Inspirational books

The right book can be a real source of support and help you feel confident in your choices, but reading the wrong ones can make you feel frustrated and a bit of a failure. As every parent and baby is different you need to take what works for you, and supports you. Here are books that have inspired other parents.

Inspirational and indispensible books on pregnancy, birth and parenting

The right book can be a real source of support and help you feel confident in your choices, but reading the wrong ones can make you feel frustrated and a bit of a failure. As every parent and baby is different you need to take what works for you, and supports you. Here are books that have inspired other parents.

Advice I was once given was that if you buy Gina Ford, also try reading Sears, or Liedloff too. That way you can find an approach that you like, that suits you and your family. What works for some will not work for others. Helen

No book is a suitable substitute for meeting with other Mums of children of a similar age and just chatting about your children. Even if this chat sometimes happens online after children are in bed rather than face to face… Edwina

Early days

The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff ‡

This book is 100% down the other end of the parenting scale to Ford. Very much about looking within to yourself for ways to nurture your newborn based upon natural instincts. Helen

Your Baby And Child by Penelope Leach

I like Leach’s non-judgemental, non-threatening, non-lecturing approach to childcare. Her style is very descriptive and is a real celebration of babyhood and the early years. It’s quite an old-fashioned approach, but with an ‘older voice’ comes wisdom! Reading her takes away all your guilt and is the literary equivalent of a pat on the back! Nicola

Inspirational because she doesn’t try to give you all the answers and encourages you to trust your own instincts Sharon

Baby Wisdom by Deborah Jackson

Main message I picked up from it was that as long as they are fed and clothed, all you really need is a safe and loving environment for your child. There are many other things covered and I just love the style but then it suits my style of parenting. Louise

It covers all sorts of cultural and historical baby care and I found it a great way to see sift through and see what appealed to MY instincts and to see what ‘normal’ baby care across different times and places looks like. Katherine

What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen ‡

Inspirational because it showed me that whatever I’m thinking/feeling/doing,
at least some other mothers experience it as well. Sharon

This book really reveals what it is that PARENTS do, not just the obvious things like changing nappies, feeding children, etc., but this is about the little things that no-one ever seems to notice. It is an eye opener as well as a confirmation of your feelings as a parent. Nicolette

Absolutely amazing for dealing with so many of my first time mum questions and feelings. It is a rich collection of examples of others mums experiences, again I found it a reassuring and very informative read. Alexis

The Attachment Parenting Book, by William and Martha Sears

Lots of advice on baby wearing, bonding and breastfeeding, but nothing is prescriptive and there is a lot of ‘wiggle’ room to do things your own way. Helen

The Science of Parenting (retitled What Every Parent Needs to Know) by Margot Sunderland ‡

Explainssome of the science behind the guidance given by people like Sears but in simple, easy to follow language with lots of pictures – perfect for a sleep-deprived mum like me.Yazmin

Our Babies, Ourselves, How biology & culture shape the way we parent, by Meredith Small

Babies all over the world are raised differently according to the values of the society in which they are born. This made me think a bit more about the values that our society puts on adults/children/babies and which of these values I wanted our family to keep. Interesting and thought provoking. Susan

Older children

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber

Helped me realise that my job as a parent isn’t to do things for my kids, but to enable them to do them themselves. Sharon

Raising Happy Children by Jan Parker and Jan Stimpson  ‡

Reinforced my own ’embryonic’ feelings that my new baby child was in fact a person in their own right, not someone who I had to tame or train but someone I could begin to relate to and understand. It does give concrete advice and help but it is not preachy, to me, and it deals with lots of different situations. Helen

Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph

I have found this a book that I refer back to again and again as my little boy is growing up. Zoe

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

This book has provided me with a more positive way of looking at my daughter’s difficult behaviour. She is just MORE! The behaviours we find so draining in our children are actually strong positive traits in the adult and are to be admired! Zoe

Pregnancy & Birth

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Spiritual Midwifery ‡ both by Ina May Gaskin

I love these for instilling confidence in a woman’s ability to have a baby. Since reading her books I strongly believe in the idea that having a baby need not be a traumatic, medical procedure, but a happy, almost enjoyable and amazing event. Helen

A collection of stories of birth, usual and unusual, but all of them seeing birth as something positive that women are designed beautifully to do. I don’t often cry when I read books but I did at this one, in awe of the power of our bodies.  Carol

