Books for parents of babies during their first year are varied, focusing on different aspects of playing to optimize infant development of the mind and body month by month. Most books focus on physical development, as first described below in three wonderful texts.
Only one, the fourth book, is specifically cutting-edge research-based focusing on mental development, which impacts the mind and the secure emotional attachment between parent and baby.
Don’t miss out on reading about that last one. It’s new and has come to center stage in optimizing play and your relationship with your infant during the first year.
1. What to Expect the First Year
by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway
This easy-to-read comprehensive book guides parents month by month, listing possibilities of what to expect your baby to do.
It also has special sections on:
- Choosing your physician
- Beginning Breastfeeding
- Nutrition—Adding Solids
- Traveling with Baby
- Nurturing the Adopted Baby and Low-Birth Weight Baby
Each chapter is organized to list month by month:
- What Your Baby May Be Doing
- What You Can Expect at This Month’s Checkup
- Feeding Your Baby: Establishing Good Habits Now
- What You May be Concerned About
Each chapter concludes with suggestions for games babies play.
This delightful book gives you all the basic details you need to learn if your baby is growing on course. It is reassuring and allows for the individuality of each unique baby.
Related: 19 Best Parenting Books
2. Touchpoints Birth to Three
by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. Revised with Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D.
Although this book can take you to age three, it has a clear focus on the first year. Brazelton and Sparrow are renowned pediatricians with decades of experience in infant care. As a reader, they can be trusted as if they were your very own pediatricians.
Specific to this outstanding book is the concept of Touchpoints of Development rather than the more common term, milestones.
In Part One that centers on the first year, the authors take you through pregnancy (the first touchpoint), the newborn, the newborn parents, two to three weeks, six to eight weeks, four months, six to seven months, nine months, and one ear.
Medical terms your pediatrician may use at well-baby check-ups are easy to understand and prepare you well for those visits.
In Part II, challenges to development are explored, such as allergies, bedwetting, colic, fears, feeding problems, power struggles, prematurity, spacing children, and toilet training.
Mutuality between baby and parent
Throughout the doctors’ discussion with the reader about these topics, you will find a focus on mutuality between you and your baby, essential for each touchpoint.
Why this book stands out
This is not just an easy-to-read self-help book for new parents, but a well-organized detailed description of your baby’s development by pediatric scholars.
If you want only one book on infant development, this is the finest text.
3. The Wonder Weeks
by Hetty van de Rijt, PhD,Frans X. Plooij, PhD, and Xaviera Plas-Plooj
Ten predictable leaps
The book is organized around ten predictable leaps taking place at 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, and 55 weeks the first year. You will be prepared for the changes that occur at these leap points that guide your understanding of the first year of your newborn.
You will learn about a baby’s sensations, patterns, transitions, events, relationships, sequences, and much more.
Each leap chapter informs you about the fussy phase, new types of perception, new skills for discovery, and the transition to an “easy period” when these new foundations are well in hand.
What this book offers: Warm support
The style of writing offers more than information on what to expect in development. It will give you support when you are troubled, confidence when you lack it, understanding needed by your baby, how to help your baby play and learn, all in these authors’ particular accounts of the infant journey.
Experience the world through your baby’s eyes
This book promises to give you your baby’s perspective when activities are suggested helping a parent join their infant’s discovery of their world.
It guides the parent through stressful times in busy parents’ lives with a way of keeping track of changes the reader can write in the book itself.
The tone of this book
It is the philosophical tone of this book that distinguishes it as you, the parent, will be well taken care of throughout your baby’s leaps in development.
This book feels like your friend—a friend well-acquainted with the forward and backward steps in development that can please and worry you.
The ending paragraph says it all:
“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day that their mothers give birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
4. Playing with Baby: Research Based Play to Bond with Your Baby from Birth to One Year
Laurie Hollman, PhD
My inspiration for writing about the baby’s mind tells you why I wrote this book just for you.
