Thursday, March 24, 2011

Parenting Book Recommendations


Wow. It really is hard to be new parents. I just went back and reread my List of Why It Will Be Hard to Have an Infant, and I think those challenges are pretty spot on. I think it's also been hard because I haven't experienced a lot of joy in these first few weeks.

Wow. As I write that, I feel like that's an unfair thing to say. I have had a lot of joy in the past three weeks. I guess it's the ratio that's off. I have had a lot of good moments, but the number of difficult and challenging moments has simply overshadowed all those joyful moments. And as bad as it sounds, I will go ahead and say that most of the joyful moments come from my interactions with my partner, my friends, and my family--not my newborn son (yet!).

Don't get me wrong. I am incredibly happy to have Henry in my life. And with each passing day, he does things that bring smiles to my face and heart. But, in my limited experience, newborns definitely take way more than they give (although I know this will start to change).

Another thing that has been difficult about this process is that I didn't do enough to learn about what to do with an infant. I learned all about infant care things related to diapering and bathing and monitoring their health signs (see my notes here), but I didn't learn enough about the different philosophies related to creating a rhythm to the day.

For example, one of my friends follows the Baby Wise routine, which includes cycles of feeding, playing, and then napping (based on an infant's natural pattern of eating every 2-3 hours). Of course that book is very controversial, but my friend swears by it (her new baby is her second child).

I have another friend who follows the Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child recommendations. I tried reading that book, but it's very difficult for me to follow. I do appreciate, however, its advice about monitoring a baby's awake time to make sure they don't get overtired.

I have two other friends who are following the attachment parenting approach and just giving their babies what they want on demand.

I understand that each of us needs to find an approach that resonates with us and follow our inclinations with confidence. However, I would like to read several different books to expose myself to different ideas and then piece together my personal philosophy.

What recommendations do you have for books that address life with a newborn?

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33 comments:

lisa said...

My recommendation is slightly different: quit reading! There is no one type of baby, and there is no single answer. A couple things: it doesnt hurt a baby to fuss while you take a shower or have five minutes peace, but leaving them for endless screaming is counterproductive. A timer actually is helpful: we had a mobile, lo these many many years ago, that played for i think ten minutes. When I set the baby down for a sleep--nap or bedtime--I wound the mobile. 99% of the time the fussing would wind down, and the baby learned to go to sleep independently. Later, when they woke up, they spend the rest of the night in bed nursing.

2. There's a difference between a schedule and a rhythm. Figure out NOW what your schedule is going to look like when you go back to work. Include the fact that you can't function without sleep. Aim toward that now: Get up, nurse, go shower and feed yourself, play, nurse, nap....etc.

3. Bedtime is simple. Don't make an elaborate, 45 minute ritual out of it. Bath, nurse, 2 kisses, bed.

Chelsea said...

a friend of mine gave me the continuum concept by jane leidloff - it's based on a field study in south america - and while searching for a second copy for my daughter's father (we coparent, she's 3 and a half) i came across a book at the library called "creative parenting" by lo and behold - dr sears. this is pre-pastel colored/matte finish "the baby book" series, and it takes the "new continuum concept" (this is early 80's here) and applies it to parenting. you can check out continuum-concept.org, but i would highly recommend the creative parenting book by dr sears. it's yellow, and old, and you can get it for less than $5 used on amazon. i'm a postpartum doula and have found it to be a great point of reference without shoving parenting directions down your throat. i swear by it.

Ally said...

I agree with Lisa. Figuring out what is suited to your baby and your family is important and you don't need a book to tell you what to do. Your rhythm will emerge as you get to know your baby. I know it's probably hard for your personality type but maybe this is a good lesson in relaxing and going with the flow. Just enjoy your baby. Forget about schedules and just give him what he needs. At this point, all he really needs is milk, sleep, and love.

Anything BUT Baby Wise. Ugh.

Carrie said...

