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Wanted: Care Guides for the Newly Human
December 14, 2010 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Book-filter: My husband and I are expecting our first child in early May. He would like a book on parenting, especially along the everything-you-need-to-know-about-infants perspective, as he has never really been exposed to babies.

All of the books geared toward dads specifically seem to be quite dumbed-down, so I'd like to avoid those less content, more big font books, but aside from that, I need suggestions as to the best reading for first time parents/fathers. It doesn't have to be something we can read together (although that's great), but does need to have the practical/intellectual aspect. He's also interested in psychology, so development books might be really interesting for him. Bonus points if the book makes a good gift!
posted by questionsandanchors to Human Relations (33 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've heard great things from new parents about Baby 411.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby's First Year

It's got basically everything you could possibly need to know and it's not written in the cutesy sort of compare-a-baby-to-a-new-laptop way that a lot of books seem to be written. It's informative and easy to read.

The pregnancy section is clearly written with the expectation that the reader is a pregnant woman, but the information therein is just as interesting and accessible to an expectant father.
posted by 256 at 1:36 PM on December 14, 2010


Dr. Sears' Baby Book. My husband and I called it "the User's Manual." Fair warning, it is definitely coming from a sort of crunchy-granola "attachment parenting" perspective, and trying to hew perfectly to his parenting strategies can be exhausting; it's good to remember that this is more of a Best Practices statement than a Bible. Just read the chapter on twins, in which he basically says "look, try your damndest, but for pete's sake, it's twins," and then apply that philosophy to singleton parenting too.

But even apart from all the parenting advice, it has your basic sets of developmental milestones, height-weight charts, all kinds of information to help you disambiguate perfectly normal newborn conditions from things that are actually causes of concern, &c. We referred to it constantly when our first child was new.
posted by KathrynT at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like The Expectant Father by Armin Brott, which is not your typical "be nice to your wife, you jerk" sort of dad book and contains practical advice about things like setting up insurance and a college plan for the new kid as well as general parenting/baby advice. What to Expect the First Year is a classic reference which I found useful for "is this normal" type questions. And there's a great book by Lise Elliot called What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life which is not a parenting book, but a book by a neuroscientist written for the layparent.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure you really need something that is specifically geared toward dads, honestly. My husband and I took a infant care class at our local hospital, actually, and it was really helpful on the basics (bathing, diapering, etc.). Neither of us had spent any time with newborns and it was reassuring to us. Have him do all the diapers for a little while after the baby is born (you'll need the rest), and you'll be surprised how quickly he'll feel like an expert.

As for books, we found it helpful to have a variety of books, all of which have their strengths, weaknesses, and specific philosophies. You could probably get a lot of them used. Here are some that we found helpful for all sorts of things, especially in the early months:

Overall baby/infant care:
-Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
-The Baby Book (Sears)
-What to Expect in the First Year

Sleep stuff (skim some of this NOW, before you are sleep deprived!)
-Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Weisbluth)
-Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Ferber)

Development stuff:
-Touchpoints (Brazelton)
-The Scientist in the Crib
-What's Going on in There?

Good luck! The trick is having some useful information that will help you find your own parenting way, of course.

posted by bigd at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2010


(P.S. - Congratulations!)
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:48 PM on December 14, 2010


Seconding Touchpoints. Really. They're fantastic books.
posted by cooker girl at 1:51 PM on December 14, 2010


I really like Touchpoints by Brazleton. He addresses the importance of fathers quite a bit in an intelligent, non "Dumb Dad" kind of way.

Weissbluth in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is another one who encourages fathers to become involved in a positive way and discusses research how bedtime can be made easier when fathers get involved.

Congrats and best of luck!
posted by sutel at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2010


We had lots of books, but we used the Dr. Sears' Baby Book and Baby 411. Dr. Sears is mostly great, but he is very doctrinal about sleep in ways that I found unhelpful. Baby 411 was a valuable quick reference.
posted by seventyfour at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2010


Also recommending Sears for the basic how-to guide. He also might enjoy What's Going on in There? and Our Babies, Ourselves. The Father's Almanac is a nice read; it is, like "The Mother's Almanac," full of nice little ideas, brief paragraphs on how to build a sandbox or stop a fuss.

I got the most practical baby care mileage per page out of Dr Jack Newman's book; enough baby care is wrapped up in feeding that he will find much of it useful and relevant. I remember being particularly pleased to chuck it at the father-to-be during pregnancy; after having read through a lot of dross I was relieved to find Newman and so was he, and we agreed 'Okay, we'll go with the My guidelines are: no guidelines guy!'

I would avoid: Ferber, Weissbluth (particularly lulzy in his paternalistic tone and repeated exhortations to parents to listen to the book rather than themselves or the kid); "Babywise," the research-free weirdness that is "What to Expect." I found what little Brazelton I waded through to be bizarrely out of date, and not very good advice of its time.

