Any mother will tell you, there’s no real way to prepare for motherhood. As a mother to a toddler myself, I tend to agree with this sentiment, but I also think there are things we can do to arm ourselves with knowledge, support, and advice. There are classes to take online or in person, we can talk to our friends who are mothers, and we can do our research. For me, that looks like reading parenting books ranging from pregnancy, to taking care of a newborn to potty training.
These days, there are books for every phase of your child’s life, as well as books that will benefit the entire family. From discipline and specific behavioral topics to practical action steps for keeping the entire family as happy as possible, there’s a book (or a few) for that.
Does reading how to manage a toddler’s tantrum mean I’m going to be a perfect mother and always respond appropriately? Unlikely. But it does arm me with helpful hints and new ideas. At the very least, reading books about the various stages of motherhood reminds me I’m not alone in whatever issue has me struggling. There is a wealth of knowledge out there from other mothers, psychologists, pediatricians, doctors, and other experts that can prepare us for the milestones ahead. We can do ourselves a favor by diving into this knowledge and preparing ourselves as much as possible.
I started my journey into motherhood books with the classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and since then have explored a variety of other topics. I checked in with my fellow editors at The Everymom and below we’re sharing a robust list of the best parenting books for every stage of parenthood.
What to Expect When You're Expecting
This is a classic pregnancy book that stands the test of time for a reason. It's practical, to the point, and an easy read during the 40 weeks of pregnancy.
As an economist and mother, Emily Oster takes a data-driven approach to elements of pregnancy. She dives into the data so you as the reader can make the best and most informed decision for yourself. Oster also wrote Cribsheet, which covers the early years of parenting and her third book, Family Firm, came out in Summer 2021.
The Pregnancy Countdown Book
This book is great for those who can only manage a bit of reading a day. Each page is devoted to a day in your pregnancy and offers quick tips and anecdotes related to that point in your pregnancy. Easy, peasy!
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
The Mayo Clinic is the go-to for all things related to medical advice, and their pregnancy guide is no different. This book is great to have on hand for more in-depth answers to your burning pregnancy questions, especially if you appreciate a gentle, yet factual, approach.
Real Food for Pregnancy
There's lots of nutrition advice for pregnancy floating around and it can be hard to know what's right for you. The old belief that you should be "eating for two" is out the window, and this book shares how to fuel your pregnancy in a healthy way. This book is particularly relevant for readers interested in nutrition and wellness.
The Expectant Father
This book is a bonus for all of the dads-to-be in your life. This practical guide to new fatherhood is easy to read and offers insight on the emotional, financial, and physical effects of fatherhood on men. It emphasizes the importance of being an active parent—beginning from pregnancy—and gives sound advice on how fathers can support their partners through pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.
Baby Parenting Books
The Happiest Baby on the Block
Dr. Harvey Karp is world-renowned for his famous "5 S's" philosophy, and this book breaks down exactly what those are and how you can use them to help your newborn adjust into their new environment. Dr. Karp offers his latest insight on safe baby sleep, breastfeeding, swaddling, and bed sharing, making this a one-stop for all things sleep-related.
The Wonder Weeks
This week-by-week guide to your baby's behavior is the one you'll turn to those nights when your sweet babe is at the peak of fussiness. It'll give you perspective on what your baby is going through in their mental development and how they're seeing their world at their current stage. It won't stop the fuss, but it may just give you peace of mind.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
Tracy Hogg, affectionately known as "the baby whisperer," offers practical advice for new parents centering around routine-setting and getting to know your baby. She advocates for a middle-of-the-road parenting style, making this an accessible read for new parents.
Baby 411 offers practical answers to all the questions you have about how to take care of a baby. Of course, all the advice won't be suitable for every parent or child, but it's great book to have on hand to refer to before calling your pediatrician for the tenth time that day.
The Sh!t No One Tells You
Real talk can sometimes be rare in the world of parenting, and that can lead to us feeling very alone when confronted by the realities of daily parenting. This book is peppered with honest, hilarious, and very real anecdotes from moms and dads who aren't afraid to tell it like it is.
