Favorite Parenting Books

Oh, what the heck. I do not like to be called a “Mommy blogger,” but I’m going to go ahead and give some recommendations for our favorite parenting books.

When our first son was born, I often turned to forums like babycenter.com for advice. I read online articles and discussion boards. None of them helped assuage my anxiety.

Finally, as I wrote in an earlier blog article, I decided to quit the internet, and to use just a few trusted resources. Here are some of them.

Favorite Parenting Books for Pregnancy

Getting email updates is fine (especially if they’re funny), but nothing beats a well-researched book.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

  • What we liked: It’s packed full of research-based information, well-organized and easy to refer back to.
  • Not so hot: It’s pretty dry reading, but that’s about the only negative.

From Tiny Tot to Toddler: This is a free guide provided by the Quebec government to expecting parents, and is therefore not available outside of Quebec. The link might help you find out how to get a copy. It is FANTASTIC.

This is often referred to as “the bible” by healthcare providers in Quebec. If you have any questions about your pregnancy, or your baby, they often ask, “Have you checked in the bible?” It is CHOCK full of really useful information.

  • What we liked: EVERYTHING IS IN HERE. You can look things up by symptom, name, stage, etc.
  • Not so hot: Because it’s government materials, they provide ONLY official recommendations, and might frown on practices like co-sleeping, or other more “folksy” remedies or recommendations.

The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin

Penny Simkin is a well-known US-based doula, and her book is for those accompanying pregnant moms. My brother gave this book to Chico to read while I was pregnant, and he found it extremely informative (especially the part about “very rapid labor”…).

Favorite Parenting Books for Newborns

Once the little one comes along, you’ve got a whole new set of questions. We continued to refer regularly to Tiny Tot. We also found What to Expect the First Year very useful.

  • What we liked: Well organized, easy to refer to, and often addressed the concerns we were facing in the right time frame (it’s organized by month).
  • Not so hot: It’s quite categorical, and can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not doing what they say. It’s also got a LOT of information, which can be overwhelming, but I think that’s a common pitfall with these kinds of books.

With our Bug, we didn’t need to worry much about sleeping issues. He was born an olympic champion of a sleeper. Our Bear, however, gave us a bit more trouble on the sleeping front, and so we consulted:

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth

  • What we liked: It gives pointers that you can put into practice right away, and offers a variety of ideas and potential plans for getting your kid either into a good sleep pattern or back into one when they’ve gone through a transition.
  • Not so hot: It’s heavy on data and statistics, which is reassuring but also dry. That’s why there’s a handy “how to use this book” section at the beginning.

Favorite Parenting Books for Food and Feeding

BLW (or baby-led weaning) is all the rage right now, and we did refer to the book for some information. It’s Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. We did not end up going whole-hog, but did a combination of BLW and old-fashioned spoon feeding.

Again, Tiny Tot was an amazing resource for beginning solids. It has a whole guide for what kinds of foods to give, including portion size recommendations, etc. It’s got a chart that you can use to tick things off as you keep adding foods, and great suggestions for what to try, and how to prepare it.

Favorite Parenting Books for Behavior

As our Bug got older and we started facing the famous “terrible twos” and “threenager” phases, we looked to some books for advice on behavior management.

Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp

  • What we liked: It provides actionable things that you can put to use IMMEDIATELY, and you will see immediate positive results, if you’re willing adjust your behavior and try something new.
  • Not so hot: It’s SO AMERICAN, and kind of makes you feel like an idiot. But whatever, it works.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

  • What we liked: It challenged us to think differently about how we approach situations, and was also immediately effective.
  • Not so hot: It’s coming from a very Christian background (assuming churchgoing, etc.), which is fine with us as we are Christian, but might not appeal to others. It also assumes that Mom is staying at home full-time with the kids, which is a bit frustrating, but again, does not invalidate the precepts of the book.

Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki

I’ve learned that potty training is a polarizing topic among parents these days. We had the attitude that potty training is taught, and that our son was ready to be taught when he was a little over two years old. We did not subscribe to the wait-until-they’re-ready theory, and wanted to help our son out of diapers as soon as possible, for our sanity and for the environment.

