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The best parenting books for every stage of the journey

We've rounded up the best parenting books currently available to help guide you through every stage of the journey, from (long) newborn nights to teenage tantrums.

By Jenny Wonnacott | Last updated Sep 14, 2023


Every child is different and there's no one 'right way' to parent them all - some parents will swear by the strict methods of one parenting book while others will find them little to no help at all. On that note, there's no one parenting book which has all the answers, but there are some which are mentioned time and time again on the Mumsnet forums as particularly useful, informative and enlightening for certain stages and phases of the parenting journey.

As home to the largest online network of parents in the UK, Mumsnet is the place to go for all advice, tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to parenting, from the best pregnancy tests to buy at the very start of the journey to the most effective stretch mark cream to choose as your pregnancy progresses.

We've taken a deep dive into the Mumsnet forums to find the best parenting books recommended for each stage of the journey, from the days of sleeping routines and weaning advice to navigating the teenage years. We then cross-referenced the top recommendations from Mumsnetters with parenting book best buy lists, consumer reviews and expert endorsements. Whatever your parenting style and whichever stage of parenting you're looking for guidance on, we've got you covered. So sit back, relax into your favourite pregnancy pillow and read on to discover our pick of the best books to guide you through the years to come.

Here's our top 10 best parenting books UK 2023.

The best parenting books: at a glance

Overall best parenting book

First-Time Parent
Lucy Atkins

Buy now from Amazon
Best parenting book for communication

How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
Joanna Faber and Julie King

Buy now from Amazon
Oh Crap potty training book
Best parenting book for potty training

Oh Crap! Potty Training
Jamie Glowacki

Buy now from Amazon

1. Best parenting book for first-timers: First-Time Parent by Lucy Atkins

Price on writing: £17 Paperback, £7 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: First year | Length of book: 224 pages | Latest edition: 2009

What we love

  • Offers an in-depth guide to the first year

  • Includes information on single-parenting, adoption, multiples and babies with special needs

  • Easy to read, non-preachy

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Published in 2009 so some advice may be a little outdated

What Mumsnet users say

"I found "First Time Parent" by Lucy Atkins to be kind, helpful, practical and not judgemental /espousing one parenting style over another." (Recommended by Mumsnet user InstantUserNameJustAddWater)

"First time parent by Lucy Atkins, it's very practical and straightforward, but has a friendly tone. We got it while I was pregnant and [my son] is 5 months now, we still keep it to hand." (Endorsed by Mumsnet user Fivebyfive2)

Our verdict

Rating: 5/5

One of the best parenting books in terms of popularity on the Mumsnet forums, users love this book for its 'non-preachy' approach for first-timers. Written by health journalist and mum-of-three Lucy Atkins, First-Time Parent provides a comprehensive guide to all aspects of parenting in the first 12 months, from the heady first few hours to coping with holidays and making decisions on childcare.

Mumsnet users particularly like the humorous, non-judgmental tone of this book and though it was published over 10 years ago, much of the advice and information covered remains relevant today, making this the perfect follow-up must-read to the best pregnancy books.

2. Best parenting book for psychological development: Your Baby & Child by Penelope Leach

Price on writing: £18 Paperback, £9 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Birth to age five | Length: 576 pages | Latest edition: 2022

What we love

  • Covers a wide range of years and stages

  • Recently updated

What to know

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

"Penelope Leach's Your Baby And Child is lovely. Guide to ages and stages that helps you understand what's going on inside your child, with gentle and supportive suggestions that are sympathetic to both the baby's and parents' needs." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Stuckforthefourthtime)

Our verdict

Rating: 4/5

With a new edition published just last year, Your Baby & Child offers an up-to-date, in-depth guide to your child's psychological development from the newborn days to their first year at school. Widely regarded and respected as one of the world's leading writers on parenting, Penelope Leach combines expertise on child psychology with new scientific research, making this one of the best parenting books for authoritative advice and tips.

Mumsnet users describe Leach's advice as 'sensible' and 'non-judgmental' and the book features useful diagrams for every stage of early parenthood from feeding to walking. It's divided into five sections covering newborns, the first six months, six to twelve months, toddlers and children aged two to five. Milestones covered include sleep, play, communication, potty training and navigating the early years of education.

It's a little on the pricey side due to its recent re-release but as it covers more than just the earliest months of parenthood, we think this is one of the best parenting books for investment (as well as one of the best gifts for new mums). With so many positive reviews, many parents-to-be seem to view it as essential as prenatal vitamins when it comes to preparing for parenthood.