You may find that the need for a contemporary Dr-Spock-style, look up "diaper rash" in the index sort of guide has fallen by the wayside with Google. If he is really, really into milestone stuff, The First Twelve Months of Life: Your Baby's Growth Month by Month (which is also quite dated now) is the best bang for the buck chart-wise, and sort of interesting in that regard; quite a lot of minutiae is spelled out.
posted by kmennie at 2:10 PM on December 14, 2010


Came in here to recommend The Expectant Father, but I see I was beaten to the punch, so instead I'll second it - that was the book I relied on when I found out we were pregnant with twins, and I have recommended it to all of my friends. FWIW, I never changed a diaper until the kiddos were out.
posted by um_maverick at 2:21 PM on December 14, 2010


The Expectant Father by Armin Brott

I buy every new dad-to-be I know a copy of that book. There's a whole series of them now. He's a good writer who approaches fatherhood really well.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:25 PM on December 14, 2010


Nthing The Baby Book by Sears
posted by doctord at 2:46 PM on December 14, 2010


I throught Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads was pretty good. Definitely one of those tongue-in-cheek, less content, bigger font books....but actually full of useful info and perspective. (FWIW, I found the Armin Brott book to be intolerable.)
posted by gnutron at 3:00 PM on December 14, 2010


I really liked "Heading Home with Your Newborn" for the birth-to-four-months phase.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


What To Expect the First Year was great for us, and my husband referenced it quite often. I would highly recommend it!
posted by I_love_the_rain at 3:33 PM on December 14, 2010


The Sears books, with their focus on attachment parenting, are really good.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:46 PM on December 14, 2010


Frankly? I'd skip it and start reading about the years of early development, ages 2-5. That's where he's really going to need help. He'll learn then, that the book does not seem to match reality. Seriously, be observant, take notes if your marginally compulsive (we came across a spreadsheet of who did what for our newborn recently — hilarious!) and talk to your pediatrician. He will learn as he goes, or not, and thence thing you know you're buying a bigger car seat.
posted by Dick Paris at 4:04 PM on December 14, 2010


The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.

Seriously saved my life with our first kid. Trying to figure out how to quiet a crying baby is incredibly stressful. This book has "The 5 Ss", an easy to remember list of things to do alone or in combination that will calm almost any baby down.
posted by wwartorff at 4:33 PM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mr. Tuesday's child liked Penelope Leach a lot. I believe the book we had was this one: Your Growing Child.

On amazon I see she has some newer books out-- you might try those as well.

She doesn't talk down to you or give stupid advice. FWIW we both really hated the "What to Expect" series. The Sears books seemed way too hippie-ish for me.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:10 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pro-Sears, anti-Karp. The Sears Baby book was far and away the most-used reference in our home for the first year. I grant that he goes a bit over the top on attachment parenting, but for things like "Does this temperature mean tough it out at home, see the pediatrician, or head to the hospital?" it's a solid reference.
Harvey Karp, I read, tried, and found his miraculous 5 S's did absolutely nothing for our baby, By all means, check it out from the library and try it, maybe it will work for you. I am living witness to the fact that it does not work for every baby.
posted by leapfrog at 6:15 PM on December 14, 2010


Have you considered a class, as in early baby and childcare, or even basic CPR that includes babies? That might give him some confidence in a hands-on way.

Here are the skills he needs:

Diapering (if you're using disposables, it's dead easy, just remember that Exploding Poop Happens to Everyone; if you're going cloth, you both probably need to practice with the newfangled cloth diapers with velcro and inserts, they can be confusing.)

Swaddling (worth practicing on a baby doll, it's not easy to get on first go; or invest in a Miracle Blanket, don't go with the cheapie velcro swaddlers, kids wiggle right out of those).

Sling/Carrier use (this is harder than it looks, practicing is not a bad idea).

The rest is really a) patience and b) more patience.

Babies, especially new ones, really aren't rocket science. If they are eating, sleeping (ha!), growing, and filling up diapers, they're probably ok.

Any book with a chart (the Sears book is good) for common illness symptoms/when to take babies to the doctor will be useful to you.
posted by emjaybee at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2010


I now give copies of Baby 411 as part of my baby shower gifts to friends, it has been super helpful for us with our new baby.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:52 PM on December 14, 2010


Another vote for Baby 411.

It covers all the important information in a well-organized, very clear and concise way.

Everybody who has children, as well as everybody who doesn't have children, should read the section about fevers so that we can all stop freaking out about fevers.
posted by ellenaim at 7:31 PM on December 14, 2010


My husband like the Expectant Father as well. Neither of us cared for the Sears' Baby book (though I had like their pregnancy book). Someone who says, don't worry about teaching babies to get themselves back to sleep, just sooth them the first two or three years, since they're sleeping in your bed anyways, what's the problem?, well, that just makes me crazy. I much preferred Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 by Steven P. Shelov. It's not father specific, but helpful with both milestones and symptom checking. And it's written and edited by pediatricians. I'd give you the Amazon link, but Amazon seems to be funking out right now.

