Choosing great books to read from conception to parenthood are so important. Not only may the books you choose provide important factual information, but they can also influence crucial decisions in all aspects of your life. This could be your parenting style, the way you want to give birth or perhaps provide you with the confidence and empower you to do all of these things.
With this in mind, I have compiled the below recommended reading list, which are all highly regarded books in the pregnancy to parenting industry, which will give you the best start a book can possibly give.
Many of these books are available from BellyBelly online bookstore (coming back to you soon).
Recommendations are sectioned into conception, pregnancy, birth, baby, parenting, post-natal issues, relationships and books for children (which explain birth, babies and breastfeeding relevant to their age). Enjoy!
Review the recommended reading list from conception to parenthood.
Pre-Conception / Conception
#1: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Welscher
“The definitive guide to natural birth control and pregnancy achievement” has the following chapters: breaking fertile ground; rediscovering your cycle and your body; natural birth control; pregnancy achievement; beyond fertility, practical benefits of charting your cycle and lots of useful appendices.
#2: Natural Fertility by Francesca Naish
This book allows you to make informed choices about the ‘orthodox’ and natural alternatives open to you. It tells you how to understand and co-operate with your fertility cycles, rather than attempting to override or manipulate them, by observing natural body signals and combining this with your own lunar biorhythmic cycle. You can also combine natural fertility awareness with other contraceptive techniques.
#3: Fastest Way To Get Pregnant Naturally by Christopher D Williams
Nature will take its course, but there’s nothing wrong with optimizing your chances, according to fertility specialist Dr. Christopher D. Williams. In this handbook, he draws on the latest information and technology to show normally fertile couples how to increase their chances of conceiving quickly. 40 line drawings.
Great books for pregnancy include authors like Sheila Kitzinger, Janet Balaskas, Henci Goer, Ina May Gaskin and Michel Odent.
#4: Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
A guide to pregnancy and childbirth provides all the information women need to make decisions about prenatal tests, pain control, and how and where to give birth, with advice on the development of the fetus, body changes, and labour preparation techniques.
This guide aims to inspire, inform and reassure. From conception through to birth, Sheila Kitzinger describes what to expect and prepares parents-to-be for the physical changes ahead. Topics include Caesarean births, the birthing sling, sex during pregnancy and nutrition.
#6: New Natural Pregnancy by Janet Balaskas
New Natural Pregnancy helps expectant mothers enjoy the experience of pregnancy and take responsibility for their own health and that of the baby. It is a refreshingly clear and practical guide to diet, lifestyle and exercise for a healthy pregnancy, with natural self-help treatments for the common physical and emotional ailments that may arise.
#7: Prenatal Testing by Lachlan De Crespigny
Prenatal diagnosis is a rapidly developing area and, as couples increasingly have children later in life, nearly 20% of pregnant women are offered testing because of their age. There is no uniformity in the way pregnant women are presented with the often difficult decision regarding prenatal testing and, if an abnormality is found, women have few guidelines to help them to decide what to do.
Prenatal Testing presents the stories of women and their partners who have made such decision, supported by information about medical procedures and counselling. It offers vital guidance through a decision-making process that takes place at many levels – before and after testing, and between couples and family members as well as individuals and the medical profession.
Henci Goer, award-winning medical writer and internationally known speaker, is the author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. Her previous book, Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities is a highly-acclaimed resource for childbirth professionals, and she is an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care.
In her book, Henci Goer covers the following topics and more:
- Breech Babies
- Inducing Labour
- Vaginal Birth After Caesarean
- Electronic Fetal Monitoring
- Doulas / Birth Attendants
- Rupturing Membranes
- Deciding On A Doctor Or Midwife
- Coping With Slow Labour
- Choosing Where to Have Your Baby
New Active Birth will help you and your partner prepare for and experience an Active Birth. Naturally, throughout time and the world over, women have chosen to walk, stand, squat, lie – to move their bodies freely and actively to find the most comfortable positions for labour and birth. It is only we in the west who have the extraordinary notion that a woman should lie on her back in a position that defies the laws of nature and gravity.
With this book you can learn to develop all your body’s resources to deal with the instinctive experience of childbirth. It is also for partners, teachers, midwives and everyone involved, to help mothers get up off the delivery table and to bring back some of the common sense which has been overlooked by modern obstetrics.
#10: 25 Ways To Awaken Your Birth Power by Danette Watson
A beautifully presented book and CD set created to uplift and inspire pregnant women. Full of empowering affirmations which are fantastic to remind yourself during pregnancy and labour.