  • What we liked: This is a no-nonsense guide, with a healthy dose of reality and a great sense of humor. Her style really fit our parenting style, and when we approached potty training as a fun, teaching-learning activity, it made it relatively smooth.
  • Not so hot: I have trouble thinking about what is not so hot in this book. Other people I have spoken with don’t like the pressure they feel to get their kid out of diapers, or worry that the pressure of potty training will have an adverse effect on their children. In my mind, if you’re pressuring your kid to potty train, you’re not really following this book, and you’ll have an uphill battle to face.

The Best Parenting Advice Ever…

Usually comes from your doctor, close friends and/or family, and your own instincts. These books might give you information and tools, but you’re the one who decides what to do with them.

Our Favorite Baby Gear

In the spirit of answering frequent questions, here’s an article about our favorite baby gear that we’ve used for our two boys.

Lots of friends are hopping on the baby train these days (choo choo!), and since my friends know I love to give advice, they keep asking for tips and suggestions for what to buy for baby. If you’re in this situation, read on for some of our favorite baby gear!

The Number One Best Item of Baby Gear We Ever Bought:

The Skip Hop Pronto Signature Changing Station.

Seriously. Buy it. Actually, if we know each other and you’re expecting a baby, don’t buy it. Because I will buy it for you. It’s that good.

Your kid is likely to be in diapers until about age two, so you will need to change diapers on the go for at least that long. We’ve used this on a daily basis (with only a brief hiatus between when our oldest was potty trained and our second was born).

I don’t like having a “diaper bag” that’s huge and heavy. If you pack this thing right, it’s your diaper bag all in one, and you can toss it into any bag you want to carry. I LOVE IT.

Our Favorite Baby Gear for Sleeping

I’m not going to make a specific crib recommendation. Basically, a crib is a crib is a crib. As long as they’re to standard and safe, and you like the look, then great.

One thing I will say about a crib: we got one with a storage drawer underneath. It has been VERY helpful, especially in smaller living quarters.

For a mattress, I recommend a good, breathable mattress with a firmer infant side and a softer toddler side. We purchased our Simmons Nature’s Beautyrest mattress at Rose ou Bleu in Montreal, but I’m sure they’re available anywhere baby mattresses are sold.

  • Pros: It’s firm enough for baby (as recommended), and the other side is softer for toddlers.
  • Cons: Honestly can’t think of any.

A travel crib is a must if you’re planning to hit the road with baby. We absolutely love our Guava Family Lotus travel crib. It’s been with us to three different continents and has yet to disappoint. When not serving as a travel crib, it sits in our living room as a playpen and easy “baby jail” when we need to leave little one unsupervised for a quick minute.

  • Pros: It has a zippered side that opens up, so it can double as a playpen. It is very light and extremely easy to set up, and it comes with a practical carrying case.
  • Cons: You have to buy the fitted sheet separately. It should NOT be put in the dryer, as it shrinks terribly. Also, the mattress is quite thin. We bought the additional quilted sheet which we put under the fitted sheet, providing more plush.

A rocker or bassinet is a great thing to have, for a safe place to put baby down in the living room or kitchen. We used our Fisher Price Rock n’ Play for both our boys, and it was a big hit. Our kids napped in it, as well as sat and watched people move around them.

NOTE: The Fisher Price website lists this as a sleeper. It is NOT a safe place for unsupervised sleeping, as the baby does not lie flat in the bassinet. This is fine for naps or as a hangout spot when baby is awake.

  • Pros: Baby is sitting up a bit and can look around when not sleeping. Baby also feels nice and snuggled in the bassinet. Our boys loved the warm cozy security of being in here. It folds up for easy storage, and the cloth cover is washable.
  • Cons: Baby is sitting up a bit, so not a safe place for overnight or unsupervised sleeping. Our boys napped in this in the living room, but always slept in their crib at night. I’ve also read complaints that the hard plastic support causes baby’s head to flatten. Dude. Don’t put your baby in here for hours and hours. And do tummy time. Jeez.

