After you’ve gotten that positive pregnancy test, the first thing most Moms do is head to the store or Amazon to find the best books to support them on this journey. I remember doing that very thing 14 years ago. I was so overwhelmed with all the choices and didn’t know what books would help me in the best way. Through trial and error, I learned not all pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding books are created equal.
Like all Moms, I knew I wanted the healthiest pregnancy possible. I took my prenatal vitamins, ate as healthy as possible, tried to get in a good walk everyday, and read up on nutrition for pregnancy. As for birth, I knew I wanted a natural birth. We took Bradley Method childbirth classes, hired a midwife to assist delivery in the hospital, and felt very prepared for parenthood.
As I have gone through the journey of parenthood, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding I have compiled a list of books that I have absolutely loved. These books are ones I recommend to my clients, friends, and family. These are books that have shaped my view on pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding and supported me in my journey of natural childbirth, attachment parenting, and extended breastfeeding.
Birth Matters by Ina May Gaskin; Ina May is a midwife with over 40 years experience. In this book she illustrates the importance of how we are born and how pregnancy and birth are treated in our country. This book can empower women to take control of their birth experiences and be educated in making the best decisions for the birth they want.
Pushed by Jennifer Block; Jennifer Block weaves a stunning expose of birth culture in America. In my opinion, this is a must read for all who are pregnant or are planning on becoming pregnant. This investigative piece explores the national cesarean rate, routine inductions, and use of epidurals. Block gives evidence that supports the use of doulas, midwives, and finding care providers with a low cesarean rate.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin; This book is divided into two parts; the first part is all birth stories. Stories of women giving birth on their terms, listening to their bodies, and being supported by their birth teams. The second part includes practical ways to implement your wants and desires for childbirth. She offers irrefutable evidence on the risks and benefits of varying interventions as well as what to expect in pregnancy and childbirth. Her discussion of how to choose a care provider can be a complete game changer for many women. This book is full of evidence, knowledge, and tips for every pregnant couple.
Birth in Four Cultures by Bridgette Jordan; This was one of my first birth book purchases 13 years ago. This book is more research oriented and one I recommend to those who are curious about how birth is treated in different cultures. An interesting compilation of birth stories and data from Yucatan, Holland, Sweden, and the United States.
Mothering the New Mother by Sally Placksin; The baby is born and you are home. Now what? Mothering the New Mother explores the history of postpartum care in the United States. With chapters on Postpartum Depression, Breastfeeding, Going back to work, or staying home, this book covers it all. This is not only a must read for pregnant mothers, but for their partners as well. It is vital for the partner to know what to expect in that 4th trimester and how best to support the Mother. Whether it is hiring a postpartum doula, arranging for family to assist, or taking time off work, it is crucial for the Mother to have physical and emotional support. This book is the best guide I have ever read for helping those who love you learn how to help you.
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin; Regardless of the birth you have, you will need to be supported. Natural birth, induced birth, birth with pain medication, or cesarean birth; they all need a specific kind of support. Penny Simkin discusses the best ways to support the Mother in labor. From positioning, to childbirth signposts, to different pushing positions, this book really covers it all. Evidence given for advocating for yourself is great and the role of a doula is discussed at length. This is a book most doulas read because it is so full of knowledge. It is one that stays in my birth bag and I read it when possible or consult it when necessary.
Not pictured but still really great…
The Pregnancy Book by Dr. William Sears
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
Birthing from Within by Pam England
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read and Ina May Gaskin
Now you’ve had your baby and you are home from the hospital, birth center, or still at home after your home birth. You have questions, so many questions. How much should the baby be breastfeeding? How many wet and poopy diapers should you be expecting? Can you give a pacifier? What about baby wearing? How much should my baby be sleeping? So many questions and SO many opinions on the internet. These books are the ones I have turned to after each of my babies were born. They offer the best advice and lead the reader to trust their gut.
Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson; If you have ever thought about co-sleeping, the reasoning behind it, how to do it safely, and what the research says, this is a great book. Giving the benefits, teaching how to co-sleep while traveling, and what to expect; this is a great how-to guide.
Nighttime Parenting by William Sears; One of my all time favorite books, Nighttime Parenting explains why our parenting job doesn’t end at night. This is a gentle guide to helping your baby sleep and understanding their sleep patterns. Dr. Sears offers a calm voice on a very sensitive subject.
Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp; Why does my baby cry so much? How can I calm her down? Should I swaddle? What about bouncing? I don’t know what to do!! This is as close to an instruction manual for babies as I have ever seen. Dr. Karp shares his knowledge on babies with the “5 S’s” Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Side/Stomach position, and Sucking.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International; Full of pictures, anecdotes, and research into the benefits of breastfeeding, this is one of my favorite breastfeeding books. Any questions you may have about breastfeeding will be found in this book.
The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis; Have you ever wondered why there are so many products geared toward babies and new parents? This book is a stunning expose into the business practices that surround pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. From the samples and supplements hospitals give out, to the free formula you get in the mail; it is all connected. Businesses are made to make money, but at what cost? This book is an eye opener and gives great advice on products to use, companies to support, and how to be informed about what we are putting in and on our babies.
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Jack Newman, M.D., and Teresa Pitman; This easy to read book is a perfect compliment to your bedside table. Jack Newman is a respected pediatrician with extensive experience helping mothers with their babies and breastfeeding. This comprehensive book will answer any and all questions you have about breastfeeding. It is a fantastic troubleshooting guide covering myriad topics including, sore nipples, colic, medications, breast refusal and more. This is a must read for all pregnant women to help them prepare for breastfeeding.
The Baby Book by William Sears, M.D.; The Baby Book follows your baby from birth to age two. Highlighting what to expect each month, baby wearing, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, toilet training and everything in between, this book is a complete resource to assist you in your journey of parenthood. Dr. Sears offers a calming voice and helps instill confidence in new and experienced parents.
So, there you have it folks. Not all books are created equal. The most important things to keep in mind when reading a book is this; how does it make you feel? Does it scare you about pregnancy and birth or does it give you confidence? Does it encourage you to put your baby on a strict schedule, or promote breastfeeding on demand, baby wearing, and following baby’s cues? Find books that will support you, give you confidence, and help you to know your baby and create strong bonds that will last a lifetime.