13 Parenting Books To Prepare You For Childbirth and Beyond, Because Why Would You Know This Stuff?

by Lindsay E. Mack

There’s no telling how you will feel about your pregnancy. You may be in baby bump bliss, or you may counting the days till your delivery. Either way, you will probably  have tons of questions about what’s normal and what’s not over the next nine months. And unless you’re married to an OB-GYN, your spouse won’t have all the answers. So you turn to a pregnancy tradition as old as time (well, almost) — stocking up on the best parenting books available. But not just the books that will get you through the next nine months. It’s also important to invest in a few reads that will aid you through baby’s first year and beyond.

It makes sense to prepare for the new baby before he actually arrives. (Reading up on sleep habits will be easier before you’re actually on bedtime patrol.) And while you’re planning and stocking your nursery, you can also read up on what baby supplies you’ll actually need (weather-appropriate onesies) as opposed to the ones you can do without. (Does anyone actually use their baby wipe warmer? I ask this seriously.)

There are a million books out there, but a few of the best are all you need. Here are 13 that will help you navigate the incomparable ride that is conception to delivery, as well as your child’s early years.

If You’re a First-Time Mom

It’s probably the most famous book for pregnant moms, and for good reason. What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel covers what moms- and dads-to-be want to know from conception to delivery (and a little bit after) with a lot of honesty, insight, and professional know-how. And to prepare you for the post-pregnancy life, there is the companion What to Expect the First Year (which extensively covers care for mommies, too).

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If You Want to Your Baby to Sleep (and You Too)

You’ll want to read up on the topic of babies and sleep before you actually have to deal with it. Because if baby’s up all night nursing, fussing, or a combination of both, you will be way too tired to sit down and get your bleary eyes focused on a sleep book. Whether you’re hoping to master the cry it out or no-cry method, you’ll want to try Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. This best-seller doesn’t advocate strictly for one method or the other, but rather goes into the practicalities of sleep as well as advice and troubleshooting for newborns all the way up to adolescence.

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If You Want to Minimize Your Baby’s Tears

Although The Happiest Baby on the Block by pediatrician Harvey Karp deals with sleep issues, it’s main focus is calming your crying baby. For parents-to-be who worry about an inconsolable infant, it’s a must-read, with helpful information about swaddling and other soothing strategies.  

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If You’re Seriously Wigging Out About Motherhood

Written by Michel Cohen, a pediatrician, founder of Tribeca Pediatrics, and dashing Frenchman, The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent provides a comforting, easygoing laissez-faire approach to the changes you’re about to face. If you’re an anxious mom-to-be, Cohen’s take on numerous topics – immunizations, sleep training, and breastfeeding, to name just a few – is guaranteed to reassure you that you’ll do a damn good job.

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If You Plan on Breastfeeding (Or Are Considering It)

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, but it’s not always a seamless process. Written by members of La Leche League International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is an empowering book that will guide and support you through your breastfeeding years.

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If You Want to Cut the Bullsh*t

For parents who’d like to take a break from traditional rhetoric and cut straight to the complexities of issues like holding, swaddling, and feeding, then this extremely informative and funny book is for you. Filled with no-nonsense instructions, The Baby Owner's Manual by pediatrician Louis Borgenicht is a pragmatic reference guide with useful information and even funny visual aids like charts and illustrations.

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If You Want a Glimpse Into Baby’s Brain

Parents love The Wonder Weeks, as it carefully and extensively covers baby’s development during the first twenty weeks of life outside the womb. This book allows you an often eerily accurate peek into your baby’s perspective and how to best meet his or her needs, as well as age-appropriate games, activities, and ways to interact with your little one.

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If You Ever Want to Potty Train Your Child

When your child is ready to potty train, you can read her Once Upon a Potty as much as she wants. You, however, will want to be prepared for the various challenges and pitfalls that come with potty training, and no children’s book is going to adequately cover the nitty-gritty aspects of the process. For that, check out the aptly titled Oh Crap! Potty Training.

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If You’re Concerned About Postpartum Depression

Although postpartum depression sometimes goes by the relatively playful name of “baby blues,” this a serious and very real issue. According to the American Psychological Association, 9 to 16 percent of postpartum women experience it (although women who have already had PPD, the number jumps to 41 percent). If you’re concerned about PPD, there’s good news: you’re not alone, and the sensitive, insightful This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression can help guide you towards feeling like yourself again.

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If You’re Wondering About Food, Post-Weaning

ven if you’re planning on breastfeeding your baby into toddlerhood, know that weaning begins the moment baby begins to expand his or her tiny palate with a bottle or a taste of solid food. A comprehensive book like The Baby and Toddler Cookbook not only provides a variety of meal and snack recipes, but schools you on your child’s nutritional needs.

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If You’re Worried About Ever Being Able to Cook An Adult Meal Again

Purees are all fine and good, but if you’re wondering about cooking for the adults in your household (like you, specifically, hungry mommy) read Parents Need to Eat Too. Author Debbie Koenig combines really handy recipes for grownups and baby, as well as candid insights into her own experience as a first-time parent.

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If You Feel Like a Laugh

As the title might suggest, I Heart My Little A-Holes is a no-holds barred collection of anecdotes and insights from blogger Karen Alpert. The book features a section on poop as well as chapter titles like “Did Picasso’s mom have to deal with sh*t like this?”

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If You’re Having Problems in Your Relationship Post-Baby

Even though having a baby is an undeniable blessing, it’s natural for your romantic relationship to undergo some bumps in the road while you navigate your new lives post-baby. Renowned relationship expert John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (founders of the Gottman Institute) covers all the potential pitfalls in their book And Baby Makes Three.

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Images: Andrey Bandurenko/Fotolia