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6 Parenting Books That Don’t Suck

Bookstore shelves and online shopping sites are bursting with parenting books. There are books about sleep and books about solids and books about development. Books by moms, books by doctors, and books by impressive people with Ivy League degrees. Serious books, opinionated books, and books that try to be funny with varying degrees of success.

A small selection of parenting books

Despite the wide variety of parental reading material available, there’s one thing most of these books have in common: they’re not very good. It’s no surprise that many moms I know have given up parenting books altogether – we have too little free time to waste it reading something mediocre!

As a victim of a good number of parenting books that, quite frankly, sucked, I can sympathize. But don’t give up hope! There are some amazing books for parents out there – well-written nonfiction that will teach you something new rather than restating the obvious or confusing you with contradictions.
Here are six of them:

The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life

Written by a researcher who has made a career of studying babies, this incredible book explores the inner life of infants and toddlers. What is it like to be a baby? How do babies view morality, empathy, judgment, and more? And what does all of this mean for us adults? This book is so fascinating that I skipped precious sleep during Lana’s newborn phase just to finish it. If you’re looking to really understand your baby as a person, read this.

Brain Rules for Baby

Brain science may sound scarily difficult, but Brain Rules for Baby is extremely readable and often funny (the author often incorporates anecdotes about his own two kiddos and other stories to illustrate his points). This book looks at the role of the first few years of life in building intelligence, laying a foundation for happiness, and supporting moral development. It’s a great mix of explanations of how your baby works and clear practical suggestions for parents to follow.

Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year (or Toddler 411 if your babe is older)

This is the only “how-to” book on my list. It stands out from the crowd as a comprehensive and reliable reference. If you have a question about anything baby/toddler, it will be in this book, and you can trust that what you read is accurate. (Having seen popular books sharing information that is misleading or just plain wrong, accuracy is not something I take for granted anymore!)

Recommended by my OB as “the one parenting book I’ve seen that’s not worthless”, the 411 series is co-written by a doctor and a mom, which brings a refreshingly informed and relevant perspective. What’s that rash? Is this poop normal? How many solids should she be eating at 8 months? What milestones should be reached by 9 months? How does one discipline a baby? If your mommy friends and Facebook groups are giving you contradictory or confusing advice, you’ll appreciate having this reference to fall back on!

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three

If you can get past the author’s holier-than-thou attitude, this is actually the best practical guide I’ve found for implementing Montessori principles in the home with your baby or toddler. There are many Montessori books out there, but most either describe the philosophy without getting into practical details or focus on older kids. This book explains your baby’s development and how to support it in a Montessori-minded fashion.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Have you ever read a book, gotten super-excited about it, planned to totally incorporate all of the author’s suggestions into your daily routine…and then totally forgot about it? That’s not going to happen here. The Whole-Brain Child is one of the best books I’ve read and quite possibly the most well-organized. It comes with concise summaries of each key point and even crib notes to put on your fridge.

Most people categorize parenting experiences into two buckets: the highs, when all goes well and kiddo is happy and you can have magical teachable moments, and the lows, when kiddo is screaming and you’re just trying to survive. This book shows you how to turn the low points into the teachable moments – to get through them with your sanity intact and help your kid’s development along the way. On the agenda: tantrums, stubbornness, fear of the new, social challenges, and more. It’s probably best to read when your little graduates to toddlerhood so you can begin applying some of the strategies right away.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

This book isn’t about babies; rather, it explores modern parenthood in America. When we have a kid, we spend a lot of time thinking about things like sleep, solids, and schools, which doesn’t leave much time to think about the impact parenthood has on us. Why are we so stressed? How is society molding our parenting in ways that we haven’t even noticed? Can we have more fun while being the kind of parents we want to be? This is a great read that will get you thinking about yourself for a change and – just maybe – help make your parenting journey a bit easier.

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