A baby hears her mother’s voice in utero, claps her hands a few months later, plays peekaboo over and over, and follows a finger pointed at her toy. What does it all mean? As an Infant-Parent Psychotherapist, I want to share all I learned, spending decades of hours with mothers, fathers, and babies who inspired this book.
The meaning of your baby’s behaviors and sensations will tell you how your infant’s mind is growing rapidly as they discover the world in their first year.
I wend my way by your side through dozens of stimulating and imaginative ways infants play.
Multiple illustrations in words and pictures are backed up by fascinating cutting-edge research about how play promotes the infants’ developing mind and a secure attachment between mother and baby.
Playing with an infant month by month the first year may or may not come naturally to some parents.
Parents who do not have experience playing with newborns month by month find it challenging and exciting but seek guidance.
These parents may not have received nurturing themselves throughout childhood, and so they want to get the knack of play by reading about their baby’s mental and emotional development month by month as if they are joining me on the floor playing.
Even experienced parents who play rather easily are so inundated by a broad range of play activities that they are immensely grateful to discover which activities promote mental and emotional development each month.
Remarkable experiences with babies have led me to write this book with numerous illustrations of my actual play with parents and their infants based on cutting-edge research I was privileged to observe in the making.
Come with me as we discover the best choices of play activities described endlessly in this book based on research done by world-renown psychologists and psychiatrists whose careers focused on the infant’s inner and outer worlds.
Why research infancy?
Researchers around the work focus their entire careers on studying, observing, and creating fascinating experiments to learn about babies.
But why? Because they value your work as a parent taking on this huge responsibility of bringing a new life onto our planet.
By learning about their easily accessible research, you will have the confidence they want you to have as a mother or father with the most challenging and rewarding experience of your life: parenthood.
Your baby’s mind
The infants’ worlds that I admire are the inspiring development of their minds as well as their daunting physical prowess.
For example, from the start, newborns recognize their mother’s voice and begin to interact with her sounds and movements. Biology takes care of this for you during pregnancy. The voice your baby will key into from the first moment is yours!
It’s a great joy for me to share my own continuing astonishment at the workings of a baby’s mind with parents in my therapy room and now in this book.
A brief example I enjoy reveling in with parents is how after several months, their baby points. Why is this so exciting? Because the baby is demonstrating her motor development along with her brain development.
How? Her pointing says through action what she intends. Yes. Babies already have clear and specific intentions that motivate their actions. When mothers respond by picking up an object being pointed to, all without words, mind you, the baby feels understood and shows delight with a giggle or smile.
So, what’s so amazing? The mother and baby are having a conversation before words.
Then the mother can point at something, and the baby follows the line of her pointing with his eyes showing he knows that his mother has a mind separate from his.
How? Well, he sees the mother has her own specific intentions, just like he does.
This is truly one of the most significant learning experiences in your infant’s first year—that he or she is a separate person from their loving parent. This baby in this very first year has agency—something that we all want to bloom throughout our lives.
Making play choices
Parents of all ages, from adolescent mothers to mothers in their twenties, thirties, forties, and less often, but possibly, in their fifties, feel how important playing with their infants becomes as they learn how to change their play choices month by month.
A list won’t tell you which play to choose, so how will you know?
Play is the vehicle for babies to learn and interact with their mothers and fathers forming secure attachments. An infant’s feeling of security is what allows them to trust and learn from others.
Read about how, why, and which play gives your baby the emotional bond with you they need to flourish.
Exactly how specific play builds a relationship between you and your infant is a stellar achievement for both parent and baby that will foster continued learning and loving.
Helping mothers and fathers develop secure attachments in infancy through play at four months, for example, leads to secure attachments at one year and beyond. How you play today affects tomorrow!
This is the marvelous understanding research reveals. And by writing all this down in one book – infant development – infant play – infant and parent social interactions – empathic journeys with babies – I have felt a tremendous sense of pleasure and satisfaction.
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