Calling all future mamas looking for recommended books on pregnancy and parenting! Here’s a little secret of mine: I made a big mistake when I was pregnant with my first child…
I read books that prepared me for labor and delivery, but none that prepared me for parenting!
After C was born, I hauled some parenting books and implemented what I read as I went along. Now that I’m expecting bébé numéro deux, I am going to revisit all of them—and I thought I’d share my picks with you!
Although I recommend all of the below books, I’ll be giving you the pros and cons of each so that you can better determine whether they’re up your street, too.
So here are all the titles in pregnancy and parenting in my recommended books for future mamas.
(None of the links are affiliates.)
Curl up with your favorite cup of coffee and a good book!
My 3 recommended books on pregnancy for future mamas
Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
A classic. The Mayo Clinic publishes regular updates to their Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. My own mama read this in the 80s when she was pregnant with me. I had no idea until I told her I was reading it too!
This book is my pregnancy guide from a techno-medical perspective. Well-rounded with information on pretty much anything you’ll encounter during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, the Mayo Clinic’s guide gives you everything you need to know without any fluff.
You can depend on the information. Actual doctors wrote this book, not Dr. Google.
It’s complete without being overwhelming, and well-organized.
Some of the advice is very pedestrian (“Avoid illicit drugs during pregnancy!” “Make sure to eat a healthy diet!”).
Since it’s from a techno-medical perspective, you won’t be getting all the feels here. The sections that discuss issues that may arise during pregnancy are very clinical, very cut-and-dry.
I’ve read it cover to cover at this point. The bits I enjoy the most are the week-by-week breakdowns of what’s happening to your baby in terms of her development, as well as the drawings of what she looks like in there. A solid, complete guide.
Another classic, this time from the midwifery model of pregnancy care. I really like the perspective of Ina May, a veteran midwife. Throughout her entire career, Ina May took painstaking notes for each birth she attended, allowing her to generate a wealth of statistical information that supports her recounting of various and diverse birthing experiences.
Extensive discussion of common and even uncommon pregnancy issues.
Exploration of the birthing experience in various settings: home, birthing center, or hospital.
Personal birth stories from her patients pay testament to the diversity of the birthing experience.
Her criticism of the techno-medical model of care allows you to reframe pregnancy and birth with more of a mystical focus and less of a clinical, empirical one.
Frequent comparisons between the United States model of care and European ones.
Prepare yourself to read about worst-case scenarios. Ina May doesn’t hold back.
Some of the personal birthing stories in the first half of the book read a bit woo-woo.
If you only buy one book on pregnancy and birth, make it this one. Ina May is clearly an advocate for the midwifery model of care, however she does give well-rounded information and ultimately lets the reader decide what’s in her best interest as a future mama.
Mindful Birthing looks at pregnancy, birth, and even parenting from a holistic approach. The author wants to prepare you for this huge change in your life mainly by teaching you meditation techniques. As you guessed, once you master her meditation techniques, you can apply them to literally any area in your life to feel more prepared and at peace.
Focus on meditation and mindfulness/awareness—to serve you not only in pregnancy and birth, but parenting, too.
Discussion of the physiology of birth. I swear I learned stuff from this book that I didn’t get from reading Mayo Clinic or Ina May.
Focus on the mind-body connection. Change your thoughts, change your physiology.
The book was written to serve a wider audience than those who could attend Nancy’s meditation classes. Obviously taking an actual class would be more beneficial, so to get the most out of the book, you need to really commit to doing the exercises on your own.
Some of the exercises seem long or complicated. Sometimes I even found myself asking “What’s the point?” If you already have some experience in mindfulness/meditation, the book will probably be a lot easier to get through and “understand.”
Keep an open mind when you read this book. Yes, there are some woo-woo ideas in here. It’s more than just meditation, so if hearing about meditation ONE. MORE.TIME. puts you off, I would still encourage you to give it a shot. Remember, you can’t always have the pregnancy and birth you want, but you can prepare and come to terms with the pregnancy and birth you get.
The RIE parenting bible. This book will teach you a respectful way of caring for your child. Magda Gerber gives great tips on diapering, feeding, sleeping, discipline, potty training, your child’s environment, and more… it’s really a complete guide.
Exposes the “fads and trends” in parenting and provides direct counterarguments to them. You don’t have to raise your baby the way you think you do, or the way you’ve been conditioned to do just because it’s socially acceptable.
The book’s strength is that it draws on Magda’s own experiences from the beginning of the RIE movement over several decades. She includes specific examples of the individual struggles of infants and their parents.
The chapters are very well organized, but as a bonus, she has included an index in the back for referencing more specific issues.
I mean, sometimes it’s like your granny giving you advice. That can be good, but sometimes you just don’t want to hear it. You need to take from it the bits that resonate with you the most.
Mostly for parenting babies and only somewhat for toddlers (up to age 3). By the time I read it, I found most of the advice was not so applicable to my toddler anymore.
If you want to know more about “respectful parenting,” start with this book. Then move on to Elevating Childcare (see below).
