Once my first baby arrived, there was much less time for reading, but I have still found a few wonderful books that I love to recommend to new parents.
Siblings Without Rivalry is now my favorite gift to give friends who are expecting a second child. I read it when my sons were 18 months and 2 months old. Halfway through the book, I thought, "This will be great stuff for the boys' future relationship, but it isn't helpful right now with two pre-verbal kids." The next day, I read the section about what to do when one kid hurts or bullies the other: instead of admonishing the aggressor, comfort the one who has been hurt while leaving the presence of the aggressor. Jason had recently tried sitting on Jackson's head and stomach, and all I knew to do was try time outs. The next time it happened, I completely changed the dynamic by giving Jackson all of the attention, which had an immediate affect on Jason. In the months since then, Jason still test us from time to time, but very seldom, and it seems more out of curiosity than anything. When Daddy and I coo over Jackson afterward, Jason quickly gets the point, and directs his attention elsewhere.
The Baby Book was a gift from my sister-in-law, who has two little girls. It is a general reference book about what to expect during the first 2 years of your new baby's life. The book is geared toward Attachment Parenting, and encourages breastfeeding, babywearing, and listening to your instincts. There are also chapters that detail child development through various stages, bottlefeeding, sleeping, and first aid. It was a great book to have around at 2 in the morning, when you have no idea if the 'blood' in your newborn's diaper is really blood or urate crystals (urate crystals are orange in daylight, and blood will turn brown before too long).
Einstein Never Used Flashcards details the importance of play in child development. Chapters focus, individually, on the process by which babies, toddlers, and kids learn math, speech, and reading, and how they develop a sense of 'self'. One part that really hit home for me was that I didn't push my boys to find their hands, roll over, walk, or talk, but I encouraged it, and provided whatever stepping stones I felt they needed. Activities like math and reading require similar fundamental abilities that I cannot speed up or slow down, so there is no reason to push the process faster, and no harm or shame in some of the steps taking longer. This book really encouraged me to relax and allow my boys' natural curiosity to lead the way.
For those who haven't seen the Baby Sleep posts, I have to plug these books once again. Even when things aren't going well, it really, really helps to have a plan:
The No Cry Sleep Solution
The No-Cry Nap Solution
The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers
25 Things Every New Mother Should Know is a short-but-sweet book that gave me a lot of confidence in my new motherhood. It is focused on the attachment parenting style, and enforced my ability to go with my instincts even though others might disagree. In a sense, it allowed me to hold my baby, listen to him, and do everything I thought I could for him. It also reminded me to take care of myself and avoid perfectionism.