#11: Birthing From Within by Pam England
This is the book of the moment for midwives, childbirth educators and pregnant women/couples. Said to be “an extra-ordinary guide to childbirth preparation”, England provides us with a challenging and empowering book: there’s lots of practical advice for first-time pregnancies including positive discussion on the benefits or otherwise of birth plans and support people. England makes good use of art therapy and creative visualisation. The book is also full of photographs and fascinating art work and illustrations.
Having a Great Birth in Australia is a collection of candid stories from 20 Australian women who have recently given birth. These stories tell, with honesty and insight, about the challenges and joys of childbirth. Each of these women discovered the value of being able to make informed decisions about their maternity care and with the right care, had positive and empowering birth experiences.
#13: Obstetric Myths vs Research Realities by Henci Goer
This text is an attempt to make the medical literature on a variety of key obstetric issues accessible to people who lack the time, expertise, access, or proximity to a medical library. It covers caesarean issues, pregnancy and labour management and provides a review of approaches.
#14: The Water Birth Book by Janet Balaskas
A new book from natural birth pioneer, teacher and writer Janet Balaskas. Based on 15 years of working with water births, the book is packed with inspiring stories. It s a helpful handbook, for parents contemplating a water birth, and for the midwives who will attend them in labour.
#15: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The co-founder of The Farm Midwifery Center shares her knowledge and wisdom about the “true capacities of the female body.” This amazing book takes the fear out of childbirth, recasting it as the positive experience it should be, and includes inspiring and instructive birth stories from women who have used the midwifery model of care at The Farm.
#16: Birth After Caesarean, Unlimited Possibilities by Caroline Daniels
#17: Caesarean Birth… Making Informed Choices (Birthrites Booklet, AUS)
#18: The Doula Advantage: Your Complete Guide to Having an Empowered and Positive Birth with the Help of a Professional Childbirth Assistant by Rachel Gurevich.
There’s a secret being passed from new mums to pregnant women: “doula”— a Greek term meaning “handmaiden” or “servant.” A study of 2,000 women found that the presence of a doula during childbirth shortened labour by an average of two hours, decreased the need for pain medication, and decreased C-sections by over 50 percent. This book is a must-have guide to the benefits of using a doula.
#19: The Doula Book: How a Trained Labour Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth by Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell and Phyllis H. Klaus.
More and more parents-to-be all over the world are choosing the comfort and reassuring support of birth with a trained labor companion called a “doula.” This warm, authoritative, and irreplaceable guide completely updates the authors’ earlier book, Mothering the Mother, and adds much new and important research. In addition to basic advice on finding and working with a doula, the authors show how a doula reduces the need for cesarean section, shortens the length of labor, decreases the pain medication required, and enhances bonding and breast feeding. The authors, world-renowned authorities on childbirth with combined experience of over 100 years working with laboring women, have made their book indispensable to every woman who wants the healthiest, safest, and most joyful possible birth experience.
#20: Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley
Sarah J Buckley, family physician/GP and mother of four, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering gives you the WHOLE story to help you with your most important decisions, including
- How can I increase my chances of a natural birth?
- Should I accept prenatal tests?
- Is ultrasound safe for my baby?
- Are there risks involved with induction?
- What about pain relief in labour?
- Are epidurals safe for my baby?
- What are the risks and benefits of choosing a cesarean?
- What other birth choices will give me and my baby a safe and easy start?
- Is cord blood banking a good idea?
- Could I safely have my baby at home?
You will learn the secrets of gentle discipline, raising children to be responsible, loving, and co-operative while preserving your sanity! You can also read about using yoga to support you, as a gentle mama, and how mothering can help you on your spiritual journey.
- Are you obsessed about your baby’s sleep?
- Do you feel ‘weak’ because you can’t bear to leave him to cry himself to sleep?
- Do you need to relax more and enjoy being a parent?
Parenting Expert Pinky McKay offers a gentle approach to solving your little ones’ sleep problems and gives practical tips on how to:
- Understand your baby’s tired cues
- Create a safe sleeping environment
- Gentle settle babies and toddlers
- Feed infants to encourage sleep
‘Here is a book that is down to earth, warm and, unlike many other books that deal with crying, respects babies.’ – Sheila Kitzinger
Just like parents and families, each baby is unique. Whether you are desperate to solve your baby’s crying puzzle, or whether you just want some quick tips to soothe the inevitable tears that are an everyday part of infancy, this book is a one-stop reference.