Ally's post is spot on in my view. I worried about this part for you before Henry arrived because I know how routinized and organized you like to be. It's just not that way for awhile, and there is not a whole lot you can do about it. You simply can't control it. Not to mention that by the time you figure out "a plan", things will have changed yet again. I also did not have much joy at first as it related directly to my son. It's hard to "get to know" someone when he really doesn't do a whole lot and gives so very little back after taking so much from you and your body. It's just plain HARD. Hang in there, and I am so proud of you for your honesty.

Meg said...

I appreciate your honesty so much. Sometimes I wonder if the ratio of joy : hardtimes ever changes... or maybe the joys are just... deeper eventually?

Carrie said...

@Meg: My son is 2 now, and I ASSURE you the joys FAR outweigh the hard times. I recall a turning point around 4 or 5 months old when my son started to actually DO a few things. Is your child still quite young?

Ms. Beltran said...

Sara - First off, your honesty is refreshing. I felt pretty much like you did in the beginning and I felt so guilty for it! It will pass and it will get better. Having a newborn is difficult and you are tired, cranky, wanting to sleep. Tough. My hubby and I used Twelve Hours of Sleep by Twelve Weeks of Age because I was headed back to work at the end of the summer (we had our daughter in May) and we needed a decent schedule to function. It worked for us. Best wishes to you!

Mindy said...

I appreciate your continuing to share with us the information you read about and the books you do and don't find helpful. I feel that knowing as much as you can about your situation (wedding, pregnancy, life) is a good foundation for making good choices. Just because you read something doesn't mean you believe it or accept it, it just means you have another perspective.

Carrie Dee said...

All the previous comments make good points about parenting, and the hardships of the first few months of having a newborn. I'm not yet in that camp (we're planning to start trying at the end of summer) so I have no advice like that.

But, what I can say, from reading your posts Sara, is just allow yourself to feel this way. We all support you, and understand what a difficult time this can be.

I'm a big "research everything" kind of girl, just like you and I understand how comforting reading other perspectives can be. But, I also know that sometimes all those perspective cause me to lose sight of what I really need/want. They become conflicting views that I get lost in. Only you can figure what kind of parent you want to be. But talk to Matt, talk to your Doula and Midwife. Let yourself be sad, and if you want it at any point, find a professional to talk to.

Transitions are hard. You are an incredibly strong person, but even strong people need help and support. Good luck Sara, you're in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It will get better--and the interactions with Henry will become wonderful and exciting. Something that helps me is to conceptualize the first three months as the "fourth trimester" and understand that babies are really still undergoing pregnancy, in a way. They are very vulnerable and unpredictable. In a few months you will turn the corner and find some balance more easily. Hang in there!

Julie said...

Dear Sara,
I have been following your blog for a couple of years now. Similarly, we are expecting in just 8 weeks or so. I've read some posts with anxiety wondering if I'm doing enough to prepare, read some so immensely grateful for the information you provide that I might not otherwise have known. Mostly I simply appreciate your honesty.
Two weeks ago we discovered a stone in my liver. Quickly my lab tests showed that my bile levels were skyrocketing and the stone needed to be removed. Surgery followed, a hospital discharge, a readmittance and now I'm home with a pharmacy of medications aiding in my recovery and maintanence for the remaining pregnancy. Its not what I wanted. I'm sad that I envisioned a pregnancy free from intervention; medications, parabens, processed foods,etc. all the things we want to shield our children from. I read your blogs and while I am not yet holding this baby girl in my arms, when I am honest I realize that my control over my situation was shifted away from myself. Thank you for being open about your struggles, for helping me to let go of my disappointment. Now, I know birth is another thing entirely, raising an infant again something totally separate. But you've strengthened me and I'm so grateful to you.
Your son is gorgeous and your passion for knowledge and growth will be a beautiful example for him! All the best to you and your family :)

rachelshoots said...

Book recommendation: Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach. It was originally published in 70s and it's more relaxed than the newer books. The newer books, in my opinion, are more like instruction manuals. "Do x, y and z and you will get the result you want." Your Baby and Child is more about educating you on your baby's development.

My problem with the instruction manual approach is that it sends the message to new parents that they *can* get any result they want and if they don't that result it's somehow their fault. And I think that adds to their stress and, perhaps, robs them of joy.

