Let me begin this blog by saying that now, I finally understand why pregnancy takes at least 37 weeks long.
It really is giving you all the time to prepare for the coming of your baby – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Back in my mom’s time, they only had a book or two as resource for everything baby-related, but today, there are a LOOOT of books out there that can help you with your journey. This is why I believe that at this day and age, making informed choices is a responsibility we should all take. With all the information (and misinformation) around us, we can make it work to our advantage if we take the time to study them.
I often say this but will say it again since some people comment that reading and preparing for your baby is “too serious” and that we should “just relax”. If I do a lot of research for my work, if I can spend a month or more planning the itinerary for our trips, then I should totally be able to devote time for the more important date of my life: the arrival of our baby!
Many of you have asked me what books are in my reading list throughout my pregnancy, so I’ll be sharing them here. This is not the only list or the perfect list to follow, but I hope this inspires you to also read, research, prepare, and make your own informed choices.
Happy reading, fellow mamas! (And papas)!
[2019 EDIT: Some of the links mentioned here are now under my affiliate account. This means that when you purchase the product/s using the links from my blog, I will earn credits or commission from my partner store at no extra cost to you. This is so helpful in keeping this blog alive, so if you found out about these products through me, hope you could help by purchasing from my affiliate link/s. Thank you!]
FOR MY BIRTH EXPERIENCE:
If there’s one book on birth that I would read again and again and highly recommend, too, this would be it. Before I read this, I was so set on a medicated hospital birth (and even a scheduled cesarean at one point) because of my lower back pain history. I was not able to walk for a month because of disc dessication, so naturally, I was scared of the back pain that comes with pregnancy. My sister, who’s all for natural, normal birth asked me about my birth plan one time, and I told her I would try for a normal birth but with epidural. She told me to just read up and research on the effects of epidural before I decide, and that to consider the fact that taking epidural (especially very early on) could actually prolong your normal labor and should you not feel enough “pain”, it’ll be harder for you to push correctly, then you end you up in an emergency cesarean. She made me think, really, so I picked up the books she gave me months prior to read, one of the books in that pile is this.
READING THIS BOOK IS THE BEST DECISION I made in my pregnancy journey. From a scared mama-to-be (I was even discussing death possibilities with my husband early in my pregnancy!) to an informed and empowered pregnant woman, all thanks to this book! The first part are inspiring stories, which I didn’t get to read in full, because I felt I was running out of time. The second part, is the part I totally loved – it talks about the essentials of birth, from the powerful mind and body connection, to what really happens in labor to the normal, biological processes of our body when we give birth! When I started reading up on the biological aspect of birth, I started feeling comfortable with the idea of birth, and when I shared it with my husband, we couldn’t help but nod in agreement. I mean, they just totally made sense!
Some of my favorite takes from the book (you really have to read it so you understand it in context, though!):
- Fear or unspoken terrible thought could so powerfully alter a woman’s body’s ability to perform a normal, physiological function such as birth.
- Words spoken/verbalized can sometimes relax muscles by discharging emotions that effectively block further progress in labor.
- Even one person who is not exquisitely attuned to the mother’s feelings can stop labor.
- Mothers who are afraid tend to secrete hormones that delay or inhibit birth. Those who aren’t scared can secrete hormones that make labor and birth easier!
- Endorphins, the hormones that block the reception of pain and give the feeling of pleasure, are actually secreted during labor and birth!
- Sphincters are circular muscle groups that ordinarily remain contracted so the openings of certain organs (like uterus and anus) are held closed until something needs to pass through. Sphincters may suddenly close when the owner is startled or frightened. Female animals in labor in the wild (such as gazelle and wildebeest) can be on the point of giving birth and suddenly reverse the process if surprised by a predator.
Then the book gives you tips on how to manage an easier labor, ways to maximize your chances of having an unmedicated labor, questions to ask your health care provider (aka OB or midwife), etc. I’d really love to share more but I’d be spoiling the book for you.
“I shuddered each time I hear a woman speak of being in horrific agony while having her baby. It saddened me because I knew the pain could have been eased and in many instances, even eliminated.”
