THE PREGNANCY AND PARENTING BOOKS I’M READING BEFORE BABY

I shared one of the pregnancy/baby books I’ve read on Instagram a couple weeks ago and instantly received an influx of recommendations and opinions about what to read and what to ignore. Personally I’ve enjoyed soaking up others’ wisdom on pregnancy and parenting since this is all new (and occasionally overwhelming) territory for me, but I completely understand and respect moms-to-be who want to shield themselves from information overload when every birth and every baby will be completely unique. There are books I’ve started that stressed me out so I put them aside and moved on to the next — you have to do what feels right for you!

In general I’d say I’ve been drawn to books with both a reassuring tone and practical advice — books that make me feel like I’m completely capable of being a wonderful mom and that offer me a few helpful takeaways for how to get through a certain pregnancy symptom or the initial days and weeks of our baby’s life. Since I know someone will ask, the two books I’ve started and put down were Expecting Better (because I found challenging conventional medical wisdom more stressful than encouraging) and The Fourth Trimester (because her traumatic birth story was so unsettling and her postpartum advice felt a little woo woo for our lifestyle). I have friends who absolutely loved each of these books and even received a few angry messages from Instagram followers who think they should be required reading — again I totally support any soon-to-be-parent’s choice to read every baby book under the sun, read absolutely none at all, or handpick the ones that suit their unique preferences and lifestyles. Clearly I’ve done the latter!

Here’s everything I’ve read or am reading so far as well as a list of books I’ve purchased and plan to read over the next few months. I’d love to hear what you loved or didn’t love about each as well as any other books you’d recommend! Just please be respectful that we might be looking for different things in our personal pregnancy and parenthood journeys! 🙂

what no one tells you pregnancy book review

What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood by Alexandra Sacks and Catherine Birndorf

I’ve started and stopped a number of books about pregnancy and parenting that stressed me out with conflicting health advice and/or traumatic birth stories, so I was grateful for the reassuring tone of this book. The authors, both MDs, take a comforting tact in normalizing the wide range of emotions women experience from the moment of the first pregnancy test through the trials and tribulations of their child’s first year. I particularly appreciated the distinction between the baby blues that many moms experience due to hormone changes in the first two weeks after giving birth and the more serious warning signs for post-partum anxiety and depression, for which the appendix offers many resources. 

moms on call book review

Moms on Call by Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker

I have several girlfriends who swear by the daily schedules suggested in this book and I’ve had dozens of you recommend it since I announced my pregnancy (easily the #1 recommended read!). It’s a quick read during pregnancy that gives a helpful overview on feeding, bathing, and sleep, but I know I’ll be referencing the specific timelines multiple times a day as soon as our baby arrives! I’m admittedly a little nervous about our ability to adhere to their recommended schedule every day and night, but I’m so encouraged that their methods have worked for so many of you that I think we’d be crazy not to give it our best shot. Will is planning to read it as well since neither of us has much experience caring for newborns and there are so many practical tips for bathing, diapering, and feeding an infant.

happiest baby on the block book review.jpg

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp

My cousin and his sweet wife sent us a copy of this book just days before their own due date and I couldn’t wait to crack it open! I’m now about a third of the way through this practical guide to soothing colicky newborns and find myself wanting to highlight and take frequent notes as I go. I love the idea of having a few go-to coping mechanisms to try out when our baby is particularly fussy and can see ourselves referring back to this book often in the first few months of his life. If you’re looking for reassurance that your baby’s crying is totally normal or practical advice on how to calm him or her down in the heat of a meltdown, I think you’ll find this your kind of read.

bringing up bebe book reivew

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

Ugh, why don’t we all just move to France? That’s certainly the way I’ve felt listening to this book (Will and I recently switched from the audio version to a paperback copy so we can refer back to it more easily). The author is an American journalist who has a baby in Paris and notices that French children sleep through the night, are adventurous eaters, and know how to self-soothe and keep themselves entertained from an early age. Curious about the difference between American and French children, she interviews dozens of parenting experts and friends with children to get to the bottom of their parenting techniques. While reading this book won’t change the fact that resources for new parents in the U.S. are sorely lacking relative to those for French families, we’ve personally really enjoyed the author’s sense of humor and newfound wisdom.  

