Like many others, I have read a ton of baby -related books and some were more useful than others. Everybody is looking for a manual how to operate this little being, but the truth is that there is no one way that works. That\s why there are so many books and why the market is always looking for yet another one that will solve even more problems.
The books I was looking for were:
- Research-backed: science based
- Not taking parents as stupid (I have actually received a book about pregnancy as a gift, which was basically only “Relax, take care of yourself, eat healthy, do not smoke” stuff. Who in the hell does not already know this? Tell me something I do not know!), but actually contain useful information I would not have come up myself.
- Does not try to scare or create problems that do not exist, but actually provide quick and easy solutions to those problems.
Here are some that I read and liked, for all stages from thinking about pregnancy til 1 year old:
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan
This is the book that truly changed my opinion about how difficult it is to have kids. Before I had kids, the only things I heard was how hard it was. How much responsibility. You have no life. No fun. You fight with your partner until you get divorced. They are unpredictable. They can turn out to be truly evil – it is like a lottery ticket, where only a few win and the majority lose.
The thesis of this book is basically that this is not true. Majority of personality traits and success factors of a child is decided by genetics. Thus if you like yourself and choose a good partner, it is a very very high chance you will like your kids too. They will turn out fine even if you do not play Mozart to pregnant belly, do not sign them up for each after-class activity, sometimes get angry at them and let them watch too much TV. They will still turn out similar to you. The only the you truly can change is how good their childhood memories will be. Thus, having children is, in fact, about having fun with them!
I loved this book. It is based on twin studies, many many of them and thus, scored well for me on the first checkpoint. But at the same time, it is well written and easy to read. I read it in two days and soon after decided it may not be that bad to have kids… 14 months later I gave birth to my first daughter.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin and Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin is a leading American midwife and her focus is on natural birth. That means, she sees it as a natural process that women are capable of (as well as breastfeeding), but also one that requires specific knowledge that nowadays is often lost. Instead, many women get medicated birth because they simply do not know what to expect, lose trust in their capability to do it and then need a lot of assistance, which in turn means additional side effects.
I have experienced it myself during my first birth and actually feel sorry I did not have more knowledge in how different perception of the birth can be (e.g. the intervals between contractions do not have to be two min for you to be in active labor etc.). My second birth was really good specifically because I used the knowledge from the book and trusted in my own ability to manage the process.
The breastfeeding book is probably even better. I was actually advised by my own midwife that I should focus on getting knowledge about breastfeeding, not birth. After all, the latter one only lasts 1-2 days, while breastfeeding is meant to work for months. I was really happy I got Ina’s book on this. It is very informative, evidence based and focuses on solutions. It is amazing how difficult and complex breastfeeding actually is and I do believe that every expecting woman would benefit of reading this and understanding how the process works.
I will not say that I looooved Ina’s books. They are a bit “too hippy” for my liking. They contain a lot of personal stories, which I do not care for. I read for knowledge and research, do not seek for this personal touch. But I can see how for others it helps to relate. I see this a lot in American books and believe that it is something the editors ask for. So, I just ignore it and skip these parts, which means each book actually becomes only half as big.
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
This book has a short usage time, but is very solution oriented and I definitely did use the tips provided in it.
The book focuses on the first three months and babies that cry really a lot (i.e. colic), but the tips are universal for understanding and calming any unhappy baby. The main thesis is that human babies are born 3 months too early (as otherwise they could not be born as their heads would be too large). Therefore, many of them have hard time adapting the the new environment, esp. in the culture like ours, where it is expected that babies sleep separately, are not held and breastfed all the time, but that new parents have time to do millions of other things. According to doctor Karp, the cultures where babies are carried and breastfed all day long and are sleeping next to mother all night long do not ever experience colic.
It is an interesting thesis and I do not know how true it is, but sounds quite likely for me. However, the best about the book is:
a)explanation of what to expect (when babies cry the most, when crying generally stops, what it means and how it develops)
b)tips on how to calm a crying baby and how to make them cry less. These really do work when done correctly! My second baby cries quite a lot and is not so easy to calm down. However, following the tips from this book worked every time. The only problem is that they are not very sustainable (e.g. the movement one), but it is also explained how to phase them out with time.
Just like Ina May’s books, this one is full of personal stories, which I find useless, but others probably like.
I think that best of all about this book is that it explains that babies just cry. It is normal. They will stop eventually.This too shall pass.
The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Van de Rijt, Frans Plooij
The Wonder Weeks is another book, which helps to go through difficult periods of babyhood. It explains the “Tiger jumps” – periods when babies are suddenly unhappy, react to everything in a sensitive way and then suddenly start gaining a lot of new skills.
It is generally hard to understand a baby as they see the world so differently and have so many things to learn. Just to see the colours, understand cause and effect, understand that things do not disappear when they are out of sight etc. is something they need a lot of effort to learn. Interesting thing is that this learning does not come in a continuous, steady growth curve, but sudden, large jumps. Not sure why nature decided to do it this way, but this means that during the jumps babies are not so easy to understand, do not eat and sleep so well and most likely, get out of the normal rhythm.
I have actually just started following the development and have not read the book to the end. But so far (up to 12 weeks) it matches pretty well. Besides the descriptions of what the babies learn at the specific time, the book also provides the information on how to help them develop specific skills during each of these periods and what new skills to expect during the next. Of course, it also contains tons of small personal stories, which I happily ignore 🙂