I can't even get myself to stick to a schedule...
February 14, 2014 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Looking for books on baby care/baby development which don't focus on getting the baby into a routine.

Baby Catseye is due to arrive any time in the next few weeks. Although I'm not planning to follow any particular baby-care manual to the letter, I do like the idea of having a few different books around to use for advice and ideas.

Problem: Everything I can find in the bookshops stresses the importance of getting the baby into a routine, and this isn't an approach that appeals to me. Either it's Gina Ford advocating a strict to-the-minute schedule, or it's the Baby Whisperer stuff and the EASY method which seems more relaxed but still routine-based. I'm happy to take what's useful and ignore the rest (I have one of the Baby Whisperer books already), but the routine-based approach isn't really what I want to do.

So, who's writing books about the alternative? What's out there that gives you a guide to looking after your baby without structuring it into a set routine? I don't know what I'm specifically looking for here in terms of parenting philosophies - demand-based feeding? attachment parenting? - so I'm open to different approaches, and, really, any recommendations for baby care books that aren't about routines are welcome. UK-based books, nice but not essential.

(And yes, I know that routines work really well for some babies and some families, and I'm open to going down that path if ours turns out to be one of them despite my current leanings. Right now, though, I'm looking for something that gives advice from a non-routine-focused perspective.)
posted by Catseye to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
No specific recommendation from me, but we raised 3 kids in a non-scheduled, no-routine way - and they've turned out to be great kids! I liked some attachment parenting books I read, but a lot of attachment parenting books got a little extreme for me. You pick and choose some of the tips and advice that ring true with you, you know? I actually liked reading online forums because there were always different opinions and advice from parents. Good luck - I knew absolutely nothing about babies before my first kid was born and a lot of it comes naturally. It really does. Go with your gut, listen to the advice your friends and family give you (listen, but don't always follow), and have fun!
posted by caroo at 5:37 PM on February 14, 2014

The Sears attachment parenting books were helpful for me as a dad.

Basically, the approach is to listen and respond to the needs of your child. The benefit is greater trust, "attachment" and connection between parent and child, and greater emotional resilience throughout life.

I should say my wife did not read the book AFAIK because in Japan attachment parenting (rather than scheduling) is the norm. It was a happy coincidence that what I read and what my wife was culturally "programmed" to do overlapped.

It's worked really well for our kids.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:53 PM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have the Sears' Baby Book, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum: very rooted in attachment parenting, very anti-routine. I haven't yet raised a kid and have no idea which approach is best, but getting both sides of the story and choosing what works best for you sounds like a great idea.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:53 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! My recommendation: don't worry too much about reading a particular book. Until a book exists entitled "How to Raise Baby Catseye," there is no book that exists providing you advice about how best to raise your baby. Your baby is yours and will totally adapt to how you raise him/her; with or without a schedule and without reading a book.
posted by youdontmakefriendswithsalad at 6:16 PM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I found this book, Touchpoints, to be very helpful. It focuses more on the psychological and behavioral development of babies/toddlers. Understanding their development made it easier to figure out the parenting side.
posted by maxg94 at 6:51 PM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be was enormously helpful to me as a range of possible methods and ideas presented in a friendly and 'see what fits you' style. I have gifted copies to new parents.

I think the Netmums books are all quite good too, and sensible. The DK childcare books are surprisingly good and clearly laid out when it's 3am and you want to know what that rash means.

Structure and routine are very helpful and comforting to a baby and small child though which is why the books go on about it. However, I have no real structure at home for my kids because the mental cost of imposing that structure over seven different schedules, crises and flexible work demands leaves me exhausted, and my kids are happier with no structure + happy mum, vs structure + miserable mum.

You might look for books, blogs and sites that include baby-led weaning. That tends to correlate highly to unstructured parenting I've found.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:26 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might like the approach Magda Gerber outlines in "Your Self-Confident Baby" (basic principles here) and the associated RIE movement. While she does encourage consistency, this is different than routine, and her general approach is to encourage parents to pay attention to what the baby lets you know s/he needs. I found it helpful without being didactic.
posted by judith at 8:41 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Baby Love and Happiest Baby on the block were the only two books out of the fucking plethora of baby books that we read when expecting our first that

a) Didn't strictly push for routine
b) Were evidence-based - and I mean actual science (Karp is a paeditrician, summer is a midwife)
c) Didn't make us feel like total fucking failures/nazis when we followed their stupid advice - that made absolutely no difference to our first baby's crying/sleeping patterns anyway.

All the other books were shit. Do not get me started on the fucking baby whisperer. Just Don't.

More broadly, I think people (parents but also all the judgmental bastards out there) control their babies' sleep/behaviour patterns much less than they think they do. I say this having just passed over our second baby for a feed (she's at 6 weeks now); she is very, very different in temperament/sleeping from our first (thank god), and we have not done anything different. Some babies are easy babies, and some are hard. If you can roll with the punches, good on you - don't let anyone shame you for doing what works (that's why I loved the Karp book, he's whole schtick is like, "for the first six months, anything goes! Don't worry about!". Summer is good for confirming that your baby is just making weird noises/poos/smells etc, and not actually dying of some baby disease).

Good luck and congrats!
posted by smoke at 9:41 PM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree that Happiest Baby on the Block is one of the best ones out there. The reason schedules are helpful is NOT to force the baby to work around your needs; it's to:

-- help you remember what needs to be done, what you last did, and help diagnose what is causing crying

-- meet a baby's needs before they become too urgent

So I see it as a very baby-led process: more of a log of what you did to help anticipate what's coming next. You start by jotting a few quick notes down to be aware of how often they seem to be wanting to be fed, how long they seem to be napping, etc., and then you do a very loose, general pattern around that.

All the research-based books I read suggested (and experience strongly confirmed for me) that if you wait to feed them until they are rip-roaring hungry they can get ravenously frenzied, or if you wait to put them down to nap until they seem tired, they are beyond exhausted and don't learn how to self-soothe.

So since you're open to a schedule, but also want to make sure you're not over-scheduling, I would say just see how it goes, as I honestly can't think of any books that are based around _not_ doing anything specific.

More than anything, having a schedule is a reminder _to_ _the_ _parent_ what is probably coming up next, so better start getting the food/breast/diaper station/nap area ready so when they start showing signs of looking hungry/poopy/tired, you can address them right away. After a month or two you probably won't need any kind of log at all, but for those first few weeks when you are deliriously exhausted, it can be a life-saver.
posted by ravioli at 11:11 AM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't hear much about Penelope Leach any more, but I found her books very comforting after Little Darling #1 was born 20 years ago. Very much a "love your baby and trust your instincts" approach.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:21 AM on February 15, 2014

Like judith above, I found the writings of Magda Gerber to be incredibly useful. You have lots of recommendations about Dr Sears, Happiest Baby on the Block, attachment parenting. You might check out RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) as something completely different. If you don't want to buy a book, you can read the blog of Janet Lansbury. It's very clear and specific, and I find the philosophy extremely appealing.
posted by pizzazz at 9:26 PM on February 16, 2014

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