-Marie F. Morgan
Hypnobirth is one labor and birthing style that supposedly produces a shorter, smoother, and easier birth experience. It basically works on the belief that when fear is not present, pain is not present.
Hypnobirth stresses that childbirth is a normal, natural, and healthy function for women. Therefore, it can be accomplished gently and calmly since it is after all, a physiological process. Endorphins, the hormones released during labor and birth, have an effect 200x than that of morphine! And when laboring mothers are not afraid, the body is filled with its own natural relaxant and painkiller, the endorphins!
“Today, women continue to accept the myth that pain is an inevitable part of birthing. It is widely though that the best a woman can do is depend upon care providers to help them get through the experience rather than learn how to prevent adverse incidents beforehand. When mother approaches labor with unresolved fear and stress, a stressor hormone called CATECHOLAMINE is secreted in large amounts prior to and during labor. When circumstances that neither fight or flight are appropriate (as in the case of labor), the body chooses a third option: FREEZE.”
When the uterus is tensed and constricted, the flow of blood and oxygen is restricted, and the cervix remains closed.
Hynobirth talks about the powerful laws of mind, the importance of pre-birth parenting, the basic techniques of hypnobirthing (breathing/ relaxation/ visualization/ deepening), nutrition and exercises, the magic of perineal massage, ways to induce labor naturally, positions for birthing, and the importance of birth affirmations (and looking at birth in a positive perspective)!
I thought this would be the style I’d practice, but I ended up practicing general breathing and relaxation exercises. This was a very helpful and great read, though. I really love how it stresses on the presence of fear as a great contributor to pain. This reminds me of how oftentimes, when we get wounded, we don’t even feel it until we see the actual wound and some blood coming out – then it suddenly becomes painful. There really is a strong body and mind connection, and hopefully, when it’s my time to be in labor, I’d remember this and succeed in positive thinking.
A friend lent this book to me because she knows I’m into doing natural stuff. It’s a very easy read that tackles each trimester in terms of the development of mother and baby, nutrition and exercise plan, common ailments and how to treat them naturally. I did not read it all in one go, and would just go through it each trimester. It also touches on preparation for labor, postpartum period and complimentary therapies such as Yoga/ meditation/ visualization, Reflexology, Acupuncture, etc. What I liked most in this book is its Countdown to Labor chapter where it gives tips on what to eat/ drink/ take/ do beginning week 34 until birth. It helped me make my meal plan towards the last stretch of my pregnancy. It also has a section on Nutrition During Labor, Natural Pain Reliefs, and Preparing Your Mind for the stages of labor. It also slightly touches on postpartum exercises you can do as well as common postpartum problems such as challenges on breastfeeding and perineum care and complementary treatments for it. It also touches on postpartum depression and ways to get through it naturally. If you’re the type who likes trying natural relief before any medication, this book might be helpful to you. You can check it out HERE.
The same friend also lent me this one. It’s a very short book, and worth reading. Thankfully, nowadays, many birthing centers are gentler to the baby, and this book makes you look at birth from the perspective of the baby. What I loved about this book is that it made me realize that I am not alone in this journey — that it’s not only me who’s going to work hard during labor, but that my baby, too, might be struggling, and the only way we can achieve it successfully is if we work with each other.
“It is essential that the child cry when being born. Once. Or twice. And that is enough. Then the child must breathe. Or if it cries, then its cries must be those of strength, of vitality, of gratification. Not cries of misery, of terror, of desolation. No wails! No sobs! You don’t need to have a particularly sensitive or trained ear to tell the difference. You only need to be properly attentive to recognize the large and varied range a newborn baby’s voice already possesses. And how many things it can tell us… without speaking. It takes only the slightest concentration to differentiate between the cry of life, the cry of satisfaction, and the cry of sorrow, of pain, the cry of fear.”
Dr. Leboyer then gives suggestions on how to make birth gentler especially for the newborn. Things like no bright lights and loud talking, implementation of skin-to-skin and/or touch (massage, etc), the importance of delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord, etc. Thankfully, many of his suggestions are already welcomed by hospitals these days, and some are even part of the UNANG YAKAP program, a DOH (Department of Health) Protocol for all hospitals and birthing centers in this country to help save lives of mothers and children.
