Personally, when I'm about to embark on a new adventure, I buy a book to make sure I'm well informed and to keep surprises to a minimum.
Before I travelled to Portugal last summer, I got a travel book or two. Before I thought about changing jobs, I picked up a new book on career changes and finding yourself. And before I had a baby, I went out and bought about a dozen books on pregnancy and childbirth. Pretty much right after I left the doctor's office, following my first appointment, confirming my pregnancy.
No time to waste! I thought. I only have 9 months, I told myself, as the stack beside my nightstand grew so tall it looked like a Jenga championship match.
Of course, nowadays, there are plenty of great resources online for new (and experienced) moms, but I'm the kind of gal who prefers to have a good old-fashioned book in my hands.
Now that my daughter is one, and I survived both pregnancy and childbirth, I had to ask myself: Did I really need all those books?
The answer is no, I did not. But it felt a lot better to have them, just in case.
Which leads to the question: What are the best pregnancy books for a first-time mom?
There are certainly some books you should have on hand, which are great resources and are immensely helpful. Others are a waste of money and take up shelf space. Save that money and spend it on a pregnancy massage, and save that shelf space for photos of your new baby!
And keep reading for the scoop on the books that really come in handy.
What to Expect When You're Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
This is to go-to pregnancy book for new moms par excellence. They might as well give it to you at the doctor's office when they confirm your pregnancy. Not for nothing was it named "One of the Most Influential Books of the Last 25 Years" by USA Today.
This book, affectionately known as the Pregnancy Bible, walks you through your pregnancy week by week, so you know exactly what's happening to your body and to your baby. It's not only informative, it's fascinating.
It's also conveniently organized into sections and is extremely easy to read, and you feel prepared and well-informed as you go through it. It also covers a whole range of topics such as eating well, weight gain, working out, sex, breastfeeding and false labor, and includes entire chapters on labor and life postpartum.
If you're worried about being prepared and you only buy one book, this should be it.
What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
If you didn't already know this, What to Expect has an entire series of books to help you from pregnancy through your child's second year. Like the above-mentioned book, this is also a winner.
You want to eat as healthy as possible during your pregnancy, but you have heartburn. You have acid reflux. You have morning sickness. Or maybe you're so hungry you're convinced you're having twins and you want to eat six cheeseburgers. It's a confusing time, but this book spells out all of your nutritional needs for you, which is very comforting.
It includes recipes, snacks and even entire meal plans, and exhaustively explains what foods you need to eat so that you can meet the nutritional requirements for pregnancy. When I had a craving and ate an entire jar of Nutella, I checked and, sure enough, it did not contain enough folic acid for my baby. I ended up chasing that jar of chocolatey goodness with a bowl of lentils.
Another major concern during pregnancy is over which foods you can't eat. This can be very confusing, and sometimes if you look online you find conflicting advice. Can you eat smoked salmon? What about cold cuts? Tuna? Fresh-squeezed orange juice? This book tells you exactly what you can and cannot eat.
In short, this is an excellent resource if you want to eat as healthy as possible during your pregnancy, but you're not entirely sure how to do it.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
A confession: I was absolutely panicked about childbirth. Pregnancy was not scary to me, and it was so incredible to see my body transform and do all of these amazing things, but the thought of the baby actually leaving my body was enough to make me pass out.
This book, however, had an extremely calming effect. Ina is an expert midwife with more than three decades of experience, and she makes a convincing argument for trusting your own body to know what to do.
She also offers advice on how to avoid epidurals and procedures like amniocentesis (when they're not necessary) and episiotomies, the goal being to have the most natural childbirth as possible.
Never in a million years did I think I would have a drug-free labor, but I did, and it was pretty amazing. And even if you don't plan on having a natural birth, knowledge is power and the more informed you are about all of your options, the better. You just never know how it's all going to go down.
The Birth Partner - A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas and All Other Labor Companions, by Penny Simkin
Chances are you're not going to do the whole childbirth thing alone, and if that's the case, your partner needs to be ready.
I would often ask my boyfriend what he was doing to prepare for the birth to help me, mainly because he was clearly not doing anything, but I really wanted to encourage him to get involved. I suspect he was just as panicked about childbirth as I was.
Finally we ended up buying this book—and what a great buy. In fact, we both read it and I highly recommend it.
It's extremely comprehensive and very easy to read, and it lets you know exactly what's going on with your body at each stage of labor, how you'll probably be feeling, and what you can do to ease the pain. It will help you get organized for the final weeks of your pregnancy and for the birth itself.
If I'm being perfectly honest, we both forgot every single coping strategy once I was in labor! Nevertheless, this is still a truly excellent read.
The Womanly Art of Breasfteeding, by Diane Weissinger and Diana West
Ok, this is technically not about pregnancy, but if you think you're going to nurse your baby, this is the ultimate resource to look at before he or she even arrives.
When my daughter was born, she exited my body, the doctor handed her to me, and essentially said something like, "Ok then, get to it."
I had no idea what I was doing. Is this what it was supposed to feel like? Is she latching on properly? How do I know how much she's eating? You become overwhelmed with questions, and after you leave the hospital, you don't have access to the wisdom of nurses 24/7. But if you have this book, you have the next best thing.
Thick and encyclopedia-like, this 500+ page book will answer every question you have and even ones you didn't know you had. It covers everything from pumping, your baby's weight gain and different nursing positions. It talks about going back to work, starting solids, and co-sleeping.
It's true that nursing is natural and, incredibly, your body and even your baby know exactly what to do, but since you probably don't know what to do, you should pick up this book.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, by Penny Simkin and others
This is probably the last book I'd get. It's a wonderful and comprehensive resource that covers all kinds of questions that come up for first-time moms.
If you want to know about potential complications that might arise during pregnancy, or what to do if you become ill, you'll turn to this book. If you want to read about postpartum depression, pain medication during labor, and nutrition during pregnancy, you'll turn to this book.
It's wonderfully up-to-date (this is the newest version), and it doesn't read like a textbook, which makes it easy to digest. It will guide you as you develop a birth plan, breaks down the many tests and procedures you will encounter during pregnancy and birth, and provides information on your different birthing options.
As the title suggests, it offers a great overview of pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn, and in my case, it made me feel a lot more at ease. The information is clear, objective, well-presented and helpful.
You can't go wrong with this one.
These are, in my opinion, the best pregnancy books for first-time moms. So if you're a first-time mom-to-be, get reading! There's a lot of things to learn before the arrival of your baby.
Got another recommendation? Do you have a favorite book from your pregnancy? Share them in the comments!