Not sure which end of your baby is which? These books will give new parents information, reassurance and even a few laughs
A baby might be the most important arrival you’ll ever welcome into your home, but it doesn’t come with a manual. Unlike a new TV or a dishwasher, there’s no manufacturer’s guidebook or PDF attachment, just a tiny, wailing human and a load of questions. How do I put this on? How many of these do I need? Why is its nappy that colour?
Fortunately for the survival of the human race, new parents aren’t left to fend completely for themselves: there’s a huge library of information out there. The wisdom of a paediatrician, a professional nanny or an experienced relative can be an invaluable guide through the myriad questions and concerns that new parents often have – and the best parenting books capture this wisdom for easy reference.
First, we’ll cover some tips for choosing the best parenting book for your needs. Then we’ll go over our picks of the best baby books currently available on the market.
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How to choose the best parenting book for you
What are the types of parenting books?
There are a few different types of parenting books. Some are written with a specific problem or area of development in mind, such as helping your baby to sleep. Then there are more general books that promote broader approaches to child-rearing. Finally, there are reference guides that collect together informative facts and helpful tips.
It’s often useful to invest in a few complimentary titles. For example, you might have space on your bookshelf for a simple guidebook for advice on feeding, changing and bathing your baby, as well as a book covering a parenting philosophy you may like to try.
Are there different formats?
These days, it’s also worth thinking about which format you want your parenting book in. Traditional printed books are convenient to flick through and can be conveniently kept in useful places. However, many popular baby books are also available for e-readers, phones and tablets, which can be very convenient for the irregular lifestyle of a new parent – you can have a quick read on your phone while your baby naps on your arm.
It’s worth looking into websites and apps too. A lot of modern parenting books have an associated website, which supplements the printed content with extra information such as handy video guides and discussion forums. Articles on book-related websites are usually shorter and less in-depth than those found in the books themselves but can be great for basic information.
For the truly 21st-century parent, some books even provide daily tips and updates via a skill for the Amazon Echo. Check when buying your book for Alexa instructions.
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The best parenting books you can buy in 2023
1. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau)
Price: £12 (paperback) / £9.49 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
This chirpy volume by Yorkshire-born nurse and television presenter Tracy Hogg – known as The Baby Whisperer for her ability to soothe fractious infants – is a hit with many parents, thanks partly to its highly accessible tone. Hogg peppers her text with sardonic Northern aphorisms, to the extent that it sometimes reads as if Daphne out of Frasier has unexpectedly written a book about childcare. At bottom, though, it’s a seriously useful collection of great ideas and sensible advice, covering issues such as sleep routines and baby-calming.
Key concept: Hogg’s EASY method – “Eat, Activity, Sleep, You-time” – aims to bring a semblance of order to your day without sacrificing your sanity to rigid timetables.
2. What to Expect: The First Year (Heidi Murkoff)
Price: £12 (paperback) / £12 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
If you’ve been pregnant in the last decade, the chances are you already have a copy of American author Murkoff’s bestselling What To Expect When You’re Expecting. This sequel picks up where the first book leaves off, taking you month-by-month through your baby’s growth and development milestones. Handy reference sections also cover health and first aid, travelling with a baby, and first solid food recipes.
Key concept: Murkoff’s first book aimed to collect all the important facts about pregnancy in one volume. The First Year continues that info-centric principle; alongside factual and practical information, you’ll find discussions of differing approaches to parenting and suggestions for further reading.
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3. The Wonder Weeks (Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij)
Price: £13 (paperback) / £9.51 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
Wondering why your baby has suddenly turned cranky? Check your calendar. This bestselling book charts a series of ten age-related “leaps” that babies make between birth and around 75 weeks, while they’re learning new skills and ways of understanding the world. The leaps often manifest as fussy periods while baby develops physical and cognitive abilities, followed by sunnier spells in which they enjoy their new skills. An ideal guide to the frustrations and rewards of very early childhood development – and a helpful reminder that your darling little one’s wails aren’t always related to colic.