Pre childbirth, I found Ina May Gaskin’s “Ina May’s guide to childbirth” to be very informative, as I was pondering over whether or not to book in for an ABC birth at Watford. She is an advocate of gentle natural birthing, and reading about her experiences as a midwife on “the farm” in the US, where mums-to-be come to be nurtured and guided through the birthing process, made me empowered to believe I should give it a go. When I arrived at the ABC, my own midwife had actually met Ina May and we spoke a lot about trying to achieve an intervention free birth as much as possible. Things did not quite work out that way (far from in fact it !!) but I was so glad I had read her book and was confident enough to at least try to have a natural birth. Alexis

Childbirth Without Fear by Dick Grantly Read ‡( Inspired the founding of the NCT)

Started me on the road to my fantastic home birth. It can be a bit of a slog to get through (but maybe that was just my pregnant brain not taking it in!) but it was a refreshing change to the commonly held and perpetuated view that childbirth is always a traumatic, agonising experience. After reading it, I KNEW I could have a happy, positive birth experience and then went on to do just that. I’m so happy I found it and would recommend it to all first time mums as something to read as an antidote to all the scare stories they will, inevitably, get bombarded with. Kelly

The New Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger ‡

Kitzinger is an inspirational writer who deals with all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth (including emotional and psychological) – reading her book gave me confidence in my own ability to give birth and rereading her book brings back all kinds of emotions.  She captures birth beautifully in her words and pictures, as well as giving practical suggestions. Nicola


The Best Friends’ Guide to …

Human, comical, down to earth, and above all it (Best Friends’ guide to pregnancy) reminds you to enjoy this incredible moment… all the things you’d hope to hear from a friend. Carmen

I also loved ‘The Best Friends’ guides for their humour, something that so many baby books seem to forget and leave out. Helen

What to Expect books

Well set out and liked the format of “should be able to”, “will probably be able to” and “may be able to” for each month. I did feel it could have given a better “normal” range.
This is one of the best series of books I have found, very matter of fact, and not too opinionated (so didn’t push particular parenting ideas too much). Edwina

I’m expecting another baby in February and the only book I want back from the various friends I lent them to is ‘What to Expect: The First Year’. This book put my mind at rest as to what baby should or shouldn’t be doing at each stage – and stopped me from being a competitive mum. I liked it so much I went on to buy the ‘toddler years’. Claire

Love it or loathe it?

Contented Little Baby Book, Gina Ford

This one just goes to show that one person’s indispensible book, may well be another’s most hated! With over 700 reviews on this one really divides opinion, and stirs emotions!


It has been my bible and i think is a must for all those who live isolated away from family and friends, which seems to be most modern lifestyles now! Gina has replaced the info and support you possibly got from grandmothers, aunties, and other friends as parents which in our situation are a minimum of 2-4 hour drives and a 24 flight away! It gives you permission, reassurance and structure if you are a routine person already! Sarah

This book saved my patience and any endless guessing I would have had. I watch my sister in law flying by the seat of her pants and I admire her as she does not “get” routines but her children respond so well to my children’s routines whilst in my home, so it is true, this book is not for everyone but it is definitely for my family! Both my girls are on the routine from an early age and now it is not a routine, it is how it is done, we all conform and we are all so happy with it. It made life so much easier with baby number 2, she fitted in perfectly with the routines of number 1 and we too got sleep all night from a young age, what bliss! Sarah


Some women will find that breastfeeding goes haywire if they follow Gina’s advice in the early days. In breastfeeding classes, if people are planning to impose a feeding schedule, I suggest not being rigid in the early days – to ensure that the baby gets enough time at the breast, enough milk, and that milk supply isn’t reduced by restricting feeds. Elaine (Breastfeeding Counsellor)

I can only speak from personal experience but after reading Gina Fords book I put an incredible amount of (unnecessary) pressure on myself, and my new baby. I was in a foreign country without any support network and had been told her book should become my “bible”. Thank goodness I had enough common sense to know when enough was enough and it went in the bin. I am now very, very wary when recommended those types of books. Carmen.


I also used Gina with my first baby as I had no clue about babies and no family around and found her a useful starting point.  With DD2 Gina didn’t work and this time I’m trusting my own instincts… having said that, DD3 is still waking loads in the night but how much is nature/nurture I don’t know!  Nicola

Where to get hold of these books

‡ Available to buy from NCT

Written with contributions from members of the NCT