This is probably the most-read book by pregnant women, and the good news is, it’s available in our local bookstores.
You can take this by day, by week, by trimester, by chapter if you like. It’s great for a pregnant woman’s everyday concerns. It’s basically a crash course on pregnancy where it gives you the basics of what you need to know (physically, mentally, medically) from before conception to postpartum to breastfeeding to complicated pregnancies. It probably has the most complete set of questions that are often asked by pregnant mothers and expectant fathers.
A part of the foreword says My job is a lot like what your pregnancy will probably be – every day will bring a little adventure, but most of them will be fun. What To Expect When You’re Expecting is like having a personal obstetrician to guide you through that adventure. This is probably the best way to describe this book.
Keep it in your bedside and you’ll be able to relate at one point for sure.
FOR MY PARENTING STYLE:
When I was about to create my son’s nursery, I began researching for tips on how to make a nursery conducive for learning. I wanted to create a nursery that’s not all about pretty and presentable for guests; I was keen on making it an environment for my son to learn. This is how I was lead to the Montessori Method. Someone on Instagram suggested that I follow DIY Corporate Mom, and from there, my interest in Montessori even grew bigger. She helped me by suggesting that I read Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen since I’m still pregnant and can do Montessori from Birth! I did and enjoyed reading the book, although I still have a chapter or two to finish! It basically gives you a comprehensive program for the first three years of the child (starting from birth). It gives you insights on the principles and concepts of Montessori (absorbent mind | development of intelligence through the five senses | an environment of beauty, simplicity, and order |control of error| freedom of movement | etc), how the body and mind develops at a certain stage, and how you can guide and encourage your child to learn and grow to be an independent being. It tells you how your child’s bedroom must be like to encourage learning, discusses nursery mobiles that help the infant develop focus and perception, and even discusses things like clothing and personal care. An excerpt I shared may be found HERE.
Then I researched on more books to read and Understanding the Human Being by Silvanna Quattrocchi Montanaro and How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin are often highly recommended. Understanding The Human Being is a very interesting read – very similar to what Montessori from the Start explains, but even more in-depth. I also love that Pre-Natal Life and Breastfeeding are also included in the book, and I’m amazed that even though it was published in 1991, Dr. Montanaro’s take on pre-natal care and breastfeeding are “advanced” for that time. I mean, the practices suggested were not common at that time (in this country, at least!), and they coincide with the practices being established today.
This is one favorite part from that book (may be lengthy but worth the read):
“Although the breasts are ready from the beginning of pregnancy, the physiological stimulation, that is, the nipple being suckled by the child which is necessary for starting lactation, is often not allowed to occur immediately after birth. The newborn is not brought to the mother and is not given the opportunity to attach to the breast for suckling. The mother’s body is programmed for this signal, but this is exactly what is usually missed in maternity hospitals. Often, hospital staff justify the unnatural separation of the mother and child by saying that they have to rest, but in fact, the only thing they both really need is to stay together.
The child should always attach actively to the breast, so as to ensure freedom of choosing when to eat. This is the fundamental characteristic of the relationship with food. It should always be offered with love and placed in front of, but never inside a person. This is food for the beginning of a human relationship, the fundamental foundation of social life. We must remember that because of the need for maternal milk, newborns are provided with the most important and valuable experience: to stay with another human being. The food becomes an opportunity for the beginning of human relationship; the foundation of any future social life.
If we succeed in helping to establish good bonding at the beginning, then everything in life of these two people will be different; no matter what happens, it will be “natural” for them to have a relationship of love, care, and protection. For this to happen, the mother and child must be allowed to stay together so they can feel their own reciprocal company. This is not possible if the child is brought to the mother only at those times fixed by hospital routine. A three-hour rule was somehow adopted by pediatricians and has become something that each newborn is obliged to obey, irrespective of the volume of his stomach, his capacity for suckling, or the milk production rate of the mother.
