There are a ton of books about pregnancy and raising babies out there. It can be overwhelming and ends up stressing a lot of new moms out more than it helps. My strategy was to pick five that resonated with my values and beliefs and stick to those and those alone. I’m sure I’ll read many more parenting books as we move through different stages of raising our daughter, but at this point in time, I’ve found five amazing books that have helped me organize my thoughts and get me in the right mindset for motherhood.
I can’t recommend these books enough! I also suggest reading them in this order if possible.
1. Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck
I recommend starting with this book if you can. At the beginning of pregnancy, you don’t need to worry about breastfeeding and sleep schedules… in fact it’s better if you don’t even think about these things yet. What you do need to focus on is taking care of your body for the next nine months. Real Food for Mother and Baby breaks down what your body needs nutritionally in each trimester and even for fertility if you want to start it earlier.
What helped me the most in the beginning was that it got rid of my guilt about not being able to eat fruits and vegetables in the first trimester. I was so sick that toast and seltzer were the main staples of my diet. The book made me feel ok about it when it explained that all I really needed during this time was calories. As long as I was taking my prenatal supplements to get folic acid and other nutrients to the baby, I was golden.
In my 2nd trimester, it guided me towards more meats and cheese and now in my 3rd, Nina Planck suggests as much fish/Omega-3s as possible so I’m focusing on that. She also goes over supplements and has a great general knowledge of having a healthy pregnancy.
2. Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
Based on a recommendation from a friend, I devoured Bringing up Bébé in just aa few days. My suggestion is to read this second, after Real Food because it also talks a lot about pregnancy. It’s written by an American journalist living in Paris who noticed that French children were more well behaved than American children, and the babies were all sleeping through the night!
She starts by explaining how French women approach pregnancy (prioritize your mental and physical health, don’t worry too much, and have lots of sex!), and then goes into labor (don’t try to be a hero and don’t let your husband watch “down there”), sleep training (your baby needs to learn how to self sooth), and ends up with a section on raising small children (don’t interrupt them when they are speaking). There is a great section in the back with overviews of each concept that I had my husband read. This was so helpful for him and for me so I didn’t have to dog ear the whole thing.
I found it highly interesting to read because it calmed me down about reading too many pregnancy books, making me feel like I didn’t have to do too much research. Plus I loved the overall approach to pregnancy and raising kids.
3. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
This is probably the most recommended book… on the block (get it?) based on what I’ve heard. The Happiest Baby on the Block was written by Dr. Harvey Karp, a baby expert who teaches you how to calm a crying baby and help your newborn sleep better. Um, win/win? I learned so many hands on techniques that I’ll use as soon as she’s born. If you don’t feel like reading the whole book, at least learn the five S’s to help sooth your baby. Game changing, or so I hear.
4. The Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford
My friend Bailey forced me to read this book, but I wasn’t so sure about it at first. She has three boys and swears by The Contented Little Baby Book after using it’s sleep and feeding schedule for the second two who both slept through the night by eight weeks (the first one was not a good sleeper). When I heard that I reluctantly agreed to check it out. It’s written by a Gina Ford, British baby nurse who is super intense and super strict about the schedule she created. According to Gina, if you follow her schedule from day one, your baby will be calmer and sleep through the night in no time. I loved her approach and even had my mom and Anel read it so we’re all on the same page.
I’m printing out each week’s schedules for naps, feedings, and bedtime now so that when the baby comes, we have a quick guide to reference. It makes me feel like I’ll have a at least a control in what is bound to be an uncontrollable situation. For anyone who is Type A and likes lists and schedules, definitely read this book.
5. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn
A reader recommended How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids a few weeks ago and I’m so grateful! While most books you read during pregnancy are about mama and baby, they don’t usually cover your relationship. I know that if Anel and I have a happy marriage, we’ll be better parents, but that can be a huge challenge for many people in the first year after having a kid.
This book gave me tools for how to speak to him post-baby, and how to tamper my frustrations if he’s not doing all of the things that I want him to be doing. It also helped me see things from the husband’s perspective, and there were a lot of great passages that I underlined for Anel to read as well. I’m so glad that we both read this before the baby and not after.
What were your favorite books to read during pregnancy? I’d love to know!
I’m so happy to hear you loved “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids” as much as I did! It has definitely been the most useful thing I’ve read so far since so many of the baby/breastfeeding/childbirth books still feel like a distant reality. Anticipating how a new baby will change the dynamic of my marriage weighs on my mind but at least I feel like we can begin to work on developing better communication skills and patience with one another before our son arrives in September. I’ve been on the fence about reading “Bringing up BeBe” but will add it to my Amazon cart today. Cheers, Julia!