Best of luck to you, Matt and Henry. Enjoy the sunny weather in H-town. We're jealous up here in MI.

Amanda said...

thank you for your continual honesty. i really appreciate your perspective!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Lisa (the voice of reason) chimed in! She is 100% correct! It's kind of funny to think that you have that HUGE "to-do" list or that you thought you'd learn everything about your baby's care from a book. But that's OK. This is your first and I remember being the EXACT same way with MY first. Do you ever read a book just for fun? Seriously, what's the last novel you read?

The best advice I ever got about child care was from our pediatrician who said, "You need to relax. You're not going to do anything to hurt this baby. Quit trying to schedule every little thing in the day and let go!" Hmmm....does that let you know that I'm a huge control freak? (Yes, unfortunately it's true. Although I'd like to think I've improved over the years.)

However, after having four of my own, I can tell you that the "joy" increases in direct proportion to your focus on that baby's "just being." (Does that make sense?) It's impossible to prepare for everything...from the moment of conception to the day they leave for college....you just have to relax and enjoy the ride.

All the "uber-planning" will just create stress when you can't follow the plan!

Brannie said...

Sara - you always speak what I am thinking, since my newborn is about two weeks older than yours. One thing I read in a book (Don't remember which one) that really spoke to me is that it is hard to care for and respond to the constant demands of another person that seems completely unappreciative of your actions. I also add that it is frustrating to feel like you are just caring for another person without a reciprocal feedback or response. This has been hard for me. I appreciate knowing that you feel the same way.

Kelsey said...

Since I haven't had a baby the only relatable experience I can offer is moving to a new city, which I've done a few times now. After I've been in the city for a month or so I want to feel settled in - know a good coffee shop and restaurants, have friends, and a predictable schedule. But I usually don't feel that way and it's really frustrating. It isn't until I've been in a place 6 months or longer that I really start to "know" it because I've just needed time and experience for it to settle in - and nothing but time could cure it, as much as I tried otherwise! So just give it time and just keep doing the best you can and that's good enough, remind yourself of that!

Catfish said...

It's natural to feel this way! While you definitely want to make note of what you're feeling and make sure it doesn't get worse (then you might want a doctor's help), not everyone feels an insta-bond with baby. Our culture likes to pretend that will happen, but it's just not the case.

Schedules and routines are great for some babies and very difficult for others. Just get to know Henry - you may love a certain philosophy but there's no guarantee HE will.

Elizabeth Cole Duffell said...

My son, Charlie, was born on Feb 27, just before Henry, and though I don't have any great book recommendations for you, I can say that I've struggled with this same thing (scheduling, rhythm, insanity), and my only advice is that I've been much happier when I've let his rhythm lead me and let go of my idea of a schedule. But it really only works if you get at least one nap in each day--otherwise, those late night hours can be crazy-making. I can tell things are getting better and better and Charlie is setting his own rhythm that is syncing up with ours bit by bit. For me, because I had a very unplanned for C-Section after a 50 hour labor, I have been healing slowly and that has added another layer of difficulty. Getting outside a little bit each day makes a huge difference. Thank you for sharing your parenting experience, even a difficult one!

Sleepy Sarah said...

Just wanted to send out my own little message of support. We don't have any of our own yet, but I can offer love and prayers even though I don't have any advice! xo

lindel said...

Yes. They do take so much more than they give in those first weeks. I used to say my son was like a really demanding goldfish for those first 6 weeks. I loved him, but it was a very pragmatic love. I happily gave him everything he needed (food cuddles kisses naps more kisses and food) but I felt I kept some kind of distance. My theory is that because we humans are social creatures and a new baby does not engage in any of the things that make us social (a smile as a basic acknowledgment of someone else' existence!) I needed to keep some emotional distance for fear of some kind of social rejection. Does that sound weird? I mean he was a newborn, what did I expect? But nonetheless, I think that pragmatic love is what saved me (and him). I was able to do what was needed without too much emotional fallout. Fast forward to those first smiles and the bond started to grow. Now he is almost 2 and I love him indescribably!

eliza said...