Elevating Childcare is another wonderful book on respectful parenting. I’ve already done an in-depth post all about this book, so click here to learn more!
Easy to read because of its blog post format (each chapter has been adapted from a blog post on Janet’s website). They are themed around specific issues, so the table of contents makes it easy to find the advice you need in a hurry.
More modern RIE advice than Magda. Janet is more in-tune with modern parents and the struggles we face.
Janet’s interpretation of the RIE approach is refreshing and quite frankly, often a relief to read.
For parenting babies, toddlers, and beyond!
She provides some great resources of her own for more recommended reading!
If you are completely new to the RIE method, I’d recommend you read Magda Gerber first. Because of the blog-style organization of Janet’s book, a basic understanding of RIE would really benefit you before you dive in to the topical chapters of Elevating Childcare.
This book was probably the most influential to me as a parent. I will refer back to it again and again. Janet explains almost (alllllmost) all the ridiculous things my daughter does to confuse and confound me. This book helped me find more peace in parenting.
This one is a bit of an outlier. It’s even somewhat hard to describe. Objectivist parenting is in direct opposition to behavioral modes of parenting. You can think of objectivist parenting as a non-judgmental method, looking at your child truly as a tabula rasa, and behaviorist parenting as using the common techniques of coercion, bribing, tricking, shaming, constant conflict, and punishment. Unfortunately, behaviorist parenting is king these days. Objectivist parenting is a new approach to raising your children.
Roslyn gives it to you straight. Your mind will be blown. She dares to say what other people don’t.
It’s a quick read. You can knock this out in one sitting.
Roslyn gives you another long list of her recommended reading—by age group!
It reads like someone’s dissertation. It’s not a “fun” book to read. You are going to put your academic hat on.
This book may make you feel uncomfortable. As I read Roslyn’s ideas, I was confronted with a lot of parenting behavior I was exhibiting that I wasn’t okay with. That made me feel really guilty and inadequate.
This book has fewer ideas of what you can/should do and more of what you should avoid as a parent. In fact, just look to the title… she’s not giving you advice, she is positing a theory.
Roslyn’s theory will surely seem extreme to most people. I am not saying you need to adopt everything she says in this book. At the very least, it will get you thinking about how we were raised as children and how we are conditioned to raise our own. You might not change your behavior after reading this book, but you should at least have a new, more objective perspective on parenting.
And 2 recommended books for Anglophone expats in France
French Mamma’s Pregnant in France by Carrieanne Le Bras
If you are an expat in France and you are starting a family, you’ll definitely benefit from Carrieanne’s book. This book grew out of her once hugely popular blog. She’s another American like me who married a Frenchie. She even gave birth to her first child in the same small hospital where I gave birth to C!
Pregnant in France explains everything you need to know about the ins and outs of the administrative process of having a baby in France. Which doctors do you need to see? What is the care like? How often are ultrasounds performed? What are your birthing options here? Which forms do you need to fill out? What does it cost to have a baby in France, and what kind of financial aid is available?
I love that she has included her own personal experiences in this book. It’s not just information overload.
She really strives to give you the basic information you need to cope if you are not familiar with the pregnancy model of care in France or with the penchant the French have for paperwork…
It’s in French and English! If your French isn’t up to scratch in the realm of pregnancy, it’s so easy to learn with her book.
Another short book for a quick read!
By this stage, her book is slightly outdated. The laws change quickly in France. I’ve already seen some outdated info for auto-entrepreneurs. Please do your due diligence! It’s mostly information for a normal pregnancy. If you have a specific pregnancy issue you are dealing with (like me…) that requires more intense care, it won’t be covered here.
I relied upon this book more when I was pregnant with C, but it’s certainly helpful now to refer back to. It’s really great for people who feel lost in the process. You will go from feeling lost and overwhelmed to calm and confident.
A hugely popular book on French parenting from an outsider’s perspective. Pamela, an American, is giving birth to and raising her daughter and twin boys with her British husband in France. Silly antics ensue. This isn’t a novel—it’s a true account (albeit surely embellished a bit). Think Stephen Clarke but with a focus on parenting.
Pamela shows you the merits and value of raising your children “the French way” through her own personal experience and that of her social circle.
Covers lots of topics that apply to Americans raising their kids in America!
Also covers lots of topics that will resonate with Francophones or expats living in France.
She doesn’t write with rose-colored glasses. When the cultural conflict is just too great, she keeps it real… but with a touch of humor!
As an American also raising a family in France, I don’t agree with absolutely everything Pamela has to say about French parenting. Perhaps it has to do with her raising her family primarily in the Paris area. So take this book with a grain of salt.
It’s a journalistic book. There is some data, some studies mentioned. But do not take this book for a complete parenting approach.
She is really not giving advice, but giving examples.
She may be a bit harsh on raising your children “the American way.”
It’s a whimsical journey through French parenting from an American perspective. I’ve known people who don’t have children and who do not intend to have children, who have read this book and found it as hilarious as it is informative. Don’t take it super seriously. It’s a fun read!
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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