Forget breastfeeding books- I honestly think it’s one of those things you can’t prep for and that you should just wait until the baby is born. I didn’t take a class on it but had friends who did and we all ended up the same: clueless!
Lactation consultants and nurses will help you once baby is there, so I’d eliminate that one thing from your list of prepping.
Makes sense! Our hospital has amazing lactation consultants so I’m excited to have that as a resource right after birth.
Random tip regarding breastfeeding classes, Julia: I gave birth in the evening, and the next morning there was a breastfeeding class at the hospital. Everyone said I had to go, and they took my baby for some bloodwork. My instinct was that he and I both had to stay put and work on breastfeeding together since he didn’t eat much overnight (maybe once? The two of us were both so tired). But, since I was a new mom, I listened to them and dutifully went to the class. Halfway through, they brought me my baby who was of course hangry at this point and I had to try to get him to latch in the middle of this classroom in an uncomfortable chair while I was exhausted and in pain…it was ridiculous. He eventually fell asleep at my breast and I sat through/slept through the rest of the class. I’m sure it was full of great information, but I literally could not stay awake! Looking back, I wish I had felt empowered enough to leave the stupid class and go feed my baby in my room where we could both be comfortable. So, takeaway tip: you can always question the hospital staff about whether they NEED to take the baby this second, or if it can wait. And, the classes in the hospital are a nice resource, but your recovery and feeding the baby and spending time with her skin to skin, etc. are really your only “jobs” while you’re there. The lactation consultants will absolutely come to you. You’re the mama, you’re in charge! 🙂 <3
So so so helpful. I’m obsessed with that book. Were you the one who recommended it? If so, THANK YOU! I think you’ll enjoy Bringing up Bebe as well. Let me know what you think 🙂
Yes! You are quite welcome. I’ll be sure to let you know once I’ve dug into Bringing up Bebe. Take care!
I’m mixed on parenting books because on one hand they can be really helpful for ideas and new tactics to try. But I think sometimes people get hung up on following a specific method or what they think should work based on what the book says. So much depends on the child and their individual needs that you have to adjust based on what works for them and your family.
We’ve got two kids now and my son proved that point that whatever worked for his sister was NOT going to work for him! From the very beginning he needed to be soothed in different ways, had totally different sleep patterns- the whole nine yards.
Basically, just don’t put too much pressure on yourself based on what you think you should do. I firmly believe that most of parenting is instinct with some extra support. Especially after you are more confident in your parenting abilities. No one comes home from the hospital not freaking out!
Also wanted to add that the above comes from the fact I got so overwhelmed reading books during my first pregnancy that I flat out stopped. I just bought my first one (beyond the “What to Expect…” series) a month ago and my oldest is 3 1/2, haha. So for those who books freak them out, I feel you!
Throw out those schedules- they will be totally useless. And I say that with love as my husband tried to do the same. Newborns set the schedule- they will let you know when it’s time to eat and sleep. They actually don’t give you an option!
My recommendation is to try because there’s no harm in that but to be okay with scrapping it if it doesn’t work. My daughter slept at 8 weeks and was a champion napper. My son? Had colic and basically went to one nap a day if we were lucky. He had his own agenda and anything we tried to do he was having none of. You just have to adjust and realize that each baby will have their own needs so what works for one person may very well not work for another.
And to be clear I mean this in a supportive way- as a parent I’ve learned a lot is to just be okay when things don’t go as planned because kids will inevitably alter every single one of your plans 🙂
I totally, totally agree with this. I’ll never forget how when my son was two months old, I decided on a Monday to *try* to see if we could start to follow a semi-predictable rhythm. And it worked! And then the next day…he ate every hour on the hour for 24 hours. Growth spurt! I didn’t change out of my pajamas, I didn’t brush my teeth, all I did was feed him and feed/hydrate myself and that was it. And that was hard enough, but on top of it I had the disappointment of “…But the schedule!” But, the next day, I was determined to shower and go meet a friend for breakfast with baby in tow come hell or high water (or constant breastfeeding in the restaurant if needed) and lo and behold…he was back on his (semi-) regular rhythm and napped through brunch.
