adventures in intentional parenting: books for the first six months


A few weeks ago, my friend Brandi said something about how Mike and I are trying to be intentional with our parenting. The phrase has been knocking around in my head ever since. I like it. It’s way better than saying that I overthink everything, and it’s a topic that I would like to revisit from time to time as we talk about the ways that we learn and grow as a family. I thought I’d kick off those thoughts by sharing some books that have helped us during the first six months. I recommend these titles unless stated otherwise.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott I had read this before, but I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as I did when I read it in January. Mike bought it for me as a maternity leave gift, and I found so much of myself in its pages. Is there anyone who is more honest about the frustrations and joys of parenting a baby? Thank goodness for this book. Takeaway: This motherhood thing is hard, but I am not the only one who has ever felt that way.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp This was the only book I read about babies before having a baby. Dr. Karp essentially believes that babies come out before they are fully cooked, and that they need another “trimester” to grow. Because of that, he recommends doing the 5 S’s with babies – swaddling, swinging, shushing, side/stomach, sucking. Holy Moses, Atticus loved this stuff. Especially the swaddling and the white noise. But also swinging and sucking. Okay, all of it. I highly highly recommend this book for new parents. Along with a Miracle Blanket and a CD of white noise. Takeaway: This simple, straightforward book saved our sanity and I highly recommend it.

You: Raising Your Child by Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz My mom checked this out of the library the week after Atticus was born, and it was helpful to flip through it as I was nursing him the first few weeks. This is not a perfect book. The organization is scattered, and it wasn’t always clear to me when it was addressing babies vs. addressing older kids. But it has a light and easy tone, which was extremely encouraging to me at the time, and it’s not militant about anything. For an overview book, it was a decent one. Takeaway: This is a good book to flip through, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing. Anybody got a good recommendation for an overview sort of book like this?

The Wonder Weeks by Frans X. Plooij and Hetty Vanderijt When babies are learning new things, their brains are in overdrive, which makes them fussier. This book helps predict when those periods are going to be and explains what they are learning. It has been a huge relief to us to look at it and see the kinds of things that Atticus is learning and also to see that his fussy periods (like the one the entire week we were at the beach) are totally normal. It also gives activities to do with your child to help stimulate brain development, which is helpful if you are like us and have no idea what to do with a baby. Takeaway: When Atticus has a few fussy days, it might be good to consider if he’s been learning a lot and to check in with The Wonder Weeks. (The takeaway really should be that I’m ahead of him in the book and know when something is coming, but, let’s face it, that probably won’t happen.)

The No-Cry Sleep Solution and The No-Cry Nap Solution by Elizabeth Pantley We are not crying-it-out with Atticus. I read some things about how harmful that can be to the brain (an overview of some of those thoughts can be found here), and I might not be the most maternal lady on the planet, but I do feel pretty strongly that it’s important to meet Atticus’s needs as best as I can. So I got these books about sleep. It turned out that The No-Cry Sleep Solution was not as helpful to me as I thought, because Atticus has been going down at night without crying since soon after he came home from the hospital. However, I still recommend the book, because the things it advocates are things that we were doing. I guess we are just that smart. Kidding! I think he’s just a good sleeper, and the fact that I am a little bit older and had been paying attention to all my friends’ kids also probably helped. Right now we are working on napping without swaddling, and The No-Cry Nap Solution has been helpful. The best thing about these books is that they emphasize that something is only a problem if you think it is. If you want to cosleep or rock your baby to sleep, she is all for that. But if you want something to change, she has strategies to help you. Takeaway: It is possible for us to be the kind of parents that we would like while also getting sleep.

I also read Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth. It helped me understand the importance of sleep and do my best to protect Atticus’s sleep, but I can’t recommend it because his ultimate answer for every sleep issue/question is to let the baby cry, and I am not comfortable with that. After that one, I checked out a whole lot of sleep books from the library and then made myself a little crazy. So Mike cut me off. But trust me when I say that I have looked into pretty much everything our public library has to say about sleeping.

Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett I talked about Baby-Led Weaning here, and Atticus has been enjoying the process very much. We did not start solids until six months because of the recommendations of the authors and the WHO. I have been happy that we purchased the book, because it was nice to have it on hand, and we have referred to it several times in the past month. Takeaway: We are enjoying watching Atticus learn independence as he eats, and we hope we are starting him on a healthy journey with food.

Because it might be a question: I did not read any books on breastfeeding, but the Kellymom website was an invaluable resource for me.

What books do you recommend to new moms? Anything specifically for working moms? Because I didn’t manage to find anything.

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  1. I wish I was a writer and really smart because I would totally write a book on how to be a working mom. That market is totally untapped. I have been looking for resources and ideas and books and my search is coming up pretty dry. As I’ve told you before, I’m going to be starting a fellowship group for working moms and I was just looking for ideas for discussion starters and such. Can’t find a thing. It’s super frustrating.

