Q&A: Five books for parents

Mireille tweets:

"What 5 books would you recommend to a new parent? And do you have any "mom" blog suggestions? Thank you!!"

Good question. I often half-jokingly say that you should either read all the parenting books or none of the parenting books, because the likelihood that your specific child will happen to match up with the philosophy in any one book is slim. But that really just means that I think people will feel better if they avoid books that tell them what to do, and instead stick to books that tell them what's probably going to happen and present them with options.

In that vein, the book I recommend for pregnancy is The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon. (Full disclosure: Erica taught my newborn prep class, and also my sibling prep class when I was expecting my second child.) What I love about this book is that it covers all the different stuff that can happen during birth in an even-handed way, so you can find out what the real deal is with homebirth, schedueld c-sections, emergency c-sections, epidurals, etc. and not be treated like a moron or a criminal for wanting to know. It's also the only birth book I've seen that has truly useful stuff for partners (like how to figure out during labor if you need more support even if you can't talk).

Now, for the 5 books I recommend for new parents:

1. The book I'm writing. (You know I had to say it.) Now that my exams for this semester are over (thankfully!) I'm kicking it into high gear so it will be available before we all know it.

2. Either Your Baby & Child by Penelope Leach or The Mother Of All Baby Books by Ann Douglas. You probably want one of these day-by-day guides to eating, pooping, sleeping, etc., but you want one that's mostly descriptive and not so prescriptive. Both of these will tell you what you need to know without guilt-tripping or telling you you're holding the baby too much or too little, etc. And they both provide a sense that your child eventually will grow out of whatever it is that's going on now, so there's a little hopefulness, too.

3. The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van der Rijt and Frans Plooij. This explains when your baby hits mental and emotional developmental spurts, and therefore why they're crying more or not sleeping as much. The feedback I get on this book is always something like "It made me know I wasn't nuts" or "I'm not worried there's something wrong with my baby anymore" or "It was freaky how dead on the book was." They also have an iPhone app you can download if you want the weeks without the narrative.

4. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott. The book is just so real about what it's like having a newborn. Her story is kind of crazy, and if you're a big fan of George H.W. Bush you'll need to turn your head a few times, but I go back to the story of the futon every time I do something inadvertantly bad to my kids STILL now even though mine are 10 and 7. Also perfect for reading in the middle of the night while feeding a baby.

5. The other books I really love are not for babies, per se. So I'll give the number 5 spot on this list to either Haim Ginott's Between Parent and Child, which will help you stay in a team-based frame of mind with your child (which can be very hard during that first year), or NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, which will help you start to look at the things we all assume are true about having kids and be a little skeptical.

And now for the momblogs. Well, I don't know, as I don't have new babies anymore, so I tend to read things about older kids. What do you all read about new parenthood that you think are helpful and encouraging? Extra points for funny but not dogmatic.