I also say echo some previous posters above re: the fact that you just can't control an infant's routine. And even with the various techniques you have listed above, they are done in different ways by different parents; it's not typically one-size fits all and people interpret the same advice in different ways. But really, you do not need to worry about any of that in these first couple of months, and most babes naturally settle into a rhythm after a bit. Most newborns are sleeping and eating in an unpatterned way (and need to do this for healthy development). Also, have you read askmoxie.org? I think you would resonate with her advice...

And of course he is taking more than giving right now. He is totally dependent upon you for survival AND this can be really, really overwhelming for new parents. You are going through many hormonal changes in addition to the steep learning curve of parenting--the first few weeks/months can feel really rocky for many new moms (and if baby blues are persistent, get help!). I know you know this, but maybe it helps to hear from an outsider? If it helps you, by all means, read a little more, though I don't have any additional recommendations. But be careful that you don't end up feeling additionally discouraged because your relationship with your baby doesn't fit any of the models above. Have you considered a parenting group to help you get support in a connected kind of you?

eliza said...

ok, one link to Ask Moxie that you may find helpful: moxie.blogs.com/askmoxie/2005/12/quick_and_dirty.html

Anonymous said...

Sara, you inspire me! Henry is so lucky to have an honest, loving, and reflective mama like you.

Shawn said...

I don't have kids yet, but thank you so much for telling your story so openly. When I picture myself with kids, probably the biggest worry I have is "but what will I DO everyday at home with a baby?" Figuring out what day to day life looks like and how to have time to do what you find fulfilling while meeting the full time demands of a new baby has always seemed like the biggest challenge to me. Anyway, I hope you know you have positive thoughts and good intentions headed your way - we're here to listen and learn along with you!

Rachel said...

That photo is just precious. Henry's sweet face looks so alert and so kissable!!! I hope that you will be gentle with yourself as you allow life to unfold. A hug to you...

Rosalie said...

Congratulations on the birth of Henry! I'm so behind, need to catch up. It's ok to feel that about the joy. Really I'm only just experiencing full blown joy now as my daughter becomes a toddler. When it comes down to it I'm not a huge baby person, toddlers are incredible, the interaction etc. But anyway. I agree - stop reading. Decide your needs and work around them.

I couldn't even contemplate routines with the severe reflux we had to grab sleep if and when it came. She slept 7 hrs in 24 and had to be held for them for four months so this point for me was just a zombified daze! It was a good thing that I had intended to be an AP style parent because nothing else would have worked in our situation. A lovely book is What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing. It's not about sleeping routines, it is a good book to read when you feel like you "should" be doing something.
Henry is just gorgeous.

Carrie said...

I really appreciate the fact that you never sugar-coat things. Your honesty about struggling with a newborn is so much more relatable then most blogs out there.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I would just say a few things:

1) If you can/want, give yourself a couple months to just observe Henry. In my experience, they tend to start getting *themselves* on a routine and into a rhythm during this time. (For instance, you may note Henry's most awake time of day, sleepiest times, etc.) From there, you can pretty much craft a loose "schedule" around the framework he's giving you. I have found this to be the best approach -- not only because I'm not fighting with baby to impose *my* desires onto *her* body (when to sleep, eat, etc.), but also because it's helped me keep an open attitude that can flow with her ever-changing needs (her going down to one 45-minute nap per day, for example, required a complete re-working of when I got a whole lot of things done during the day... but I was already used to modifying my plans to fit her ever-changing needs.)

2)I would suggest picking one (really almost *any* one) "method" that speaks to you and sticking with it until you start getting feedback from Henry that it is/isn't working. Consistency is so key, so flip-flopping methods (I think) can be upsetting to little ones. Whatever speaks to your heart & your needs, go with. You will have more energy to put into the "method" if it resonates with *you.* Over time, you can see if it resonates with Henry, and adjust as needed.

