There are approximately 3 040 000 000 Google results when you type in "pregnancy book", and over 60.000 titles on Amazon. In short, there is a ridiculous wealth on pregnancy and parental preparation books to choose from, which can be entirely overwhelming when you try to figure out what to read when you're expecting.
Obviously, I haven't read them all (I doubt anyone has), but going through my second pregnancy and being someone who reads a lot, there are personal recommendations what to read and whether it's actually necessary to read pregnancy books in advance at all. During my first pregnancy, I immersed myself fully in as many pregnancy books as possible (and you can read why that probably wasn't such a good idea in my post Why Reading Pregnancy Books May Not Be Helpful), but it was not the ideal way to prepare for me, for it only nurtured anxiety and made me scared of the birth and parenting. Other books - few books, in fact - helped me look forward to both birth and parenting, and I will share them here.
Please bear in mind that every woman and pregnancy are different, and while some need full control to feel happy during their pregnancy, others need something else entirely.
Why reading generic pregnancy books can increase fear
Before I was even pregnant, I got the big fat pregnancy book by doctor Lesley Regan Your Pregnancy Week by Week. First up, I think it's a great book with everything you can read about pregnancy you could wish for. However, it was not a great book for me to read during pregnancy. Pregnancy books of that kind - which are informative, objective and medical - have to include everything - also every horrible possible scenario. I remember reading abstracts like "having back pain is completely normal, but it might also be something really terrible so best check out your doctor immediately" (this is me paraphrasing, not a quote from the book). During my first pregnancy I was additionally worried because we'd gone through the horror of hearing we might not have children due to my endometriosis, so I was terrified of losing my baby.
When you're pregnant the first time, it is immensely difficult to differentiate between "normal" and "bad" pain - at least it was for me. So, if you're an anxiety-ridden person, I would not propose to read such a book during pregnancy.
WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND highly is getting a good midwife and a doctor you trust. You can ask them all your questions and trust they will tell you if anything's not going the way it should. This way, you don't have to interpret your findings in a book, but can trust a expert medical opinion.
Which books actually helped me during pregnancy and after
When you have a good midwife and doctor, what you read is actually optional. You get everything you really NEED from the experts around you, and reading can be supplementary and focused on what YOU want from your birth or your parenting experience. Having said this, my list is, of course, strongly focused on what I was looking for, but I hope it helps you as well - especially if you're an anxious person like me.
The book which helped me most during my pregnancy and birth prep was Hollie de Cruz's Your Baby, Your Birth. The book succinctly and understandably outlines Hypnobirthing and the physical processes that happen during birth. Shared birth experiences by women who have tried hypnobirthing and how it changed their birth experience. Compared to the original Hypnobirthing book by Marie Mongan, de Cruz's birth has a more open-minded approach, in my opinion, and she doesn't condemn other birth proceedings than natural births, but sees Hypnobirthing rather as a way to enjoy your birth experience, no matter what how it turns out in the end.
The section at the end about the aftermath of birth is also very encouraging and helpful for young parents. On the book's website you can also download the relaxation hypnosis and affirmations for free.
You can get a copy of the book and download your free mp3s here.
Another great read during pregnancy and well into parenthood is Philippa Perry's book The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read. Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author who is all about gentle parenting and understanding not only the children we nurture as parents, but also the inner child within us. Her book is not your generic parents' guide but also addresses the question why we parent the way we choose to and how our own childhood and parents have shaped the way we care for our own children. I found her book uplifting to read, while giving great perspective and opportunity to reflect on how you want to parent. Her insight into what children need and how to best give it to them is very gentle and loving and was the perfect way for me to chime into motherhood.
You can buy a copy of the book via this link.
A book which is entirely not about advice but a deeply personal take on motherhood is Polly Dunbar's Hello, Mum. The illustrator has created a wonderful storyline of her own life as mother of two sons and it is wonderfully uplifting because you know exactly what she means. With her unique illustrations and short texts, this book is a wonderful read to leaf through again and again, and especially on days where I feel overwhelmed by motherhood and question everything I do, I found it to be the shoulder pat I needed. This book also makes for a wonderful gift to someone expecting a baby.
You can buy a copy of Hello, Mum by Polly Dunbar here.
This book is ESSENTIAL for anyone who plans to co-sleep with their kids (and anyone else, too, I believe, because you will want to co-sleep after reading it). Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family is a guide and advice book about good sleeping habits in babies, published by the renowned La Leche League Association. For me, it was a lifesaver. The book presents fantastic studies and research that show how good co-sleeping is for the entire family, how to safely set up the family bed, and what sleep training can do to your child's brain. Common myths about co-sleeping are debunked and you will wonder how you could ever have contemplated another sleep setup. While most other books on baby sleep are about training babies like animals, this book has a gentle, humane approach, employing methods that aid the entire family.
Whenever I felt frustrated with my daughter's sleeping habits, was unsure whether our way was the right one for us, or whether something was "wrong" with Lily, this book was my bible, my shoulder pat to tell me I was doing alright, and my guide book to better sleep. It is a book about gentle sleep habits for the entire family - and despite the title, it's not exclusively for breastfeeding women. There is also advice for women who bottle-feed and how to make the nights easier. Sleep is a topic for everyone, I have yet to find a mum where sleep isn't a major factor at some point, so it is wise to have a good advice book by hand.
You can get a print copy or Kindle e-book of Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family on Amazon.
And that's it. From the many books I've perused, these are the only ones I felt actually helped me and which I leaf through again and again. If you feel an essential book is missing from this list, let me know and happy reading!
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