Since every child must eat at the same time, many of them are usually still asleep when they are brought to the mother. The result is that they like the idea of continuing their sleep in the mother’s arms, but are not interested in the food so they are not ready to make the effort needed to suckle the milk. After the allotted time, usually not more than 20-30 minutes, the newborn is brought back to the nursery and weighed, making it appear that he has not taken enough milk. The low milk intake is not related to the fact that the meal time is wrong. Instead, it is said to be due to an insufficient production of milk by the mother, so it is decided to give cow’s milk from a bottle, up to the “proper” amount. This is possible because the bottle releases the milk with no real muscular effort. At the next meal, this sequence is repeated with the result that the mother comes to believe that she is incapable of producing enough milk and the child prefers the bottle. In reality, a routine of breastfeeding was never allowed to start because the newborn, who was supposed to give the sign of its presence, never really suckled. The child was never really hungry and interested in the food and the relationship. Sucking takes a certain amount of effort that the child will not make if he is not awake and hungry. Only when these conditions are met will he attach himself to the do required work joyfully. The work gives so much more than food. The child enjoys the situation, the smell of the mother, the contact of her arms, the warmth of her body, her heartbeat which can be felt through the breast and her face. It is the experience of a great happiness and complete satisfaction when all biological and psychological needs are met. This relationship indicates how nice life can be and teaches to look for the joy of the relationship with human beings. At this point, it is clear that we not only need a better understanding of the importance of mother’s milk, but also a different technique of timing breastfeeding. We call this technique a “free timetable”.
Thankfully today, part of the earlier mentioned DOH protocol called UNANG YAKAP is for hospitals to room-in the baby, meaning unless the baby needs special attention, s/he must no longer be in the nursery and must be in the same room as the mother. And that upon birth, skin-to-skin and latching must be established. This is WHY room-in and skin-to-skin are important. And why I also believe that it is better to feed on demand. An excerpt from this book that I shared may be found HERE.
How To Raise An Amazing Child is a very easy read that you can read after you give birth. While the first two books heavily guide you on the underlying principles of Montessori, this one gives you more practical, daily life Montessori solutions. It talks about the sensitive periods of learning and how you can help your child develop during that period, making your home child-friendly, and many activities you can do with and for your child. It’s a great complementary read for the theories of the first two books because it gives you a lot of practical applications.
Next on my reading list (although I will probably read this after my son arrives already) is Maria Montessori’s book herself, The Absorbent Mind. I’m quite excited to read this (although am running out of time now), but some say this is hardcore Montessori. I guess that’s a good thing (except it may be too heavy a reading!).
I ordered these books from Amazon (some of them have e-book versions) and my brother-in-law brought it home from the US.
OTHER PARENTING BOOKS:
This is one of the very first books I read (while waiting for the Montessori books) and I had fun reading it.
The author gives you different theories and parenting styles and discusses their pros and cons, or cites studies related to them. I like that he also tackles modern parenting challenges of today such as using gadgets and watching videos for learning.
My favorite takes from this book are the following:
- Stress can really affect your pregnancy. It can even change the temperament of your child, lower your baby’s IQ, and shrink the size of your baby’s brain.
- Babies really recognize in-womb auditory experience. He shared a study about it and I wrote about it HERE.
- Empathy works! It works so well because it does not require a solution; it only requires understanding. Empathy not only matters, it is the foundation of effective parenting.
- Willingness to explore matters. If you look at 4-year-olds, they are constantly asking questions. By the time they are 6 1/2, they stop asking questions because they quickly learn that teachers value the right answers more than provocative questions.
- Executive function is a better predictor of academic success than IQ. It relies on a child’s ability to filter our distracting thoughts (delayed gratification an example) which is critical in environments that are over saturated with stimuli.
- Relationships are important. Intelligence is NOT developed in the electronic cubicles of cold, lifeless machines but in the arms of warm, loving people. You can literally rewire a child’s brain through exposure to relationships.
- The brain cares about survival before learning. Create an environment of safety for your child so he can move on to the joy of learning.
- Nature controls 50% of our intellectual horsepower, and environment determines the rest.
- Infants do not gain a more sophisticated vocabulary until their fine-motor finger control improves (comment: hence the stress of Montessori on developing fine motor skills first!)
- Open-ended and imaginative activities/play are important. Children become more creative, better at language, better at problem solving, better at memory, less stressed, and more socially skilled. Allow your child to guide you (comment: another Montessori principle!)
