From the moment I even thought about getting pregnant, I started reading all about it. I went into reading about pregnancy and parenting with these ground rules: 1. wanting to at least know what’s out there and 2. not put pressure on myself to absorb every little detail. Basically, I didn’t want to go into this new chapter of my life blind.
There is so much information out there on pregnancy and parenting, being overwhelmed is an understatement. To help give you an idea of where to start, here is what I read, broken down by category:
Fertility and Conception: Let’s start at the very beginning. At the time it amazed me how little information was out there about conceiving. An Internet search found either infertility support or “You’re pregnant! Now what?” resources. What if you’re not necessarily having fertility problems but maybe not getting pregnant right away? I felt on my own to figure this out. Now, in retrospect, I’m finding tons of books on the topic and would recommend nabbing one if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Most reviews of these types of books recommendations for preparing your body for pregnancy by leading a healthier lifestyle. I hope they also discuss how important timing can be each month. A fertility app like Ovia Fertility is also incredibly useful in conjunction with educating yourself. One takeaway from my experience is to start tracking your cycle early on and start trying days in advance of receiving a positive ovulation test. Based on positive reviews, I’m planning to read The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant for the next go-around.
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger was the first book I read, months before I became pregnant. I found this book by reading negative reviews for the classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Kitzinger is a seasoned OB nurse and offers medically supported, detailed information for your pregnancy from start to finish. As a nurse, she does share opinions and preferences (natural childbirth, breastfeeding) that may not be agreeable to all readers. At the same time, part of pregnancy is enduring the opinions of others, so might as well get used to it. After reading it, I had a good understanding of what to expect going into my pregnancy.
Main takeaway: a medical approach, covering all stages of pregnancy, labor, and delivery
When to read: pre-pregnancy or newly pregnant
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy by Roger Harms and Myra Wick was given to me by my sister-in-law as a duplicate, provided by her insurance company (neat, huh?). I read this book later in my pregnancy and found it written very simply and straight-forward (think Mayo Clinic website). It was easy to understand without opinions of what a pregnancy or labor/delivery should look like.
Main takeaway: a clear-cut, monthly guide to your pregnancy
When to read: pre-pregnancy or newly pregnant
The Official Lamaze Guide: Going Birth with Confidence by Judith Lothian. I read a lot about labor and delivery in my third trimester to refresh on the whole process. Lamaze itself comes with an entire school of thought on how to give birth, but I found this book very helpful in understanding the birthing process and didn’t feel bogged down by the “Lamaze” way to have a baby. I only wish I’d read it sooner because it does start at the beginning of pregnancy when you choose who will be providing your care. Your choice at this stage will dramatically affect your pregnancy and childbirth experience. Either way, I would have still chosen my same OB/GYN and hospital birth, but it’s good to read about all the options. A traditional doctor is the choice of most moms-to-be, but, according to this book, a normal pregnancy technically shouldn’t require medical intervention at all.
Main takeaway: women have been having babies for a very long time and don’t necessarily need all the medical interventions we are subject to today. You can do this, mama!
When to read: pre-pregnancy or any time during pregnancy
What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff. Of course, I didn’t read its predecessor, but I found this book to be a helpful glimpse into what we’d be dealing with. This book is arranged by month and includes milestones for the baby, what Mom can expect, and common Q&As. It’s a little out of date (recommends packing a bottle of champagne in your hospital bag, and using a phone book to find a pediatrician), and has some wacky milestones like, “Baby can focus on a raisin,” but I found myself re-reading it once Hannah was born.
Main takeaway: a month-by-month guide to help you through the first year- get a paper copy and keep it handy for each month
When to read: late pregnancy and throughout the first year
The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer By Harvey Karp. Did you know human babies are born too soon because their heads are too huge and smart to fit through the birth canal at what would be full-term? Have you ever heard of the fourth trimester: that parents should mimic the womb environment during the first twelve weeks? This book started it all.
This was the book that was recommended by so many parents. The description reads as such: “In perhaps the most important parenting book of the decade, Dr. Harvey Karp reveals an extraordinary treasure sought by parents for centuries –an automatic ‘off-switch’ for their baby’s crying.” In addition to teaching “attachment parenting,” Dr. Karp also claims there is a cure for crying! I agree this is an important book to read, but I cannot say it was an automatic “off-switch” for our baby’s crying. The 5 S’s described in the book and DVD, when combined and sometimes individually, work wonders for calming a baby. I would say these techniques worked some of the time when trying to calm our newborn, but then I realized that calming was one thing and putting them to sleep was another. Perhaps we weren’t doing the 5 S’s long enough, but they never seemed to assist our baby to sleep.
Main takeaway: handy tools for the new parent toolbelt
When to read: late pregnancy
Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin. This book was only available as an audiobook through my local library. It’s a quick listen, about 2.5 hours. The author developed her own method for sleep training, which she claims has worked on 100% of the children she has worked with. The method combines modifying feedings and naps gradually in order to achieve twelve hours of uninterrupted crib time without needing to be fed. The process starts at about 8 weeks old. This method seems really promising but in practice, it was just too rigid for real life. There are so many variables happening during the day it doesn’t really allow for flexibility. In fact, the author suggests not going out or doing much of anything to interrupt the schedule while implementing her plan. For me, this is just not practical. The method also seems to be geared more toward bottle-fed babies because there are precise amounts to feed your baby at different times. It’s worth a listen during those late night feedings the first month or two.
Main takeaway: a step-by-step (strict) plan to increase your baby’s nighttime sleep
When to read: during the first 6 weeks
Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Robert Bucknam. Remember everything from Dr. Harvey Karp’s most important parent book of the decade? Well, Babywise says, “fuggedaboutit.” This book draws a middle ground between the cry-it-out method and the no-cry (attachment parenting) method. I read Babywise while still pregnant and was intimidated. It only started making sense once I was actually in the trenches of caring for a newborn and starting to come out of the fog. It took a while to understand the eat-wake-sleep cycle and how to apply any type of sleep training to my baby. Among all the books on parenting, this is one people either love or hate. I understand why some don’t like it- the authors describe a ripple effect of how you start your baby’s day and how you initiate your baby into sleep training. Do it wrong, and you’ve got a host of problems you’ll be dealing with that day and in the future to come. That’s a scary thought! Upon rereading Babywise I noticed that it is a more flexible method. The authors are realistic and encourage using common sense.
Main takeaway: an introduction to parenting styles of newborns, managing your baby’s day (with sample routines), and guidance on transitioning into sleep training
When to read: anytime, optimally when your baby is 4-6 weeks old
If you want to jump into the heap of pregnancy and parenting books out there, I suggest using the app Libby. The app connects with your local library (library card information required) so you can check out books on your phone and have them delivered to your house or right to your Kindle. You can even listen to audiobooks through the app. Checking out library books saved me money and also peace of mind if a particular book didn’t work out.
That was a lot, but here’s the comforting part: the amount of conflicting information and opinions is, at first, frustrating. Through it all, I came to realize that one really knows the best way to have a baby or raise a child. Use the knowledge that’s out there to understand the basics (like what’s going on in your body and baby safety information) and that there are different ways to parent. You’ll be able to develop your own by learning your and your baby’s specific needs. Don’t worry, I’m still trying to figure it out.
The book learnin’ doesn’t end here! There’s a lot more on my To Read List for future review.