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10 Must-Read Pregnancy Books

Pregnancy and parenting book recommendations from a mom who has been there

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by Jennifer Wise Pregnancy Expert
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As a first-time parent, I’m accumulating a new genre of books. This began in pregnancy, when my craving for factual information about pregnancy and parenting was as persistent as my craving for cheap white cake. I read — and I say this as someone who’s earned a graduate degree in literature — a lot, both about pregnancy and the parenting ahead.

Most of the 10 titles listed below are the books I found most informative, reassuring and well written in the course of my geriatric pregnancy. Others are recommended by your cohorts in this journey — parents-to-be, including obstetricians and my well-read friends — for pregnant women and their partners. So, order one or two of these, kick back (especially if you’re in your third trimester) and read up!

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

This authoritative reference manual is an essential reference book for all first-time parents-to-be. It offers comprehensive guidance from the first contemplation of pregnancy through the symptoms and complications that may arise in the course of a pregnancy and on to parenting. Authored by a group of experts in maternal and neonatal health care, the “Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy” features week-by-week reports on fetal development, a month-by-month outline of changes a mother-to-be should anticipate and additional resources. One reviewer commented that the book helped them feel better prepared and not scared of what’s to come.

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Mayo Clinic Guide
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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And Baby Makes Three:
The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives

With the addition of your little one, the transition begins in earnest: from duo (you and your spouse or partner) to trio or more. Even couples whose relationships are paragons of stability and security can stumble as they negotiate parenthood and themselves, as a couple and as individuals. “And Baby Makes Three” can help prepare you for the strains and stressors ahead.

Delivered in six steps they recommend for a masterful relationship, the authors give guidance to help manage issues every new-parent couple experiences at some point: preventing escalating hostility, deepening your understanding of one another in the aftermath of a fight, reviving your sexual connection, enabling both parents to develop a healthy attachment to the newborn and much more. One review mentioned they read the book with their husband during pregnancy and found it to be a good investment in keeping their marriage strong.

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Baby Makes Three
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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The Nursing Mother’s Companion, 7th Edition, with New Illustrations:
The Breastfeeding Book Mothers Trust, from Pregnancy Through Weaning

Even with the in-person guidance you’re likely to receive at the hospital, breastfeeding your infant isn’t always as straightforward as it seems it should be. If you’re planning to breastfeed, a judgment-free resource such as “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” comes in handy. Author Kathleen Huggins, a nurse and board-certified lactation consultant, covers such topics as beginning breastfeeding, expressing milk, being apart from your infant, breastfeeding at different stages and issues that may come up in the course of the breastfeeding relationship. One reviewer went so far as to call it “the only nursing book you need.” So, if and when you’re nursing, keep it close by.

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Nursing Mother’s Companion
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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Like a Mother:
A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

Illustrating scientific facts with intimate details from her own pregnancy, author Angela Garbes addresses the misinformation and conflicting directives that abound on the path to parenthood, debunking errors and offering empowerment. Along the way, the journalist and new mother weaves in the history of women’s health care in the U.S., elucidating the prejudices and politics that underlie our current treatment of pregnant women. One reviewer felt more prepared to handle pregnancy and motherhood after completing the book.

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Like a Mother
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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Birth Without Fear:
The Judgment-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum

“Buy the book, you won’t regret it,” says one Amazon reviewer, and we agree. This comprehensive book offers frank guidance for pregnancy, childbirth and a postpartum life that puts mothers first. Author January Harshe takes up the wide range of birth options and plans, postpartum mental health, options for feeding an infant, breastfeeding issues that may arise and much more. The book encourages women to advocate for the birth plan and experience they truly want, regardless of the type of birth you — or your baby — choose.

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Birth Without Fear
  • Availability: Kindle, audiobook, paperback and audio CD

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The Scientist in the Crib:
What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind

Do you watch your little one and wonder, “What is she learning? What’s going on in there?” (The answer: Far more than their adorable attempts to engage with the world may suggest.) This book, which is required reading for some doctoral students in developmental psychology, gives readers access and insight into a newborn’s active brain. “The Scientist in the Crib” is helpful and a lighter read than many similar books about an infant’s cognitive development. If you’re interested in an engaging scientific examination of your little one’s experience, get this book. It's great for new and expectant mothers and fathers alike.

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Scientist in the Crib
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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The Expectant Father:
The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be

This book, for supportive partners and/or fathers-to-be, presents a month-by-month guide to pregnancy with practical tips for being a supportive partner, a realistic idea of the likely financial impact and other helpful information. Each month is divided into four sections: “What She’s Going Through,” “What’s Going On with the Baby,” “What You’re Going Through” and “Staying Involved.” It’s an enjoyable read, illustrated throughout with amusing cartoons.

“The Expectant Father” will help most any dad-to-be understand what’s going on right now and anticipate what’s coming for his family’s upcoming addition. One father in particular raved about the book's progressiveness and inclusiveness and said the book provided him everything he needed to know, signing off with a wholehearted endorsement of the book to any father-to-be. An updated edition is due on April 27, 2021.

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The Expectant Father
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts:
A Healing Guide to the Secret Fears of New Mothers

Let’s normalize something: Many new mothers are, off and on, silently gripped by specific anxieties about their babies: accidental drowning, dropping or some unspeakable incident. That few of us have the opportunity to comfortably share these fears compounds our individual anxieties. Author Karen Kleiman, an expert on maternal mental health, provides easy exercises, simple advice and relatable illustrations by Molly McIntyre for a new mother’s well-being. Among the Amazon reviews, we found a particularly enlightening comment from a licensed professional counselor who called it the most valuable book for her clients in her office library.

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Good Moms Scary Thoughts
  • Availability: Hardcover

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Expecting Better:
Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong — and What You Really Need to Know

If you’re among the mothers-to-be whose treatment providers in pregnancy aren’t offering the pros and cons of, say, consuming sushi or a sip of wine, much less introducing the science that serves as the rationale for the conventional recommendations, put Emily Oster’s “Expecting Better” on your reading list. As a mother and professor of economics, her analysis of data gives readers the information needed to make the many decisions that weigh on a pregnant woman’s mind, debunking myths along the way. For many new parents, having real data on your side can instill a level of confidence that more anecdotal or emotionally led books cannot provide. If you prefer facts over feelings, this book is for you.

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Expecting Better
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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

Read “The Happiest Baby on the Block” with a highlighter or page markers. You’ll spare yourself a stretch of sleepless nights and the helpless feeling of being out of ideas to comfort your newborn as they cry inconsolably. Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and parenting expert, synthesizes science and gentle parenting wisdom in this easy read to give caregivers practical tools and handy tricks that work to soothe an exhausted baby (and, not incidentally, exhausted parents). This book helps take the guesswork out of sleep training — and maybe save your baby some tears in the process, whether they’re colicky, cranky or just plain stubborn.

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Happiest Baby
  • Availability: Paperback and Kindle

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Profile picture of Jennifer Wise
by Jennifer Wise Pregnancy Expert

Jennifer Wise is a Seattle-based freelance content writer and editor, and she holds a master’s in literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago. With a background in fields as diverse as law, fashion, public pensions, opera and cybernetics, her writing interests run a gamut of subjects. As you read this, she's probably binge-watching her 18-month-old.