A recent study has shown that the more parenting advice books you read, the worse you will feel. This doesn’t surprise us veteran parents at all. I knew very little about how to care for a baby so I did what I’ve always been taught to do – I researched and read everything I could lay my hands on. Fortunately I was quite cash-strapped at the time so my resources were rather limited. It still completely did my head in.
Book A told me if my baby cried at all I had failed to fulfil its needs and it would grow up with attachment issues. Book B told me that if I didn’t train my baby to self-settle (a.k.a. cry it out) from 6-8 weeks I would be condemning them to lifelong insomnia.
Basically, according to the baby advice books, you can’t win. It’s a fail/fail situation.
Most of us don’t grow up around small babies – the days of helping to raise your 13 brothers and sisters are well and truly over – so some basic advice on pregnancy and babies is welcome.
Here’s my pick of 4 books on pregnancy and parenting that won’t make you feel thoroughly incompetent. They might even be helpful.
1. Up the Duff
Humour rating: 8/10
Usefulness rating: 10/10
Up the Duff, by Kaz Cooke is the book you need to buy the minute those double lines appear (or the cross, depending on your choice of pregnancy test). In fact, buy it before you even start trying – it’s got some great tips on preparing for pregnancy as well.
Kaz Cooke has done her research and updates Up the Duff regularly, so make sure you buy a new copy if you can – it’s best to have the latest edition in case the recommendations change.
She’s also bloody funny – alongside highly useful information about fetal development and how to avoid vomiting on your colleagues, she shares her own rather hilarious pregnancy experiences.
2. Baby Love
Once your baby arrives in the world and you’re trying to figure out what on earth to do with it, Robin Barker’s Baby Love will be very helpful. Read it from cover to cover and then refer back to it. She takes a no-nonsense approach to baby settling and feeding. It’s not particularly funny, but you probably won’t be in the mood for humour in the early days anyway.
I will recommend this one with a caveat, though – I don’t agree with her opinion that teething pain isn’t a thing. If your baby is teething and has swollen, red gums and is screaming all throughout the night, chances are she or he is in pain. My kids are now 5 and 7 and they still experience pain when cutting new teeth – they just use actual words to complain about it now.
Humour rating: 10/10
Usefulness rating: 7/10
When you’ve burned all your other baby advice books, after throwing them at the wall in frustration, Emily-Jane Clark’s brilliantly funny book, Sleep is for the Weak is the one you need to get your hands on to try to preserve a shred of sanity.
This is not the book for those parents who swear that routine/dummy-free/natural/attachment parenting skills resulted in their baby sleeping through the night by 6 weeks of age.
This is for those of us who are still pacing up and down, probably in tears and yelling at our partner, when the baby is 6 months old because we’d tried EVERYTHING and still the kid refused to sleep.
Hot tip: Buy it and read it before you get to that point.
Emily-Jane Clark is also the writer of Stolen Sleep – a very funny parenting blog. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter venting about her own sleep thieves. There’s even a Sleep Thief Victim Support Facebook group you can join.
Humour rating: 10/10
Usefulness rating: 1/10 (unless the zombie apocalypse strikes, then I’m willing to revise this to a 10)
This book is utterly ridiculous and entirely pointless. I loved every single minute. You probably already know James Breakwell from his hilarious Twitter account, @XplodingUnicorn. A comedy writer who is also a parent to 4 daughters, Buzzfeed has christened him ‘The funniest dad on Twitter’.
Only Dead on the Inside is quite literally a ‘how to’ guide on surviving the zombie apocalypse as a parent. It’s full of useful tips such as how to tell a toddler the world ended:
Remember how you were biting everybody? Well, it caught on.
How to launch a rolling buggy (stroller/pram) attack:
- Verify the baby is no longer in the buggy. If you forgot to hand the kid to your spouse, this won’t end well.
- Aim for one of the zombie’s shins.
- Charge forward with the buggy.
- As the zombie falls, yell a dad joke. Be creative. “Timber!” and “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” are already taken.
And why having kids is likely to result in your death anyway:
It’s hard to keep an eye out for reanimated corpses while also arguing with a four-year-old about whether or not her leggings are the right shade of pink. At least you’ll die over something important.
Breakwell is pretty upfront about it all in the preface:
This book guides you through the unique child-rearing challenges of the zombie apocalypse. If you don’t believe in zombies, you might still find this book entertaining. It’ll help you pass the time until the undead eat you. Before you die, you might even pick up a tip or two on how to raise children when zombies aren’t around. That’s not my goal. Any normal parenting lessons you learn from this book are strictly accidental.
There’s far too much constructive, meaningful efficiency in the world as it is. Go and grab yourself a copy of Only Dead on the Inside for no other reason than it’s really very funny. You’re unlikely to learn anything useful, I promise.
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