Key concept: Understanding your child’s developmental milestones can help you to predict and calm the “stormy” periods while leaps are taking place, and encourage and enjoy the “sunny” periods afterwards.
4. Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool (Emily Oster)
Price: £8 (paperback)/£5.69 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
A lot of parenting guides claim to offer no-nonsense advice but this excellent book from economist and academic Emily Oster is a data-driven book that provides reassuring and sensible guidance on hot parenting topics like sleeping, breastfeeding and potty training. Its approach is non-judgy and it does away with the kind of fluffy jargon that can really grate on parents looking for balanced insights. The Bottom Line section at the end of each chapter is a handy way to get to grips with key topics. Oster’s first book on pregnancy (Expecting Better) is well worth a read if you’re expecting.
Key concept: A Freakanomics-style guide to parenting that covers a wide range of parenting milestones from feeding newborns to managing toddler screen time.
Formats: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio book, Kobo
5. First-Time Parent (Lucy Atkins)
Price: £8.81 (paperback)/£6.99 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
Health journalist Lucy Atkins’ guide for new families is one of the books parents most frequently recommend to other parents. That has a lot to do with its solid advice (backed up by research studies), and its straight-talking, unpatronising style. A great practical resource on everything from breastfeeding and teething to how to fit a car seat.
Key concept: First-Time Parent doesn’t really have a core concept: it’s more a compendium of information than a philosophy. It does however clearly embody the idea that adults – even exhausted, anxious and hormonal ones – appreciate being spoken to as grown-ups.
Formats: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle, Kobo
6. Baby Bliss (Dr Harvey Karp)
Price: £8.19 (paperback) / £5.99 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
California-based paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp soothed a generation of Hollywood infants with his Happiest Baby on the Block series of books. Baby Bliss brings together the main strands of Karp’s research and practice over the years, outlining how to make your baby’s early months as peaceful and comfortable possible, and how to create sleep-time rituals that work for you.
Key concept: The focus here is on the “fourth trimester” – the first three months after birth, during which your baby is adapting to life outside of the womb. There’s also a short but handy survival guide for new parents in the appendix.
7. How Not to Be the Perfect Mother (Libby Purves)
Price: £7.19 (paperback) / £3.49 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re feeling intimidated by the challenges of parenthood, this funny, cheerful guide should provide some welcome reassurance. Originally written by broadcaster Libby Purves at a time when most baby texts were prescriptive and perfectionist, it combines practical time-saving and corner-cutting tips with hilarious anecdotes that will boost your confidence and make you feel better about not being perfect yourself.
Key concept: Mess is normal; everybody has tantrums – and the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Kobo
8. The New Dad’s Survival Guide (Rob Kemp)
Price: £11 (paperback)/£9.99 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
Journalist and father Kemp presents an illuminating month-by-month guide to what dads can expect in the first year and a half of parenthood. There’s advice covering everything from how to hold your baby when he or she is passed to you for the first time to helping with feeding, supporting your partner and managing your newly rearranged finances. Written in a chummy (but not condescendingly blokey) style, this is our favourite of the – admittedly rather small – selection of parenting books for dads.
Key concept: New dads face their own challenges – and can benefit from a little advice and information.
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, iBook, Kobo
9. The Baby Sleep Guide (Stephanie Modell)
Price: £6.95 (paperback) / £4.19 (Kindle) | Buy now from Amazon
Subtitled ‘practical advice to establish good sleep habits’, Stephanie Modell’s concise guide to baby sleep is packed full of tips and workable guides designed to help you from birth to 12 months. Sleep is famously the thing that goes out of the window when you welcome a newborn into your house, and Modell’s book helps to establish a framework for building nighttime routines with your little ones. Diagrams and charts help you to illustrate how sleep evolves in the first year of a child’s life, and Modell’s straightforward style is very welcome when it’s 3am and you’re trying to deal with a small night owl.
Key concept: Understanding sleep cycles, which will help you get to grips with why your precious bundle of joy might decide to wake up every hour, and what you can do to encourage them to settle back into sleep.
Formats: Paperback, Kindle