3. Best parenting book about communication: How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King

Price on writing: £11.75 Paperback, £6.29 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Age 2 - 7 | Length: 432 pages | Latest edition: 2017

What we love

  • Good tips laid out comprehensively

  • Follow-up books available for the next stages of development

What to know

  • Some reviewers said the techniques don't work as well if a child has SEN

What Mumsnet users say

"How to talk so kids will listen. Frankly, it's the only book you'll need." (Recommended by Mumsnet user MrsTerryPratchett)

"How to talk so little kids will listen. It's just fantastic and practical." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user BertieBotts)

Our verdict

Rating: 4/5

Answering questions such as how to respond to a child who hurts their baby sibling or what to say to the stubborn pre-schooler who refuses to go to bed, this popular parenting book by Julie King and Joanna Faber comes from the 'How To Talk' series and covers a wide range of communication must-knows when it comes to the early childhood years. Along with How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and How To Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk, these are some of the best parenting books you can buy on the subject of communication.

Mumsnet users praise it for its insightful approach to communicating with small children, with key tips and advice on positive discipline to help avoid a shouty household and reduce frustration from parents and children alike.

Related: Pregnant and feeling in need of a wardrobe overhaul to accommodate your changing body? We've got you covered with our guides to the top-ranking maternity clothes, from the best maternity bras to the comfiest maternity leggings, all recommended by Mumsnet users.

4. Best parenting book for potty training: Oh Crap! Potty Training

Price on writing: £9.55 Paperback, £7 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Potty training | Length: 304 pages | Latest edition: 2015

What we love

  • Easy and enjoyable to read

  • Covers a huge range of potty training scenarios/questions

What to know

  • Some reviewers weren't keen on the style of writing

  • Requires child to go commando for a month or so, which can be impractical

What Mumsnet users say

"We liked 'Oh crap potty training' - doesn’t over promise like some of the “done in two days!” type of books but does set out practical steps to go through." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Lostthetastefordahlias)

"You need 'Oh crap! it’s Potty Training.' She is amazing. And fun. Her method totally works. She makes you commit." (Tried and tested by Mumsnetter PiratePetespajamas)

Our verdict

Few stages of early parenthood are as tough as potty training can be, so a parenting book which promises to make the whole process easier and faster can be worth its weight in gold.

Mumsnetters love the 'Oh Crap!' method - or, to give the book its full title: Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. Written by social worker and so-called 'Pied Piper of Poop' Jamie Glowacki, the book uses age-appropriate strategies to guide you through the entire process step by step without the need for bribery or gimmicks and promises 'self initiation' results in three weeks for the vast majority of children. Hands down one of the best parenting books on the subject of potty training.

5. Best parenting book for big-picture perspective: The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry

Price on writing: £9.65 Paperback, £2 Kindle, £10.50 Hardcover | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Pregnancy - young adults | Length: 272 pages | Latest edition: 2020

What we love

  • Covers whole parenting journey from pre-birth to young adulthood

  • Lends a psychological insight into parenthood

What to know

  • Doesn't cover all aspects of parenting such as siblings

What Mumsnet users say

"The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry. Not a parenting book exactly but I found it nothing short of life changing. It actually massively improved my own relationships. I can't recommend it enough." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Ihaveoflate)

"Philippa Perry has a fantastic book - it does cover all ages and only a section is devoted to teens- but her general advice and pointers really helped me." (Vetted by Mumsnet user Littlefiendsusan)

Our verdict

Rating: 4/5

Covering stages of parenthood from early pregnancy right through to the young adult 'all grown up' years, this is one of the best all-encompassing, big-picture parenting books available - and it's not hard to see why it crops up time and time again as one of the best parenting books on the Mumsnet forums. Offering a pyschological perspective on your child's development, pyschotherapist author Philippa Perry takes readers through all the key dos and don'ts of the parent-child relationship.

With praise from celebrity authors/parents such as Richard Osman and Nigella Lawson, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did), to give it its full title, takes a look into how a parent's own upbringing can shape their parenting in turn, and offers advice on how to curb negative behaviour. Many Mumnset users rate it as one of the best parenting books for navigating the teenage years as well as early childhood.

Read next: On the subject of being prepared for what (may be) to come, don't miss our guide to the best pelvic floor trainer for post-birth toning and bladder leak prevention.

6. Best parenting book covering 'what to expect': Your Baby Week by Week by Simone Cave and Dr Caroline Fertleman

Price on writing: £13.19 Paperback, £8 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: First six months | Length: 336 pages | Latest edition: 2018

What we love

  • Updated in 2018

  • Provides an in-depth guide to what to expect week by week

What to know

  • Only covers first six months

What Mumsnet users say

"Our baby is almost 12 weeks and we found it so helpful as we are both clueless! It is now a ritual to read every week so we know what to expect or look out for! Of course baby doesn't read the book and is following their own timeline when it comes to milestones etc... but when you know absolutely nothing and don't really have anyone around it is good to have it." (Recommended by Mumsnet user SunnySideUp2020)

Our verdict

Rating: 3/5

Full of reassuring advice, Your Baby Week by Week tells you what to expect before it happens so you needn't be unnecessarily alarmed. Written by paediatrician Dr Caroline Fertleman and health writer Simone Cave, it covers all the basics like sleep, feeding, washing, crying, play and development, as well as other topics including vaccinations and colic.