3) I would be a little wary of books. I say this because I simply *ate up* parenting books while pregnant & was SOLD on particular method. But over the months I realized there were various little 'hiccups' the method did not account for. In fact, the problems increased as time went on. And that's when I realized that authors have something to sell -- they are not going to tell you, "my sleep method works until they start teething," or "as long as you only have one kid... but once a new baby comes along, this is really unrealistic," etc. This is stuff you learn as you go. Or by talking to other moms. So before reading... I would say TALK! Or rather, LISTEN to other moms. What worked for them? What didnt? Why? And talk to moms who are in a situation you *forsee* yourself in (ie, do you want 5 kids... talk to someone with 5 kids), not just people who are in the same place you are (ie, just having had baby #1).

Alrighty... that's all I have for now. Hope it helps a bit! And hang in there -- I found the real fun started after 12 months. They can walk! And talk! And play! It'll be here before you know it!!

Anonymous said...

Lisa is exactly right - quit reading! The only thing it will do is frustrate you when your little one doesn't respond the way the book says he should, or his rhythm is different from the schedule the book provides. Every kid is different and I made myself crazy until I stopped trying to fit mine into the book models and started listening to her signals.

This time presents an important gift, namely the realization that some things (including and especially a dynamic, constantly changing other person) cannot be planned/managed in the ways you have developed for yourself. He'll be a much better teacher than any book you might read, so try to relax into these changes and give him time to develop his rhythm.

Sara said...

One book I would recommend is called Your Amazing Newborn. Oh my! They are capable of so much more than we think and try to interact so much more than we think in those early days. And they actually do have a schedule- quiet alert time, active alert time, sleeping (light and deep), and the transition time from wakefulness to sleep.
You say that babies take way more than they give, but I would like to say that Henry is giving by being happy and peaceful because you are meeting his needs.
I have a 10 month old baby (my third) and my friend has an 11 month old baby (her first). During our early days, my freind tried desparately to get her baby to go to sleep at a certain bedtime each night in preparation for her return to work. She often felt frustrated by all the work involved and it didn't sound like she enjoyed her evenings.
I choose to stay at home with the kids. In those early days, my baby went to bed late (she had a wake period from like 9-11 or so, maybe even midnight sometimes), but we just chilled out and enjoyed her awake time and went to bed when she was ready.
By 4 months post partum, both of our children had the same early bedtime. I think I got the better end of the deal though because I think we enjoyed it a lot more!
If you do need a good book, I like the no cry sleep solution.

la giTaNa said...

There isn't a whole lot in there about newborns, but I recommend "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves" by Naomi Aldort. Thank you for your honesty!

Anonymous said...

I can't recommend a book, I can just echo those who say quit reading (although I am definitely the type to read a million books on a subject). I found the newborn time to be the least rewarding part of motherhood. While I am happy I had that time with my two boys, I envy no brand new mother. Another difficult part of parenting a newborn is that they change so quickly. I found that once I had a routine going, all of a sudden I had a completely different human being to deal with. Of course none of this information will help you, but it is important to know that most women feel the way you do, whether they admit to it or not. The second baby was easier and more difficult in certain ways. My exhaustion was greater with the second, but because I was chasing a 20 month old also, I didn't have time to focus on how little response I was getting from the new baby.

Anonymous said...

I echo some of what has been said: read what you can/like (I, too, love compiling info to be able to pull out of my "storehouse" as needed later... so I "get" the desire for a book!) But in the meantime, while you're looking for "that book" and just living through the days (and nights -- who knew so much could happen after dark, right?!), just remember that there's a lot in the early months that you'll just need to "ride out." I remember getting so frustrated trying to organize my time... find a routine for my ever-changing baby... but, heck, the same burping position did not even work twice in a row! It was exasperating!! But no matter what methods you try, I think all babies just go through this un-scheduled, un-predictable stage. As my lactation consultant told me, "She is brand new and adjusting to absolutely every experience she is having; you are brand new at mothering and adjusting to every experience you are having. Two people -- going through so much change at the same time -- are going to take some time to get 'in synch' with each other." She said this in regard to breastfeeding, but I think it applies to so, so much more! Hang in there -- the whole family!! :)

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