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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