Sunday, August 21, 2016

Baby Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Judgey

Soon after finding out I was pregnant, I did what many women do: I went online and ordered a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Then the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, then The Happiest Baby on the Block, then about a dozen more books on pregnancy and babies and parenting.

Yes, I went overboard. I filled my head with so many different facts and philosophies that I didn't know what to think—but ultimately I don't regret it. In a way, it's what I've needed over the last 10 months to help me feel even just a little more confident and educated as I approach my due date. I know some women who didn't crack one book during their pregnancies—and I respect that, too. But if you're interested, these are the books that I most enjoyed—and the ones that I thought were a waste of time.

The Best

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy — If you want one straightforward, fact-filled pregnancy bible, this is it. I bought both this and the classic What to Expect, and found Mayo to be more straightforward and less judgmental. Todd also enjoyed reading it cover-to-cover—and I'm so glad he did, because my pregnancy-addled brain has struggled with remembering things.

Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother — This is a light, easy read based around letters written from a poet to her young friend during her first pregnancy. It's sweet and emotional and it made me cry happy tears more than once.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong—and What You Really Need to Know — Written by an economist (and new mom), this book looks at the data behind all of the rules imposed on pregnant women—from not eating sushi to not drinking alcohol. It was definitely an interesting read that conflicted with a lot of the leading literature out there, but ultimately I went with my doctor's advice on everything instead of this book.

Cherish the First Six Weeks — At around eight months, I realized I'd mostly only read books on pregnancy, and I didn't feel prepared for actually bringing our little one home. This book set my mind at ease, particularly when it came to calming our babe and (hopefully!) getting him to sleep. It's all about creating a sense of structure early on, which is definitely a philosophy that appeals to both me and Todd.

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep — This book echoes a lot of the ideas in Cherish, but because it's written by a doctor, it has a bit more of a scientific tone—though still very approachable. You'll learn all about the five S's and how they can be used to calm a baby.

Bringing Up Bebe — I really loved this book, and not just because I secretly wish I was French. Written by an American living with her family in France, it's all about how French parents care for their children from the time they're born (breastfeeding and sleep training) to early childhood (education and discipline). Ultimately, it's a very practical, almost old-fashioned approach to parenting that focuses on mutual respect and independence. It also highlights a lot of problems with American parenting, from dependence on tech devices and overstimulation to the "child king" syndrome. More than anything, this book made me recognize that this is a parenting philosophy I've been piecing together since long before I was pregnant.

The Worst

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding — I bought this later in my pregnancy after getting spooked about how hard breastfeeding could potentially be. This guide from La Leche League just scared me even more with its preachy attitude. I know that "breast is best," and I certainly hope that I'm able to breastfeed my child for a reasonable amount of time, but this book seems to focus on how doing the "wrong" things—getting a C-section, putting your baby on a sleep schedule, stopping breastfeeding before age 2—can scar your baby for life.

From the Hips — A favorite blogger recommended this one, saying it was a more conversational, honest look at pregnancy. Turns out, I hated all of the "real mom" anecdotes and found myself wanting just the facts. Plus, the cluttered layout is high-school-yearbook-ugly.