There are so many books for new mothers out there and I bet you are lost which one to choose (just like me!). My pick would be these two: Secrets of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg and What To Expect The First Year by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. I've read quite a few of other books too, but for me, these two were sufficient to equip me and helped me going through my first year of motherhood.
Secrets of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
I like this book so much. This book opened my eyes and made me understand my baby more. I think it has helped me to settle in my baby pretty quickly. He started to sleep through the night when he was 3.5 months old, from 7 pm to 7 am. A 12-hours straight!
Top three things I learned from this book:
1) Respect: The Key to Unlocking a Baby's World
Every baby is a person who has language, feelings, and a unique personality - and, therefore, deserves respect.
- Be with your baby, make her undivided object of your attention at that moment. Focus on this bonding time.
- Delight your baby's senses, but avoid overstimulation.
- Take care to make your baby's environment interesting, pleasant, and safe.
- Foster your baby's independence. This is a very interesting point for me. We don't always take initiative and play with our baby but we also have to let them lead and let them play - while we observe. Being able to play by themselves is a very useful "skill" later in life, it's very good that they are able to keep themselves occupied and not always need someone to play with.
- Remember to talk with, not at, your baby. It's a two way conversation. We talk and also try to listen to what our baby try to say to us.
- Engage and inspire, but always let your baby lead.
2) Understanding Your Baby's Type - there are five different type:
The Angel Baby - good as gold, eternally smiling, and consistently undemanding. Feed, play, and sleep easily, and usually don't cry when wake up. Able to calm themselves down.
The Textbook Baby - predictable baby, fairly easy to handle. Reach all the milestones right on schedule. Can play on their own for short periods. Have normal cranky periods, but easy to calm.
The Touchy Baby - ultrasensitive baby. Sometimes cry for no apparent reason. Often get fussy after a number of people have held them, or after outings. Needs reassurance that someone they know well is close by. This type of baby suck a lot. Nurses erratically. Difficult to fall asleep.
The Spirited Baby - very vocal and even seem aggressive at times. Know exactly what they like and dislike. Babble a lot and loudly. Likely to grab for her bottle at an early age.
The Grumpy Baby - the type who are mad at the world and let you know it :-) Fuss their way to sleep every night. Impatient. Cranky. When this type of baby get very angry, their cries are particularly lound and long.
Understanding your baby's type help you to read your baby's cues and take the right action to handle your baby.
I am quite lucky that my son, C, is a combination of the Textbook Baby and the Angel Baby. He is always been very easy to manage and to please. He feed, play, and sleep easily. But honestly often I think that the reason he is so easy to manage is because I am such a good organizer and I love structure, routine, and predictability. I make my own life structured, predictable, and full of anticipation and I strongly believe babies and young kids basically like the same thing. As they try to understand the world and how things work, it really helps them if they know what's going to happen next. I think this is one of the reason I like this book so much - because it matches with my own thinking about structured routine and the author describe it in the next point below.
3) E.A.S.Y - a structured routine that needs to be established with all babies, ideally from day one!
Humans, at any age, are habitual creatures - they function better within a regular pattern of events. Structure and routine are normal to everyday life. Everything has a logical order.
E- Eating: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or combination of both
A - Activity: basically anything else outside eating and sleeping.
S - Sleeping: all babies need to learn how to get themselves to sleep in their own bed.
Y - You: when baby is sleeping, it's your turn to rest and rejuvenate.
Some key things I learned from E.A.S.Y:
1) Before I read this book, I always thought - being told - and sometimes saw - babies drinking milk from the bottle (or breast-fed) then fall asleep. After reading this book, I realized it was the wrong sequence. By doing so (milk then sleep), you make your baby dependent to milk (sucking) to fall asleep. It's a bad habit. By putting your baby down to sleep while he/she is still fully awake, your baby learn to fall asleep by him/herself. And when this happen, your life is not miserable anymore! (How many times I've heard my friends feeling frustated and complained about being tired just from trying to put their babies to sleep!)
2) Most sleep problems occur because - baby is nursed, baby is walked around, baby is rocked or jiggled, baby is allowed to fall asleep on an adult's chest, or when baby is asleep, parents rush in at the first little whimper. So, I don't do any of these! I also started the bed-time routine early. I wanted to send a message to him that it's time to sleep. I changed his nappy then read him a (very short) book then closed the curtain and put him down.
3) As much as the Y (YOU) part sounds very promising - rest and rejuvenate - honestly in reality it was not exactly like that. Especially without any help from anyone (I was all by myself since day 1). The Y (YOU) time I used to quickly pump my milk, did all the washing, and by the time I was ready for sitting down or lying down, C was already awake! But... I think by following the structured routine E.A.S.Y, it helped C to be an easy baby.
4) Strictly follow the sequence Eating - Activity - Sleeping and you'll produce a content baby - and you'll be content, too! It is not exact schedule (by time) that is important - but the sequence.
What To Expect The First Year by Heidi Murkoff with Sharon Mazel
This book really explain about every single thing that possibly could happen. I did not have enough time to read both books before I gave birth. If you are in the same situation, I would suggest you still buy both books but read ahead of time the first one (Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg) and only check the second book (What to Expect the First Year) whenever needed (it will happen very often especially for your first born! :-)). This book have the answer for every single question raised during the first year.
Happy reading and enjoy motherhood!