Quick disclaimer: if you’re not interested in pregnancy or baby stuff, not to worry! I plan to keep to my regular recipe posting schedule, with a baby-related post sprinkled in here and there (like once a month, max). Feel free to click around or come back next week for some awesome plant-based food.
Both before Aaron and I started trying to get pregnant and all throughout my pregnancy, I read approximately TWENTY pregnancy and baby-related books. I have no idea if that’s a lot, but I suspect that it might be? I just really like to know what I’m getting myself into so I can mentally (and physically) prepare for what’s ahead and feel like I’m making good decisions along the way. That said, I know first hand that pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the newborn phase can be a series of ups and downs, with much of it out of our control. Out of the many books I read over the last year, these are the select few that stayed with me…
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It’s a classic for a reason, and while I was never set on an unmedicated or even a home birth (I’m not going to call it a “natural” birth because ALL childbirth is natural!), I did appreciate Ina May’s much more positive perspective on the subject. The birth stories, while sometimes way too hippie-dippy for me personally, made me feel like, “Okay, I can do this. My body is meant to do this.” It’s sort of the opposite approach of the What to Expect books, which are more an encyclopedia of everything that can go wrong (I read those too, of course, because #balance).
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Sort of a funny title, right? Going into having a baby, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I assumed it would be this natural/instinctual thing that just effortlessly happened. Apparently that’s not the case for a lot of moms and babies! This book is by La Leche League (they have support groups all over) and it was both eye-opening and really educational. I initially borrowed it from my library, but ended up buying a copy to be able to reference it as needed.
- Brain Rules for Baby. This book talks about what you can do to help your child feel safe, happy, and to best help him/her grow intellectually. It covers pregnancy through age five and discusses everything from how your own stress affects your baby in utero, to how watching TV impacts your baby’s brain, to how praising effort instead of achievement is the way to go. It’s rooted in science but still super easy to read.
- Happiest Baby on the Block. Similar to Brain Rules for Baby, I so appreciated the very concrete, practical advice in this book. It’s based around the 5 S’s (basically 5 steps done in sequence to calm your baby by simulating being in the womb). Most newborn guides and baby classes seem to reference this approach and it made total sense to me as I was reading it. The author, Dr. Harvey Karp, recently created a “smart sleeper” bassinet called the Snoo based on this book, which I initially wrote off (it’s crazy expensive!), then ended up buying (on sale!) when I realized a) there’s a free 30-day trial, b) you can schedule delivery around your due date, and c) I’d pay almost anything for a little more sleep.
- The First Forty Days. I LOVED this book. There is so much emphasis on preparing for your baby and buying all of the things, and that’s certainly important, but there’s not nearly enough focus on being taken care of/taking care of yourself as a new mother. The insights and recipes in this book are rooted in Chinese traditions, but modernized and simplified to feel accessible to our Western culture as well. Some recipes contain meat or eggs (think: lots of bone broth), but I found there to be plenty of plant-based options too, which I scanned, turned into a PDF, and handed out to anyone who was willing to cook for us those first few weeks. 🙂
- The Fourth Trimester. Similar to The First Forty Days, I would consider this book a must-read. When I was in the midst of my first trimester nausea and fatigue, new moms warned me that yes, the first trimester was hard, but it was nothing compared to the fourth. Their advice was to “GET ALL THE HELP.” Reading this book re-affirmed that for me, and it also gave me exercises to do and things to think about during my third trimester and into my fourth to feel more balanced and less overwhelmed, to keep my marriage in a good place, and to help my body heal.
- The Birth Partner. Aaron read almost all of the above books right along with me, plus this one specifically for partners. He’d recap it for me whenever he read a section that was particularly helpful, which was a great way for us to connect and get on the same page with how we wanted to approach our baby’s birth. The Birth Partner is written a little like a textbook (as in, it’s pretty dry), so it’s better suited to reading a chapter or two at a time. Nonetheless, the content is actionable, useful, and definitely helped Aaron feel prepared.
Photo by S A R A H ✗ S H A R P.