- It is more important to praise the effort than the result.
- There is power in explanation. Instead of just getting mad or saying no, explain WHY and see the difference it makes.
- There is also power in verbalizing one’s feelings. Children, especially those who are younger, feel before they are able to verbalize how they are feeling. Their emotions come first because they cannot fully express themselves yet through words. Helping them verbalize their actions and reactions make a difference.
- Listening to your child’s emotional cues also make a huge difference.
There’s more but those are some of my favorites! It’s worth it!
This isn’t actually a parenting guide backed up by formal studies, but more of a narration of an American journalist’s investigation on the wisdom of French parenting.
Pamela, the author, who is based in France, noticed the stark difference between babies in the USA and babies in France. For one, she was amazed how infants slept through the night on the 3rd or 4th month, and that children behave so well in restaurants, and they ate good, real food. Out of curiosity and probably a little desperation, she spent years investigating the wisdom behind the French way of parenting and in this book, she shares her discoveries.
A lot of the concepts are very much in tune with the Montessori method, actually. It’s a light and fun read, but at the end of the day, even though it’s not really a guide for parenting book, you will learn a thing or two.
My favorite takes from this book would be:
- Parisian parents are zealous about talking to their kids, sharing them nature, and reading them lots of books. They take them to tennis lessons, painting classes, and interactive museums.
- French parents believe a lot in “le feeling”! They believe that children understand things. They follow their children’s rhythms.
- They give their baby a chance to self-soothe and don’t automatically respond to crying even from birth. Pausing is very important.
- The French treat babies as rational beings from day one. This makes a big difference in how they treat them – they expect that the children will understand them, and that even though they are children, they deserve to be treated with the same respect as they would give adults.
- Parents give their children lots of opportunities to practice waiting instead of teaching them distraction techniques.
- They are not after making their children advanced. They expose their children to a variety of tastes, colors, and sights, simply because doing so gives the children pleasure. The pleasure is the motivation for life. “If we don’t have pleasure, we won’t have reason to live.”
- They are strict about certain things (meal time, going out clothes, etc) but are very relaxed with everything else.
- Early in life, they allow children to feel frustration. They don’t worry that they’re going to damage their kids by frustrating them. To the contrary, they think their kids will be damaged if they can’t cope with frustration.
- It is very important to teach children to be respectful of others (hence the words Bonjour and Au Revoir are highly valued in their society, and why they get offended when we don’t greet them upon seeing them), and to remind them of others’ rights.
- If the child refuses the food, try giving it again but present/ cook it in another way. It’s not important that they finish the meal; it is important that they try the food.
OTHER BOOKS IN MY LIST:
I still have some unread books, so I’d just share the title but not my thoughts:
Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding – e-book HERE. EDIT: I already got to read most of these. Whenever I had some breast issues while feeding, I would look it up. Good general guide.
Do Fathers Matter? by Paul Raeburn – e-book HERE. EDIT: I have read some parts of this already, and actually really loving it!
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne – e-book HERE. EDIT: I only got to read the first few pages and actually liked it. I see this being recommended especially by parents practicing the Waldorf philosophy.
MY HUSBAND’S LIST:
Because I know I won’t have time to read everything, I asked for my husband’s help. When my friend first learned I was pregnant, she lent me the book The Expectant Father by Armin Brott [e-book version HERE). My husband reads it per trimester (or week) and he says it’s helpful most especially if you don’t attend childbirth classes (we did!) or don’t research on anything about your wife’s pregnancy.
The book I really asked him to read though is Diaper Free by Ingrid Bauer [e-book versionHERE]. It basically guides you on how to potty train your child early so that he’s diaper-free early in life. I told him to just teach me the techniques when I give birth, so I don’t really know how much of it he has read already. EDIT: My husband finished the book, but after weighing the pros and cons of potty training earlier than when a child shows readiness, just like everything else in Montessori, we decided to wait out a little bit.
This definitely was a lengthy read but I hope I was able to help you. Goodluck in your pregnancy and parenthood, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading (and “nerding”) as much as I did! If you have book recommendations, I would love to know about them, too!
UPDATE: For more of my PARENTING BOOKLIST, head on HERE.