Monday, January 23, 2012

Best Baby Books (Updated Jan 2012)

I used What to Expect When You're Expecting* almost exclusively. It contained all the information I needed. My husband and I especially enjoyed reading the weekly installments about baby's development. It was a good resource to look up my concerns without having to call the doctor. Lots of people claim this book is alarmist, but I didn't think so. I just chose to skip over places that got too heavy. I would use this again, but will probably also invest in a new book for my second pregnancy because the novelty has worn off and in hopes of getting new information. Worth having a copy at home, try to borrow from a friend or relative.

I also looked at The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, but only on line. It was very helpful while we were trying to conceive. I read the section on early pregnancy symptoms many times while at work.

Generally Baby Info:
Since I liked the pregnancy book, I mostly used What to Expect the First Year* as my baby info book. It was particularly useful the first month or so when we had lots of question. Knowing there as a section on calming a crying baby helped calm my anxieties. As the months went on, we used this book less and less, but it really was invaluable in the beginning when we read everything about baby acne, cluster feeding, bathing, birthmarks, and poop. As time wore on, the most important parts for us were the monthly milestones to help us see that Natalie was progressing well. Every chapter or two had useful information, such as sections on games to play, language development, discipline, and feeding solids. At the end of the book, there was a good section on becoming a mother, but I read it too late. I also missed the section on seasonal information which contained answers to questions like how cold is too cold for the baby's bedroom? Worth having a copy at home, try borrowing from a friend or relative, or put on a baby registry.

I read Baby 411 when Natalie was about six months old. This book is organized by topics (like sleep, feeding, poop, etc) rather than month. I liked that set up for a reference book for when you want to look something up quickly. At the time I read it, I knew a lot of the information from What to Expect, my home visitor, the doctor, or other on line reading. But, this would make an excellent general baby info book instead of What to Expect. Most useful for me were the sleep and discipline sections, but other sections would have been useful if I'd read it early. The authors' opinions are stronger than What to Expect, which caused me some worry about some of the things we were doing with Natalie, but not enough to change what we were doing. This lack of flexibility might be harder to swallow for a new mom those first few weeks.

Super Baby Food I read most of when William was about 5 months old.  This book has a wealth of information.  There is tons and tons of information about nutrition including recipes for simple and complex baby and toddler foods.  There is even an appendix highlighting some of the staple fruits and vegetables.  But, there is more!  Lots of craft and homemade, money saver ideas.  While I enjoyed reading about a lot of the information, it came with a lot of guilt.  Natalie does not eat as well as this book says she should.  Hell, Mike and I don't eat that well.  Following the diet presented here would take a lot of effort.  Its really intended for natural-food-store types.  However, the average parent can still walk away with a lot of ideas.  For example, it teaches you how to make your own homemade baby food and how to freeze it for the fruits and vegetables you would otherwise buy.  (That is the information in which I was most interested).  But there are many other ideas and recipes that can be easily done or modified, with out going all out. 

Neither of general info books I liked had enough information about nursing.

My favorite nursing book is Breastfeeding Made Simple. I read this when Natalie as about 4 weeks old and we were having some struggles with nursing. This book really helped me to understand how breastfeeding works including milk production and hormone involvement. The biggest problem I was having at the time was Natalie was trying to suck her hands instead of latching on, and we both were getting very frustrated. This book gave me several ways to approach the problem, and we went with swaddling, and it worked great. This book also didn't have a single photograph of football hold nursing, so I took that as a sign that maybe we should switch to cradle hold. In hindsight, I know that change made a big impact since Natalie wasn't getting the support she needed and neither was I. Worth purchasing.

I also read The Breastfeeding Book by William Sears, but read it when Natalie was about 7 months old. It didn't provide me with too much new information, but it would be a good source of information for starting nursing. I disliked how this book felt more like a pamphlet, but that might be appealing to those who just want a quick answer as opposed to the comfort and confidence I got from Breastfeeding Made Simple. This book contained little info on older babies, which was a let down for me at the time. The annoying nursing behaviors it did cover (such as biting and various other baby abuses while at the breast), were depicted as part of the territory and to try to laugh it off.

I read about half of The Nursing Mother's Companion before Natalie was born. It was like a dense textbook with lots of information, so it is a good read for those looking for "just the facts, ma'am." While a wealth of information, this book isn't much a confidence builder as it deals so much with numbered lists, figures, and potential problems. However, this book did give a cross section of the breast which was pivotal to my understanding of why a proper latch is so important.

I read two books on weaning: The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning and How Weaning Happens.

The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning taught me a lot of interesting information about nursing in general, but learned pretty much nothing that helped me wean. I read the chapter on weaning 1-2 year olds because that was Natalie's age. More than half of the chapter discussed the reasons you may want to wean, but I felt that more often than not, the book was giving ways to wait to wean. While that's reassuring for women who aren't sure if they should wean, it isn't helpful if you have made up your mind and are looking for advice. The section on how to actually wean was pretty intuitive. There were four methods for gradual weaning: substitution, distraction, postponement, and shortening sessions. There were also methods for abrupt weaning, but all of them were pretty harsh. It mostly talked about women who are still co-sleeping and nursing all night or who nurse many times during the day. The author was behind nursing to sleep and against thumb sucking, both opinions I disagree with. While we used to nurse Natalie to sleep, I was very glad when she gradually learned to drop off to sleep by herself and her thumb sucking was a huge part of that. So, this book wasn't very useful to me for the purpose I checked it out. However, I went back and read the first chapter about nursing through history in the Western world. That was interesting. The things we've put poor babies through! No wonder death rates used to be so much higher. Most shocking to me was the idea that babies should be underfed!

