Pregnancy book recommendations

5 May 2016

I’ve had many requests over the last year or so to share the books I read while pregnant, and today I’m ready to deliver! I always intended to share, but I thought it would be most helpful to post after I’d, well, delivered (ha!) so that I could give you a comprehensive review. I love reading and I love learning, so it’s not surprising that I dove headfirst into books on babies, but even if you’re not a big reader, you might find a few of these interesting…


Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Funnily enough, they don’t teach you much about how to GET pregnant in health class. Or maybe they do, but I was very busy pretending not to hear. Anyway, this book filled in the gaps, taught me lots about timing, and helped me get my body in tip-top shape before we started trying. [Buy]
All Joy and No Fun. This book “analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self.” I found this book honest and EXTREMELY fascinating, and have wanted to talk about it with everyone ever since finishing it! Both the author’s research and the family portraits she weaves throughout are thought-provoking, and should help spur great conversation for anyone moving toward parenthood. [Buy]

Expecting Better. The Amazon reviews for this book are pretty hilarious – about half of them say “this is the worst book ever!” and the other half say “this is the best book ever!” As long as you understand what this book is and is not, I think you’ll love it. The author is an economist, not a doctor. She writes from this perspective, using her training to synthesize tons of studies on all sorts of pregnancy things (Is it okay to drink caffeine? Should you get an epidural?), then inviting the reader to make her own decisions based on the information available. I found it refreshing and empowering, and it is my number one pregnancy book recommendation. [Buy]
What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is like the dictionary of pregnancy books – it’s the exhaustive explanation of every symptom, every possible scenario, every risk. If it will stress you out to read about all the bad things that can happen, skip it, but I looked forward to checking in every month to read a new chapter (but I did skim a lot of it!). [Borrow]
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This book is split into two parts: the first is straight-up narrative birth stories, and the second is more informational, with suggestions for labor techniques, information about labor procedures, etc. Most people say they love the birth stories (warning: they can be pretty intense). I found them interesting, though also a little discouraging at times since I knew I would be giving birth in a hospital and this book definitely has a bias toward natural, home birth. I thought the second section was very helpful, though. Specifically, it gave me several questions to ask my doctor that elicited eye-opening answers, and it helped me craft my birth plan. In the end: interesting and empowering, even if you plan to give birth in a hospital and/or with pain relief. [Borrow]

Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care. Quick read. This book is very practical, and I loved its confident, no-nonsense, encouraging tone. It’s split up into four sections (0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months) and covers everything you need to know about taking care of a new baby (baths, diapers, dressing, all the day-to-day stuff). Some of the information is so specific that it was a bit overwhelming (how am I going to remember the exact temperature a bottle is supposed to be??), but that’s the reason why I bought this book instead of borrowing it — I know I will want to refer back to it over the first year when all of that specific information will likely come in handy. [Buy]
On Becoming Babywise. This book is super controversial! And that cracks me up, because I’m not really sure what people find so shocking about it. Maybe we’re not following their advice correctly (ha!), but it all seems pretty common sense to me, and really helped June get in a great rhythm with eating, sleeping, and playing from the start. There are definitely gaps where I’d love more information (such as what the recommendation wake times are for certain ages), but it’s still been very helpful for us. [Buy]
The Nursing Mother’s Companion. This is another book that was sometimes very overwhelming as I was reading it (while still pregnant), and actually left me feeling more discouraged about breastfeeding than before I read it. It seemed so complicated! There were so many things that could go wrong! But, now being on the other side, I’m so glad I read it, and think it really helped to set me up for success with a really solid foundation. So, I would definitely recommend it, but just remember that much of what she talks about will never happen to you! :) [Buy]

Simplicity Parenting. I found that I already agreed with and intrinsically knew the premise of this book — “the power of less” to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids — but it was still a worthwhile read. I skimmed a lot of this book (it’s a little repetitive), but was still happy for the reminder and encouragement! [Borrow]

There you have it! I’d love to hear what books on pregnancy or littles y’all would recommend, or any thoughts on the ones I’ve listed here! I’m looking forward to reading Bringing Up Bebe and Last Child in the Woods next :)

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Abigail Murrish
May 5, 2016 7:40 am

I’m not expecting or planning on it soon, but I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” because I enjoy the genre (memoir + research + humor + introspection) and I positively adore it! I’ve laughed so many times and it’s given this non-mother lots of food for thought about life (and I’m sure I’m absorbing helpful tips for when I have littles).

