How to choose the right parenting books
By Stela Pasic
Cherry pick the advice that works for you
“Madam, madam, quickly!” my son’s nanny said and rushed towards me holding my one month old baby. Warm breast milk, which I’d just pumped, poured from my son’s nose. I panicked and grabbed the phone and called the only other person in Kuwait I knew at the time who had a baby, a colleague from work. I told her what happened and asked her advice. She snapped, “Oh, sorry, that has never happened to me.”
A quick internet search revealed that such incidents are common when a baby is gassy, which my son was. I felt relief. But I will never forget the cold, superior voice of my colleague when she said: “that has never happened to me.”
I realized that instead of reading all those pregnancy books while pregnant with my first child, I should have been reading about what happens after the baby is born. Granted, most pregnancy books have a short section on your baby’s first three months. But that was hardly enough.
Parenting by the book
The problem is there are thousands of books on infant and child care available. So how do you choose? I’d say all of them, at least for a while. There is nothing more terrifying than being stuck with just one school of thought, one supposed right way to do things. You want to be able to pick and choose, mix and match and survive!
If breast feeding is not really your thing, there are books that won’t judge you. If you want to wear your baby or do total attachment parenting, there are books supporting that. If you want to co-sleep or put baby in her own room, you will find advocates for both. If your child isn’t hitting her milestones as predicted, there is a book which will advise how to speed her up or alternatively, how not to worry about milestones.
Whatever philosophy you want to follow, there is a book to help you out. The trouble is too much information can be confusing for new moms. So what do you do? Simply remember that you know best.
Not all advice will be applicable to your own child. So cherry pick information that is useful. Forget the rest. Incorporate what works into your own life as a mom in Kuwait.
I spent the first three months of my four month maternity leave holding my baby day and night as that was the only way to get him to sleep, watching reruns of Emergency Room and reading baby books. Thankfully in Kuwait we can afford help and have the time to just sit and hold our children and read. (It didn’t do much wonder for my waistline but that is another story)
What to read – everything!
Reading the parenting and baby books helped me feel confident in my own parenting choices. I didn’t need to ask others for advice. Even if I heard “That has never happened to me” or “Don’t do it that way” I knew one of the books would tell me otherwise. Just like everyone else, I ended up doing what I wanted anyway.
When my son started biting, I read that you shouldn’t react to it. Just put him down and walk away. It worked like a charm, and I had to do it only twice. – Check.
When he started throwing tantrums, I read that you need to go down on their level and just show them you understand. My husband loved that one; it always made my son laugh when his daddy would throw himself on the floor, the tantrum immediately forgotten. – Check.
I read you need to put them to bed as early as possible, before the sun sets even (this one was equal to child abuse here in Kuwait where people were shocked my son goes to sleep for the night at 6pm) because “sleep begets sleep”, the more they sleep the better and longer they will sleep. But it worked for me. – Check.
If all the above didn’t work, well, I would have found some other advice in some other books that did.
The philosophies of parenting
Then I moved onto more interesting topics, the more philosophical ones:
Raising boys: How to protect their emotional lives. – Check.
One is enough: Why one may be just enough for me. – Check.
Why multiples may be better than one or even two. – Check.
I even read a book called “Two is enough” for those who don’t want to have any children at all. It was too late for me at that point, but I can now see why some people choose to be childfree. (Not childless, but child free!)
As I have finally moved away from reading parenting books, I find that everything else I read has a little bit of parenting wisdom in it. Mainstream fiction, mainstream non-fiction, biographies, Classics. I pick and choose and marvel at how I never paid any attention to it before I was a parent myself.
It’s liberating to have access to so many different perspectives, to just know it is out there – in books. I continue to read and to learn. And most importantly, reserve my right to change my opinions often as I learn more.
Check out my collection of parenting books on Goodreads.com.