I was not expecting to like How Weaning Happens, especially after being disappointed by The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning. I envisioned a lot of guilt when I saw it was a La Leche League book. But, I was surprised. After feeling a little unsettled that all the stories of weaning children were of much older, I really got on board with the book. I was supported by how the way we have been weaning seemed to follow what is suggested for a positive weaning experience. I was also happy to see that although the book discusses nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing, it was very supportive of the choice not to do these things. I can't say that I learned a lot from this book per se, but it did get me thinking a lot about nursing and weaning. In the end, it left me feeling supported in my choices about weaning thus far. I'd also recommend this book because it was overall very readable and thorough. I enjoyed the stories directly from other mothers. My only annoyance with it was how frequently the La Leche League was said to have provided so much support; it just got a bit redundant and felt like advertising. Might be worth purchasing if you are struggling with weaning, otherwise its a short read and you could probably make due with taking it out of a library.

I am currently reading What to Expect the Toddler Years. It is very hit or miss for our needs and I don't find myself rushing to read the new chapter each month. I regret having bought it. Instead, I'd recommend borrowing it every few months and skimming it for the info that relates to your child. I've found the organization a little frustrating because info I need isn't always in the right monthly chapter or is organized else where in a different section. We look at the monthly milestones most often. Not worth purchasing; borrow it from a friend or reference it at a library.

I really enjoyed Your One Year Old. Some of the advice I had heard before, but it wasn't so much the advice that I liked. I liked hearing information about what to expect about Natalie's development and behavior. The information about why she will act and feel in a certain why was the most interesting and insightful. This books covers: independence and mobility, language development, personality, sense of self, thinking and learning, feelings and emotions (with a separate chapter on fears), behavior (which included discipline), and relationships. As you can see, its very comprehensive and by the end you get a good sense of what it is like to be a one year old, so that you can react accordingly. The writing style is good, too. Often parenting books are too cutesy or try to be funny. This one is straightforward without being boring or too technical. Its broken up into lots of subheadings, which helps make it easy to readYour Two Year Old was just as good as the one for the previous year. 

No Cry Sleep Solutions for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley was a whim read since we've been blessed so far with an easy sleeper. Several things made me like this book. The writing style was easy to read and the information was broken up into organized chapters and sections. This made it easy to follow and also easy to skim. Another feature I liked was how it was broken into three sections: general sleep info, 8 tips for everyone, and then trouble shooting. Again, that made it easy to figure out what you needed to read and what could be skimmed. As far as the advice goes, this one was easy for me to like because we already do a lot of what it suggested (bed time routine, sleeping at the best times, light blocking curtains, etc). We differ on a few big points (mainly TV and diet), but nothing that made me feel we need to change how we do things. But, if we did run into trouble later, or with our second child, I would come back to this source quickly. There was lots of varied advice in the trouble shooting section, which is great because only one method doesn't give you much room to work with if it isn't right for you or your family. All the adorable pictures of kids sleeping dotted throughout didn't hurt either. I had read part of her baby book with a very similar title (No Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night) back when Natalie was about six weeks old, but didn't get far because 1) things evened out on their own and 2) there isn't too much you can do about a six weeks old's sleep. I'd go back to though if our second child had sleep problems as a baby.

For potty training books, I will write a new post soon.

I'll also work on a list of education related books, such as The Hurried Child, Raising Bookworms, and The Homework Myth.

Click here to go to my post on books about having a second child. 

I read about a third of The Happiest Baby on the Block shortly before Natalie was born. Knowing the five S's to sooth a baby was helpful, but we never returned to this because she did not have colic and was generally a low-key baby. Its good to know that this book is around just in case your little one does have colic or has a fussy disposition. I'm currently reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block, but I'm not buying into it as much. Some of the techniques make a lot of sense, but others I'm not sure I could make part of our every day life. More to come when I'm finished and have thought more about implementing the ideas. In general though, Harvey Karp's writing is easy to read and well organized so you can get right to what you want to know.

I read a book called Wonder Weeks, which discuss the developmental leaps babies make and the fussy periods that come with them. As time went on, the information departed from our actual experiences more and more, but reading the lists of new skills Natalie could be working on every couple months was very interesting and exciting. It gave insight into how Natalie's view of the world was constantly changing in tremendous ways. Each section also gave toys and games to play that helped her try out her new skills. However, it was repetitive and the anecdotes of mother's annoyed with their babies' fussiness got annoying at times.

Baby Bargains, written by the same people as Baby 411, is a great read for before baby comes. In fact, its really something you should get soon after learning you;re pregnant. It breaks down all the baby gear on the market and helps you decide what you need and where you can get it for a good price. Very useful for first time parents with little-to-no baby experience. Borrow this one because once you read it once, you won't have much use for it.

The Supernanny's book (Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children)was a bit of a disappointment for me. I really like her show, but her book tried to cover too much. You could keep it around as a resource to reference when you encounter new problems, but it isn't a cover to cover read and it doesn't provide in-depth advice. You'd be much better suited looking for a book that specializes on the problem you having with discipline, toilet training, breast feeding, or sleep.

Even though its not a book, I'd like to mention my subscription to Parenting magazine, early years edition. Every issue has at least one article I'm interested in and often when I look back in the magazine rack, I see an article in an older issue I'm now ready for.

*Make sure you get the more recent editions of the What to Expect books. My parents are big yard salers and, with the best intentions, they tried to give me older editions of these books. The original editions are 1984 and 1989 respectively and a lot has changed since then!

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