There has been a lot of ink spilled on parenting best practices (and that's an understatement). From books touting the principles of effectively communicating with children to others promising to cure picky eaters, your local bookstore's shelves are stocked with so many titles on the topic that perusing the section can be more anxiety-inducing than reassuring. In an effort to source reliable reading recommendations on this inherently subjective topic, we asked actual moms to weigh in on the best parenting books of all time. After all, who better to narrow down the selection than the dedicated women currently raising little ones? Spanning an insightful take on how to build a strong emotional relationship with your child to an interesting look at how to view your child's failures and successes, you're going to want to add these titles to your Amazon cart stat.
Ahead, five moms reveal the parenting books they turn to for trusted advice, including one read that will assure you "it's okay to not know what to do," which, let's be honest, is sometimes all you really want (and need) to hear.
Mama in Heels founder Janise Burrafato is a busy mom to two twin boys. When we asked her to weigh in on the best parenting book, the timing seemed serendipitous. "This is so weird because I just gave this book to my sister who is now a mom," she told us of her pick.
"There are so many parenting books out there, and they can be very overwhelming. When a friend of mine introduced me to The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik, I knew I found the right book for me. Just like my husband and me, the author believes that kids are meant to learn through play and exploration—because being a parent isn't to shape our kids' minds but rather to let those minds explore all the possibilities that the world has to offer," recommends Burrafato.
Jamie Lynn Gernert
Jamie Lynn Gernert is the inspiring woman behind the lifestyle blog Work Your Closet and mom to an adventurous 3-year-old. "I'm not one for the guidebooks," confesses Gernert. "I believe every kid is different, every situation is different, and it's just how we deal with certain things that help us on this crazy parenting journey."
This book "hits close to home—we live in a super-fast age where going a mile a minute is considered to be the new normal. But when your life changes, like when you have a family, it's okay to step back and re-evaluate. Erin has wonderful examples of how try do your best in the constant battle for balance. I can relate to her working mom lifestyle too, which, ironically, provided comfort and hope that you can do more than you think at a meaningful pace," says Gernert.
"With our continued struggles for baby number two, I wanted a book that would remind me, 'Hey! Life isn't that bad!' This book puts being a wife, a mom, a working member of society in perspective, which is sometimes all you really need. Her story is heartbreaking, truly, yet she bounces back and proves that life is full unpredicted highs and lows but that we're all riding this crazy coaster together. She reinforces that it's okay to not know what to do or not know how to act sometimes. We're humans raising humans and doing the best we can," explains Gernert.
As an innovative entrepreneur and a dedicated mom to three girls, Mika Perry has her hands full when it comes to navigating work/life balance. Below, she shares the informative book that clued her into an invaluable parenting hack.
"Dr. Chapman's teachings in The 5 Love Languages are familiar to many and have offered invaluable lessons in my marriage. But the children's version—in which he explains that our kids have their own 'language' for communicating love—has been a huge game changer for me as a mom. I learned that 'quality time' is how my oldest communicates her love, while my 5-year-old feels most loved and special through 'gifts,' and my youngest seems to most value 'acts of service.' I now know how to most efficiently and effectively show each of my kids that I love them in a way that means the most to them. Parenting hack, for sure," explains Perry.
Shannae Ingleton Smith
"Talking to friends and family I trust has been my hugest source of parenting advice and inspiration. However, here are two parenting books that I really enjoyed," offers Shannae Ingleton Smith, the stylish mom behind the lifestyle blog TorontoShay.
Jessica Lahey's "book helped me suppress my inner helicopter mom and chill out a bit. Reading it made me realize that trying to prevent every potential knick, scratch, fall, challenge, and disappointment may actually hurt my daughter in the long run more than it will help her. There are times where I still have to kind of check myself and fall back, but I'm already seeing how giving her the space to fail a bit is allowing her to develop into the feisty, driven, and determined little girl that she's destined to be," reveals Smith.
"I listened to the audio version of this book (narrated by Kelly herself), and it had me LOL'ing, WTF'ing, and everything in between. As soon as I started listening, I felt like I was having a conversation with my bestie about all the crazy things that happen to your body and inner self after you have your baby. She addresses things that even I was too embarrassed to discuss with my husband or ob-gyn. And she did it in this super-cute, unfiltered-cool way that immediately made me feel like I was totally normal and not alone in the sometimes isolating world of new-mamahood," recommends Smith.
"Parenting starts as soon as the baby arrives," says sought-after interior designer MA Allen. Below, she shares the book that has been, hands down, the most valuable to her. "As we are expecting our third child, I just went on a hunt for my copy so I have it at the ready when baby arrives!"
"Good sleep skills start young, and happiness, healthy-eating habits, and so much more are all linked to sleep. It takes a lot of planning and dedication from parents, but this book provides concise explanations and a schedule that sets you on your way to get that babe sleeping literally 12 hours every night and napping twice a day. It's priceless! My 4-year-old and 2-year-old are excellent sleepers to this day, and I credit this book 100%," says Allen.