Advice for a mom-to-be

When I was pregnant with my first son, I was the first of my friends to become pregnant. The internet wasn’t what it is today, and since I was pregnant in 1999, the only information I could get seemed to be on millenium babies. I read Mothering magazine along with the more mainstream pregnancy magazines, read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, hired a CNM, signed up for a childbirth class (that was woefully inadequate), and figured I had my bases covered. I was sooooo unprepared.

So, I have a friend who my cousin Susan (I have to start doing this) is newly pregnant. I referred her to the Childbirth Connection, the Lamaze Health birth practices, and the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. I wanted her to have sites with comprehensive, general information about all the major aspects of physiological pregnancy and birth.

I also directed her towards my blog roll, but I warned her that blogs tend to be more focused, current, and geared toward activists, not moms to be.

Any other suggestions? What do you recommend to a newly pregnant first time mom?


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21 responses to “Advice for a mom-to-be

  1. Would it be wrong for me to suggest OBOS: Pregnancy & Birth? 😉

    • MomTFH

      Not at all. I was actually considering recommending it. I haven’t read it, though (sorry!) but I have heard it is excellent.

  2. I like this post on birth books a lot:
    It’s helped me think about what to recommend for people starting at different levels of comfort/familiarity with the ideas behind physiological pregnancy & birth. I do like the Sears books to start, because they have a nice combination: the comprehensive pregnancy/birth/baby book info that people are looking for, with a more holistic viewpoint.

  3. How about our website, My OB said WHAT?!? just in case she hears her HCP starting to sound like any of the HCP on this website?

  4. I’d recommend the AlphaMom Zero to Forty pregnancy calendar. It’s a week by week column (like what BabyCenter sends out) but funny and low-key. They purposely omit all those “your baby could DIE if you eat a ham sandwich” warnings.

  5. AMH

    Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.

    I will say, though, that I was extremely focused on labor and birth. I struggled with infertility, unfortunately, and had nearly 2 years to investigate pregnancy and birth, and I was very focused on the birth (and became an activist about unnecessary interventions).

    I had my baby 6 weeks ago, and immediately realized that I’d devoted a disproportionate amount of my limited time to researching labor and birth. I did take a breastfeeding class, but I’d certainly recommend becoming much better informed about breastfeeding and about possible challenges to breastfeeding. I’d recommend learning more about infant care, including burping techniques for gassy babies. I feel like I got a PhD in labor and birth, but barely a high school education in what comes next.

    After all the prep, my labor did not go as expected, and I was not able to use a lot of what I learned. My labor began with my water breaking, and at the time I had essentially no contractions (no organized pattern, very far apart). I was GBS positive, so immediately there was concern about infection to the baby, I ended up going to the hospital far sooner than I’d hoped to because I still wasn’t contracting well almost 12 hours after my water broke. Then when my contractions got going, they were fast and furious, right on top of each other, without the cushion of my bag of waters. I was having transition-like contractions starting at only 2 cm. Ultimately, the labor didn’t progress as I’d prepared for (I’d expected to have longer rest periods and less intense contractions at that stage of labor), and the labor just didn’t pan out as I’d wished.

    I also found that the trite comments about it being all about having a healthy baby and mom at the end, that the result is what’s important, did really strike me as true after my baby was here. I felt like I’d over-prepared for labor and was so focused on that process that I neglected to be better-prepared for my baby’s needs when he was on the outside, particularly establishing a breastfeeding relationship. Although I’d taken a breastfeeding class, I guess I hadn’t really understood the importance of frequent feedings for a newborn, and that I’d have to wake up a sleeping baby and keep him alert enough at the breast to feed well.

    I’d recommend suggesting reading materials beyond just labor and birth.

  6. My reading suggestions are at
    –and I’m in the midst of building that site ( into a new and wide-ranging collection of pregnancy/birth/parenting resources. If I were recommending just a couple books, though, I’d go with Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner plus the OBOS pregnancy/birth book.

  7. natalie

    The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

    Definitely NOT What to Expect…

  8. I would recommend anything by Dr. Sears (but most especially, “The Breastfeeding Book”, The Woman Art of Breastfeeding, “Birthing from Within” by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and most *definitely* ‘A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer.

  9. mommymichael

    Nursing Birth had a post where people volunteered their favorite education books/websites and such. But I can’t find that post. I did however copy down all the books and put it on my website. She also put together a great do/don’t list for birth plans

    – Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England & Rob Horowitz

    – The Birth Partner, Third Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin

    – Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

    – So That’s What They’re for: Breastfeeding Basics by Janet Tamaro

    – Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy by Laura Keegan, RN, FNP

    – The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

    – Birth Reborn by Michel Odent (anything by Michel Odent, a French OB who helped to get that country into the midwifery model of care.)