Latch: A Handbook for Breastfeeding with Confidence at Every Stage
Breastfeeding, in general, can be one of the harder things to tackle as a new mom, if that's something you choose to do. This guide is different from the others in that focuses on building a nursing relationship that is healthy for YOU, regardless of outside-world chatter.
Brain Rules for Baby
Brain Rules For Baby is another book that considers actual brain development of children in conjunction with how most people parent. The book is really approachable—the author makes his points using smart and funny stories, so it reads easy. You’ll learn things like nature vs. nurture, why impulse control is more important than intelligence, and how your parenting decisions will affect your child within the first five years of their life.
Work. Pump. Repeat.
The anticipation of going back to work is something many new mothers struggle with. The practicality of parenting, nursing, and working can be overwhelming. This book offers some of the basics you need to survive working motherhood while breastfeeding in a completely non-judgmental way.
The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby
Thankfully we've started talking more about how to manage the challenges of the fourth trimester, and this book goes to the next stage, navigating going back to work after having a baby. If you're planning to return to work, this is a must.
Bringing Up Bébé
This book is famous for having sparked a national debate on parenting, but what it offers is a real look at how parenting is approached in another part of the world. It'll give you a new perspective on parenting, and if you're pregnant, serve as a guide of what you do or do not want to do in the future.
Toddler Parenting Books
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
Parenting expert Janet Lansbury shares a collection of her articles covering common toddler behavior issues and how to parent around those in a responsible and respectful manner. If you're unsure how to approach punishment, cooperation, boundaries, hitting, and more, this book may have just the advice you're looking for.
Oh Crap! Potty Training
I'm not yet at the potty training phase, but have this bookmarked for the future as I've heard many fellow moms have had great success following this training guide.
Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
This clinically-proven five-week program helps parents manage their household without yelling or doling out empty threats.
The Whole-Brain Child
In The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson explain exactly how a child’s mind works—and where all of those tantrums come from—in a way that is completely accessible. The authors go on to give you super simple solutions and strategies on how to deal with daily struggles in a way that promotes healthy emotional and cognitive growth in your children (while also saving your sanity).
No Drama Discipline
The follow-up to The Whole-Brain Child uses the whole-brain approach to address how to discipline children effectively. They define discipline as not yelling or reprimanding, but instead instructing. And, since basically every parent wants to yell less, this book is quickly becoming a favorite among those wanting to parent more intentionally.
The Gardener and the Carpenter
This book takes an evolutionary approach to parenting and brings up how drastically our concept of parenting has changed over the years. The author presents fascinating research to explain her theory that we’ve gotten way too caught up in trying to raise particular kinds of children, instead of just caring for them deeply. This is definitely a must-read if you’re into attachment parenting or looking to change your parenting philosophy.
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
Ah, entitlement. It’s one of those things we can’t escape. Many well-intentioned parents love getting things for their kids—but add grandparents, friends, and other family into the mix and you’ve got the ingredients for a truly spoiled kid. Author Kristen Welch found herself in that exact predicament, and this book is the story of her family’s journey on learning how to be grateful and not greedy.
The Happiest Toddler on the Block
Dr. Harvey Karp, of The Happiest Baby on the Block fame, doesn’t disappoint with this handy guide to toddlers. Dr. Karp’s book likens toddlers to tiny cavemen, with a way of thinking and communicating that is all their own. And, if you’ve ever met a toddler, you know that’s totally true. This book offers simple parenting plans to reduce frustration and tantrums and increase peaceful moments with your tot.
How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
Written by the daughter of the co-author of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk comes this book that provides applicable communication skills for caring for 2 to 7 year olds.
Kid Parenting Books
Catastrophic Happiness, Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years
We might think of childhood starting very young, but as this book puts it, ages 4-14 are the years that your children may actually remember as childhood. This book covers the author's experience with her son and daughter as they went through preschool into the teenage years.
Parenting With Love and Logic
When kids get older, their sass seems to increase with their age. What that typically leads to is constant conflicts between parent and child and unlimited frustration on both sides. This book shows you how navigate those difficult stages with compassion and common sense in order to raise confident and motivated children.
The Conscious Parent
Parenting often leads to a lot of self-reflection, especially after those moments of peak frustration where you might behave in a way you don't intend to. This book challenges us to let go of our parenting ego in order to really connect and communicate with our children. If you're looking to transform your parenting relationship from parent-to-child to parent-with-child, this book is for you.
