Confession time. When I was pregnant with Carter, I went a little nutzo. I am one who likes to be prepared…like WAY prepared. I do NOT generally enjoy surprises, and since the pregnancy was a surprise in and of itself (ahem, we had been married about 5 minutes), I wanted to go into motherhood FULLY prepared for whatever would come my way.
(Side note: For my friends pregnant for their first babies, learn from my mistakes here. No matter WHAT you do before that baby comes, NOTHING, and I do mean NOTHING will prepare you for your life after. Just prepare to be unprepared.)
So, I read. And read. And read some more.
And then I panicked.
Everything I read contradicted something else I had read. Books would tell me to eat a high-protein diet while pregnant, but to be careful with meat because it could cause poison the baby. I would read that tightly swaddling the baby is the key to good sleep, but that swaddling could also cause hip dysplasia so it should be a loose swaddle. Keep the room dark and quiet, said one book, but use a white noise machine and turn it up LOUD said another. Rock your baby to sleep, said one, sway your baby said another, shush your baby WHILE swaying said yet another. What’s a new mama to do?! How do you know who to trust?! Oy. It’s no wonder new mamas are overwhelmed!
So, after raising two radically different babies, and reading more than 12 different parenting/sleep/baby books, I decided to share with you today which three were ACTUALLY helpful. These three applied to BOTH of my babies and are ones that I still go back to when we hit roadblocks.
Up first is my sleep bible: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (by Marc Weissbluth)
When I had Carter, I felt relatively prepared about how to care for him in terms of feeding and clothing and first aid. The thing that was a total kick in the pants for me is that I had no CLUE how to help him sleep. I didn’t know how much sleep he needed, I didn’t recognize his sleep cues, and I had no idea how to put him on a schedule. (Truthfully, I didn’t even know he needed one!) This book changed everything. I am very practical, and what I appreciated so much about this book was the way Dr. Weissbluth actually explained HOW babies sleep. Once I learned HOW babies sleep, I was able to figure out a schedule, I was able to recognize when he was tired, and we ALL started sleeping better. (And bonus – longer!) In addition, I loved how realistic he was. Not every day was the same, and he does NOT encourage a strict schedule at an unrealistic age. He recognizes that not all babies respond the same way to various nap techniques, and he offers multiple strategies to help your baby sleep based on your comfort level and baby’s personality type. I started using Dr. Weissbluth’s methods with Kate from the beginning, and by six weeks old, she slept 10-11 hours most nights. It was MAGICAL. Love this one!
My second favorite book is a child development book: “Touchpoints” by T. Berry Brazelton
This book is the one I go to when my children start doing things that drive me nuts. Or when I want to get a preview of what lovely things I can expect from my children as they get older. Dr. Brazelton has such a unique approach to child development – he explains the behaviors you are seeing from the perspective of the child. This book cultivates empathy for what your children are going through when you are frustrated by them. When my daughter started throwing tantrums at 14 months (yes, full out, on the ground hysterical tantrums at barely a year…she’s drama, y’all…) and I was about ready to drop her at the local fire station, I went to this book and read about what was going on in her world from her perspective. When I read about her struggle for autonomy and how it was so conflicted with her dependency on me, it made sense. I started looking at the tantrums differently, and I learned how to respond to them in a way that would both encourage her independence and lessen my embarrassment. I still have days where I’m ready to just quit, but this book just helps me see things through their eyes and is just amazing at explaining why babies do what they do at various ages. A must read, but one that could probably wait until your baby is here. 🙂
And, of course, gotta have a discipline book: “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood” by Jim Fay
This is hands-down my favorite book for discipline. EVER. It even scripts out various situations for you…that’s right, you can literally be a puppet. And it WORKS! I used Love & Logic techniques in my classroom as a teacher for many years, so this came somewhat naturally to me, but it is SO easy to implement and the results are phenomenal. I started using the “Uh-Oh” and time-out technique with Carter at about 18 months, and we plan to start using it with Kate soon as well. It’s amazing how those two little syllables can just strike fear in a toddler. The thing I like so much about this book is that it empowers the child to make choices and think for himself rather than just forcing him into submission. I started giving Kate little choices here and there the last few months, and y’all, she LIGHTS UP because she actually feels in control of something. I’ve started small with her – holding up two different fruit pouches, for example, and letting her choose one – but I can already tell that she’s going to love this technique as well. If you are frustrated with uncooperative children and tantrums, get your hands on this bad boy.
That’s all for today! What are some of your favorite parenting must-reads? Would love to hear!