I am, by nature, a researcher. I like to pretend that I’m one of those people who is super carefree and lighthearted, but the truth is: I don’t feel good about any decision I ever make until I have fully researched it and mapped out where it might lead me.

I’m super type A like that.

So, when a baby was literally dropped into my lap with just one week’s notice a few months’ shy of my 30th birthday (that’s a long story, but ultimately, a very happy one), I of course went into a bit of a panic. There had been no real time for research. No time for planning!

No nine months for nesting.

At the height of my panic, I did the only thing I could think to do: I bought every parenting book you’ve ever heard of, and instead of napping when my new baby was sleeping … I was reading.

The good news? I retained the gist of most of those books, and this is all you really need to know about them:

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

Want a happy baby? Don’t ever let them know they’ve actually made it outside the womb! They’ll panic! Freak out, really. This world is way, way too much for them. If you have any hope at all of keeping your baby content, you have to trick him or her into thinking they never exited your vagina. You can do this with the “five Ss:” swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing, suck. Once you’ve mastered these, your little one will totally stop fussing and go back to thinking they’re safe inside your belly. Babies are stupid like that.

But don’t forget: You need help, too. Lots and lots of help. From friends, family, strangers. Ask for help everywhere you go. That’s the only way you’ll survive.

2. What to Expect: The First Year, Heidi Murkoff

There are a million things that can go wrong with your child. Maybe even a million and one. Here are all the ways to deal with every single possible thing that could ever go wrong, mostly so that you can stay up at night panicking about when these things might actually happen. Which is good, because you really don’t have time to sleep if you hope to finish this book by the time your kid is 18.

3. On Becoming Baby Wise, Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

You are in charge, not your baby. The sooner you both realize that, the better off everyone will be. So schedule, schedule, schedule. Schedule sleep, schedule feedings, schedule everything from diaper changes to play time. While you’re at it, schedule your hair, dentist, and gynecologist appointments … but not ever when your baby is scheduled for eating, sleeping, or pooping.

If you don’t schedule, your baby will own you. And you don’t want to be owned by a baby, do you?

4. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, Tracy Hogg, RMMH, MS

Parenting is E.A.S.Y. You just have to listen to your baby, because they are talking to you all the time. Don’t be the kind of parent who is too busy or distracted to listen to your newborn. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t meant they can’t talk. They are telling you all the time what they need. Listen. Are you listening?

Also, they should eat as soon as they wake up from naps, but also whenever they tell you they’re hungry. Make sure you’re listening.

5. The Contented Little Baby Book, Gina Ford, R.N.

Structure is everything. And so is sleep. Sleep is everything. If you want sleep, you need structure. If you want structure, you need sleep. So get your baby to sleep. If you just have structure, that will happen. And they will sleep through the night, because you have structure. If they aren’t sleeping through the night, you don’t have enough structure. Or maybe you don’t have enough sleep.

Either way, do better.


So there you have it, the main points made by some of the most popular baby books on the market. For what it’s worth, I did glean pieces of valuable advice from each and every one of these books. For instance, I had my daughter on a sleep, eat, play schedule from about 2 weeks on, and I would say it definitely worked for us.

But perhaps the most important thing I learned is that there is no one right parenting style that works for everyone. Many of these books claim to be the only solution you need: I just don’t buy that. I was a baby-wearing, life-scheduling mama … and that worked for me. Finding the style that works for you has to be about taking your personality into account, considering your child’s temperament, and being honest about your lifestyle. None of these styles will work for everyone. And plenty of people might find that a combination of the styles is what’s right for them.

That was me. I took bits and pieces from all of these books that I liked (and discarded suggestions from each and every one that seemed insane to me). But if you want my advice? I’d say, don’t bother reading any of them.

Because if you’re reading, you could be sleeping. And if I had it to do all over again, I would definitely choose the sleep.