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Known as the bible of all things pregnancy and parenthood related, What to Expect The First Year was one of my favorite books to flip through during my pregnancy. Most of the advice seems unbiased, and most of all, not as nerve wracking as some of the advice in the other books I picked up. It helps that it is organized by month and literally covers every little detail new moms may wonder about. Some things, however, may seem a little dated: always check more than one source on issues that may be a little more controversial than usual. The tone is slightly cautious (which is to be expected with this sort of book), but as long as you remember that your little baby is more resilient than you think, you should be fine. It’s a great reference to have during the first few weeks/months of motherhood.



Although this book is now outdated (published in 1993), I have to admit it is the best advice I’ve read to date, based on our parenting style. Dr. Sears and his wife Martha are advocates of breastfeeding, sleeping close to baby, and babywearing as important tools to nurture the parent/child connection. He disagrees with the “cry it out” technique with young babies because he believes it hinders trust and can potentially affect a child (depending on his personality) later on. I found this book to be very thorough, with advice on pregnancy and each month postpartum as well as tips on specific issues. Each piece of advice made me feel relieved —  I don’t feel comfortable leaving Liam for 12 hours in his crib without soothing him back to sleep if he cries — I relate more to the “attachment parenting” philosophy. I think that most parents don’t feel comfortable with the idea of “crying it out”, but do it solely to get more sleep throughout the night. Instead of letting a child tire himself out, Dr. Sears believes in finding the reason why the child is waking and crying — he provides a checklist of reasons, as well as ways to fix each issue.  



Despite having been highly recommended by a pregnant mama friend of mine, this is one of those books that I pull out only when I have a specific question in mind. It was very overwhelming to me when I was still pregnant with Liam. The advice seems pretty obvious/common sense for the most part, but some of it was pretty interesting. For example, Dr. Weissbluth recommends an early bedtime (babies sleep later), watching for sleepy cues, and never letting a baby stay up for more than 2-3 hours at a time. Although I did get some good pointers from this book, I prefer Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book which is more accessible /clearer and a little less confusing at times.



As a writer and reader myself, this book really struck a cord. I started it at the very beginning of my pregnancy and finished it at 38 weeks pregnant and the pacing felt absolutely right, like it was meant to guide me through these weeks of flux. It isn’t your average birth book, far from it. Beth Ann Fennelly writes about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in the most endearing–and at times, powerful– way, in the form of letters to her young, pregnant friend, Kathleen. Although she is asked to provide advice, Fennelly makes it clear that she isn’t perfect and cannot offer the perfect answer, just the best one she can provide at the time. She is aware of her own flaws and mistakes, which makes this book incredibly touching. I was brought to tears when Fennelly discussed her miscarriage and to giggles when she told anecdotes about her daughter, Claire. Some things felt incredibly familiar–switching from an impatient doctor to a midwife, late in her pregnancy, for example–and overall, the novel gave me the courage to view myself as a mother, flaws included. This is the kind of book that you want to reread right away, the minute you finish it. Some passages, I reread two, three times to truly let the words sink in. It is a gem and I truly recommend it to any expecting mother, mother, or simply avid reader.



Kristen Michaelis takes you through the basics of a healthy diet in our not so healthy food industry. Some of her tips are to say no to MSG, corn derivatives, GMOs, modern vegetable oils, refined sugars, pesticides, industrial meats, dairy, and eggs. Overwhelming much? Luckily she offers some fantastic, budget-friendly alternatives (some easier to buy/make than others, depending on your location.) What I loved the most was the natural remedies during pregnancy section (pages 134-141), in which she offers simple remedies for insomnia, cramps, heartburn, anemia, sore throat, etc… She even has some tips on eating to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy (yes, it’s possible) and for a pleasant, drug free birth. Michaelis shares natural baby formula recipes as alternatives to buying commercial formula, which is commonly laced with soy proteins and other industrial byproducts (from arsenic to BPA to rocket fuel… even in the so-called “organic” versions — yikes!) and has a whole section devoted to healthy recipes for your family. I enjoyed the book as well as learning about her philosophy — maybe a little extreme for some families, but truly informative nonetheless. It’s all about the baby steps towards a healthier diet and lifestyle.


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Are you (like me) not particularly afraid of the pain involved in labor, but that the conditions won’t be “ideal” in the labor room? Do the words c-sections, episiotomies, epidurals, and pitocin freak you out?

Ladies, this book is truly revolutionary.

