I need to start this post with a disclaimer. No amount of reading will prepare you for the first months of motherhood. I’m someone who likes to prepare, who does my research, who prefers to know what I’m getting into. And in my experience, the only way to ‘prepare’ for motherhood is to learn on the job.
That being said, there are some books that I found useful as I navigated the first six months of keeping (myself and) my little human alive, well, and happy. They cover three general areas: food, sleep, and love. Of course, there’s a lot more to motherhood than that, but I found these three areas often crop up in conversations. ‘Is my baby getting enough milk?’; ‘Breastfeeding is hard!’; ‘Is she sleeping through the night yet?’; ‘Is she too clingy?’; ‘She needs to learn independence.’ Before you know it, your head’s spinning and you start to question yourself and your good intentions. Sound familiar? Read on.
Here’s another disclaimer before we get into the books: everyone has their own parenting style and the best advice I received is to decide what works for your family and stick to it. There’s so much conflicting advice out there. It drove me absolutely crazy for the first few months! The Internet is a wonderful but dangerous place for new mothers. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has facts and science and studies to prove their opinions. Debates get heated. Sometimes they get ugly. Once you know what works for you, drown out the noise. It will save you tons of emotional energy.
These books are particularly helpful for breastfeeding moms. I don’t necessarily agree with or implement every strategy/ suggestion proposed in these books, but for the most part they complemented my parenting-style. These books became my go-to when I had questions and helped me avoid the black hole of Internet forums and sifting through articles for anxiety-ridden hours. As I’ve said, people have different parenting approaches, and that’s okay. These are the books that worked for me.
1. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
This book is a very informative go-to guide for breastfeeding moms. I actually didn’t have this book from the start, and I think it would’ve helped me in the early weeks, and even during my pregnancy, since it addresses many questions you might have even before your babe arrives. It covers latching and attaching, what to expect during the different ages and stages of breastfeeding, pumping, weaning, questions and issues, and so much more! Breastfeeding can be a rewarding journey, but it’s hard, especially in the beginning. It’s doubly hard if you don’t have support, or if you and your baby have a rough start. If you want to breastfeed, this is a worthwhile read, but I’d also like to encourage you to join a support group. I joined my local La Leche League group and even though we can’t meet up during the pandemic, the online meetings and support from this group has been more valuable than any book.
2. Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International
Another one from La Leche League and a great companion to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Let’s face it, the lack of sleep is something all parents struggle with at some point and it’s such a hot topic for discussion. Even random strangers will often ask me: ‘How’s she sleeping for you?’ The Internet is overflowing with advice, methods, and suggestions about infant sleep. It can all feel overwhelming and, frankly, a little exhausting. I found a lot of the advice was not helpful for a breastfeeding-family and it shook my confidence. I was so thankful for a book that took a different view. You should know upfront: this book advocates safe bed-sharing for breastfeeding moms. If that’s not your thing, that’s okay, it’s not for every family. But if you’re an uncover co-sleeper, or a breastfeeding mom who is desperate to get more sleep, or if you’re falling asleep with your baby and panicking about it, then this book has some practical advice. It’s a comprehensive read and goes into safe-sleep science, sleep-training concerns, baby sleep habits, and attachment parenting.
3. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Phillipa Perry
It struck me one day while I was preparing for my daughter’s arrival: The birth and the breastfeeding and the first year… This is only the beginning! This baby will grow into a toddler, the toddler into a child, the child into a teenager… And as ridiculous as it sounds, I realised with a shock that I need to think about the type of parent I want to be!
I listened to the audiobook version of The Book You Wished Your Parents Had Read… before my daughter’s birth and it’s one that I will revisit. The book’s focus is on building a long-lasting relationship with your child based on good communication, a concept that appealed to me, and Perry is an advocate of attachment-parenting.
There’s a lot of information to take in, so I listened to the book chapter by chapter to give myself enough time to reflect on each section. Berry aims to steer clear of advice and ‘parenting hacks’, as she calls them, and focuses on long term goals. She challenges you as a parent to do a lot of introspection and to evaluate your values and beliefs. This can be uncomfortable and frustrating at times, so be forewarned that this is not a book you can consume passively. I had many ‘aha’ moments even before my daughter’s birth and that’s one of the reasons I’ll reread it in the future. My understanding of certain concepts shifted even after only a few months of parenthood, and I believe they will keep evolving as I journey through life with my daughter.
I will say this: the focus of the book is very specific. It’s about relationships and communication, and it doesn’t address all of the factors that influence a relationship with a child. Here’s a review from someone who was not pleased with this approach.
I don’t think it’s realistic to incorporate everything into one book; you’ll only end up with an encyclopaedia on parenting or a book with a diluted message. So, be honest with yourself upfront about what you are aiming to get from a book like this. Like every book on parenting, you are bound to disagree on some points but there’s still value in the bits that work for you. For another overview of the book, have a look at this review.
These are the three books that got me through the first six months! These books, lots of love and support from family and friends, my fantastic husband, and of course, the smiles and cuddles from my daughter. Even though books can’t solve every parenting problem, I hope you find this list useful.
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