    – Heart and Hands by Elizabeth Davis

    – Energetic Pregnancy by Elizabeth Davis

    – Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones

    – Spriritual Midwifery Ina May Gaskin

    – This Sacred Life by Zuki Abbott

    – The Birth Book by the Sears

    – Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read

    – Special Delivery by Rahima Baldwin

    – The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth By Laurie Morgan

    – The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Birth by Sheila Kitzinger

    – The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta

    – Emergency Childbirth: A Manual by Gregory J. White, M.D.

    – Birthing Normally by Gayle Peterson

    – Transformation through Birth by Claudia Panuthos

    – Sacred Birthing, Birthing a New Humanity by Sunni Karrl

    – Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth by Suzanne Arms

    – She raises awareness as to how the birth process has become a medical condition, the effect this may have/has had on mothers and infants, and helps you realize that the mother should be the decision maker in how she brings her child into this world.

    – Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally
    by Janet Balaskas

    – Back Labor No More!!: What Every Woman Should Know Before Labor by Janie McCoy King Prevent Back labor!

    – Birth Without Violence by Frederick Leboyer

    – Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth
    by Sheri Menelli

    – Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International

    – Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent – Her writing style and stories are Priceless! An easy and just plain FUN book to read about her journey as a Midwife.

    Resources for Prenatal Bonding and Baby Kindness

    It is highly beneficial for women and their partners to bond with their baby while he/she is still in utero. This has a direct positive effect on the baby and the pregnancy itself, as well as the ease of their Birthing Time. Here are some resources to help you understand the immense importance of these interactions before birth. So much of what happens in utero, at birther and just afterwards affects us all later in life.

    The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Dr. Thomas Verny & John Kelly

    Nurturing the Unborn Child by Dr. Thomas Verny, Pamela Weintraub

    Tomorrow’s Baby: The Art and Science of Parenting from Conception through Infancy by Dr. Thomas Verny, Pamela Weintraub

    Babies Remember Birth: And other extraordinary scientific discoveries about the mind and personality of your newborn by David B. Chamberlain

    The Mind of Your Newborn Baby by David B. Chamberlain

    APPPAH – Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology and Health

    Prenatal Parenting –


    * Best Hard Look at the Current State of Maternity Care in America

    – The Business of Being Born (2007) Directed by Abby Epstein, Produced by Ricki Lake

    *Most Personal Documentary About Being Pregnant In America

    – Pregnant in America: A Nation’s Miscarriage (2008) Directed by Steve Buonagurio

    What Babies Want – Wonderful!


    * ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network)

    – ICAN’s mission is to prevent unnecessary cesareans through education, to provide support for cesarean recovery, and to promote VBAC.

    * Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS)

    – CIMS is a coalition of individuals and national organizations with concern for the care and well-being of mothers, babies, and families. Their mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs.

    – CIMS is the founder of the The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative and The Birth Survey

    * Citizens for Midwifery

    – Citizens for Midwifery (CfM) is a non-profit, volunteer, grassroots organization. Founded by several mothers in 1996, it is the only national consumer-based group promoting the Midwives Model of Care.

    – CfM can help you learn about the Midwives Model of Care, find a midwife in your area, and connect with resources about birth and midwifery

    * La Leche League International (LLLI)

    – La Leche League International strives to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

    * BirthNetwork National (BNN)

    – BNN is is leading a grassroots movement based on the belief that birth can profoundly affect our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

    – BNN has local chapters and holds monthly meetings all around the country!

    – BNN believes that:

    · Birth is a normal, healthy process, not an illness or disease.

    · Empowering births can take place in birth centers, hospitals and homes.

    · Women are entitled to complete and accurate information on their full range of options for pregnancy, birth, post-partum and breastfeeding.

    · Women have a right to make health care decisions for themselves and their babies. That right includes Informed Consent as well as Informed Refusal.

    * Childbirth Connection

    – has the list of rights of pregnant mothers

    * Lamaze Weekly E-mails

    – Weekly e-mails from Lamaze International feature trustworthy information, practical tips, and inspirational stories to help guide you through the next months and beyond.

  10. MomTFH

    Great advice, everyone! I am going to send her the link. Keep it coming!

  11. natalie

    Jack Newman’s breastfeeding book is great.

    For pregnancy, Your Pregnancy Week by Week is practical and informative and not fearmongering.