Ina May, one of the most renown midwives in the country, shares her knowledge and wisdom in these 300+ pages in the most reassuring, positive way. It left me with a feeling of strength and confidence. We all have a say in our births. Our minds have an incredible power over our bodies, especially during labor, a moment in our lives during which we experience a kind of pain we should not fight, but surrender to. We are not “unhealthy” but at our healthiest, so why the wheel chair? The hospital robe? Why fear something we have never experienced before, simply because of the way the media portrays it? Why beg for epidurals without knowing the consequences? And first and foremost, why do most obstetricians not realize the consequences of non-emergency C-Sections and inductions? Not accept that the female body is able to produce life on its own, without being rushed, without any help?

A must read for all expecting mothers who want to know what their options are. Truly inspirational!

The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent


Although this book is a little dated (2004), I still found some interesting pieces of information in there about breastfeeding and unfamiliar issues we might have to deal with. Organized like a dictionary, the book goes through a bunch of terms, ailments, and controversial issues. Dr. Cohen gives his very “relaxed” advice about each of these. Although I definitely think I’ll pull it out a few times during the first few months caring for our son, I would probably want to do some research on the side as well, just to avoid any bias. He has very one-sided opinions on a variety of topics. For example, he doesn’t believe in tummy time (which we actually believe in, considering how strong Liam is since we’ve become strict about incorporating it into his daily routine) and is an advocate of the Ferber “cry it out” method (leaving baby in bed without picking him up throughout the night, even if he cries heavily). This book is definitely biased and I wish he offered other alternatives for parents with different philosophies as well.

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The Business of Being Born

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I’ve written about Ina May Gaskin (the author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth), my feelings about midwives, and my yearning to have a natural, vaginal birth. This film, directed by Abby Epstein and produced by Ricki Lake, covers it all, including the many myths surrounding hospital births (is all the additional technology really always for the better? Are obstetricians, who are ultimately surgeons, really qualified for natural deliveries?), as well as the stereotype of home births as a “hippie” thing, one that lacks preparation and could result in dangerous situations if it requires a last minute transfer to a hospital (although certified midwives are incredibly qualified and come prepared as a precaution with a variety of drugs and paraphernalia to each birth.)

This documentary follows many types of pregnancies and births (both vaginal and cesarean) and all sorts of view points, as well as why women are so keen on epidurals and interventions to avoid pain.

What struck me was how organic and peaceful the home births all seemed; how simple a birth can truly be without all the added technology and interventions. I was blown away by the facts: that the U.S. is actually way behind the rest of the world, getting further and further away from what birth is really supposed to be: a moment of empowerment for a woman, one where a mother and child are both under a sort of morphine-like trance, a feeling that is both temporary and incredibly important to the start of their relationship.

This is a film that every modern, educated woman should watch, whether she is pregnant or not, no matter her birth plan. We are all entitled to this information and should be able to make our own choices regarding our births and deliveries. If you do not research your options and speak up, be certain that most obstetricians and hospitals will not tell you the facts.

Here is some of the data that was gathered for the documentary:

  • Among 33 industrialized nations, the United States is tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report from Save the Children (April 2006). This is the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.
  • The five countries with the lowest infant mortality rates in the March of Dimes report — Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and Norway – midwives were used as their main source of care for 70 percent of the birthing mothers.
  • Cesarean section is the most commonly performed surgery in the US, at a cost of $14 billion per year. Cesarean-delivery rates are now at an all time high in the United States, standing at 1.2 million, or 29.1 percent of live births in 2004. The increase represents a 40 percent increase in the past 10 years. (In 1970 the rate was 5.5%)
  • In several New York City-area hospitals, the Cesarean-delivery rate is even higher – over 40%.
  • In one 1999 survey, 82% of physicians said they performed a C-section to avoid a negligence claim.
  • Overall, according to studies by Washington-based Public Citizen’s health research group, the cesarean section rate for hospitals with nurse-midwifery services was about 13 percent lower than the average cesarean rate for all hospitals.
  • About half a million U.S. babies are born prematurely each year, data shows.
  • A new report by the World Health Organization, published in the international medical journal, Lancet, identifies complications from cesarean surgery and anesthesia as the leading causes of maternal death in developed countries, including the United States. Another report by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD, coordinator of Integrative Psychiatry and Systems Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Program in Integrative Medicine, comparing 1,046 home births to 1,046 hospital births found negative outcomes consistently higher in hospital births. These included a fetal distress rate six times higher in hospitals, a respiratory distress rate 17 times higher in hospitals, babies requiring resuscitation 3.7 times higher in hospitals, maternal postpartum hemorrhage three times higher in hospitals and 30 birth injuries in the hospital compared with none occurring during the home births.

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