On… the best baby books

This is a post about baby books. So, if you are baby-free, then WOO! Don’t bother to read this, instead, put on something inappropriate and go have a stiff drink right now.

If you’re pregnant, come on in, take a seat, I’ll bring you a snack in just a moment.

And if you are a dude, you are probably my husband or my Dad. Hi guys.

Okay. There are a million ways to be a mother.

But there are only two ways to be a mother-to-be.

First: women who geek out and read everything as though there’s an exam coming, highlight the most important parts for their partners to read, and even type up and print notes summarizing the best tips (I did this, yep, don’t judge me) (actually, go ahead, judge me, I don’t mind, I would if I were you, too). We ask every mother friend for as much advice as possible (and while we’re here, thank you to all my friends for their awesome advice, thank you thank you thank you). We wash and iron all the baby clothes by the time we’re eight months pregnant and rearrange them every second day from then on. We watch swaddling videos on YouTube and practice on soft toys. We have five colic cures, ready to go, just in case, even though we’re not sure colic is really a thing, because you know, it might not be. We have excel spreadsheets. Like four of them.

Secondly: mothers-to-be who have a see-no-evil approach, make a point of reading nothing, say things like ‘how hard can it be? It’s just a baby!’ and then lose their shit when a baby turns up, and don’t sleep or shower or eat for like five months.

I was a bit of both. I was in a bad mood for the first six months of pregnancy and refused to read anything at all. Then I started reading, became obsessed with being The Most Prepared Mother In The History Of The Motherfucking World™, and now am rabidly pro-geek. Research makes everything easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think 98% of baby books are useless. Maybe it’s the illusion of controlling the unimaginable that makes it easier. Or maybe it’s just that immersing yourself in stories about babies makes it easier. Most of the books are nothing more than tale after tale about other people’s babies, and somewhere along the way, you pick shit up. I don’t know. Why am I still debating this with myself? This is not the point of this post.

The point is, babies are funny and silly and awesome and damn good company and not actually hard at all, as long as you’re prepared. These books are practical and brilliant. They will prepare you.

The Happiest Baby On The Block by US pediatrician Dr Harvey Karp.

This book teaches you how to calm your baby. End of story. Oh my God, I love this book. We didn’t actually discover it till about three or four weeks in, when teeny tiny cashew-nut-sized Errol was having seriously bad witching hour screaming fits, and the tips for calming a fussy baby worked so easily, and so fast, that we almost passed out with joy. Thanks to this book, Errol just stopped crying. Just stopped. I don’t know any parent who did his five Ss for whom it did not work. My mother-in-law came to stay with us soon after and kept saying ‘He hasn’t cried once!’ and we were all smug like ‘yah, we’re totally awesome’. We’re not totally awesome. The book is totally awesome. (His book about toddlers is also brilliant, by the way, as is this lovely book, but we’re not talking about toddlers, we’re talking about babies.)

Baby Secrets by British supernanny Jo Tantum.

This book teaches you how to teach your baby to sleep. (And yep, apparently they need to be taught; in the womb they’re in a sort of drugged-up perma-haze.) This book is AMAZING. The easy, gentle, flexible way to get your baby to sleep through the night. It’s all about counting wake time, not sleep time, and making sure your baby never gets overtired or overhungry. I could go into specific, routine-by-routine detail about why it’s better than ol’ bitchface Gina Ford or Babywise or anyone else, but I’d bore the shit out of you. Just trust me.

The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins.

This book teaches you how to breastfeed. I’m totally breastapo. I wish I wasn’t, as those militant udder-flashing hippies feeding their seven-year-olds on the cover of Newsweek are so awful, but I can’t help it.  I worried about finding breastfeeding impossible and traumatic, as some of my friends have (When Boobs Just Won’t Play Ball), and so I read as much as I could on it. Breastfeeding is not like turning on a tap, and even with all my geeking out beforehand, I found it difficult and needed extra help from a lactation consultant in hospital. This book was recommended by one of my favorite people for kind and wise mothering information and all-round-fun, Joanna, she also wrote an excellent and useful post about breastfeeding here, by the way.

Other useful websites are Kellymom and AskMoxie and MyBabySleepGuide– I still constantly refer to all of them. (See above re: geekdom.)

I hope that helps. I’m going to go back and read these books all over again now, in the hope that they help with the arrival of my second baby in a couple of months. Maybe they won’t. Maybe – probably – this baby will be totally different to Errol, maybe he’ll be a sleepless screaming hellspawn who comes out saying ‘SAY GOODBYE TO SANITY MOTHER’ and my blithe ‘darling it’s so easy this is ALL YOU NEED’ attitude will bite me in the ass. We’ll find out.

I wrote this post ages ago but kept putting off posting it as you know, it’s a fairly audience-specific post. I keep imagining 26-year-old me reading it and being like ‘BORINGGGGG, where the fuck are my fags can we have a drink now please?’ But I keep sending these tips to pregnant friends who ask me about books, or talking about them in great detail with newly-babied-up friends, so why the devil not, hmm?

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2 thoughts on “On… the best baby books

  1. Liliana

    I also loved The Nursing Mother’s Companion, recommended by Jo (which is how I found your blog). I watched the Happiest Baby…. video, is that cheating? I’m totally going to get Baby Secrets, thanks for the recommendation. My first one slept pretty good on his own, but I keep worrying #2 ( due in Sept) won’t. Xo


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