Parenting books

Silke Thistlewood is a mum of 2 girls (7 and 3) and founder of Nourish to Thrive, as well as the free facebook community Nourished Mums, both of which she set up after the birth of her second child, when faced with a desperate lack of realistic self care and well being advice for mothers. Through her quest out of post natal depression and anxiety she grew a passion for sharing the small, yet effective tips and tricks she found that left her feeling nourished and cared for without needing extra time in the day.
She now runs workshops, online courses and private consultations with mums, helping them adjust to motherhood and provide them with a realistic toolkit of resilience and self care. 

She has created Nourished Mums Care Cards – a deck of 50 cards packed full of realistic self care and mindset advice as well as motherhood solidarity, honesty and a good dose of humour.

I asked Silke to write a blog about parenting advice books that will actually help you.

Parenting advice books. 

All books aimed at new mums should come with a massive red label on the front that reads “take from this book what suits you and please (please!) ignore the rest”.
Most of these books are consumed at a highly emotional and sleep deprived time, when you’re desperate for anything that might make your life just a little easier and more predictable. Basically you’d like a manual for what to do with this tiny human who’s just arrived and who you are apparently in charge of. A thought that I still, 7 years later, find hysterical and preposterous. 

Newborns

During the newborn stage (and often far beyond) we feel unsure about everything, guilty about a lot and what we’d like most of all in the entire world is to get some sleep. So it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of parenting / baby / advice books out there, offering a helping hand and tons of advice. The problem is that it’s the author’s advice. Things that have worked for THEM. No matter how much of an expert someone is, they’ve not met you and more importantly, your child.  

Then there is the sheer amount different parenting approaches to consider and choose from. From gentle and attachment parenting to crying it out and strict structure and everything in between. Chances are the kind of parent you actually are is very different to the kind of parent you thought you would be before you had a child. There’s a saying that’s so funny because it’s true – “I was the perfect parent before I had kids”. Truth is it will take you a while until you work out what kind of approach sits right with you and the much talked about mothering instinct can also take a looong time to kick in. Which makes you feel even more desperate for a book to tell you exactly what to do.

Books about routine

If you like structure and routine, it’s natural that you’d be drawn to something like Gina Ford . The promise of an exact routine is tempting. And if you have a baby that it suits, then I can see how having a rigid structure can, ironically, feel really freeing. You’ve got some control and some time back to yourself. But the frustration of a baby who does not want to fit into a routine that a stranger has made up for them must be huge (and since the baby can’t read, it has no idea when it’s meant to sleep, eat or play).

I had read about these books only on parenting forums, where mums couldn’t leave the house for weeks, in fear of the baby falling asleep in the pram or the car. Both big no-nos in Ms Ford’s book and I can’t even imagine the sheer panic you’d experience at your baby dozing off in the pram on your way home from the shops. I personally enjoyed car naps with both of my kids (they were napping, not me!). I got some guaranteed peace and quiet and they’d have a guaranteed longer nap.

Gentle parenting books

Even the more gentle books (like the Baby Whisperer or The No Cry Sleep Solution, my personal bibles first time round) can make you feel guilty and pressured without openly meaning to. Even the faint suggestion that your baby *should* be doing something at a certain time (like sleep a certain amount of hours, settle themselves to sleep, or play by themselves for a few minutes) or that research shows how important a long nap is for their development (a horrible piece of research to read when you have a baby who naps for 20 minutes tops) can induce guilt, worry, doubt and straight up anxiety. Not so gentle and not so helpful. 

Weaning

Then there’s weaning. Puree fed, baby led or a mix of both? When, how, all home made organic or is shop bought ok? Once again the information available is thoroughly overwhelming.I was massively into nutrition when I had my second child but quickly realised that the amount of food prep and cooking I had been doing would quite simply not be possible any more.

Books like Super Food for Superchildren and Nourishing Traditions struck deep fear and shame into me for allowing any processed foods or sugar (gasp!) to pass my own, let alone baby’s lips. The fact however is that the negative effect of the stress all of these books can potentially cause (around parenting, food, your own wellbeing) can far outweigh any benefits of following the guidance within them. Like I said at the start – take from each book what suits you and don’t sweat the rest. And that’s exactly what I did. Eventually….

Some of my favourites

Luckily, there has been a real influx of books aimed at us mums recently, that share with real honesty the realities of parenting and that it’s ok do do just good enough and wing it every day, rather than aiming for perfection and running yourself into the ground in the process. A huge range of these books has sprung up just in the last 5 years. Celebrity ones (Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher), experts (The Post Natal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serrallach), and ones by regular mums who felt the drive and passion to plug the gap that exists in supporting modern mums through shared experiences, and often a good dose of humour

Hurrah for Gin by Katie Kirby

Scummy Mummies by Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn

The Unmumsy Mum Diary by Sarah Turner

The New Mums Notebook by Amy Ransom

The Little Book of Self Care for New Mums by Beccy Hands

Parenting the Shit out of Life by Mother Pukka
Bonkers by Olivia Siegel

These are my favourites by far as you can tell by the length of the list! There’s huge value in simply sharing experiences, reducing stigma, mum shaming and mum guilt and to feel like we’re all in this together, rather than competing against each other.

In conclusion

While I don’t doubt that some books work for some babies / mums, the healthiest approach is certainly not to put all your sleep-through-the-night hopes in one baby book basket. What the books should really tell you is that all you need is some time to adjust to motherhood. To give yourself space and grace to learn about your baby and yourself as a mum. To let go of unrealistic expectation and take it one day at a time. My favourite ever parenting advice has always been “do what works, until it doesn’t”. The books will still be there when whatever you’re currently doing stops working. Or things will just naturally change as you / baby change, which seems to be the case most of the time. In hindsight anyway.

The list of books in this article is by no means exclusive – there are soooo many!!! Please do add your favourites / most hated in the comments!