There is no greater, more overwhelming, exciting, and anxiety-inducing experience on this earth than becoming a parent. While of course, it is the most wonderful thing (Your family is growing! You’re bringing new life into the world! You’re giving a child a safe and loving home!), it can, of course, be a little bit intimidating. After all, how do you ever feel completely prepared? Spoiler alert: You can’t. But you can at least take action to feel slightly more so.
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It’s true—parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. As someone who had absolutely zero exposure to babies or children of any age before becoming a mother myself, I’d very much wished there had been one. But while there may not be a single how-to guide that works for everyone, there are several books on the subject—from pregnancy guides to books on parenting teens—and reading a few books can go a long way in helping you navigate the joys (and—let’s be real—the challenges) to come.
The good news: There are a lot of great parenting books out there. The truthful news: You most likely won’t have time to read them all. If you’re looking for a highlight reel of parenting books, these are some of the best.
Best Pregnancy Books for First-Time Parents
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
OK, you had to know this would be at the top of the list, right? It is the “pregnancy Bible”. When I was pregnant for the first time, this book had a permanent home on my nightstand. I loved reading about how my baby was developing in the womb alongside how I, myself, was developing during this unique phase in life. It’s legitimately a must-purchase and one you’ll come back to again and again throughout your pregnancy.
While I’ve not personally read this book, I absolutely adored Crib Sheet (mentioned in the next section) and Oster’s commitment to supplying parents with unbiased data. This pregnancy book is a popular choice among expecting mothers and is one I’ll certainly be reaching for, should I ever find myself pregnant again. Some topics Oster covers in this book include analyzing the generally accepted dietary restrictions advised to pregnant women (think cutting alcohol and cold cuts), overviewing data-based risks and benefits to gaining more than the typically recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, a snapshot of statistics related to miscarriage, preterm birth, labor, and so much more. And in case you’re wondering, no, you don’t need to be a data scientist to enjoy Oster’s books—her writing is down to earth and often, IMHO, hilarious.
Best Parenting Books for First-Time Parents
The Montessori Baby
I’m a huge fan of The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies and can only imagine this book offers the same wonderful reading experience. The Montessori Method is an incredibly popular methodology for teaching your children to be independent, curious, and confident. Pick this book up if you want to begin fostering those qualities in your little human right from the get-go.
The Happiest Baby on the Block
Another tried and true baby bible. I haven’t personally read this book by Dr. Harvey Karp—American pediatrician and inventor of the beloved SNOO Smart Bassinet—but it’s adored by many. Just read the reviews! When sleep is every baby parent’s top priority, it’s safe to say your time spent reading won’t be time wasted.
The Montessori Toddler
To say the toddler years are challenging would be a very severe understatement. Reading “The Montessori Toddler” helped me reframe my perspective on toddlerhood so that I could be more appreciative of this formative phase. It’s also currently helping me help my children to make the most of these years. I love how this book breaks down the Montessori Method, making it digestible and approachable, encouraging readers to begin incorporating the teachings and activities into everyday life. I can’t recommend it enough as reference material that you’ll reach for whenever you need a little toddler-parent encouragement.
There are some modern “rules” that many parents feel pressured to abide by. For example, “breast is best,” or the idea that baby-led weaning is the only proper way to expose your child to solid foods. As a person who appreciates data (and an unashamed formula feeder), I could not get enough of this book—it made me feel so seen and so validated in some of my parenting decisions to date (Yep, I also feed them jarred baby food). If you’re looking to compare modern methodologies to more traditional practices or use research to guide some of your parenting decisions, then add this book to your TBR list.
What to Expect the First Year
Yay, the baby is here! Now what? In my humble opinion, this companion book is just as critical as its more popular sibling What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and one of the best parenting books there is. Chock-full of helpful tips for helping your baby navigate each development milestone, it is an invaluable resource. There is also an entire section devoted to breastfeeding, for those who are interested and eager in pursuing that feeding method.
The Wonder Weeks
Despite having a severe aversion to downloading apps, I am a huge advocate for “The Wonder Weeks” app and the knowledge it gives parents related to understanding infant development. Whether it’s via the app or book, I highly recommend every first-time parent digest the content provided via The Wonder Weeks. Learning about your baby’s “leaps” can change your life—helping you to effectively understand your baby’s development and panic a lot less when your happy cooing baby suddenly starts crying a lot more or experiences a sleep regression.
The Whole-Brain Child
If properly nurturing your child’s development is top of mind (which, for most of us, it is), then don’t hesitate to pick up a copy of The Whole-Brain Child, which—in a nutshell—includes “twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children.” As a toddler mom who is all too familiar with meltdowns, I’m personally sold.
Oh Crap! Potty Training
Believe it or not (I almost don’t believe it myself), I actually really enjoyed this book on potty training. It was often humorous but—more than that—it was a really interesting journey into the psychology behind potty training. If you have no idea where to even begin when it comes to potty training (or are super committed and want to follow this method for getting your child potty trained in a matter of days), then this book is for you.
Funny Books for First-Time Parents
Bringing Up Bébé
I read this book during my first pregnancy and found myself laughing out loud more than once. Druckerman is nothing short of a truly spectacular writer and draws her readers in with her self-deprecating anecdotes and astute observations on European parenting. Upon reading this book, I discovered that the parenting methodology I had in mind for my child (now children) was very much aligned with that of the French. This book helped me identify the themes I was interested in honing in on and find inspiration from the people in Druckerman’s story.
There Are Moms Way Worse Than You
You don’t get to be an Amazon bestseller for nothing. If the title is anything to go on, this book is noted by the site’s reviewers as being “hilarious” and the “perfect gift for an anxious first-time parent that needs a laugh.” By it for yourself as a pick-me-up or gift it to a new mom at a baby shower.
Best Baby Books for First-Time Parents
The Story of You: Baby’s First Five Years
I purchased this baby book for my daughter and it brings me joy every time I open it. The quality is superb and so many components of the book are customizable (for example, you can choose which “first holidays” to include). The pages are also spacious, with plenty of room for journaling or adding photographs. The gender-neutral design also makes it a wonderful baby shower gift for first-time parents.
I ordered this pregnancy journal twice (one for each child) and enjoyed filling it out dutifully while I was expecting. The design of the book is elegant and the monthly sections are thorough without being overwhelming. One day, I look forward to gifting these journals to my children so that they will have a memento of what it was like for their parents in their earliest days of life, eagerly awaiting their arrival.
Letters to You
When it comes to baby shower books, you can’t go wrong with a letters-to-baby journal. This journal allows for long-form writing, encouraging parents to write their thoughts, stories, and greatest memories as they watch their child grow.
Best Career Books for First-Time Parents
The Fifth Trimester
I legitimately wanted to quit my job after my first child was born. Everyone talks about how difficult the fourth trimester is, but no one mentions the fifth. The thought of leaving my baby at daycare while I went back to work was agonizing. This book saved my career and my sanity. A much-needed guide for professional moms everywhere, “The Fifth Trimester” is the perfect combination of practical how-tos (i.e.: How to feel professionally put together when you’re sleep-deprived and none of your clothes fit) and comfort (No, you’re not alone. Going back to work is tough—here are how other women have handled it).
The description of this book has me hooked. A book for moms and dads alike, this book is comprehensive, drafted for parents of children of all ages, and meets professionals at different points in their careers. As noted in its description, reach for this book if you’d like to “feel more capable, calm, and in control.” Excuse me while I add to cart.