleasure, the paragraph that got the biggest laugh out of me: “A pregnant woman’s hunger is no moderate or simple hankering. It is a hunger so ferocious that if the car isn’t parked in front of some food-selling source within thirty seconds, the hapless (Baby Daddy) will find himself face-to-face with a sobbing woman who is tearing through the glove compartment trying to find the peppermint candy she picked up at the car wash a month ago.”
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff
As it says on the cover, this is the #1 bestselling pregnancy book. I had a copy that I got from my sister, but I didn’t do much more that glance through it and occasionally look up a specific topic. At one of my first meetings with my midwife, she advised not reading it because it dwells so much on everything that can go wrong, and that always scares her patients. I’m not one to let someone scare me away from a book, so I went through it anyway. It was detailed and had a lot of good information, but the layout wasn’t as helpful to me as the next book on this list.
Your Pregnancy and Childbirth, by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
This book was lent to me by my sister. I didn’t read it cover-to-cover at one go, but I probably read most of it throughout the pregnancy, and I went back frequently to look up specific issues. Everything was broken up really well into monthly segments and presented more clearly and helpfully than What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I eagerly read each new section every couple of weeks to see how big my baby was and learn about what body parts and organs he was developing. AMAZING to read about. AMAZING to feel that life inside of you and know that it’s a little human in there, getting ready for life on the outside.
Heading Home with Your Newborn, by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu
This book was given to us by our second pediatrician at our first appointment when our son was two weeks old. His first appointment was the day after coming home from the hospital with the pediatrician we had initially chosen, and after a less-than-stellar experience we decided to switch doctors right away. Several of the pregnancy books had recommended meeting with doctors before the baby was born, and I wish I had followed that advice. Still, I’m so glad we made the switch as soon as we felt uncomfortable. This book was GREAT, and I wished I had had it earlier to better prepare. Everything was practical, encouraging, and didn’t assume that the reader knew anything about babies. It’s a whole new world when you’re suddenly alone in the car with your new family and leaving the support of the hospital behind, and this book was like having a helpful nurse coach you through the care of your fragile (and still surprisingly strong) infant. It was an easy read, and I read it cover-to-cover and occasionally went back to reference a topic.
Touchpoints, by T. Berry Brazelton
This book was given to me by my sister-in-law, and was the most helpful in preparing for a new infant. Every time an issue came up, I would say to my husband, “The book says….” This was THE book. I read it cover-to-cover before the baby was born, and I’ve been re-reading every section as our son reaches different ages and milestones. The most helpful takeaway lesson I learned is that there’s always a reason for the fussiness, crying, or general noncooperation. The trick is to find that reason, and know ahead of time what issues might be approaching so that I can be prepared for them instead of caught unawares in a stressful moment. What I really like about Dr. Brazelton is how he recognizes that babies are individual people with stresses and needs. It’s obvious how much he loves children and how he respects their boundaries and encourages their development. It’s like having a trusted pediatrician in your home.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth
This book was recommended by a friend after I sent out a mass text asking all of my mama friends how their experience with sleep training had gone. I got a lot of great suggestions and a mountain of empathy and support. “It’s awful,” they all said, “but it’s worth it.” The takeaway from this book was: YOUR BABY NEEDS MORE SLEEP THAN HE IS GETTING. Not napping? Put him to bed earlier. Waking up at night? Put him to bed earlier. It goes against logic, but sleep begets sleep. The first night we put him to bed two hours earlier. He screamed for two hours, but he’s been sleeping 12 hours a night ever since. The book is pretty dense, and it’s not one you can read in one go, but it’s a wonderful reference that I will keep coming back to when sleep problems arise in the future.
Loving Our Kids on Purpose, by Danny Silk
This book was given as a birthday gift to my husband from his youngest sister. I know he told his family years ago that he wasn’t interested in receiving any religious self-help books, so I wasn’t surprised that this book went straight to the shelf, where it was of course picked up by my voracious book-loving fingers. I got off to a slow start, even describing it as ‘floofy,’ but by the end the pages were dyed orange from all of my highlighter markings and my husband had gotten an earful about what I was learning. It’s geared more towards older children and teenagers, and references a lot of lessons from what I believe is a lecture series and several books called Love and Logic. I am anxious to pursue them further. The takeaway nugget is to approach misbehavior and disrespect with love, calmness, and creativity. As I laid down the book I said to my husband, “I’ve read a lot of books on parenting and childcare, and I think they’re all important and helpful, but out of all of them, this is the ONE BOOK I would want you to read.”
Becoming Brilliant, by Roberta M. Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek
This book and the next two on the list were given to us by a friend of my husband, whose mother is one of the authors. I thought it got off to an irritating start. There are six ‘Cs’ that make for a brilliant child (Collaboration, Communication, Content, Critical Thinking, Creative Innovation, and Confidence,) and while I don’t disagree that those are all important, my irritation came from the constant reference to ‘the Cs.’ Did you ever see Little Miss Sunshine? Greg Kinnear’s character keeps going on and on about his seven steps to success. My takeaways were 1.) Make sure your kid has human interactions, doesn’t get too much screen time and plays outside. (I could have told you that.) and 2.) Think about the needs of a 21st century job market and what skills your child will need to be successful. Robots, self-driving cars—there are a lot of things that we never experienced as children that will be a reality for my son. Maybe even a virtual reality. (I never thought of that.)
How Babies Talk, by Roberta M. Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek
I’m fascinated by language and language acquisition, so this book hooked me right from the start and remained my favorite of the three. The most interesting thing I’ve learned so far is that babies can distinguish the difference between the language their mother speaks and other languages IN THE WOMB. This is more of a ‘background’ book – the things I learn here won’t really make that big of a difference in my parenting style. There are some things you can do to encourage a larger vocabulary, but nothing I wasn’t already doing by instinct. Babies are going to learn their own language whether you are deliberate or not.
Einstein Never Used Flashcards, by Roberta M. Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek
I rate this book second in the Hirsh-Pasek/Golinkoff author pairing. There were some interesting studies and results, but the book could have been 200 pages shorter because the conclusions and advice were always the same. To sum up, don’t waste your money on items that will teach your children to regurgitate facts. Let them play. I was never on board with the Baby Einstein programs in any case, so reading this book won’t change my parenting style at all, but it does give me permission to be guilt free about letting my son play without worrying about cramming facts into his head to give him a head start in kindergarten. The best things we can do with our kids is talk to them, play with them, read to them, and model what it means to be a good human.
What Mothers Do (Especially When it Looks Like Nothing), by Naomi Stadlen
I found this book very empowering and reassuring. I think it’s geared more towards the stay-at-home mom, but there is a lot to be gleaned for all mothers. Sometimes as a full-time mom I feel like I don’t have anything to show for my day. There are accomplishments I can point to like a dish-free sink, a pile of folded laundry, or a weeded garden. If these visible tasks aren’t completed, it’s hard to explain just what I ‘did’ all day. It’s hard to identify the caresses, the cheek kisses, the owie soothing, diapers changed, swings in the rocking chair, or the encouraging smiles that come together as millions of small things I am ‘doing’ for my son. The book had a lot of quotes from mothers sharing their fears, and it was a relief to see that my fears are shared by every mother. This is a book I’ll be passing on to friends.
Bring up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson