3 1/2 Books Every First Time Dad Needs to Read

I’m already breaking the rules. Here’s a little inside baseball for you regarding blog posts: the longer the list, the better (because it makes you look more authoritative and other things having to do with psychology). But I’m going to be straight with you. I could give you a list of 25 books to read (or even 100, with lots of affiliate links), but you’re not going to read them.

It wouldn’t be too hard to find that many (and a lot more). There are so many parenting books out there that the choices only add to the anxiety of being a new parent. 

You may think you’re going to be a Superdad and get ahead of the game, but you don’t need that many books. No amount of freaking out or excitement is going to motivate you to read that much by the time your kiddo comes. And when the kid comes (not to freak you out), but you’re going to be so stinkin’ tired, reading will be one of the last things you want to do. 

Honestly, even if you could read every book out there on dadding, you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with too much information. Accept the fact that there is a learning curve and that you are going to figure things out. But there are a couple books out there that will give you a leg up on figuring things out the first time, and then really, the rest is up to you. 

So here it is, the ultimate reading list for new dads. Three books (and one of them you don’t need to read right away) that will help you to survive the first year of being a first-time father. The last book (the “1/2” book) is one you don’t even need to read completely (I’ll explain later).

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, by Armin A. Brott

This is a great read that helps to prepare you for everything leading up to and including the delivery. I like to think of this book as the men’s version of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” 

Each chapter is centers on each month of the pregnancy so you can read this cover to cover or just one or two chapters at a time. More importantly, it’s structured in a way that is relevant to you as the male partner in this relationship. 

Each chapter is structured focusing on four areas: what’s going on with the mother (and how that relates to you), what’s going on with the baby, what’s going on with you (yes, you will be feeling a lot of emotions during this process and it’s important to recognize what you’re going through), and other tips, facts, and things you can be doing during the pregnancy. 

This last portion is super helpful because as men, we often feel the need to do something; we want to have some sort of an occupation during the pregnancy. It’s easy to feel left on the sidelines while the soon-to-be mother is taking the full brunt of everything that’s happening. 

This section helps you figure out the things you can and should be doing. Things like how to start saving for college, balancing work and family, and what you can be doing to help the mother. 

And the best part of this book is that it’s an easy read. You’re not getting a dissertation on fatherhood, but helpful, practical information on how to prepare to be a dad. 

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, by Tracy Hogg

I know, it’s a cheesy title. I mean the baby whisperer? Does she think she’s the Caesar Milan of babies? 

Well, if you’ve seen Caesar Milan in action, you’ll know that the way he relates to dogs is actually quite logical and that there really isn’t any magic. In that sense, yes, Tracy Hogg is the Baby Whisperer. She gives a super simple and logical progression for how to structure your time with your newborn baby. 

This book gave my wife and me the structure that we absolutely needed to get through the first couple of months of having a baby. Tracy takes you through four basic principles she calls the E.A.S.Y. method (also super cheesy, but I still remember it to this day, so she’s doing something right). If you’re anything like how I was, you have no clue what to DO with your newborn baby after you get home with the hospital. I mean, I knew they needed to eat and sleep and that there would be lots of diaper changing, but…when? How? In what order? How do we figure out what they need moment to moment?

It’s not uncommon for parents to fall into accidental parenting mistakes. I mean, before my first kid, I never so much as held a baby before let alone made decisions on how to care for it. But the four principals give you a simple framework to follow: Eat, Activity, Sleep, You. And since the baby needs to eat every 3-4 hours (that is from start time to start time), this gives you a simple structure to your day. 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A New Step-by-Step Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep, by Marc Weissbluth

Okay this one was a serious game changer and is one of the most gifted books my wife and I give out to new parents. If the first book helps you pre-baby, and the Baby Whisperer helps you with a newborn baby, this book is great for after you’ve had the baby for a month or two. 

The biggest thing you will learn from all the baby professionals in all your new parent classes is the importance of feeding your child (every 3-4 hours). What no one says is when that pattern changes. 

It was around 3-4 months that the E.A.S.Y. method from the Baby Whisperer wasn’t working right. Our firstborn, who was a great sleeper, just stopped sleeping. His nighttime sleeping got shorter and shorter, naps were hit and miss, he was fussy and overtired, and we could not figure out what we were doing wrong. 

It turns out there is a major brain development milestone around 3-4 months in which you can begin to prioritize sleep over the constant 3-4 hour feeding plan. In the earliest months of a newborn, if your child is sleeping, you still wake them to feed them. After a couple months though, if they are sleeping, let them sleep. You still follow the 3-4 hour feeding schedule when they are awake but let them sleep if they’re asleep. 

The other golden nugget was the concept of “sleep begets sleep”. Logic told us that if our child isn’t sleeping well at night, then he’s getting too much sleep during his naps. Therefore, we shouldn’t let him nap so long, so he can be more tired at night. And while that may work for adults, I can tell you it doesn’t work for babies. 

Once we let our son sleep longer for his naps, his night-time sleep also got longer. Sleep begets sleep. Game changer. 

This book is filled with the tools to help your child get the sleep it needs. It will also help you “troubleshoot” sleep issues at different ages…into toddlerhood and beyond. Once you read this and start to see the sleepy signs in your baby, you’re going to look around and realize just how sleep deprived so many infants and young kids are. 

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer, by Harvey Karp

Okay, so this book only gets a half recommendation from me. It is a classic baby book, and quite honestly, you can skip most of the text. In fact, if you can, buy it used or check it out at the library (or buy using the affiliate link above. It’s cheap and help support more brilliant articles like this one…). 

I read this book while working on my doctoral dissertation, so I was feeling particularly snobby and intellectual when I read most of it. Honestly, a lot of the text is based on anecdotal evidence, and so the grad student in me couldn’t help but keep blurting out how many of his statements are not defendable. 

That being said (Harvey’s defense and justification aside), the basic principals have some value. The general idea is that you need to help your child transition from the womb to the world and there are some things you can do to help with that process. 

The first is swaddling. Like all the time (not just for bedtime). And tight. Tighter than you think (you’ll be surprised at how strong they are and their ability to break out if their swaddle). 

The premise is that your child has been sitting inside your spouse’s womb for its whole life up to now. It’s not exactly roomy in there, so coming into the world is a bit too free for them. The swaddle helps give them the comfort of a snug environment they were used to. 

The other is to gently swing your infant from side to side. Do you remember when your wife was still pregnant and would talk about how the baby was always active the moment she wasn’t? (Well, maybe you’re not there yet. But pay attention. This will happen.) Apparently all that walking around and moving put the baby to sleep in the womb. By holding your baby and moving side to side, it helps recreate that motion that soothed them.  

The last is making a repeated “shushing” sound. Once again, your child has been in a liquid-filled womb. They’re used to hearing the world in a way that’s similar to if you put your head underwater. By mimicking the underwater shushing sound, you’re bringing back the familiar sound of the womb. 

There is a little section in the book that summarized all of this (probably more succinctly than I just did) with some great images for how best to create a tight swaddle (I was the swaddle king. In fact, while you’re buying this book, buy a couple swaddlers for nighttime. It’s safer and will help your baby sleep better). 

This book gets the “half” recommendation, because honestly, I didn’t find it was worth reading the whole book. Just read the summary section. It’s like 2 pages. Take a screen shot from a checked-out library eBook or whatever. The information is golden. Just spend more time reading the other books. 

Gregory Grabowski

Greg Grabowski is the principal creator of DadStuffSite.com, a website for dads by dads. Inspired by his two boys Ben and Sam and his wife Dianna, Greg loves to make things, learn things, and loves doing fun stuff with his family.

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