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Essential books for new parents

Congratulations! If you're feeling a bit bewildered about what happens next, you've come to the right place. These parenting books are highly recommended by parents who've been there, done that and got the (sicky) t-shirt. Good luck!

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jul 14, 2021

Mum and Baby

First-Time Parent by Lucy Atkins, £11

First time parent

By far the most popular parenting book on Mumsnet, users recommend, share and buy Lucy Atkins' book in their hundreds each year, hailing it as a practical guide that covers all the basics.

“If you're after solid advice without the preaching, this is an excellent resource. Like a lot of things, parenting is something you learn by doing, but practical, essential information, conveyed in an adult-to-adult tone, is invaluable. It's also set out very clearly with no waffle – she gets to the point quickly and is never the slightest bit patronising, just reassuring and wise.”

“I really liked the common sense approach. One of my favourite parts said something along the lines of 'Don't feel too guilty if you're in the loo/shower and they start crying – if they were a younger sibling you wouldn't always get to them instantly.”

Your Baby Week by Week by Simone Cave and Dr Caroline Fertleman, £9

Your baby, week by week

Full of reassuring advice, Your Baby Week by Week tells you what to expect before it happens so you needn't be unnecessarily alarmed. It covers all the simple stuff, like sleep, feeding, washing, crying, play and development, as well as other stuff to look out for like vaccinations and colic.

“It was invaluable for me in the first couple of months.”

“There are a couple of pages on each week about what to expect in terms of crying/sleeping/feeding etc. It's not a parenting guide, it just tells you what to expect that particular week.”

“It was very accurate for my daughter and very reassuring about what was normal and when various phases were likely to end.”

Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach, £12

Your baby and child book

This book provides a comprehensive guide on children's psychological development. It's divided into five sections, covering newborns, settled babies, older babies, toddlers and young children. Leach details expected developmental milestones in several areas of child development, like speech, growth and eating.

“Sensible advice arranged in developmental order, lovely pictures of real families, and a real sense of love for both babies and parents throughout.”

“Penelope Leach is fairly non-prescriptive and gives mostly the sort of common sense advice you'd want from your own mum, but without the judgement or agenda.”

How Not to Be the Perfect Mother by Libby Purves, £9

How not to be a Perfect Mother

Want another self-confidence boost? Libby Purves has got your back. If you prefer a more lighthearted approach to parenting, this is the survival guide you need. Libby documents anecdotes, thoughts, and Actually Useful tips to help you wade through the minefield that is parenting.

“Not patronising or over-prescriptive, it's great anti-guilt stuff with some top time-saving tips and shortcuts.”

“I love this book and re-read it regularly as I come up against different problems! Required reading. It basically espouses the 'benign neglect' school of parenting but the most important thing it gave me was that most of it just doesn't matter – the baby will still be fine. And he was, and is.”

Babies: The Mumsnet Guide, £15

Babies the MN Guide

We couldn't give you a page full of 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. We've got you covered on everything from sleep, to childcare to baby names.

“The Mumsnet book was the only one I really liked and of course, it led me here.”

“I agree, the MN books are fab.”


The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide by Rob Kemp, £10

Expectant Dads

There are plenty of parenting books out there specifically for new dads but Rob Kemp's 'survival guide' seems to have come out top for being genuinely useful and the least patronising. See also: The New Dad's Survival Guide

“I found The Expectant Dad's Survival Guide really useful and non-patronising. Many of the others on offer seemed to be the useless 'Wahey! Blokey bloke' type, but the Survival Guide was actually useful throughout my other half's pregnancy and also useful on practical things like picking car seats, pushchairs etc.”

“The 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.”

Mothering Multiples by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, £18

Mothering Multiples

If you've got more than one bundle of joy, sick and tears, Mothering Multiples is the book for you. Highly recommended by Mumsnetters with twins and triplets, it has a particular focus on how to breastfeed multiples if that's your dig. Although it's now out of print, there are still plenty of second-hand copies available on Amazon- or alternatively you could ask if someone's got spare copy on the Multiple Births talkboard.

“Mothering Multiples is a fab book! If you can get a copy then I'd highly recommend it.”

“Mothering Multiples is absolutely brilliant – I even packed it in my hospital bag so I had it with me in the first few days.”

All prices correct at time of writing.