  12. I haven’t particularly got a suggestion, but some information on what could go wrong. Not to fear monger, but when I got very ill, and then my child died, and I had never even heard of the illness (pre-eclampsia) – perhaps because I was so focused on my natural home birth?

    At any rate, definitely not What to expect. . .

    • MomTFH

      Pre-eclampsia is a serious but very rare disorder. I am sorry you had it, and even more sorry you lost your baby.

      Pre-eclampsia generally has warning signs (ones I am sure are listed in What to Expect While You’re Expecting – they cover the scary complications rather well) and is rarely fatal to the mom or to the baby when caught in time. Did you have a health care practitioner that you were seeing for prenatal care?

      Focusing on a natural home birth should not mean not learning about common complications of pregnancy, and should (ideally) involve the supervision of someone who is trained to know about and treat conditions like pre-eclampsia.

      • MomTFH

        OK, I followed your link and read your story. I am so sorry. From what I could see, you had severe, early pre-eclampsia, which is the worst and rarest form. I would not have known about that when I was pregnant with my first son, either. Sounds like you were treated by health care professionals, but it was too early in your pregnancy to save the baby.

        I am so sorry.

  13. I really enjoyed Birth Day, by Mark Sloan when I was pregnant with baby #2. I wished I had read it when pregnant with Baby #1. It is more history than advice. I found it to be balanced, not fear-mongering, and really interesting.

  14. I have a lot of resources on my website, – links for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting, and a blog that while it does contain some activism-type posts, also has lots of practical information about nutrition, choosing a careprovider, breastfeeding etc.

    I very much second the others’ book recs, esp the Sears books & Ina May’s Guide. I also like the Mothering book Having a Baby Naturally. The Birth Day video, Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth video, and Orgasmic Birth are ones I recommend or show in my childbirth classes.

    I also second using some of the time during pregnancy to learn about afterwards – what happens physically/emotionally after birth; relationship transitions; baby care; breastfeeding. Most of all, I recommend finding a group of other new moms or places where new moms meet, whether it be Babytime at the local library, a new moms group, or a breastfeeding support group like La Leche League. Even consider attending once or twice while you’re still pregnant if you have time & want to – they’re thrilled to see pregnant moms!

    Best wishes to “cousin Susan”!

  15. MomTFH

    All great advice.

    @Christina and AMH, so happy you mentioned the post partum period. It can be a real shock to be no longer pregnant, and to have this new baby to deal with. I love what the midwife I trained with said about birth, “Not only is a baby being born, but so is a mother.” So many media sources focus on the pregnancy and delivery in acute detail, and then maybe talk about basic baby care post partum, and stop there. But, “what happens physically/emotionally after birth.

    I had trouble with my initial breastfeeding relationship with my first son. I love what AMH said about not realizing that one has to wake a sleepy baby and how frequent the feedings should be. Luckily my cousin (for real! not my cousin Susan either!) told me that breastfeeding was difficult at first, but worth it, and to get help if I needed it. I didn’t either know that much more about breastfeeding, such as to wake the newborn, before he started screaming, to feed him.

    I find many new mothers don’t have a clear idea or realistic expectations for the first few weeks post partum. Not that you can ever know until you live through it, but planning for it is definitely as important if not more important as planning for the birth. Most new mothers have support during their labor and birth, but are left alone as early as their second or third post partum day. I didn’t have post partum depression, but I remember sobbing as my then husband left to return to work that third morning. I hadn’t slept all night, and we were struggling with the breastfeeding latch.

  16. MomTFH

    Oh, and I thought of some more advice, and another website:

    I don’t know if you have your heart set on whoever you are going to see at 6 weeks for your appointment. If you have a good practitioner you trust, then great; if not, don’t feel bad if you want to shop around.

    Here is the blog of a perinatologist who I admire a lot: . I have all sorts of nerdy academic obstetrics and birth internet friends. If you read the comments, one of my other internet birth academic buddies, Amy Romano (who teaches midwifery at Yale) says choosing the right practitioner is the most important thing (I think Dr. Onyeije has it at #2 or so, which is still pretty awesome). I am doing research on birth interventions right now for my fellowship, and it’s sad to say most birth interventions don’t depend on if the mother has a certain condition, or her age, or her obesity status, or her age, or something with the fetus, or even the evidence supporting the procedure. What matters is the practice patterns of that physician or midwife (and not all midwives are great, and not all physicians are awful, and vice versa). So, feel free to ask around to other moms for a referral, and it’s perfectly normal and expected to interview your practitioner, and shop around to see with whom you feel the most comfortable.

  17. natalie

    alphamom’s Bounce Back feature is a great resource for post-partum advice.

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