Recently, I have been searching for the best baby books for new parents that I could find. The first year of a baby’s life is a whirlwind, and there are some fantastic books to read before (or after) you start raising a tiny human. Here are eight titles to help you enjoy the massive changes coming your way as a new parent and raise your family in the best way that only you can.
Maybe your family of origin isn’t the one you want to emulate, or maybe it is. We all come to parenting books from different backgrounds, and I think we can all gain from others’ perspectives.
A lot of parenting books — no surprise — assume the reader is a cis woman and biological mother who has an involved husband, an extensive support network made up of generous fairy-godneighbors, and enough money to outsource just about anything and everything she can think of. If that’s you, awesome. If it’s not, I’ve tried to include a few more options that acknowledge that you might be different from this (very narrow, very confining) view of parenthood.
As always, I wish there were more authors writing from diverse perspectives of all kinds (including those I haven’t even thought of yet), so I just want to lend my voice to others who have said we need diverse books. And not just in children’s books, but in ALL BOOKS. The parenting genre is still dominated by a particular (white, cisgender, straight, wealthy) point of view. Thank you for letting me get on my soapbox.
And now, on to some choices that I hope will help you feel less alone as a parent or caregiver of a tiny human.
Why Did No One Tell Me This?: The Doulas’ (Honest) Guide for Expectant Parents by Natalia Hailes and Ash Spivak
Written by two doulas, this baby book for new parents is organized around a pretty common set of topics: listening to your (pregnant) self, learning about what a gestating human can do, considering birth scenarios, and postpartum questions. Check it out and see how their advice lands for you.
For a different take on new motherhood, you could try Kelly Rowland’s Whoa, Baby: A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened). I realize she’s not a regular mom, but at least she mentions pooping after having a baby and hemorrhoids. That’s some realistic (pun very much intended) shit for you.
You’ll Be a Wonderful Parent: Advice and Encouragement for Rainbow Families of All Kinds by Jasper Peach
Jasper Peach is a trans, nonbinary, disabled parent, and their book is a collection of encouragement that I think so many new parents could benefit from. I really identified with how Peach said that once they started trying to have a baby with their wife, they looked at humans with awe. “Every single person was born! They all had parents! Why is nobody stopping and exclaiming in wonder about this situation every day?” If you’re feeling that magic or want to, read this book.
Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year: The Essential Guide to What Matters Most, from Sleeping and Feeding to Development and Play by Sharon Mazel
This baby book for new parents takes a more visual and smaller-scale approach that works whether you’re chronically sleep-deprived or not. The nice thing is that Mazel offers you different ways to see what is (most likely) happening each month for your tiny human. First, she starts with a visual summary, and then she explains some of what you can expect and keep in mind for the particular month she focuses on. You can read this from cover to cover or dip in and out as needed.
Sleep is an important and fraught topic for many. For me, this is one of the more practical guides I stumbled across, and I found it helpful. I hope you will, too, but if you don’t, just remember: the most useful sleep advice is whatever doesn’t reduce literally everyone in the household to uncontrollable sobbing. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is a known torture technique, and new parents should bear that firmly in mind when they go through it themselves. It is so exhausting to try to get a tiny (or not so tiny) human to sleep on a regular basis that people have written books like Go the F- to Sleep, and we all know that they were not being melodramatic in the least. May your sleep be long, deep, and uninterrupted as often as possible, my fellow parenting humans.
The Montessori Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Nurturing Your Baby with Love, Respect, and Understanding by Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike
To be honest, I’m a little leery of approaches that promise to be the best possible fit for all. However, The Montessori Baby will strike a chord with many parents, particularly with their emphasis on letting go of our expectations for our children and letting them lead the way toward what they are most drawn to. The authors also emphasize some things that will be familiar to those interested in Montessori, like the concept of an “absorbent mind” and how “human tendencies” guide how babies and children interact with their home and the others around them. If this speaks to you, you will find practical suggestions on how to prepare your home and yourself to receive your new tiny human and begin raising them with a gentle, baby-guided approach.
What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler by Nicole M. Avena, PhD
I know there are a lot of common questions and dilemmas that arise when you’re trying to feed a tiny human, and those seem to only grow bigger with passing months. Full disclosure: I did not make my own organic, locally sourced, perfectly balanced baby food linked to the seasons, and I don’t think anyone else has to either. However, you may want a guide to think over some of the big questions about feeding your little one, so here is one to turn to for guidance. I appreciate that Dr. Avena has a note about not worrying too much about past choices (either as a gestating human or for your little human outside the womb) but to instead focus on the adjustments you can make now that could be beneficial.
Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks From the Parenting Trenches by Hillary Frank
This is one of the best baby books out there for new parents because it has tiny vignettes of things parents have tried and found strangely effective. As I remember, being super sleep-deprived also made thinking of possible solutions to any problem — crying, feeding, diapering, or whatever — nearly impossible. These little snippets seemed like they might be especially valuable during the first year. They also provide some offbeat solutions that will at least make you feel better when you realize you may not be the only one who has to sing like an injured dinosaur (or whatever) to get your baby to sleep longer than a few minutes.
Very Intentional Parenting: Awakening the Empowered Parent Within by Destini Ann Davis
Davis’s approach emphasizes the parent perspective and encourages adults to look at themselves first when trying to establish a good role in their tiny human’s life. She starts out with the one person you can control: yourself. She also gives practical advice on how to focus on what you need to become a better parent. I particularly like that she focuses on intentions since that is also one of the few things that parents (and heck, all people!) can really control.
If you need a break from the best baby books for new parents out there, read a few good picture books like LGBTQ parents just being parents or the best new children’s books of November. Like everyone says, that first year can feel like a blur, so don’t worry too much if it isn’t perfect. If you’re up for more, learn to encourage elementary-age readers because, seriously, you’ll be there before you know it!