Books for Parents-to-Be

Jeff O'Neal

CEO and co-founder

Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

Jeff O'Neal

CEO and co-founder

Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

I know approximately 700 couples who are getting ready to have kids. Or at least that’s what it seems like. Not only are they all having kids, but they also know that I a) have a kid and b) like books. As a result, I am constantly being asked about what books they should read.

I’m going to ask for your suggestions in a minute, but here are a few of the books I recommend consistently, broken down by stage.


At this stage, life is a pretty even mix of excitement and creeping dread. There’s a reason What to Expect When You’re Expecting is the go-to. It breaks things down week-by-week and month-by-month with detailed explanations of what you might feel, what you’re almost-kid is up to in there, and what to pay attention to. I found it extremely informative and weirdly comforting. WARNING: There is a chapter at the end of the book about potential problems that the authors warn you not to read until you actually have one of those problems. Listen to them. Do not think you are a tough guy and can handle scary what-if scenarios. You can’t. Don’t be a hero.



It’s all well and good to know that at 17 weeks your kid is the size of a plum and that basically the mother’s gastro-intestinal system is more screwed up than I-95 on Fourth of July weekend, but the due date approaches and there are some serious X’s and O’s to go over. As a fella, I definitely wasn’t the main attraction, but I wanted to do what I could. I read a couple of “not the mother but going to be right there” books and The Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley was the most helpful (though poorly titled. Even if you do a bang-up job, you are not “coaching” jack). The message here is basically: do what you can to help, and here are the things that tend to help the most. There is a hell of a lot more you can do than hold her hand and pass out at the first sight of blood.


So now you have a little immobile bundle of vulnerability. Your job is to make them as comfortable as possible, and one way to do that is to mimic the environment they just left. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp walks you through how to do just that with a combination of swaddling, swinging, and freakishly loud shushing (no seriously, really really loud as you can shushing. It works). Of all the books here, this one had the most direct suggestion-to-payoff ratio.



For us, getting our child to sleep well was probably our biggest parenting challenge of the first six months. There are essentially two schools of thought, which can be roughly broken down into “do whatever you can to help them sleep” and “Dammit, sometimes they have to learn on their own.” This is a bit of a hot-button topic in parenting circles, so I would suggest reading them both and deciding which one you want to start with, but be open to change. I’d go with Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth and The Baby Book by William and Marcy Sears to see the different ends of the spectrum here. There’s a much, much longer discussion about this possible, and you probably should have/read one. (Hey, I wonder if there are moms out there who blog…)


These will get you through the first six to nine months, at which point you are generally confident enough to figure things out as you go.

There are few gaps in my reading that I get questions about, so maybe you call can help me.

First, what are some good books for kids who are about to have a new sibling?

Second, are there any particularly good books about natural childbirth and hypnobirth out there? 

And what other books have you found helpful?