Although first published in 2007, the latest edition was updated in 2018 so the advice is fairly up-to-date. Much like love-it-or-hate-it items such as TENS machines, week-by-week guides often divide opinions, with some readers liking the reassurance of knowing what they can reasonably expect to happen in minute detail, and others disliking the feel of expectation/pressure it can place on parents.

If you're in the former camp and want to cover all your bases, this is one of the best parenting books you can purchase, alongside the best hypnobirthing book.

7. Best parenting book for teenagers: Get Out of My Life (But First Take Me and Alex into Town) by Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks

Price on writing: £10.11 Paperback, £4.49 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Teenagers | Length: 320 pages | Latest edition: 2020

What we love

  • Updated version covers latest issues teens face

  • Easy to read

What to know

  • Some reviewers said it was more intent on explaining behaviour rather than offering advice on what to do

What Mumsnet users say

"Made me feel normal. Love that book." (Recommended by Mumsnet user punygod)

"I found it reassuring that consistency would eventually drip through and I'm (finally!) seeing it pay off now that my son is nearly 16." (Advice by Mumsnet user spiderlight)

Our verdict

Rating: 3/5

Updated from its earlier version to encompass new issues such as social media, porn and online threats, Get Out of My Life offers a witty insight into the mind of teenagers, explaining the reasons behind what they do and say. Written by a clinical psychologist (Wolf) and professor of journalism (Franks) the book has been described as a lifeline for many a parent of teens, helping explain their motives and giving tips to help improve relationships and behaviour.

Many Mumsnet users recommend this for the teen and 'tween' years for reassurance that others are going through the same trials as you are as much as the tips and advice offered.

Read next: If teens aren't the pain in the derriere you're dealing with right now, don't miss our guide to the best haemorrhoid cream as recommended by Mumsnet users.

8. Best parenting book with crowd-sourced content: Babies: The Mumsnet Guide

Price on writing: £16 Paperback, £13.59 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Birth to toddler years | Length: 480 pages | Latest edition: 2010

What we love

  • Collates the wisdom of the largest UK network of parents

  • Light-hearted and accessible

What to know

  • A little dated now

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

"I enjoyed the Mumsnet guide to babies. It basically collated all different and often contradictory advice in one place and gave me the confidence to see that there was no one right answer!" (Vetted by Mumsnet user Xiaoxiong)

"THE MUMSNET BOOK IS THE BEST FOR GOD'S SAKE YOU HEATHENS" (Recommended by Mumsnet user LittleMouseWithCLogsOn)

Our verdict

Rating: 3/5

We couldn't give you a guide to the best parenting books without plugging our own! The Mumsnet Guide to Babies has all the wit and wisdom of the forums condensed down into a handy guide, covering everything from sleep, to childcare to baby names, grandparents, and much more.

As home to the largest network of online UK parents - with around eight million unique visitors every month - Mumsnet is an invaluable source of information on all things pregnancy, parenting and baby-related (from the best ovulation tests to track the right time to try for a baby to the top-ranking baby gifts as recommended by the mums who've received them all). As such, we think this book is one of the best parenting books for crowd-sourced information (though we may be just a tiny bit biased).

9. Best parenting book for dads: The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide by Rob Kemp

Price on writing: £12.09 Paperback, £1 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Pregnancy - newborn up to six weeks | Length: 272 pages | Latest edition: 2010

What we love

  • Non-patronising

  • Contains lots of useful information

What to know

  • Might be a little dated now

  • Only covers up to 6 weeks post-birth

What Mumsnet users say

"Absolutely brilliant at preparing dads for pregnancy and child birth and lots of coaching on how to be a great birth partner - I also found it really helpful and will be rereading as due date approaches." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Raven83)

"Expectant Dad's Survival Guide is excellent. Properly researched and not patronising sexist crap. Lots of advice on how to support your partner in labour." (Vetted by Mumsnet user ammature)

Our verdict

Rating: 3/5

There are plenty of parenting books out there specifically for new dads but Rob Kemp's 'survival guide' is continuously recommended on the Mumsnet forums for being genuinely useful and the least patronising. See also: The New Dad's Survival Guide which we rank as one of the best parenting books for up to 18 months.

Covering topics from buying newborn essentials to cutting the umbilical cord, The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide offers a funny, no-nonsense approach to impending fatherhood and although it's over ten years old now, remains one of the most popular parenting books for dads on the market.

Related: If you're pregnant and feeling the strain, don't miss our guides to the best birthing ball to help ease aches and pains, as well as the top-ranking pregnancy support belts according to Mumsnet users.