If you're completely confused on how to parent children in this information-driven, technology-filled world, you're definitely not alone. This book confronts all the ways that our current system of education seems stuck on, and acknowledges the true skills and personality assets kids need to survive and thrive in this generation. It presents actionable advice on how parents can develop their children in every way that's relevant now.
This book is great if you're in the minimalist mindset. Our busy, fast society often leads to a very different childhood for our kids than we had. We can easily be overwhelmed with toys, activities, and the general need to be doing something at every moment. This book teaches us how to streamline, scale back, and offer our children the freedom they need to thrive.
If you're curious about how to maintain an emotional connection with your kids as they grow, this book is for you. Author Rebecca Eames was too, and so she dug a little deeper into connecting with kids at every stage and this book is her thoughtful, practical advice and insight.
Permission to Parent
Many parents of our generation have tossed aside the strict parenting styles we all grew up with, but with that came child-pleasing parents afraid of limits and rejection (guilty as charged, right?). This book is said to be a commonsense guide on how to combat those moments and establish healthy control at home in order to raise respectful and loving kids.
The Secrets of Happy Families
Family dynamics are ever-changing as children grow, and most times, it can be really challenging to navigate. This book offers practical solutions to everyday problems (like getting out the door on time in the morning), and also offers up a ton of humor—making this a great read to hand to your partner in order to get everyone on the same page.
All Joy and No Fun
Let's face it, parenting can be super stressful. There's so much to account for—from schedules, to never-ending laundry, behavior challenges, and yeah, trying to be a fun parent. But, are you really having fun? This book delves deep into the effect of children on parents' lives, instead of the other way around. What it offers are relatable issues that we've all come across (like, how parenting affects our marriages, friendships, and general sense of self), while reminding us of the ways that children deepen and add purpose to our lives. It offers a great reminder for all of us in the depths of parenting young children.
If you're looking for your knowledge and approach towards parenting to be challenged, this bestseller is the book that will do it. NurtureShock brings up the conversations we often avoid—race, diversity, schooling, aggression and cruelty in children, the reality of a sibling dynamic, and more. This book is a wake-up call for those wanting to really dig deep.
The Opposite of Spoiled
In our modern world, it's hard to keep your child grounded. This book will teach you how to talk about money with your kids to empower them to grow up to be financially-wise adults.
Siblings Without Rivalry
If you have more than one kid, chances are you’ve come across one (or many) sibling arguments. This book came about because the authors, who are parents themselves, were determined to figure out how to make their kids get along. Faber and Mazlish tell the stories of their own parenting journeys in order to explain how to get your kids to stop fighting and give them the tools to cope with conflict and competition.
Mothering Our Boys: A Guide for Mums of Sons
Boy mamas, we've got you covered. With humor, insight, depth, and perspective, author Maggie Dent helps mothers see the world through their boys' perspective.
Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen
At an age when communication seems to falter, Michelle Icard offers 14 important topics to discuss with your tween and an opportunity to stay connected with them through these conversations.
How to Raise an Adult
A parent's number one job is setting their child up for success. The desire to do so can quickly lead to helicopter parenting. Author Julie Lythcott-Haims explains the harm overparenting can inflict and how to avoid these tendencies.
The Family Firm
When it comes to making decisions as parents, we always want to make the most educated choice. That's why Emily Oster's book is so great—it offers data to back the important choices we have to make.
Books for Any Age and Stage
How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids
A favorite among our editors, motherhood certainly takes its toll on mom, but it can also take a major toll on your marriage and relationships. This book is part memoir and part self-help and contains actionable advice to, as the title would lead you to believe, not hate your husband after kids.
How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes
What more could we hope for than raising kind children? This book offers science-based strategies for raising kids who are kind, honest, and resilient.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
This book is commonly touted as the definitive parenting book because it shows parents how to communicate properly with their kids in order to resolve almost every behavior struggle common in young children.
The Danish Way of Parenting
Denmark is said to the be the happiest country in the world, with Danish kids being some of the most happy, confident, and successful in the world. So, how do those Danish parents do it? This book clues you into exactly what goes into Danish parenting and how you can use the same approaches in your family.
Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life
Just like adult emotions, children's emotions are complex, and it can be challenging to know how to approach their emotions and behavior. This book presents a new way to work with your children that allows your kids to be able to engage calmly.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Dr. Laura Markham is touted as one of the go-to parenting experts, and in this book, she breaks down how to foster emotional connection with your kids in order to create real and lasting behavior change.
Raising Your Spirited Child
Spirited kids are one of a kind and often need a super specific approach in order to be the best they can be. This book breaks down common frustrations for parents and offers practical strategies for all sorts of behavior challenges.
Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child
Setting limits and boundaries with your children is so important, but we're often at a loss for what's best and how to do it. This book explains what works and what doesn't so you can use your energy efficiently, instead of constantly yelling with no outcomes.
Kids Are Worth It!
Author Barbara Coloroso argues that self-discipline is the foundation for all necessary skills, and that's what she aims to help parents with in this book—raising strong, resilient, respectful little people, not because you tell them to but because they want to.
Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions
Some kids go 0 to 100 in no time at all, and it can be hard for parents to know how to handle that. This book guides you on how to de-escalate these tough situations and teach your child how to manage their emotions in a productive way.
Back to Normal
If you're struggling with your child's behavior and you're worried about what could possibly be the cause, this book is for you. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Enrico Gnaulati breaks down behaviors commonly seen as "troubling" and explains the realities of how the crisis of over- and mis-diagnosis of behavior issues has grown in our country. A must read for parents concerned about their kid's behavior and what it might mean.
Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected
This beautiful memoir is a reminder for us all to embrace the unexpected and find beauty and wonder in our children. Blogger Kelle Hampton, mother of sweet baby girl Nella, who was born with Down Syndrome, shares the emotional story of her daughter's first year of life.
Smart But Scattered
My little guy falls into the "smart but scattered" category, and many times, it's heartbreaking to watch him with simple tasks, like cleaning up or finishing a meal. This book shows simple ways to make a big difference in a child's life by helping to identify their strengths and weaknesses, problem-solve their daily routines, and offers simple activities to boost their executive skills.
A Parent's Guide to Raising Gifted Children
Being gifted is not typically seen as a special need, but in reality, it is. Kids who are gifted need specific support in order to become their best selves, and this book serves as a guide on how to do just that.
Parents all over rave about how 1-2-3 Magic's techniques changed their lives and made parenting fun again. With its renowned three-step parenting philosophy, this book shows you how to effectively parent so the whole family is happier and more positive.
Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid
In this book, sisters Gina and Patty, both parents of children with special needs, break down the realities of parenting special kids in a hilarious and relatable way. In between the laughs, though, there's tons of useful advice on how to support your children through school, relationships, and extracurricular activities. It also provides practical ways for parents to battle grief and find support groups in order to maintain their own emotional wellbeing.
Distinguished psychologist and mother of seven, Jane Nelsen, shows parents how to be both firm and kind—the perfect combination to manage power struggles and typical behavioral issues in kids.
The Myth of the ADHD Child
The diagnosis of ADHD is rising sharply, but many parents want practical strategies to support their children instead of commonly-prescribed medications. This book has over 100 strategies on how to help kids overcome behavior and attention issues through parenting alone.
The Second Shift
If you're currently a part of a dual-career household, you've come across the challenges that many working parents face. What this book presents is how these challenges are different for women than their male counterparts. This book will help promote healthy conversation within the family regarding adversity as a working parent and how to make changes to take a little pressure off.
The 5 Love Languages of Children
We all know the "5 Love Languages" test and how understanding a partner's love language can be helpful, but what about our kids? Use this book to learn how they like to communicate, receive love, and learn more effectively.
As parents, we all strive to be the best we can be for our little ones, and sometimes, that can be an overwhelming endeavor. This book offers practical resources for overworked caregivers who are striving to raise emotionally healthy and resilient little ones.
Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life
If you're a fan of Ali Wong (and really, who isn't?), you'll enjoy this book of letters written from Wong to her daughters, sharing everything they need to know in life.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
I know I'm not alone in hoping I raise strong-willed and independent children. Author Adichie was approached to share advice on how to raise a feminist daughter, and this book offers 15 heartfelt suggestions on how to empower strong women.