And for sleep I actually liked reading both the Ferber book about sleep and The no-cry sleep solution by Elizabeth Pantley. They're basically the opposite ends of the spectrum, and both had some good ideas to help us get things under control.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:13 PM on December 14, 2010


As a relatively new parent (our little guy is 4 months old tomorrow!) I second gnutron's recommendation of "Be Prepared." It's the perfect balance of useful tips and humourous banter.
posted by sanitycheck at 12:50 AM on December 15, 2010


Nth The Expectant Father and What to expect: the first year
posted by monkey closet at 12:58 AM on December 15, 2010


My husband hated the Dr. Sears book because it treats fathers as inherently stupid. We returned it to the bookstore, it pissed him off so much.

We now have the Penelope Leach book (Your Baby and Child), but frankly, we almost never look at it. Most of the medical questions we've had I just call the doctor's office and ask. For growth/food/etc. the internet is a great resource.

If he's into psychology he might like "What's Going on in There" by Lise Eliot. It's not a how-to guide but it's quite interesting.

We've had great results from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and because we implemented a lot of the tips very early, we've never done any extensive crying it out, yet our daughter was able to put herself to sleep (without crying) very young-- I can't remember exactly but I think 3 or 4 months.
posted by miss tea at 1:32 AM on December 15, 2010


I'd suggest The First Twelve Months, by Frank Caplan. I found it really helpful in trying to understand what was going on from our first baby's point of view.

Reading about the appearance of a newborn, for example, you get a feel for what childbirth is like for the baby:
Delivery is as difficult for the baby as it is for the mother. It is a battle lasting anywhere from four to twenty-four hours....

Generally the newborn's physical description reads like a prizefighter's. His face may be puffy and bluish; his ears may be pressed to his head in bizarre positions--for example, matted forward on his cheeks; his nose, flattened and skewed to one side by the squeeze through the pelvis; his eyes puffy; his eyelids swollen; and his temples and cheeks temporarily bruised if the obstetrician used forceps.
It's concise, which made it a good place to start before I tackled more encyclopedic baby books.

It focuses more on development stages than infant care. (To learn about infant care, we took prenatal classes, and my wife also read a number of more comprehensive books, e.g. What To Expect When You're Expecting).
posted by russilwvong at 11:59 AM on December 15, 2010


Your public library may have an entire shelf devoted to the subject. I went looking for this very thing at the Chicago Public Library's central facility and found about 100 books under call number HQ756 (which may not mean anything outside of CPL).

I don't know how many people this works for, but I tend to go to the library and just start flipping through books on the subject I'm interested in. I can usually tell within seconds whether I connect with an author. I end up with a few books I'm interested in checking out, and perhaps more importantly a stack of books that I know I don't want to bother reading.

YouTube may be of value, too (for example).
posted by RobinFiveWords at 4:01 PM on December 15, 2010


This may not be very helpful but here in Australia there's a book called Baby Love by Robin Barker which is considered the bible of the first year. It's wonderfully written, comprehensive and my husband absolutely loves it. I far prefer it to What to Expect in the First Year, although that seems an ok-ish reference.

I would *not* recommend Sears unless you are 100% sure that YOU are ok with that approach. The last thing you want is your husband making you feel guilty or anxious for not living up to an unattainable attachment parenting ideal.

But really the 2 most challenging tand complex things are likely to be feeding and sleep. It will be a HUGE help for both of you if he really reads up on these before the birth. If you're planning to breastfeeding, you both should be aware of common difficulties that arise, so he can support you and help you decide what to do. Arguments about feeding in the small hours of the morning are very common. You might not want him heading for the formula at the first sign of trouble, but likewise he should not be pressuring you to be a martyr about breastfeeding if it turns out to be too difficult for you.

Sleep will undoubtedly be an issue. I'd suggest you get the Happiest Baby on the Block to help you both through the first few weeks. Around 3 months you'll both probably need some more information - I would recommend Ferber and as suggested above, you can read
posted by 8k at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2010


(posting fail).. balance it out with Pantley if you like.

I can't stress enough how great it will be if you are both well read and both coming at the sleep and feeding questions from a similar perspective. Good luck!
posted by 8k at 7:50 AM on December 19, 2010


I see that it's been suggested, but I want to add to the support for Lise Elliot's What's Going on in There. Once you've got the basics covered (through a parenting class or from the Sears/Pantley/Karp stuff, which is what worked for us), the Elliot book is awesome. While it's not meant to be a parenting book (as others have noted), I've always said it was the most helpful book for parenting that I've read.
posted by devotion+doubt at 6:58 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


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