Most expectant mums (and dads, but mainly mums I’m guessing) prepare in all kinds of ways for the arrival of their baby. It’s such an exciting and special time after all!
There are important things like:
A name to decide on
What theme and colour the nursery will be
Clothes, toys and accessories to buy
Decisions like whether you will use a pacifier, cloth or disposable diapers/nappies, breastfeed and/or formula feed
Not to mention the actual birth to prepare for.
While these things are really important, something that very few people put much thought into is how they are going to parent their future child?
Because they don’t stay babies for long!
Those cute little outfits will soon be in the ‘too small’ box, and before you know it you’ll have an emotional and energetic toddler challenging you at every turn.
And this is probably one of the first times you’ll look to your partner to say ‘what do we do about this??‘
But I get it, it’s really hard to think that far ahead. It’s impossible to even imagine the little human growing inside your belly right now, being anything other than angelic and gorgeous.
But it’s good to take some time just to chat with your co-parent (if you have one) to see where you both stand on certain issues.
For example, will you follow a strict approach to discipline or are you open to discovering other ways to parent? Will you use time outs, naughty steps etc.?
Or would you prefer to approach parenting in one of the more modern ways we see today, with a variety of names such as ‘respectful’, ‘gentle’ or ‘trusting’?
You might be surprised when you have this conversation with your significant other that you don’t agree on certain areas. And this is good to get it out in the open before the baby comes so you can make some general agreements. If you are polar opposites in your approach, it’s better to know that before the baby arrives.
Becoming a parent is life-changing in so many ways. And not just the lack of sleep and all the other day-to-day changes that happen, but it also forces you to face up to your own childhood and the way you were raised. Whether you like it or not, the way you were brought up, will have a significant impact on the approach you take with your own children.
How many times have you heard other parents say things like “I can’t believe I just said that, my mother used to say the exact same thing to me.“?
We generally either adopt a similar approach to their parenting style (whether we think it’s a good thing or not!) or we rebel against it and do the opposite with our own kids, or try to at least.
But if you really want to enjoy this new adventure and chapter in your life, taking the time to prepare now for the upcoming reality of parenting might just be time well spent.
The best parenting books to read while pregnant
Here are some of the best parenting books I’ve enjoyed and learnt a lot from over the past few years since becoming a mum. I really wish I’d read these while pregnant!
You’ll see that they’re not all parenting books. That’s because before you can start to figure out the whole parenting thing, you and your partner might need to do some work on your own first to figure some things out. (See my explanations below!)
- The Danish Way Of Parenting – Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
What the happiest people in the world know about raising confident, capable kids.
I had a Danish friend in my first mums group – our girls were born three days apart and she introduced me to the whole respectful parenting concept. Except in Denmark it’s just called parenting. I became fascinated by the ‘happiest nation on earth’ and absolutely loved learning about their approaches to parenting, even when things get tough. It also made me want to move to Denmark!
2. Unconditional Parenting – Alfie Kohn
Moving from rewards and punishments to love and reason.
This is known in some parenting groups as the ‘bible’ for respectful parenting. And I can see why. Kohn takes you through the whole parenting spectrum and makes you face up to your pre-conceptions on things like shaming kids with your words and tone, rushing kids from one activity to the next and letting them set their own boundaries on certain things. If you’re already into the respectful parenting ideology, this will only reinforce your beliefs. If you’re on the fence, it will most likely encourage you into a more gentle parenting approach.
I listened to the audio book (the only way I could ever get through books when the girls were little) which was narrated by the author and he just sounded so lovely and smart.
3. The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman
The secret to love that lasts.
A non-parenting book in some ways, and more of a great way to spend some time with your partner learning more about them, which I promise will come in useful when your baby arrives!
Ideally you would both take the Love Languages online assessment and read the book together.
The premise of the book is that we all function at our best when we are shown love and affection using our primary love language (words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch).
Once you know your own (and your partner’s) primary and secondary love languages, you can start to communicate better and understand each other in surprising new ways.
A great example of this would be the husband who always buys flowers for his wife thinking he is doing the right thing (he assumes she loves receiving gifts), when actually what she would prefer is that he doesn’t leave his dirty socks on the bathroom floor and put them in the laundry bag instead (so her actual love language is acts of service).
And when the baby becomes a toddler, you can move on to The 5 Love Languages For Children!
4. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead
I believe anyone and everyone should read this book, whether a parent or not. Daring Greatly helps you to understand the power that lies within your own vulnerability, if only you can embrace it, and throw off the expectations of yourself, society, family etc.
Brown’s years of research articulately explains how your own vulnerability should not be seen as a sign of weakness or failure, but instead as a source of power, joy and love. It dispels the myth that the only outcome in life is winning or losing, or that we must have it all to succeed. Instead, Daring Greatly reassures you that you are enough, you are loved and capable of being loved, even when you’re not at your best.
This is one of those books that has a lasting positive impact on your life, and adds even more relevance with each read. This is amplified when you become a parent and it might just be your go-to resource for years to come!
5. Parenting From The Inside Out – Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell
How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive.
This book is all about you. And I’ll warn you – it might be a confrontational read for many people!
It makes you question all areas of your own childhood (so time it well to avoid reading when those pregnancy hormones are in full swing!) and how you became the person you are today. The book explores recent findings in neurobiology and attachment research and helps to throw light on how and why we adopt or repel some of the patterns from our parents or major caregivers.
