In the bleary few weeks of new motherhood, I have had a number of friends quietly comment that they wished that they had not just read about pregnancy and birth but also read a lot more about breastfeeding. Postpartum can be a bit of a surprise in terms of just how immediately and unceasingly demanding it can be. (I know it was for me with baby Jackson!) So here are ten books to help you prepare for breastfeeding, help your baby sleep, and recover more generally during postpartum recovery.
For the most part, breastfeeding books are trying to fill a cultural gap: most first time mothers have not seen many (if any) other women breastfeed up close. So the differences between these books is mainly in the metaphors, deceptions, and illustrations used to describe latches, holds, and infections — there aren’t really different schools of thought per se. So I’d suggest trying a few out to see which ones make the most sense to you.
1. Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin. Ina May does it again, just like her birth book, she combines years of experience, great communication style, and a pinch of humor, making it feel like you are having a conversation with the very wise grandmother. It’s a fairly new release that references some great parts of my other favorite books.
2. Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher. With a great companion app, this book is not quite as encyclopedic as the following two, but it is a straightforward and solid introduction to breastfeeding from an expert. I got introduced to her work through an article on laid-back breastfeeding (at the bottom there are lots of videos).
3. Jack Newman’s The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers Dr. Newman (of Dr. Newman’s All-Purpose Nipple Ointment) is a wealth of information on how to solve a lot of breastfeeding problems. For example, he has a lot of great info on thrush. Yes you can google most of these, but it’s nice to have them in one place. Insider tip: order gentian violet online while you are pregnant—it’s like $5 with slow free shipping as opposed to $30 at Walgreens.
4. La Leche League International’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. With 9 editions, this is the classic on breastfeeding. It’s long and through and encouraging of new mothers to get themselves to a La Leche League meeting for in person support (or their online forums). When I went to my first La Leche League meeting, they had a whole library of great books (including the one on sleep listed below.) The organization really is wonderful.
Unlike breastfeeding, there are different schools of thought when it comes to infant sleep, specifically how to get babies to fall asleep and where that should happen. These are my three favorite books. They definitely contradict each other (as do the scientific studies and anecdotes that back up each approach). But they all have good ideas, helpful facts and tips, and together remind me that newborn sleep is something that no one has figured out for sure, so it’s best to just really observe what works best for you and your baby.
5. La Leche League International’s Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family This is my favorite attachment / co-sleeping approach to newborn sleep. They cover James McKenna’s Seven Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines and really focus on supporting the breastfeeding relationship. They are distinctly against sleep training or any cry-it-out methods (even for older babies).
6. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth M.D. This book is a wealth of information on why babies need a lot of sleep, what colic in babies looks like, and suggestions for how to handle the colicky baby. Weissbluth is supportive of a range of sleeping arrangements from co-sleeping to cry-it-out, citing that it depends on both what the parents want and what the baby needs.
7. Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. This book is not a book that my beloved Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) like, because they feel like it is not very respectful to babies to swaddle them and shush them loudly. Which I understand, but I also think that sometimes everyone needs some sleep, and the techniques in this book can be really helpful to at least know about, even if you don’t want to use them most of the time. (We swaddled Jackson, but didn’t use the other steps the way he describes them.) There is also a DVD.
Most of your energy in those first few days and weeks will be devoted to helping your baby eat and sleep. But there are some other things to keep in mind about healing after giving birth. The main take away is rest as much as you possibly can those first few days and weeks. Have people bring you meals, and stay in bed. I’ve heard a doula put it this way: “Five days in the bed, five days on the bed, five days around the bed.” Let your organs and muscles find their way back to their pre-pregnancy position and focus on nursing and sleeping.
*I have been fortunate to not have any postpartum depression or anxiety, which can be such an additionally difficult burden to carry during an already stressful time. Both of Lim and Francis’s books address postpartum depression, but a great place to start looking for more support and resources for perinatal mood disorders is PostpartumProgress.org.
8. After the Baby’s Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women by Robin Lim. This is a pretty crunchy (and dated at this point; I’d love to see a new 3rd edition) approach to postpartum care. Robin Lim draws on a lot of yoga positions and gentle stretches, encourages journaling, and talks about the typical emotional signposts of the early days. She definitely captures the sacredness of the postpartum time.
9. The Everything Health Guide To Postpartum Care: A Complete Guide to Looking and Feeling Great After Delivery and Beyond by Meagan Francis (podcaster & blogger) is a really great overall guide to all things postpartum. It had the feeling of reading a bunch of really well-crafted blog posts all curated to help you make sense of all things postpartum.
*Speaking of blogs that take on postpartum care well, there is an abundance of blogs that have recipes for special ice packs (i.e. frozen witch hazel diapers) and herbal baths (sitzs baths for tender bottoms). My favorites are passionatehomemaking.com, liverenewed.com, theartofsimple.net, thepaleomama.com, and growingupherbal. Also check out bear mama medicine‘s really thoughtful and wise guide to creating a babymoon.
10. Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation by Katy Bowman. One of the lingering postpartum issues is abdominal and pelvic floor weakness (check out Wellness Mama’s post on diastasis recti for a good introduction). Bowman’s book takes a holistic approach to explaining why pregnancy can exacerbate these issues, and how to go about addressing them. This probably won’t affect the early days of postpartum care, but sometimes moms want to just dive right into doing crunches and planks to help their abs go back, which it turns out is NOT the way to help your weakened abdominals heal. Two students of Bowman’s have created online (membership) workouts that address this Wendy Powell’s MuTu and Bethany Learn’s Fit2B as well.
How about you? Did you read anything that helped ease you into early baby care?
*Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
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