10. Best light-hearted parenting book: How Not to be a Perfect Mother by Libby Purves

Price on writing: £8.32 Paperback, £3.49 Kindle | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Stage covered: Birth - early childhood | Length: 240 pages | Latest edition: 2004

What we love

  • Light-hearted and easy to read

  • Funny

What to know

  • A bit dated

What Mumsnet users say

"It’s a tad dated now but still full of gems to reassure any Mum that as long as you do a good enough job that’s fine." (Rated by Mumsnet user Majorcollywobble)

"'How not to be a perfect mother' - love the bit about never letting a toddler know smarties come in packets." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Blackduck)

Our verdict

Rating: 3/5

If you prefer a more lighthearted approach in your best parenting books, this survival guide by Radio 4's Libby Purves documents anecdotes, thoughts, and helpful tips to help you wade through the early years of parenting. Although the latest update is now almost 20 years old - long before the era of social media and Insta-mum/ Mumfluencer pressures - much of the advice and anti-guilt tone of the book can easily be applied to parenting in 2023.

It includes topics such as pregnancy, early babyhood, working, toddler tantrums and siblings. A quick, easy-to-read, fun parenting book you can breeze through in a few sittings while snuggled up in your favourite maternity pyjamas in bed.

Read next: Discover the best maternity jeans and comfiest compression socks for pregnancy for stylish yet practical additions to your maternity wardrobe.

What books should I read about parenting?

Parenting books (like all books) can be a hugely contentious subject, with some parents swearing by the tips of one, only for others to regard it as useless. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and as such there isn't one best parenting book or even list of parenting books which will solve all the possible questions, issues, problems that parents may face. Having said that, there are certain books which crop up time and time again on the Mumsnet forums in answer to the question of 'which parenting book is best' and we've done our best to reflect those books here.

When should I start reading parenting books?

As a general rule, it's probably best to start reading the early years parenting books during pregnancy as once the baby arrives it can prove extremely tricky to find the time (and concentration) for reading anything. Why not make it part of your self-care routine after applying your favourite skincare for pregnancy products?

Having said that, there probably isn't much point cracking out your guide to teenage years while you're still in the throes of pregnancy, newborns and nappies (for one thing all the advice will probably be scarily out of date by the time it becomes relevant).

Where do I start with parenting books?

With so many parenting books to choose from it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s some things to take into account when making your choice:

  • Area of focus: Are you looking for one book that covers everything from pregnancy to teenagers, or are you happy to read a book focused on a specific stage such as communication, potty training, starting school, growing up?

  • Format: We’ve linked to the paperback copies and Kindle/e-readers, but audiobooks are also becoming an increasingly popular format (and can be a great option for busy parents-to-be) so it could be worth checking whether your book of choice comes in this format too.

  • Expert author?: What is the expertise of the author and can you trust their advice? Look for books written from reliable sources of information, particularly if they are focused on a particular approach to parenting, i.e. psychological.

  • Ease of reading: Look for books that have short chapters, easy to read formatting or bitesized chunks of information. These are much easier to dip in and out of as you wish and make some of the more overwhelming information easier to digest. A non-preachy, approachable tone is always a winner in our eyes too. Parenting is hard enough without being preached at, right?!

  • What are your preferences?: It's always a good idea to know what sort of parenting tips you don't want - i.e., if you are against sleep training, don't go for an author known to advocate controlled crying.

How we chose our recommendations

There are a huge number of parenting books to choose from, some covering pregnancy up to the first few months of babyhood and others going right through to the parenting of young adults.

In order to make sure we were confident with our recommendations, we thoroughly investigated expert online reviews and tried and tested experiences on retailer sites such as Amazon and Waterstones, as well as our Mumsnetters' own recommendations on the best parenting books they read and enjoyed. We also paid close attention to parenting books with updated editions to ensure our recommendations for the best parenting books reflected advice and tips that were as relevant to modern-day parents as possible, particularly when it came to books about older children and teenagers.

We researched the pros and cons of each parenting book, including its format, the complexity of the information and the reputations of the authors. Finally we looked at which parenting books worked best for each scenario to bring you our final list of recommendations.

About the author

Mum-of-three Jenny Wonnacott is a Content Editor for Mumsnet, specialising in writing, editing and optimising pregnancy care and child play content.

Before joining the content team at Mumsnet, Jenny worked as a journalist for newspapers, radio, TV and b2b trades magazines for over a decade. She is also a bestselling sci-fi author (writing as J M Briscoe) and parenting blogger.

As a parent of three primary school-aged children, Jenny is passionate about making Mumsetters' lives easier through rigorous research of all items recommended in buyers' guides such as these, as well as product reviews and expert advice on all things pregnancy and child play related.

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