A dear sweet friend with the cutest mini-bump of a first pregnancy asked me recently for some recommended reading. You know, on babies and what to do with them once they show up and not screwing them up and stuff.
My first reaction (in my head, where all first reactions belong, no?) was to tell her not to worry about the books. Save your money and buy cheeseburgers while you’re pregnant, or save it for a few more months and buy lattes when you’re wandering around town pushing a stroller and trolling for friends. I wanted to tell her not to worry about the reading, just to get her sweet, sweet sleep while she still can. I wanted to tell her to spend the next few months drinking milkshakes and the few months after that sniffing her baby’s head and that the rest will take care of itself.
This would have been completely hypocritical because I am a HUGE consumer of books, articles, blogs and information about kids and parenting. I have been this way since the thought of getting pregnant first crossed my mind and I continue to have an insatiable appetite for parenting-related written words. So who am I to tell someone not to read up on the co-sleeping debates and the breastfeeding politics and the napping and feeding schedules and the swaddling techniques and the who knows what else they’ve invented in the last couple of years since I most recently got knocked up?
Of course she should read up. It helps pass the time and beats counting kicks and makes you feel like you have some iota of control over what’s about to happen. I get it. I did it. I still do it. But now I’m charged with recommending some books and blogs and the like and I find myself hesitating. Does endorsing a book or expert mean I subscribe to every piece of the philosophy or everything that person has written? (NO.) If I re-read the books that were helpful to me a few years ago would I still recommend them knowing what I know now? (Maybe. Maybe not.)
Part of ‘reading up’ on becoming a parent – especially with all the stuff that relates to the first year (and by all the stuff I mean eating and sleeping because that’s pretty much it, but WHOA can you read a lot of stuff about those two things) – is figuring out what books and methods jive with your instincts and which don’t. It’s downloading a whole bunch of information, letting it steep in your own brief and bleary but surprisingly wise personal experience, and making decisions through a blend of the two with – hopefully – a dash of peer-to-peer coaching from some invaluable mom friends. Sometimes it means tossing out nearly all of what you read and sometimes it means clinging to one book’s tenets with your last thread of sanity, but either way it’s impossible to separate the book from the reader from the mom from the baby. So it’s hard for me to recommend a book without a major cellophane-wrapped disclaimer saying: read this and then do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT and it will ALL BE OKAY.
And after all this I still think there are books and ideas out there worth exploring, and I’m flattered to be the one to get someone started on the path of figuring out what feels right to her. So without further ado (because a six-paragraph caveat/disclaimer is enough, right?), here is my recommended reading for new mamas:
Books (in no particular order)
:: What to Expect The First Year*
:: Happiest Baby on the Block (Karp)
:: The Baby Book (Sears)
:: The Attachment Parenting Book (Sears)
:: The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well & Wake Up Happy (West)**
:: The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World (Linn)
:: Positive Discipline (Nelson)
* The What to Expect books sometimes get a bad rap … I do not think they are the be-all and end-all by any means, but it was helpful for me to have a big, encyclopedic book in which I could quickly look things up … I actually think it’s nice to have TWO (The Baby Book was my alternate source).
** I heard West speak in person which is how I discovered this book. She’s kind of a B-list sleep guru (not as well-known as the others) but the approach sat right with me and worked.
:: Babble (a ton of blogs under the larger umbrella of their website)
:: NY Times Motherlode
:: Aha! Parenting
:: Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech – I love the ladies behind these sites (theoretically, in the virtual world, that is – I don’t actually know them)
* See comment above re What to Expect; a good, general resource and a place to start
** My personal favorite bloggers are listed here, but the road to discovering them was random and wandering and they won’t necessarily become your favorites. Twitter is a great way to start following parenting websites and writers because it’s super easy to follow/unfollow (less commitment than signing up to receive blogs by email and less work than remembering to check your favorite websites) and scan headlines before clicking longer links. The link above goes to the list of people I follow on Twitter.
:: Local magazines (mine is Raising Arizona Kids)
:: Local mom-centered websites/blogs (mine is Scottsdale Moms Blog)
:: Brain, Child magazine – I have a subscription and it’s fabulous if you’re nerdy and literary like me
This is why people should not ask me for advice. My over-thinking knows no bounds… Happy reading, friend!