I’m a bookcase snoop. When I am invited to a new home, I can’t wait to see what they have on their bookshelves or coffee table. A lot of people seem to enjoy when I post about what I am currently reading so I thought I might highlight a few of my favorites from my bookshelves. And I’d love to hear from you on your favorites.
Nuts and bolts of babywearing by a family doctor and mother. She writes with a respect for the common sense of her readers– something a few outspoken critics of the photos of her riding a horse while wearing cannot quite grasp. I highly recommend (the book not necessarily riding a horse).
The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution by Timothy Taylor
You may recognize Taylor’s name from his article, “Slings and Arrows” (to promote this book). While he does mention infant carriers as an early if not the first tool, the book’s focus isn’t infant carriers but rather how technology has shaped humanity.
A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies by Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb
The title says it all. If you love learning about childcare in other cultures I highly recommend this book. There’s plenty of babywearing and history too. There’s a whole section for Colonial Era Puritan mothers.
The Afterlife Is Where We Come From by Alma Gottlieb
Okay, I admit it, a bit of a Gottlieb fangirl here. This book is just beautiful. It’s an ethnography, which is a description of a culture based on observation or in Gottlieb’s case participant-observation. Aside from the wealth of information, I learned about Beng culture in West African, her writing style is just beautiful. It’s an academic text you just can’t put down. And I would like to thank one of my Patreon supporters for sending me my own copy! Thank you!
Babywatching by Desmond Morris
Published in the early 1990’s this book is all about learning about infants (birth to their first birthday), trying to learn about their perspective of the world through their behavior. Morris addresses some common questions about babies using observations and science research. It’s a fun read, sprinkled with factoids– it’s a book perfect for busy parents, just open it at random and get sucked into a topic you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
I love this book but I’ll be honest, it’s dense. Dense like chocolate pound cake. Deliciously informative but best in small servings digested slowly. There is so much information in this tome and it’s been revised a few times (I have the 1999 edition). However, if you’re expecting some kind of pastel coated vision of motherhood you will be disappointed. Some of the information is difficult, such as why mother’s abuse, abandon, or kill their infants, but it’s all part of our species (and many others). Topics include attachment, blended families, birth, the role of grandmothers, mom-guilt, and so much more. And thoroughly cited.
Our Babies, Our Selves Meredith Small
So if you’re intimidated by Mother Nature up there, try this one first. It’s a classic in the “attachment” parenting community but honestly, it’s for anyone (even non-parents curious about their own upbringing). It touches on a lot of the common western practices of infant care and how biology and culture affect it– as well as how culture affects the biology which in turn affects parenting.
My interest in this book is complicated. It’s about how a young American woman lived with a “stone age” tribe in Amazonia and had her preconceived notions of human nature and parenting changed forever. The thing is… it’s a bit romanticizing their culture, kind of perpetuating the idea that they should remain a stone-age culture because westerners think it’s a healthier lifestyle than westerners have. The problem is that a lot of stone age cultures are interacting with modern technology and they like it. However, this is a classic in terms of introducing westerners to new ideas about infant care, including babywearing. I would recommend anyone interested in “attachment parenting” to give this a read to understand the history of the movement.
Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Vauer
While working as a nanny I had a lot of experience with diapers, pull-ups, swim diapers, potty training, and dear gawd, the “blowouts” (diapers not hair, eh-hem). I couldn’t imagine babywearing a baby without a diaper on. I saw the struggle a lot of parents were having between disposables and cloth. Disposable hurt the environment and cost more in the long run but cloth is huge upfront cost plus hurts the environment due to water and electricity usage. It was a racket– then I found this. A movement to stop diaper-training in the first place I was fascinated….
Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke
So I tracked the movement back to Boucke, who initially published a book called Trickle Treat, on infant potty training. When I was studying infant care cultures around the world and in history, one big question was of how people deal or dealt with baby poo. Over and over, contemporary diaper-less cultures had mother’s claiming that their baby was “potty trained” at two months, or four months. This book described the history of infant potty training and the rise of diapers and contemporary methods for infant potty training or elimination communication. It’s interesting even if you’re firmly in the pro-diaper camp.
The Cultural Nature of Human Development by Rogoff
This is another slightly dense academic-targeted book but it’s fascinating. It’s not focused on babywearing but rather on how a culture treats infants and children affects their development. If you are a nerd like me, maybe you’ve wondered how toddlers can handle sharp tools in certain cultures, while American kids aren’t even allowed to help in the kitchen until later childhood or teen years– or how Japanese school children can manage complex train schedules on their own, while western children are barely allowed to play unsupervised? This book gets into all of this and more, including “milestones” like potty training and sleeping arrangments, attachment styles and more.
Anthropology and Child Development Edited by LeVine and New
This book is a collection of scholarly articles on childcare practices all across the world, from places you may never have heard of, like Melanesia or the Kibbutz culture. I found this book while researching cradleboards, it includes the article “Swaddling, cradleboards, and the development of children” by James s. Chisholm (chapter 10).