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Good books: Mommy edition

April 25, 2013

I shared some “good books” just a few days ago, but I couldn’t resist doing a “mommy edition” after seeing this skit from Portlandia. (If you haven’t watched the show, it’s kind of amazing.)

The skit is a great send up of crazy, anxious parents who buy way too many parenting books. It struck a chord with me because I was one of those crazy, anxious book-buying parents for the first few months of J’s life. He was a terrible sleeper and I was determined to research him to sleep by purchasing every book on the market that had the words “sleep through the night” on the cover. It took me awhile to realize that I should (as the baby in the skit implores) trust my instincts — and just be patient. J learned to sleep in his own time. He’s still a bit of an erratic sleeper, but I’m happy to report that I haven’t purchased a parenting book in quite some time.

That said, a few parenting books were helpful to me, as a first-time mom. These are all books that don’t tout a specific parenting philosophy. They provide information without being too prescriptive — letting parents read, absorb, and decide for themselves.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

This seminal guide to sleep was written by Chicago pediatrician and sleep expert Marc Weissbluth in 1999 and updated in recent years. It is a well-researched guide that provides information about how babies and children sleep at every stage, and multiple suggested strategies to dealing with sleep, depending on your child’s needs. I found it a little difficult to read — a bit scientific and not at all conversational — but it gives you all the info you’ll ever need on sleep. For some Cliff’s Notes, check out this interview with the Chicago Magazine.

What to Expect the First Year 

Many new moms will be familiar with this franchise because they own a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the book on pregnancy. The easy to follow Q&A and helpful information continue — about everything from sleep to feeding to doctor’s visits. You name it, and it’s in this book, all in the same knowledgable, everything’s-okay-so-don’t-freak-out tone of the first book.

Happiest Baby on the Block

Ironically, this is the first book featured in the Portlandia skit. It’s a short guide on calming fussy newborns through swaddling and white noise. It’s helpful mainly because it’s so counterintuitive. This is one place where instincts might take a new parent astray. Wrapping your screaming baby like a burrito is probably not the first strategy that comes to mind. But it works. So do other seemingly crazy things like turning on a hairdryer to calm a crying infant. It’s a quick read. The short DVD might even be better, especially for bleary-eyed new parents.

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