Saturday, August 22, 2009

Top birth and breastfeeding books

I recently received a request from a blog reader for books on birth and breastfeeding. She's trying to narrow her list down to just a few and wanted to know which ones I'd recommend. She is 24 weeks pregnant with her first baby and is planning to give birth in a freestanding birth center. Her husband is a 3rd year medical student and is on board with her birth plans.

I am trying to think what my super short list of must-reads would be for a woman in her situation. Let's see...

  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: I like it for its inspirational stories that make me go, "yes, I can do this!" and for its information on the birth process.
  • Sarah J. Buckley's Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering (recently released in an updated, North American edition). I love the chapters that review the science & the hormones of labor, birth, and breastfeeding.
  • Peggy Vincent's memoir Baby Catcher. This gave me an understanding of what birth really looks, sounds, and feels like. Hilarious, gripping, great read. And because reading only advice books gets a bit dull when you're getting ready to have a baby.
I might recommend different books for a woman planning a hospital birth, but I think this is a good start for someone going to a birth center.

I'd like to hear your suggestions if you had to list your favorite birth and breastfeeding books. Which would be better for women planning hospital births? For women using birth centers or having home births?


  1. *Hospital Births*
    - Your Best Birth:Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
    - The Birth Book by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN

    *Groovy Mamas*
    - Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

    *Artsy Mamas*
    - Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

  2. i second the Birthing from within!

  3. UrbanCrunchyMama beat me to it, but I have to second "Your Best Birth" for any woman birthing in a hospital. It does a great job of breaking down each intervention and weighing the risks, benefits, and how it is connected to other elements in the whole experience - and is quite accessible.

    I am also positively evangelical about "Pushed" by Jennifer Block, but it is more about the political climate, broken down by various issues, than it is a book for practical advice. I do think it's still a tremendous read, if the mom is up for it.

  4. I *love* Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner, for mothers just as much as for partners/fathers/doulas--I wish I'd read it when I was pregnant. Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth is also good.

  5. I had 2 hospital births & I'd second Ina May's - I suggest it to EVERYone. I had a c/s with my first and before my VBAC read Ina May's book 3 times. I also loved Birthing from Within, The Birth Partner, Spiritual Midwifery and Kaufman's VBAC: The Smart Woman's guide to VBAC as well as Korte's The VBAC Companion.

  6. I have to say that the number one book I would recommend to Hospital Birthers would be "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer.

    My favorite book for anyone though is "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth." But you already said that.

    Those two books changed my first birth entirely and put me on the road I am on now (doula, with hopes to be a midwife someday)and I am very excited right now, because I have finally bought my own copies after checking them out of the library repeatedly for four years.

  7. I agree -- Ina May's Guide is great for everyone! Just to see how it CAN be. For a hospital birth I always recommend the Thinking Woman's Guide and The Birth Partner.

    For breastfeeding -- So That's What They're For; and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding is coming out in September and I'm sure that will be a treat!

    And while we're talking books, I love Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach for the first few months, as well as Happiest Baby on the Block.

  8. I'm a big fan of LLL's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, although it's not really a read-straight-through book, but more of an as-you-go reference book.

  9. I like
    -Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-tackett

    It focuses on two of the issues new moms have frequently- latching trouble and worrying about milk supply.

  10. Everyone already told the big books I'd recommend so I won't recommend anymore for actual birth. But while you're on the subject, I just wanted to say the novel The Birth House by Ami McKay is an excellent for the fun of it read.

  11. Due to your recommendations a while back, I went and bought "Your Best Birth", I think it may now be my standard choice for introducing mom-friends to my weird birthing ways :)

  12. While I like Jack Newman's book because of it's awesome pictures, I prefer to refer people to his website and usually suggest _The Nursing Mother's Companion_ as a practical go-to book on nursing.

  13. For moms expecting multiples: "Having Twins" by Elizabeth Noble. (Even discusses homebirth!)

  14. Your Best Birth is definitely a good book for those wanting to research birth (especially if they're planning a hospital birth) but don't know where to start!

  15. Journey Into Motherhood by Sheri Minelli is one of the best natural birth story collections available. Highly recommend it.

  16. Breastfeeding:

    *Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

    *Making More Milk

    *Nursing Woman's Herbal



    *Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth

    *The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth

  17. I really enjoyed Birthing From Within. It gave me the inner strength to know I could have the birth I wanted (with the help of a doula). I did drugs at a 43 years old. Yes! Arrived at the hospital, after laboring at home for as long as I wanted, and had Jonas 5 hours later. Blew the doc away. It was a Godsend reading this book. Wish I had read so many of the others listed, to expand my mind and to give me more tools. But I had the birth I wanted. And it saddens me that many women can't utter those words.

  18. Thanks for these great recommendations! I can't wait to get reading.


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