Each chapter deals with an aspect of crying and tips to calm the crying:
- little night howls
- tummy pains
- nappy rash
- walking the floor
- soothing sounds
- creating diversions
- baby massage
- lactose intolerance
- food allergies/intolerances
- from womb to room
- coping (and not coping)
In The Wonder Weeks, you’ll discover the specific dates during their first 14 months when all babies take eight major developmental leaps. And you’ll learn how to help your baby through the eight great “fussy phases” that mark these leaps within a week or two. Wonder week by wonder week, you’ll see how your baby’s mind is developing. Now you will know which games and toys are best for your baby during each key week and how to encourage each leap forward. Calendars, charts, and checklists help you track your baby’s progress – and finally make sense of his fussy behavior. This is a baby book like no other. It will be your indispensable guide to the crucial “wonder weeks” of your baby’s first year.
Focuses on raising a child. Based on over 700 scientific studies into children’s development, this book explains how to develop your child’s potential. It allows you to find out the truth about childcare tactics, how touch, laughter and play build emotional wellbeing for life, and the strategies for dealing with temper tantrums and tears.
#25: Parenting By Heart by Pinky McKay
Do we really need experts to tell us how to rear our babies?
As soon as you have a baby (or announce that you are ‘expecting’), suddenly it seems as though everyone is an expert – about your child. You can put yourselves in the hands of these “experts”, or you can put yourself in charge.
In Parenting by Heart, Pinky McKay encourages parents to trust their own instincts, and connection with their child.
Pinky also examines the loss of confidence so many mothers, in particular, experience: she shows parents how to nurture themselves as well as their child, and how to stand strong against those who undermine or oppose their choices.
Practical advice is delivered with Pinky’s trademark humour and covers:
- pregnancy and birth care choices
- dealing with health-care professionals
- postnatal depression
- all you need to know about breast-feeding
- how to lull your baby to sleep
- what to do about crying
- a gentle, respectful approach to discipline
- how to form a strong, and lasting connection with your child.
Parenting by Heart will help you unlock your intuition and nurture with confidence. Seize your power! Explore your options and take charge.
Trust yourself. Trust your child. Trust your feelings. Most of all, lighten up. Laugh. Enjoy. Be as gentle on yourself and your beloved as you are with your child.
#26: Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes Your Baby’s Brain by Sue Gerhardt
‘Why Love Matters’ explains why love is essential to brain development in the early years of life, particularly to the development of our social and emotional brain systems, and presents the startling discoveries that provide the answers to how our emotional lives work.
#27: Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph
Steve Biddulph has a nation-wide reputation as a parenting guru, through his bestselling Secrets of Happy Children books. In “Raising Boys”, the author looks at the most crucial issues that happen in the male’s lifetime, from birth to manhood, and offers instruction on the warm, firm guidance that boys need in order to become happy, well-balanced men
Raising Boys is written in his chatty style, with large clear print. Areas covered include: The three stages of boyhood; Testosterone; How boys’ and girls’ brains differ; What dads can do; Mothers and sons; Boys and sport.
#28: Raising Girls by Gisela Preuschoff
In this straightforward and thought-provoking book, psychologist and parenting author Gisela Preuschoff considers the understandings that parents require to raise girls today. The book focuses on girls’ emotional and physical development, their education, social conditioning and their relationships with parents and siblings.
Using a warm and conversational approach, Gisela communicates in an accessible way to parents, injecting her own experiences as a mother. The book also includes stories from the experiences of Australian families. Her advice ranges from birth to late adolescence and across issues to do with physical and sexual development, girls and learning, parent-child relationships and the daughter’s emotional life. Includes a foreward by Steve Biddulph.
#29: Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Baby by Deborah Jackson
This is the classic book for parents seeking an alternative to broken nights. This new edition details the invaluable benefits for breastfeeding mothers, reviews the history of babies in the bed and, through interviews with parents, explores current attitudes to the idea. It also contains a new perspective on the tragedy of cot death, as well as practical advice on how to sustain your sex life, hints on safety in the bed and answers the common objections. Finally, the author deals with the time when the baby leaves his parents’ bed.
#30: How You Can Be The Boss of The Bladder by Dr Janet Hall
Dr Janet Hall is the founder of the Boss of the Bladder Programme in Melbourne. This book is designed to help both children and parents gain some insight into the management and eventual control of day and night wetting. Children read the first section and are relieved to find out that it’s not them who wets on purpose – it’s that pesky ‘bladder muscle’. Parents are coached in realistic prevention, management and even cure strategies for bedwetting. Everybody boosts their self esteem when children get dry!
#31: Breastfeeding… Naturally. An Australian Breastfeeding Association publication.