Our Favorite Baby Gear for Baby Carrying

When our oldest was born, we lived in a city and used public transportation a lot. Pushing a stroller around was not so useful, we pretty much exclusively carried our Bug until spring finally sprang.

For out and about carrying, we love the Ergo Baby Original carrier. We used it for front carrying when they were smaller, and back carrying when they were larger.

  • Pros: Comfortable, lightweight, and with an available infant insert which allows for use right from birth. It works for front carrying, as well as hip and back carrying. It’s also washable and has a handy pocket for storing small things like tissues or your phone.
  • Cons: It is only for facing baby towards you (no front facing). I’ve read, and our osteopath said, that front facing carrying is not good for the baby’s hips, so we were happy to use this. Both our boys liked it.

For indoor baby wearing, or for baby wearing on the airplane, we liked the Moby wrap. If you’re going to be sitting, this is more comfortable than wearing the Ergo carrier.

  • Pros: Soft, flexible, and easy to use once you practice a bit. Baby is comfortable, and it’s pretty easy to nurse baby in one of these, too.
  • Cons: It’s a stretchy wrap, which is not recommended for back carrying. It also gradually stretches out after being worn for a while, and baby can start to sag.

Our Favorite Baby Gear for Playing

Here are a couple of our favorite toys/games for entertaining baby.

Chico picked up the Tiny Love Take Along mobile, and both our boys loved it from the start. We attached it to the rock n’ play, and the music was honestly not as annoying as I thought.

  • Pros: Nice music, cute animals, goes for about 30 minutes.
  • Cons: Needs batteries, and the music gets stuck in your head.

For a fun place to park the kid when you need to get things done, or when their older sibling is screaming that “SAMMY KEEPS TOUCHING MY TOOOOOYS,” an activity bouncer or something of the kind is fun to have. I can’t speak to any one particular model, but I believe my parents have the Fisher Price jumperoo in their attic in the States, ready to break out for grandkids’ visits.

  • Pros: Safe, fun place to put baby while you cook dinner. It’s entertaining and usually responds to the kid’s movement.
  • Cons: THE MUSIC. It’s maddening. Also, it takes up a lot of space. If you can borrow one of these which you can then return to the owner, that’s probably ideal.

Our Favorite Baby Gear Bits and Bobs

Eating: we’ve used the Fisher Price booster seat for both our boys.

  • Pros: Can be used up to toddlerhood. Easy to clean.
  • Cons: Uses up one of your chairs, but that does mean it doesn’t take up much space.

We also love the Thermos Foogo stainless steel straw water bottle. It keeps water nice and cold.

Some great Ikea products for babies:

Make a Baby List

If you’re expecting and friends and family want to know what to get you for baby, you need a baby list registry. It’s the most practical way to let people know what to get that you really need/want.

Chico and I used babylist.com, an independent registry site that allows you to bring together items from all different websites. If you stick to just Amazon, then you can only choose things available there.

Yes yes, we know that Amazon pretty much has EVERYTHING these days, but not always! Especially if you’re located outside the US.

I’ve got more…

If you want to hear about our bigger purchases (car seats, stroller, hiking backpack, bike trailer, etc.), let me know in the comments below. I can write an article about bigger baby gear we like.

Top Five Tips for Traveling with Kids

A girlfriend texted me in panic: “JANE! I’m flying from Canada to New Zealand tomorrow! QUICK! TOP TRAVEL TIPS WITH KIDS!”

Then she admonished me for not having a handy blog article about this for her to refer to. So Tash, this one is for you.

Just a little background, in case you’re wondering what qualifies me to give such advice. Before my oldest son was one year old, he had been on 19 flights (meaning, I had been on 19 flights with him). My second son is now nearly 10 months old, and he has already been on 8 flights.

Trust me. I know a thing or two about this.

Top Travel Tip #1: Stick to a Schedule

As a traveling adult, I usually recommend you set your watch to the local time at your destination and then try to go by that schedule.