My son is now four months old, and he’s only been semi-predictable for about a month. I try to follow the Baby Whisperer’s EASY plan, where they wake up, you feed them for about 30 mins or so, they’re up for about an hour, and then they go back down for a nap. But, nap times still vary! Really, everything still varies. For instance, usually his morning nap is two hours, but sometimes he wakes up hungry after an hour. He’s working toward sleeping through the night, but we’re not there yet. Truly, every day is going to be somewhat different from the last, for better or worse! My friends with similar-age babies and I keep lamenting: as soon as you start to figure them out just a bit, they go and change everything. It’s so true. I really believe that one of the most important lessons that kids teach us is that we’re not in control. Yes, we’re the parents and it’s our job to teach them and guide them towards healthy sleep, healthy eating habits, good manners…but they’re their own people from the minute they’re born, and we have to be able to go with the flow! 😉
All that being said, I REALLY loved the Baby Whisperer book. Of course, I didn’t read it until my son was 2.5 months old, but it’s the one book I wish I had read while I was pregnant (and I read everything, lol!). This book acknowledges that there are upsides and downsides to both attachment parenting and schedule-based parenting, but ultimately they’re both too extreme. So, she’s about finding the middle ground. Plus, she includes lots of really, really practical baby care tips (like, never lower a baby into their bath flat on their back—it’s disorienting for them. Always put them in in a seated position, feet first. This tip would have really helped during the newborn I-hate-my-bath period!).
Anyway, I am so confident that you’ll figure out what works for you and your baby when she arrives, Julia—books or not. Just hope I could offer a little bit of perspective that I wish I had when I was preparing for baby’s arrival and totally stumped! <3
Hi Tara and Kellie! Isn’t it so nice that Julia has put it out there for us to know the intimate details of her life. Maybe that stuff didn’t work for you or your newborns but that does NOT mean that it will not work for her. I’m sure reading comments like “throw out the schedules” doesn’t make a pregnant mama feel any better about what she is trying to do. She has already expressed on here how hesitant she was to open up about her motherhood journey because of really judging and critical (sometimes very mean) women and their comments. Let’s try to support the bloggers that we read and love!
I think you misunderstood both of us—neither of us meant to judge. Julia asked for more suggestions and I offered a book that helped me, plus reassured her at the end that she will figure it out for herself regardless of any books! I only meant to reassure her that if a schedule doesn’t work (at least initially), it won’t be because of anything she’s doing wrong. I’d never, ever judge or be critical of another mom, but I always appreciate hearing how things go for other moms even if it’s not my own experience. I’m sorry if you took my comment differently or if I came off as judgmental…not at all my intent.
Hi everyone! Thank you ALL for your comments. I definitely get where you’re all coming from. I (like most new mamas) have no idea what I’m doing/talking about, but prepping as much as possible makes me feel better for now anyway.
I’m trying to be realistic with expectations and know that every baby and mama are different. But I’ll share my experience along the way no matter how it goes.
I so appreciate all of your feedback and thoughts. You have no idea how helpful it is!
And Morgan, thank you so much for your comment.xoxo
Hi Julia- I really don’t want you to misunderstand me as I was trying to offer support and didn’t mean it as negative. I’m a huge fan of your blog but just wanted to offer my input and thought I had communicated my support versus any type of criticism.
Being a new mom is super stressful and I simply wanted to express that if the schedule doesn’t work to not be discouraged. Newborns are really a survive as you go experience and as you get to know her personal schedule you’ll be able to figure it out.
Hi Morgan, you very much misunderstood me. I’ve been a longtime fan of this blog and have posted many supportive messages and I was wanting this to be one too. I look at it as a conversation and would very much tell a girlfriend to forget those schedules and not worry about sticking to it. I felt like I covered that pretty well in the second paragraph and was simply trying to offer some supporting information as someone who has been through it.
I simply wanted to express my perspective but meant it in an entirely friendly, supportive way.
I’ve gotta say- I was totally similar to you during pregnancy and loved the idea of schedules and feeding at certain times and napping at certain times… and it just all went out the window as soon as baby girl was here. especially if you’re breastfeeding! in the beginning, that’s all she’ll want to do and if you try to limit it it can mess with your supply! after about three months, then you can start to try and find a routine that works for you both!
like everything though, take this with a grain of salt. maybe it will work differently for you!
Haha yeah, this is what I hear. But I can at least try, right? 🙂 I’m trying to have a plan but also be realistic so stories like yours help!
Right in this same camp, but I totally missed The Contented Little Baby. Sign me up for my next kid. Though we didn’t ever get on a schedule, it was immensely helpful to at least be on an every 3-hour routine, and then 4-hour routine, and then… I just finished How Not to Hate Your Husband and it was the best! I bet it will serve you well to read again and again.
I reccomend “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, I think this book is great for just helping you understand children’s sleep. It follows children as they grow and change and explains what their sleep needs are at each stage. A great resource to have as your daughter grows! It’s not preachy, it gives suggestions on sleep for all types of parenting styles.
Amazing, thank you! Will buy it right now 🙂
There is a DVD version of the happiest baby on the block – I definitely recommend it. You can see the 5 S’s in action, nice for a refresher when you are sleep deprived!
Oh great! I will try to track that down now. Thank you!