I know it might sound like a heavy read (and it might be at times, especially for anyone who suffered childhood trauma) but its intent is to help you understand yourself more, before you become a parent to another human who might adopt the same patterns that you recognise in yourself.
6. The Yes Brain – Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
How to cultivate courage, curiosity and resilience in your child.
A no brain response from a small child, according to the authors can often be experienced by an adult as a tantrum, a meltdown or a boundary-pushing activity (not following instructions, or running off from you in the park etc.).
Once you learn more about the brain, you soon realise that very small children simply do not have the brain mechanics or chemistry yet to handle their disappointment (in not getting a cookie), or their anger (I hate doing that) or any other undesirable behavior. This doesn’t mean that we as parents have to simply accept such outbursts as normal and ignore them, but when you understand how their minds and brains are developing, it helps you to foster a more ‘yes brain’ approach to parenting. And it’s super handy that the authors give plenty of tips, scripts and examples along the way!
I’ve included The Yes Brain because it’s the first book by Daniel J Siegal that I read but there are plenty of others by him that I would recommend too (e.g. The Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline). They all offer a scientific basis for their ideas and suggestions, as well as case studies and real life examples of the yes brain in action.
7. The Gentle Sleep Book – Sarah Ockwell-Smith
A guide for calm babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
If you didn’t know already from other parenting friends, the sleeping habits of babies is an extremely hot topic! And by hot, I mean controversial! I’m not going to wade into the whole sleep training debate here, but needless to say that by making this suggestion, I’m on the more ‘gentle’ side when it comes to baby and child sleep (even though I really hate labels for such things).
Sarah Ockwell-Smith is a trusted resource for all things baby sleep related. But her methods don’t include the more common sleep training methods used by so many in today’s society. Instead, she focusses on evidence-based approaches in trying to find a balance for tired parents as well as meeting a child’s most basic needs.
Sarah is a mum of 4, and a highly regarded parenting author, coach, member of the British Sleep Society as well as being trained in hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and as a birth doula!
Her insights and research are easily explained and she does a great job of reassuring new mums they are doing a great job when they listen to their instincts.
8. Your Self Confident Baby – Magda Gerber
How to encourage your child’s natural abilities from the very start.
Once I had been introduced to the whole ‘babies learn by themselves’ approach by my Danish friend from mother’s group, I was fascinated by the approach. I had never been remotely interested in parenting before actually becoming a parent, but suddenly something shifted in me and I wanted to devour everything I could to learn more. I was already fascinated by the way our brains work, why some people are more empathetic than others and why we all have different levels of fear, risk, confidence etc. but I had never thought the world of parenting could be so insightful. I had a lot to learn (and still do!)
This book really sets out a lot of the basics about how babies develop in their first days, weeks and months. Far from being just ‘blobs for the first few months, which is what we were told by so many people, my mind was blown away when I tried out some of the communication techniques I’d learnt from this book.
Just basic stuff like how your baby can understand so much more than you probably give them credit for, even from birth. They can follow your eyes at just days old, move their heads to follow your voice and even follow simple requests like ‘move your hand while I change your nappy’ etc. We loved this way of communicating with our baby and it just felt right and natural so we continued and I’m so pleased we did.
It also set us on a path of letting our babies develop at their own pace and not pushing them in any way to reach their developmental milestones before they were ready.
We shunned many traditional baby items that are thrown at new parents these days such as baby walkers, seats to make a baby sit up straight, and mechanical swings. We learnt that if left to their own natural devices, a baby will develop fine on their own. But most importantly we learnt that it’s not a race. And all babies get where they need to go eventually.
(If you decide to buy any of those baby items for your little one, that’s of course your choice and some of the amazing items available today are wonderful. I’m only expressing what we did/didn’t do and why. Each to their own!)
9. Non Violent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg
Life changing tools for healthy relationships.
Another non-baby parenting book, and I think anyone would get something out of this one (well, anyone that ever wants to communicate effectively with other people!)
The author has over 35 years experience handling conflict in couples, families, schools, businesses and governments all over the world – and the four step approach he applies every time can really help parents to navigate the new and daunting journey together. This book also sets you up with the necessary communication tools to handle those toddler meltdowns and teenage mood swings. Oh the joys of parenting!
Using ‘peaceful communication’ can help you to become aware of your own feelings and emotions, and then communicate in the best possible way, instead of simply reacting without any thought of the consequences.
The book is full of real-life examples and stories of how and why more effective communication can help us in every part of our lives, from the workplace, to parenting.
10. Oh Baby, The Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss / Tish Rabe
For babies and parents-to-be!
Yes you read that correctly – it’s a special edition version of one of Dr Seuss’ classics, Oh The Places You’ll Go.
I stumbled upon this book when my first daughter was about to turn 1 and I now buy it for any expectant or new parents.
It’s a mixture of some of Dr Seuss’ favourite characters and places all wrapped up in a beautiful ending to get new or soon-to-be parents even more excited about their new arrival.
If you love reading books (or listening to them), I hope my recommendations will set you up on your soon-to-be parenting journey and help you to get excited about the amazing adventure that awaits you!
What were some of your favourite books to read while pregnant?