This morning I walked past our bookcase and noticed all the parenting books I’ve bought over the last couple of years. From trying for a baby to how to care for them when they arrive, I’ve amassed 12 of these ‘must-read’ books.
Surprisingly, despite loving to plan and research my everyday life, I had no desire to buy a pile of parenting books before rocket man was born. But towards the end of my pregnancy I caved and bought some. I was lack-lustre on my choice of reading matter because several people said to me, ‘Just do it your own way – every baby is different.’ It was only as birth approached that I panicked I didn’t even know how to change a nappy, let alone get a baby into any kind of routine (which is the holy grail for most parenting experts). So suddenly my need for knowledge took over and I gained a voracious appetite for parenting books.
I have to say I didn’t buy the infamous Contented Little Baby Book. As there has been so much controversy around Gina Ford’s parenting approach (for and against), I decided to steer clear. Amongst others though, I bought Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Your Baby Is Talking To You, What to Expect – The First Year, Elevating Child Care and First-Time Parent. I found this a good mix of different theories and practical advice, but there are thousands of other titles to choose from.
The thing is, apart from maybe three, I’ve never looked at my 12 parenting guru books again. It’s got me thinking about my attitude towards parenting experts and what advice I’d give to a new mum vis-à-vis reading material.
Here’s a few things I’d say:
1.READ A WIDE RANGE OF PARENTING APPROACHES
Don’t just pick one book. Either buy several yourself, share a few different books amongst friends or see what the library has to offer. I really think it’s important to understand a range of views in order to find some techniques you feel comfortable trying. It’s quite likely that a well-meaning friend or family member will thrust her go-to book into your lap, but don’t feel you have to love that parenting approach because they do. As soon as my book purchasing began I was interested to see what different parenting experts suggested and what felt most natural to me. People say to go with your gut feeling, but when you’re a newbie parent you often don’t trust your own instincts. So I found having a bit of knowledge from a range of sources helped to boost my confidence.
2.FEEL FREE TO CHERRY PICK ADVICE
It’s easy to think you should choose one parenting expert and follow every single piece of guidance they’ve written. I’ve seen how experts try to dispel each other theories, but in reality a lot of their approaches can work alongside each other. The likelihood is that you’ll totally understand and agree with many points an expert has on child development, but maybe not on everything. But the good news is, you don’t have to be ‘Team Gina’ or ‘Team Spock.’ You can take ideas from each end of the parenting approach spectrum and see what works for you. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your approach. If it doesn’t feel right to you, it probably won’t work for your little one.
3.IF IT DOESN’T WORK, TRY SOMETHING ELSE
I remember frantically reading parenting forums during those first 100 days of hell with a newborn. Across all the sites there were so many mums saying, ‘I’m doing what the book says, but it isn’t working.’ Thankfully, despite existing in a complete fog of new parenthood, I had the sense to use a couple of books as a guide, but I didn’t live or die by them. I followed rocket man’s cues and if he seemed to react well to something, we’d keep doing it! If I wanted help with getting him to sleep I read the sleep chapter in one of my books and gave it go. If no improvement occurred, we tried something different. So I would say to any new parent, don’t get too caught up with what the book says. It takes time and consistency to see results, but if you feel the approach isn’t working, try something else. Ultimately, our babies are not text-book children and we are not text-book parents.
4. DO IT THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY AND ASK FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Years ago before a mountain of information was accessible on the internet and only a handful of parenting books existed, mums and dads learnt how to parent through trial and error. They took advice from parents, grand-parents and friends. Very often families lived close-by, so they could be hands-on with raising any new additions to the brood. However, these days we live more detached lives and I feel the element of competition that has crept into the role of parenting, sometimes stops people from reaching out for help. Instead, we rely on books and Dr. Google. So I say if you’re struggling, call your nearest and dearest for their invaluable advice. Again, you don’t have to implement everything they say, but it might spark a few ideas.
5.DO IT YOUR WAY
As I alluded to in the title of this post, the key point is to parent your way. I definitely found some of my books useful for tips and advice, but I didn’t put any of the authors up on a pedestal. All of them will claim their way is the best and only way to get a child sleeping through the night or on the perfect schedule, but what people told me when I was pregnant is true…every baby is different. I honestly believe some babies are sleepers and other’s aren’t. We were lucky with rocket man, but I’m not naïve enough to think it was any super parenting skill. Nope, he just likes sleep. So read what the experts have to say and get a feel for what makes sense to you and what fits in with your family life. But ultimately you’ll find your own parenting rhythm and over time everything will fall into place.
I know a lot of people have never picked up a parenting book in their life, so by no means am I saying you need any parenting experts telling you what to do. But if you’re like me and just want an understanding of what is coming your way or ideas to help make things a little easier, parenting books can be a great resource. One of my favourites was First-Time Parent. This is simply a practical guide to caring for a baby. I knew absolutely nothing about babies and I found this book invaluable for guidance on how to change a nappy, how to swaddle them, reasons they could be crying and suggestions on how to soothe. It takes you from what to pack in your hospital bag, right through to weaning and beyond.
Parenting is a roller-coaster ride and we all make mistakes. If you choose to read parenting books, do so with an open mind and the thought that usually mummy does know best.