I’m not planning on having any children yet but these books sounds great. There are so many books out there that it can get really confusing. While I’m not planning yet for kids, I’d still like to read a couple books ahead of time. I know some parents say making a schedule will never work and some moms say making a schedule absolutely works but I guess only time will tell!
I think every baby and mama are different, so I’d rather just be prepared I guess.
I completely agree with trying to be prepared!
I loved Bringing Up Bebe as well, and thanks to your recommendation I’m definitely going to read Dunn’s book!
I am also currently half way through Dawn Dais’ The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year (https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00B6U090Y/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1). It is equal parts hilarious and real. It’s meant to be humourous but also reassuring in that parenthood is tough at times, but we’re all in it together. The chapter titles alone are enough are enough to crack you up (I.e. “You’ll Never Sleep Again,” “Having Pets Did Not Prepare You for This,” and “You’ll Probably Want a Divorce”)!
Love this book! I devoured it in one sitting and I buy it for all my friends who are expecting!
Hi Julia, I just read this post while nursing my 9 week old little girl! I read all these books, all were helpful and had great insight. Except once our spitfire Zoe came, we quickly realized our plans were not the best for her. Totally recommend reading everything and once she is here you can pick and chose what works for your family!! Good luck…can’t wait for your little one to arrive.
Hi Julia – I am 24 weeks pregnant and your blog has been so helpful during this time! I am reading The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary and the book is such an eye opener. It’s a pretty heavy book so I read a few pages at a time and try to process and reflect. I also plan to read her first book, A Conscious Parent. As a fellow blogger, I appreciate that you share your journey – not just the highlights / achievements. This quote from the book really resonated with me and helps me think about how I share my parenting journey with readers.
“Perhaps you don’t think you buy into the trophy child philosophy. However, each time you post a picture of your child winning a medal but don’t post about them losing, you add to the myth of the overachieving child.” – Dr. Shefali Tsabary
I have a 9.5 month old, and I followed the advice in Bringing Up Bebe. I suspect I am also just lucky and my child is a unicorn, but it worked like a CHARM. My son started sleeping in 5-6 hour stretches right away, then he was at 8-9 hour stretches by six weeks, and around 9 weeks he started doing 12 hour stretches. He has slept pretty much 6:30 pm – 6:30 am from then until now with no regressions. (I literally don’t ever tell anyone I know IRL this, as I don’t want them to hate me for being so well-rested!!) The “pause” described in Bringing Up Bebe is common sense, but it is SO SO SO important. I never ever let my son wail and cry, and I never had to resort to sleep training because I started pausing so early on (just for a moment or two, to see if he could self-soothe or if he really needed me). The doctor that the author interviews in Bringing Up Bebe (Michel Cohen of Tribeca Pediatrics) has a book out that I turn to constantly…his philosophy is low intervention and really appealed to us. It’s called “The New Basics”. I have the hard copy because I refer to it all.the.time, but the entire book is available free on his website too (https://www.thenewbasics.com/en/) Highly, highly recommend! (Sorry this got so long!!)
Because my advice is already super long and why not share my hard-earned mom knowledge, I also HIGHLY recommend the Dockatot (yes, even for night sleeping). I am not a medical professional and you have to make your own risk assessments, but the Dockatot is the exact same product as the Sleepyhead (which is how it is marketed in Europe). The Sleepyhead is approved for night-sleeping over there. The U.S. is super risk-averse and they had to rebrand it as a Dockatot here. My baby absolutely loves sleeping in his Dockatot (the first day we got it was the first time he ever slept 12 straight hours with no wake-ups), and it has made traveling a breeze. We just bring it along with us on trips and then he’s got his cozy, familiar sleeping spot (we put it in his travel crib). It was also genius for the transition from the bassinet in our room (we used the Halo Bassinest, and the dock fit perfectly in it) to his crib in his nursery. We just put the dock in the crib when we were ready to evict him from our room, and we had zero adjustment issues.
I read a few that you listed here, and have two recommendations for you: Expecting Better by Emily Oster and Eat, Sleep, Poop by Scott Cohen (links below). Like Happiest Baby on the Block, ESP is written by a pediatrician, who gives his pediatrician advice, along side his ‘dad’ advice. His anecdotes on how these differ are interesting, and in most cases, common sense prevails, which I appreciated!
Also, I’m realizing that I may have commented with the Expecting Better reco when you did a post on drinking while pregnant. Well, it’s that good/interesting that it’s worth sharing again!
A good friend of mine who had her first baby about 5 months before me, told me to read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child after my first baby was born. It was a Godsend. She had colic and it was an absolutely awful 10-12 weeks. I was so grateful she recommended it! I definitely kept a very strict nap and bedtime schedule.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. was an eye opening book I read about your baby’s sleep. Awesome book and I highly recommend!!