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The 6 Best Baby Care Books

The Instuctions.

There’s a great scene in the movie “Raising Arizona” where Nicholas Cage, who has just kidnapped a baby,  tosses his wife Dr. Spock’s, Baby And Childcare” and says, “Here are the instructions.”

I always thought that was hilarious but as a parent I know it’s actually kind of true: Sure, infants are not DVRs, but let’s face it some basic instructions would help.

Back in the day, an extended family of wise women would be around to reassure parents about weird gurgling noises, breastfeeding “latch,” and infant acne. But for most modern Americans, that wise old aunty comes in the form of a big fat baby book.

But which one? There are a lot out out there, but the 6 I’ve picked here will teach you what basic  things there are to know about babies and how to keep them safe, healthy and relatively happy.

For the 7 Best Birth Books, look here.


  • Your Baby and Child, Birth to Age 5 by Penelope Leach 1 of 6
    Your Baby and Child, Birth to Age 5 by Penelope Leach
    Bottom Line: Thorough, thoughtful, responsive parenting advice.

    Book available for purchase here.
    British child-rearing expert and psychologist Penelope Leach has been a major force in bringing child-led parenting to the mainstream. When her first books, Babyhood and "Your Baby and Child: Birth to Age 5" hit the shelves in the 1970s, they were considered revolutionary. She was one of the first experts to present issues from the child's point of view. Parents and babies, she argued, are intertwined, so whatever's in the best interest of the baby benefits its parents as well. While she definitely advocates putting your baby's needs first, Leach doesn't prescribe any particular means to that end. Co-sleeping is no better or worse than crib-sleeping in her book— there are pros and cons to each, for her.
  • The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears 2 of 6
    The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears
    Bottom Line: Attachment Parenting attitude, non-alarmist medical info.

    Book available for purchase here.
    The Sears' "attachement parenting" philosophy encourages a more "natural," "responsive" parenting style. They emphasize what they call the 7 Baby B's: baby-wearing, sleep sharing, breastfeeding, and responsiveness (as well as balance and boundaries, but those last two B's tend to be slightly less reinforced throughout.) Whatever your take on the AP ethos, The Baby Book offers excellent medical advice. Sears' straightforward and relaxed style makes the book feel far less alarmist than most MD child-care books, and his information is clear and well-researched. While some medical books tend to undermine parental confidence with an authoritative tone, Sears places an encouraging amount of trust in parents' judgment in medical as well as emotional matters. The Sears website, askdrsears.com, contains even more detailed information about things like medication dosage and common illnesses.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring For Your Baby And Young Child 3 of 6
    The American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring For Your Baby And Young Child
    Bottom Line: Comprehensive, official, dry, heavy on the milestones.

    Book available for purchase here.
    This is a good one for getting the lowdown on infant development. As it comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, you'll o get the basic medical guidelines on all things from vaccines (do them) to breastfeeding (recommended) as well as checklists about when babies start to smile, crawl, walk, chew, roll over and all that.
  • The New Baby Basics by Michel Cohen 4 of 6
    The New Baby Basics by Michel Cohen
    Bottom Line: Reassuring, easy-to-read, not much on growth and development.

    Book available for purchase here.
    Hip, New York-based, French pediatrician Dr. Michel Cohen delivers the baby basics in his signature "laissez faire" style. Cohen has developed a bit if a pediatric empire in NYC for his confidence-building vibe-- he's not an alarmist guy. (Full discloser: I work for an off-shoot of his pediatric practice, Tribeca Parenting but I read his book before I worked there and loved it.) This book is fun and easy to read and crystal clear on all crucial stuff, from fevers to baths to idiosyncratic (though surprisingly common) questions like, Why does my baby seem to have no chin?
  • Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock and Robert Needlman 5 of 6
    Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock and Robert Needlman

    Book available for purchase here.
    It's an oldie but a goodie. The updated version is chock-a-block with information not just about medical concerns but also strategies for getting a baby to sleep, responding to crying, trouble-shooting breastfeeding problems, etc. I still love the Dr. Spock motto: "trust youself, you know more than you think you do."
  • From The Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris 6 of 6
    From The Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris
    Bottom Line: Agenda-free basics about baby-care and feeding.

    Book available for purchase here.
    It's a bit awkward to promote your own book, but Rebecca and I put a ton of work into our baby care section, consulting pediatricians, lactation experts, sleep counselors and postpartum doulas. We wrote this book largely out of a frustration with the strong agendas accompanying most of the parenting advice we encountered-- we wanted to put all of the baby sleep & feeding philosophies in one place and encourage parents to pick the approach that felt right for them.

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