Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beyond What to Expect: Pregnancy and Parenting Books For Thinking Parents

When I was pregnant, I was appalled by the patronizing tone of the classic pregnancy guide What to Expect When You're Expecting.  I wanted real evidence-based information about what was happening to me physically and mentally.  I wanted to be able to tell fact from folklore.  Eventually I found some amazing resources and started keeping a list that I am always giving to my pregnant friends and former students.  I am a professor; I love to give people reading lists!   

Beyond What to Expect When You’re Expecting: A list of intelligent, thought-provoking books about pregnancy and child-rearing.

These are the essential, do-not-miss, life-changing books I read about pregnancy and parenting:
  • Our Babies, Our Selves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith F. Small. A comparative study in “ethnopediatrics,” looking at Asian, African, and Western cultures. This book was utterly transformative for me; I can't recommend it highly enough.  
  • The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears (I like all the books they’ve done, including The Pregnancy Book, The Sleep Book, The Discipline Book, and The Family Nutrition Book). This is a very useful resource for baby’s developmental milestones, advocates breast-feeding and “attachment parenting,” especially carrying baby in a sling. Our mantra during the first months, “his desires are his needs,” came from this book. Good to have on hand for baby illnesses and general information.
  • Raising Baby Green. By Dr. Alan Greene. An environmentally conscious guide to pregnancy and baby care.
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. This is a guide to comforting crying (“colicky”) newborns. The techniques are very helpful; I recommend watching the DVD rather than reading the book (the book is very repetitive).
  • Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Diane Eyer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff. One hopes people don't quiz baby with flashcards, but this book provides a very interesting summary of lots of studies and experiments showing what babies learn and when and how they learn it.  The authors were early critics of the "Baby Einstein" dvds.
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish. I love this book for dealing with toddlers (and people of all ages in your life!). Worth reading when you are pregnant and then rereading again and again.  I can't overstate how much I learned from this book.

 Other interesting books:
  • Mother’s milk : breastfeeding controversies in American culture by Bernice L. Hausman. Interesting academic book about why Americans are so weird about breastfeeding; same with the next one.
  • Breastfeeding : biocultural perspectives by Patricia Stuart-Macadam and Katherine A. Dettwyler, editors.
  • The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. If you care about sleeping through the night at some point, this book may be helpful (though I’ve come to the conclusion that sleeping through the night is over-rated and an American fixation – that’s what I tell myself any way!)
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
  • Transformation Through Birth by Claudia Panuthos
  • Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
  • The Familial Gaze edited by Marianne Hirsch
  • The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner. Another fascinating book about how little kids learn.
  • Montessori from the start: The child at home from birth to age three by Paula Polk Lillard
  • The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-reliant Children by Wendy Mogel
  • Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age by Dan Kindlon
  • Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Children and the Joy of Parenting by Marie Sherlock
Interesting Websites:
  • Babies (2010).  Makes for an interesting companion to Our Babies, Our Selves.    
What are your favorite pregnancy and parenting books?


Adrienne Pilon ("A") said...

Love this list. A couple are familiar to me from those days of babyhood---we used the Sears and I read a number of books on how culture impacts sleeping and breastfeeding. I , too, HATED "What to Expect" which instilled fear of a non-medicalized birth and gave misinformation about breastfeeding and other things. Basically the message was that your doctor knows best.

Erica MomandKiddo said...

I really liked Playful Parenting and Unconditional Parenting. Both books offer parents alternatives to the dreaded "time-out."

Holly said...

Hi! Long time! I'm pregnant with my second baby (after 12 years!), and I haven't picked up a single book! Though I did take my daughter to see the Ina May Gaskin documentary, which we both enjoyed - and we got to meet Ina May! I'm due in 2 months and have been wondering what to read... So, perfect timing!

In my anthropology major days in college I read a book by Emily Martin called The Woman in the Body: a Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. I can't emphasize enough the impact this book had on my future as a woman and a mother. Pregnant at 25, I had no experience whatsoever with childbirth or parenting, let alone natural childbirth, attachment parenting, or breastfeeding (I'd never even seen it done!). This book was the first to open my eyes to the issues surrounding the medicalization of childbirth and the fact that there are alternatives available, all before I'd ever even dreamed of having a child.

The first pregnancy book I ever bought for the purpose of actual pregnancy information was Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms. I remember it being a very empowering book, one that informs pregnant women of their rights and choices during childbirth, to advocate for themselves, and to question the standard medical interventions.

In the parenting department I definitely second Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

Fanny Harville said...

I'm glad two of you mentioned Unconditional Parenting; how did I leave Alfie Kohn off this list??

Holly, what exciting news! I'm so thrilled for you (also -- how cool that you met Ina May!)!