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27 thoughts on “THE PREGNANCY AND PARENTING BOOKS I’M READING BEFORE BABY

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  1. I really loved What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen. It really helped me a lot in the process of adjusting to being a mom and I found her approach to be non-judgemental and empowering. Highly recommend it!

  2. I don’t have any kids but I loved with Bringing Up Bebe. Fascinating that “stay at home mom” is not a thing in France. Mothers don’t seem to be expected to martyrs in the way American moms are.

  3. Baby Wise is really helpful and easy to skim, I also recommend The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies & Toddlers by Dr. Porto and Dr. DiMaggio. I read it to help guide my patients’ parents, but also find it practical as a mom!

  4. First of all Congratulations, I am so happy for you and Will! It is going to be one of the best days of your life! Definitely read 12 hours sleep by 12 weeks old. It is practical and really works! It is a quick read and nothing extreme!

  5. I loved moms on call! But also remember to give yourself grace if it doesn’t work for you. All babies are born with their own personality that’s for sure! I followed the same sleep ideas with both my babies. My first has always required little sleep. He took forever to sleep through the night and can still run on what feels to me like no sleep haha. My baby girl on the other hand I have to wake up or shed sleep all day! So just remember as someone else said sometimes they’re just going to do what they’re going to do 🙂

  6. Currently pregnant with baby #3…from my first to second and now third pregnancy I found I roll with the punches. My first pregnancy I had an app that kept me up to date on my weeks pregnant and I googled all symptoms , my second pregnancy I would text my friend to ask how many weeks pregnant I was as she was 2 weeks behind me and this one I’m 11 weeks and have barely googled anything. Those books on childbirths are horror stories, yes, there are horrible births but there are also many smooth ones.
    Your best baby advice is from trusted friends that have gone through it. I had a friend tell me that you can have your birth plan but also remember it may not go as planned, all that matters is that you get that baby here safely. How you birth makes no difference-c-section, natural or epidural…as long as you get that baby safely. Because I guarantee no one will ask your child how they were birthed when they go to a job interview OR what age they were potty trained.
    There is something called the “Wonder Weeks” and that is helpful to know why suddenly your baby eats and eats or won’t sleep very well. Chances are they are in a growth spurt.
    With babies, you just have to go with the flow. My first finally slept at 1 Year, my second slept though the night at 7 weeks and I did nothing different.
    Wishing you the very best. You will be a wonderful mother.

  7. I ADORED Bringing Up Bebe and credit it with our son being an early all-night sleeper. Happiest Baby on the Block was also great. I also truly loved having a copy of The Informed Parent around, especially for referencing. It is an unemotional yet easy read for evidence-based answers of all kinds. Great thing to have in the shelf as things come up. Very comforting.

    The only regret I have is not making a shrink appointment for myself for a few days after my son was born when I was still pregnant. I’m pretty sure I dealt with postpartum anxiety, but the thing is, when I was in that place, saying something about it or acknowledging it wasn’t something I could do. If I had made the appointment a few months earlier and told everyone about it, I would have had some help without having to publicize how I was feeling. And for mothers who don’t “need” it, getting out of the house for an hour to focus on yourself can be a great thing! Win-win.

  8. For pregnancy nutrition, I really liked Real Food for pregnancy by Lily Nichols. I’m currently sitting at home with a newborn who is 9 days old and I haven’t read any baby care books yet, so you’re ahead of the game, mama! I’m going to check out a couple of your recommendations though:)

  9. To add to this, if you want your husband to do some reading, I highly recommend The Expectant Father. My husband is reading it and he has said it’s super informative and it’s helping him understand my pregnancy, as well as shares how to support me along the way, and during labor.