May 5, 2016 8:47 am

Can’t wait to check some of these out! I watched the entire series of “the business of being born” (Netflix) and I was pretty much ready to move to give birth at Ina’s farm ??but, really, it was great to dive into but I didn’t have time to read her book at that point. I cannot recommend moms on call (app for schedule & books) enough. It has the same info as jo frost on the baby care end (if not more info), and it has just taken the thinking out of “figuring out” the routine for me. They sound a little cut and dry in the book, so always go with your mama instinct, of course…but wake time is 7, bedtime is 7:30/8. (No dream feed). We follow the rest pretty closely and there are some differences than babywise when it comes to night time stuff, but it works! We were fairly attatched to baby and loose in a routine early on and sleep was ok, but naps were terrible until she was 4 months…, but in the last month we’ve seen a great change (amazing sleep!) by sticking to it! (And the whole point is to have flexibility as well during the day, which some days we really need!). But gone are the good naps in the car seat…worried about our upcoming beach trip and her not napping on the beach!

May 5, 2016 9:49 am

@Abigail If you love that genre, you will LOVE All Joy and No Fun, whether you’re a parent or not! Highly recommended :)

May 5, 2016 10:17 am

Thank you SO much for this, Emily! Your blog is not only a source of inspiration, but also one of the most practical out there. It often serves as a point of reference for me. Thank you for sharing your heart and your wisdom! My husband and I are hoping to start a family this year (Lord willing, of course), and I’m going to order “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and “All Joy and No Fun” next month (after we put them in the budget :)

I loved the insight you offered a while ago about John learning WITH you, so that he was involved in sweet June’s care from the start. That begs the question for me, did John read any of these as well? Or are there any books he did read and would recommend that prepared him for fatherhood? I’m not sure how enthusiastic my husband will be about reading pregnancy books, so I’d love to hear what worked (or didn’t!) for other couples. Thanks so much!

May 5, 2016 10:26 am

Thanks for this post, I was just trying to figure out some books to read while in the baby-planning phase :)

I’m also curious if John read/liked these (or others)!

May 5, 2016 10:43 am

Bringing Up Bebe is super interesting. While there were parts of if it I didn’t necessarily agree with, I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder how accurate parts of it really were though. I really liked Your Best Birth by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake. It’s an easy read and is a good introduction into learning about different birth options about the different options/risks. It’s a little biased toward natural birth/out of hospital births though. They also made Business of Being Born, which is on (I loved it), but it’s also biased. I also really liked the La Leche League book in the early days when I was just starting to navigate nursing. I didn’t read it cover to cover but just skimmed and referenced when I had questions.

I can’t believe I haven’t read Ina May Gaskin’s book yet. Definitely adding it to my list this time around.

May 5, 2016 1:21 pm

I’m not expecting or planning either but I’m intrigued to read All Joy and No Fun and Bringing Up Bebe now!! :)

May 6, 2016 12:43 pm

Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I are currently trying for a baby and there are so many books on the subject it’s hard to know which are worth reading!

May 6, 2016 2:34 pm

@Emily: Thanks for the follow-up comment! Good to know. And frankly, I’m a bit relieved to hear the answer. My husband loves to read, but I don’t see these being his genre of choice. :) I’m sure he’ll find another way to learn and be involved, and I look forward to our discussions. Thanks again!

May 8, 2016 2:29 pm

I would love to borrow Last Child in the Woods from you when you are done! : )

May 11, 2016 4:47 am

Thank you so so much Em! You are such a great resource and spirit guide!

May 28, 2016 8:59 pm

I loved this post! I haven’t read many books (we had our first last year), but I did read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and loved it. The book does veer a bit off course and discuss other topics (like sleeping arrangements, parenting methods, etc.) – all which felt a bit biased to me – but as far as general breastfeeding information, help, and encouragement, it was pure gold!

Mary Kay
August 25, 2019 10:19 am

Thank you for a great list Emily! As a pediatrician, I like to recommend “Retro Baby” by Anne Zachry, especially for expecting parents who are deciding what baby gear to get and what to skip (unfortunately, a lot of popular baby gear is not good for babies; the blog also has good information on this topic). “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp has useful information on soothing crying babies and is good to check out. I really loved what “Bringing up Bébé” said about sleep, so it’s good to read during pregnancy because you ca influence your baby’s sleep habits from day 1. “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weissbluth is a more in-depth book on sleep. It’s pretty wordy, but has useful information. (I would also recommend that new and expecting parents become familiar with the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations and discuss with their pediatricians). For my own pregnancy, I thought “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant” by Jean M. Twenge was very helpful!