The most authoritative, entertaining and accessible guide to breastfeeding ever produced in Australia. The completely revised and rewritten second edition is a 200 page book, compiled from the Association’s information and booklets by long-term counsellor and writer Jill Day. It includes photos and diagrams as well as an informative text gleaned from the collective wisdom of the thousands of mothers who have been members of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Chapters include: A commitment to breastfeeding; How breastfeeding works; Preparing for breastfeeding; How to breastfeed; Special deliveries; Out and about with your breastfed baby; A question of supply; Common breastfeeding conditions; Tummy troubles; Working and breastfeeding.
#32: Breastfeeding Matters by Maureen Minchin
The book that convinced many people to think again about the myth of infant feeding ‘not really making much difference in western countries’. How babies are nurtured reflects the culture and society. This book is as much about the politics of health as about practical feeding information, because, at present, cultures largely determine infant feeding ‘choices’. Recommended reading for journalists, health professionals, parents, teachers, in fact anyone who was a baby, has a baby or thinks about society. In short, YOU should read it. It will change your views on infant feeding, women’s health, business ethics, food safety and more.
#33: What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen
Have you ever spent all day looking after your baby or young child and ended up feeling that you have done nothing all day? Do you sometimes find it hard to feel pleased with what you are doing, and tell yourself you should achieve more with your time? Maybe it’s because you can’t see how much you are doing already.
Naomi Stadlen draws on many years work with hundreds of other mothers of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. She explores mothers experiences to reveal what they – and you – are doing when it may look, to everyone else, like nothing.
If you are a mother and have ever felt:
- That nobody understands what you do all day
- Overwhelmed by your feelings for your baby
- Tired all the time
- That nothing prepared you for motherhood
- Uncertain what your baby seems to want
- Short-tempered with your partner
…you will find this the most reassuring book you have ever picked up.
#34: Postnatal Depression – A Guide For Australian Families by Lisa Fettling
Contains information about the signs and symptoms of PND; who might develop it; what professional help is available to a woman who has PND, and how she might get it; how a woman who has PND can help herself, and how her partner, other family members and friends can help her; and how her partner is affected and can help.
“This book provides sound answers to many frequently-asked questions, and does so with warmth and optimism. The voices of sufferers and ex-sufferers bring PND alive – and they will touch those women and their families who are affected by it, and help them through the dark and difficult times.” — Anne Buist, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, and Co-ordinator, National Postnatal Depression Program, excerpt from Foreword to this book.
Books For Children
#35: Hello Baby by Jenni Overend
Jack and his family have waited a long time for this day – the birth of a new baby. We join Jack as everyone (his sisters, Dad, Aunt and the midwife) get ready for the homebirth – chopping wood to keep the fire going, putting out baby’s clothes, making a giant bed by the fire for Mum and the new baby.
This powerful, moody, beautiful story of a family all being together for a home birth is written with honesty and warmth by Jenni Overend, whose own children were present at the birth of her youngest son. Multi-award winning illustrator Julie Vivas captures this special moment with her characteristic harmonious, sensitive, gentle illustrations.
My New Baby by Annie Kubler
A beautifully illustrated book with no words that allows you to make up a new story every time. Great for anyone having a second child to prepare the first born for all that is ahead.
#36: Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy by Cecilia Moen
A delightful board book for children by Swedish author Cecilia Moen. This picture book celebrates the joys of breastfeeding from a child’s perspective.
#37: Happy Birth Day by Robie H Harris
Seen through a mother’s eyes, this is a loving account of a baby’s birth and first day, capturing all the thrill, activity, tenderness and wonder of that joyous family event. A softcover picture book ideal for a pregnant mum to read with her toddler. Michael Emberley’s gentle but accurate pictures prepare a child for the startling appearance of a newborn baby.
#38: The Wonders of Mothers Milk by Mishawn Purnell-O’Neal
A beautifully illustrated children’s book that will entertain as well as educate its readers. With its rhythmic poetic text, this book will unlock the doors of discovery to the many wonders of mother’s milk.
#39: Sex and Intimacy After Childbirth by Martien Snellen
In this timely book, Martien Snellen explores the factors that can affect your sex life when you have a new baby. From changes in body image to serious health issues like postnatal depression; from divergent levels of interest to… just not being able to find the time. Most importantly, he offers practical suggestions for getting the spark back – and they really work.
Funny, insightful and deeply wise, Sex and Intimacy After Childbirth is a godsend for any new, or newish, parent who thinks their other relationship could do with a little attention to.
‘The best foreplay is still eight consecutive hours of sleep. But this book runs a close second’ – Susan Maushart.