  10. Thanks for this – every parenting journey is different, and there’s so much to learn from each other to help build each other up and be our own versions of great moms (but not perfect, because let’s get real) 🙂

    Also, as you’re having a boy, there are a number of great resources for boyhood and all the early development quirks with raising young men. I don’t want to overwhelm, but if you get sick of reading about sleep schedules and self-soothing, try Saving Our Sons by Micheal Gurian. Lots of neuroscience and developmental insights.

  11. I’d also recommend Great with Child. It’s not very informational, but a lovely book to read while expecting!

  12. I loved “Happiest Baby on the Block.” I didn’t follow everything to a T, but referenced it often while my son was a newborn. He’s now 18 months and has been throwing some temper tantrums, so I started “Happiest Toddler on the Block.” As a former first grade teacher, I find a lot of his advice aligns with what I have learned over the years about teaching children to develop positive strategies to deal with frustration. I also read “Bringing Up Bebe” and loved it. However, once you are in the throes of toddlerhood, I find the advice in this book frustrating- I follow it and it doesn’t work, and I feel like failure. My biggest resource was the moms in my neighborhood. I text them questions a lot!

  13. Huge fan of MOC! I gift the book to anyone who’s willing to give it a try. We had a horrible sleeper and MOC literally saved our lives. We found that giving up a few weeks of our social life was well worth the 8 week old who slept through the night and has never regressed. But I totally agree with you…find what works for you! All babies and families are different, and sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error.

  14. These were some of my favorites too! The five S’s really did soothe our baby boy (Velcro swaddles and portable sound machine helped tons) – and I loved having those tools to refer to during the times that felt like he was fussing endlessly. I also loved the Moms on Call scheduling app during maternity leave. And agree, let’s all move to France!!

  15. That is sooo funny that book about French parenting! I am French, living in Paris and I reeeaaaally don’t think that our babies sleep better or eat better^^
    But I want to read « the danish way of parenting » cause I think their children are happiest than ours ahah
    We always think it’s better elsewhere^^

  16. I found Babywise and 12 hours sleep by 12 weeks old to be unhelpful for a variety of reasons, but others do find success with them. There may come a point, however, where you have too much information; sometimes just picking a lane and sticking to it is a good idea.

    One thing that I continually reminded myself when it comes to baby schedules is that babies haven’t read the books, and sometimes babies don’t follow the schedule for no other reason than “babies gonna baby.” It’s really hard to delineate between what the baby is or isn’t doing and your performance as a parent, particularly in the first few months, and books or methods that seemed (to me!) to place value judgments on my ability to get my child to sleep only stressed me out more. I found TakingCaraBabies’ courses and blog posts the most helpful in this regard since she was the only one who didn’t make me feel like a failure when my child’s napping was highly subpar. Yes, TakingCaraBabies seems to be everywhere, but she’s just so judgment- free, and everything is evidence-based – her popularity is well-earned!

    The other thing to remember about baby sleep is it takes a lot of practice! Consider how much time and practice you need to become proficient at any skill – it’s the same for babies, and magnified with such a huge skill like sleep! Thinking about it as “practice” and not “performance” seemed to mentally lower the stakes for me, and let me enjoy many more times where my daughter slept on me than I would have allowed otherwise (ugh, I wish she would nap on me now… I miss those days!).

    Finally, I found the Baby 411 book to be really helpful in the newborn months. You don’t have to read it cover to cover – it’s a reference guide for just about everything you may have questions about, and it’s well-organized and clearly set up so you can look up whatever your issue is.

    Whatever you choose to read, or not read, or whatever, will be the right decision for your family!

  17. Babywise and Moms on Call have a lot of overlap. I read both, but preferred MOC because it was more straightforward and practical.

      1. I’m a mom of 4 (my kids are 6, 4, 3 and 10m), and I agree with Katherine. One of those is enough, and reading too many will just give you too many strategies. You have enough going on in your head. Ha. MOC is my go-to. It’s just such an easy reference and easy enough to tailor to your needs.

  18. if youre planning on nursing , babywise is NOT recommended, at least for the first four months and can lead to failure to thrive. i vote skip it!