I’m a big reader and a big planner, so I’ve jumped into quite a few parenting books in this first year of being a mama. Some of them have made me laugh, a few have made me cry, and almost all of them have challenged me to think deeply about how we want to raise our son and any other littles that follow him.
I don’t know that there’s one book that will ever perfectly describe our parenting philosophy (and I’m sure it will constantly evolve as our family grows anyway), but these books have been essential to this whirlwind first year of being parents. I won’t vouch for every sentence of every book, but these books would easily be on my top five for new parents.
1) Parenting – Paul David Tripp
While most parenting books focus more on the practical ins and outs of raising kiddos, this book looks at God’s heart and design in giving broken, sinful kids to broken, sinful parents. Every chapter examines different aspects of God’s character and our brokenness, describing how parenting gives us a unique opportunity to love, grow, and mold our children as humans and as children of God. The truths in this book are things that will challenge me in every season of parenting, from diapers and tantrums to the school and teenage years. I have a feeling this is one we will go back to over and over for many years to come!
To be honest, I’m a little nervous to admit to loving this book and using many of its principles to raise our son. It is crazy to me that this book has been so controversial over the years and I kind of wonder if most of the haters have even read the newer editions from cover to cover. Two moms I love and trust gave me this at my baby shower and it has been essential for our settling into our new identity as parents. The main idea of this book is that children thrive on routine and predictability (something I’ve definitely seen as a teacher) and by creating eating and sleeping routines that work well with their developmental stages, we can help our kids to sleep, eat, and grow in a healthy way.
An important principle in this book is that parenting starts from day one. It’s my job as a parent to teach my babies all the skills they need for life, and teaching them to sleep is one of those things. When people hear Babywise they sometimes think of hungry babies crying for hours in the night when that’s just not reality for any of the Babwise moms I know! We get our kids on good, healthy routines so we know that their bellies are full, they’ve been loved on and played with, and at the right time according to their age and development, we put them down for naps or bedtime.
Just like my son cries when I interrupt his playing to change his diaper or don’t let him eat dog food (mean mama over here, I know), I sometimes let him fuss and protest for a few minutes when it’s time to sleep and all his other needs are met (he’s full, freshly diapered, etc). If he’s sick or fusses for more than a few minutes, I of course go in and comfort him or do whatever he needs! But otherwise, I believe 100% that letting him fuss for a bit is healthy, appropriate, and based on all the research I’ve read (and I mean research, not scary, non-academic articles or blog posts), this will not damage him neurologically in the long run. The little sleep training we’ve done has made my son into a great independent sleeper and I am so, so grateful for that!
I know it’s not for everyone, and power to all the moms who choose to cosleep, nurse to sleep, or whatever they feel is right for their babies. We all love our littles and just want what’s best for them! But if I had to give exhausted new mamas one book to help them figure out how to practically manage their baby’s days and nights, it would absolutely be this one. I think I would have gone crazy without this book and some of the Facebook groups about it that I’m a part of (shoutout to the mamas in my Babywise Winter 2016 Mamas group – you mamas are the best!).
3) Bringing Up Bebé – Pamela Druckerman
As someone who loves to travel and learn about different cultures, this book was fascinating to me! The author dives into some of the quirks and customs of French parenting and so many of the things she described resonated with me. A big idea in this book is that children are capable of much more independence and creativity than we give them credit for. A lot of the principles reminded me of Babywise (especially “The Pause” and how they get their kids to be good night sleepers!) but there were some interesting additions about how the French get their children to be adventurous eaters, be more polite socially, and lots of other things. I loved this glimpse into French parenting and definitely hope to apply a few of the principles to our raising Caleb!
4) The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding – Diane Wiessinger and Diana West
I almost feel like I’m not allowed to include this in a list with Babywise since people seem to think the two philosophies are incompatible, but reading this book before we had Caleb gave me a much better idea of what to expect with breastfeeding. The advice in this book made me feel encouraged and empowered to breastfeed, even when it was challenging in the first few weeks and has occasionally been challenging since then (like when Caleb got his first teeth and I felt like I was nursing a piranha for two weeks). Both this book and Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth made me see how natural birth and breastfeeding could work for us. These two books played a big role in our having a natural birth and in the fact that I am still breastfeeding my son at the one year mark with no signs of stopping!
5) Parenting With Love And Logic – Foster Cline And Jim Fay
As Caleb gets older and starts to do not-s0-fun things like throwing his food off the high-chair or fighting diaper changes, we’re starting to think about how we want to teach Caleb good attitudes and behaviors. Even though we don’t agree with every single principle in this book, we love that it emphasizes helping kids to make their own decisions and take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions, whether they’re positive or negative. As teachers, Jordan and I both got so frustrated with kids who couldn’t make their own decisions and face the consequences of their actions so it’s important to us that we instill these things in our kiddos from a young age. I’m sure books along this line will grow in importance as we enter the toddler years, but for now, I love the foundation for discipline that this book provides.
I already have a new list of books related to motherhood and parenting to read in the upcoming months, but these are a few of my favorites from this past year. I wish I could give copies of each of these to every new mama and daddy!
What parenting books helped shape your first year as parents? I’d love to add them to my list!