When traveling with kids, though, that doesn’t work. They can’t understand time differences, and they need to listen to their body clocks.

Plan your carry-on gear and activities to go along with your home time zone. If you’re going to be on a plane at bedtime, take pyjamas, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bedtime story books, etc.

Have meals ready for your home time zone mealtimes (if kid-friendly meals aren’t offered on the flight, or if you have picky eaters, pack your own). Gather the kids together for meals at the time their body clocks expect them, and try to maintain something like your home mealtime routine. Get to the bathroom, wash hands, sit down, etc., for example.

If your kids nap, try and get them to settle for at least a rest when they would normally nap. It may or may not work (usually doesn’t), but they might agree to have some “quiet time”.

Yeah, you’re going to have to adjust to a new time zone when you get to your destination, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

Top Travel Tip #2: Rules go out the Window

No TV at home? FORGET IT!

Limited screen time? FORGET IT!

Sweets and snacks are verboten? FORGET IT!

Okay, you don’t have to go nuts, but you get the picture. Traveling with kids is HARD, and you’re going to need all the help you can get, even if that means letting them watch hours of cartoons and movies.

If your kid is getting antsy and wanting to watch more TV or eat some of the snacks being passed around by the flight attendants, let them! It makes traveling seem special.

And honestly? Whatever works.

Top Travel Tip #3: Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!

Do you know what your kid’s favorite snack is? PACK TONS OF IT.

In moments of boredom or desperation, a well-timed snack is always handy. You can try to keep it healthy, of course, or increase the sense of occasion by providing snacks you normally wouldn’t at home.

Top Travel Tip #4: Entertainment

My attitude when traveling with kids is that I will not rest until we reach our destination (if then…). For that reason, I arm myself with scads of entertainment options.

Books, coloring, games… you name it. Old favorites work, but nothing beats breaking out something new for keeping attention for longer than a few seconds.

Entertainment includes screen time. Take along some kid-friendly headphones, and take a look through the in-flight entertainment system. There are also games and puzzles we do together.

And don’t forget the iPad! We have a collection of “airplane games” as we call them. My son is only allowed to play these when we’re traveling, which makes them special.

Our games include Oceanhouse Media Dr Seuss books (you have to pay for these), and a few free games, including a Thomas and Friends game, and others.

Entertainment also means moving around. Yes, you don’t want to bother other travellers, but at the same time your kid has got to move.

Don’t let them run wild by any means, but taking walks up and down the aisles, exploring the galleys, and “exciting” bathroom trips are always options. Flight attendants are super nice, and often have games and things available for kids (especially Lufthansa!). The best way to keep your kid from crawling up the walls or kicking the back of the seat in front of her is to let her move as much as possible during flight.

No, not everyone is going to love it, but neither is everyone going to be happy if your kid is staying still in one place, screaming.

Top Travel Tip #5: Nurse & Baby Wearing

This only applies for nursing moms traveling with babies. My oldest boy nursed for 10 months, and my second is nearly 10 months and is still going strong.

Nothing beats nursing for comforting, calming, and otherwise keeping your baby in one place. Nursing during take off and landing can help avoid ear popping.

During flight, if you haven’t managed to snag a bulkhead row with a bassinet (I HIGHLY recommend you try to!), baby wearing can be a life saver. I always used a soft wrap (we had the Moby wrap) for flying, as I find them more comfortable to sit in than the structured carriers. The most comfortable carrier we found is the ErgoBaby.

Go With the Flow

The most important tip is to remember that your kids are not adults. Meaning, they cannot reason away the fatigue or understand the impact jet lag has on their bodies.

Be patient with them, and try to keep your sense of humor.

I do not think that parents need to hand out “goodie bags” to travellers sitting around them. You don’t have to feel guilty for traveling with your kids, or try to placate fellow travellers with treats.

The best way to keep your seat neighbors happy is to dedicate your energy to your kids. Keep them entertained, have patience, and show kindness and empathy when they are having a hard time.

And have a stiff drink, or a well-deserved cup of tea when you get to your destination.

Happy summer travels!