    But thanks for the list. As I’m doing it again, I’ll probably need to take a look at some of those. We lucked out the first time with our strategy of “wing it” and use the advice of friends. I doubt we will be so lucky this time.

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  2. brandi

    I already had a couple of these (Happiest Baby, Baby-Led Weaning) on my registry thanks to you. Just added the others you found helpful. Is it going to be weird when my kid has the exact same childhood as yours because I just copied everything you did? No? Ok. Cool.

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  3. i love your list. *high five* I’d also add, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (while not paying attention to the spiritual/new-age aspect of the book), the birth book, Whole Foods for Babies and Toddlers, pretty much anything as-needed by the Sears family, The Baby Book (I went to this one many times to check things about fevers, sickness, milestones, etc.), and The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers. I might have to list my very favorite as being Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. Even if someone is not “planning” on nursing past day 365 of a child’s out-of-utero life, it is absolutely mind-blowing with the medical (but in plan terms) and historical and cultural aspect of nursing a child past 12 months of age. If I had not already been 100% on board with nursing past 1 year, this would have absolutely convinced me to keep going.

    as for books I haven’t read but have heard great things about, anything on the La Leche League reading list, & Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple., and Adventures in Tandem Nursing (if ever applicable to anyone, which includes nursing during subsequent pregnancies).

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  4. just asked for you on FB at Mississippi Breastfeeding Med. Clinic, LLC for working mother suggestions… you go: Nursing Mother, Working Mother, by Gale Pryor (I think she’s an attorney); Milk Memos, by . . . two moms that work for IBM; Hirkani’s Daughters, published by LLLI

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  5. and….don’t think this is lame, but Fertility Awareness Method. …because its something I believe in anyway, and it has good information regarding things that happen to you, hormonally, postpartum and when breastfeeding, etc. Very helpful.

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  6. and, as far as online resources, I have also loved the FB pages for Mississippi Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic, Lakeshore Medical Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic, Dr. Jen 4 Kids, BestforBabes….they have some great notes/links, etc. There are a ton, actually, that I love. Those are probably my faves, though.

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  7. (good info for pumping/working moms, too.)

    Posted 7/28/2011 at | Permalink
  8. I just finished reading Operating Instructions this week and loved it. I’m a pretty big Lamott fan, even though I don’t always agree with her opinions. I just love her candor.

    I liked the No-Cry Sleep Solution as well. It helped us formulate a routine with our little guy, and he does sleep great now, overnight and naps! :~)

    Posted 7/29/2011 at | Permalink
  9. for any military moms, check out the book, Breastfeeding In Combat Boots

    Posted 7/29/2011 at | Permalink
  10. @Tracey: We should write one ourselves.

    @brandi: Mike is really against trying to marry Atticus off early. But think how fun holidays would be. Especially if they had the same childhood.

    @dena: Thanks for the resources!

    @HannahBG: I wish we could get some of your nap mojo. Hopefully we are getting there.

    Posted 7/29/2011 at | Permalink
  11. Kari –
    You know I LOVE that concept of intentional parenting. That’s the perfect word for it. What an opportunity to introduce them to life.

    P.S. – I also love that you’re still you — reading — even with a brand new baby. That’s one of my greatest fears, that I’ll no longer be able to read after children, so it’s good to know it can be done.

    Posted 7/29/2011 at | Permalink
  12. Cassandra stafford

    Because of my previously mentioned self-help book addiction, I tended to only read books that made me feel I was doing everything wrong. I never had such good book luck to find ones that bolstered my parenting confidence. I read so many different opinions I usually stayed stressed out. I was also much younger but still…glad to see how you’re doing. If I had it to do over…I would have enjoyed my first one so much more and not tortured myself so much. I love the baby led weaning idea…sounds much more natural.
    On another note…I just finished the Help. Trying to read The Time Travelers Wife…just don’t get it. It’s too scattered. But I bought it and hate to waste the money. And HP book 4 is still waiting for me so why am I reading other stuff????

    Posted 7/30/2011 at | Permalink
  13. susan

    I love when people love The Happiest Baby on the Block and it actually, you know, WORKS. It totally makes all that time I spent teaching all my newborn mommies the 5S’s worth it :).

    Posted 8/1/2011 at | Permalink
  14. Kristal

    I found a great book called Spilled Milk by Andy Steiner (she’s a girl Andy) that really let me off the hook and helped me relax. I read a lot of books before that that left me feeling like I must be doing it wrong, but Spilled Milk introduced the idea that maybe I was doing the best I could and that it was fine. There really is no “perfect way” to mother–you do what you decide is best and ignore all other voices that insist their way is “best” or “more godly” or “the right way”.

    Posted 8/1/2011 at | Permalink

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