I am currently surrounded by piles of birth-related books from the library. In preparation for my doula certifications, I have plugging my way through the required reading lists. My hope is that sharing my perceptions of these resources may help other new professionals and birthing families navigate through the endless options. These first few were currently available at the local branch of my library, so they got checked off the list first. More to come with some of my favorite recommendations for new families…stay tuned!
This Isn’t What I Expected by Karen R. Kleiman & Valerie Raskin
This book includes a number of checklists and prompts to help new parents explore their relationship to the postpartum period, addressing both specific steps to take and ways to explore feelings. This was enhanced with stories of specific individuals to illustrate examples. It is a very hetero-normative text, although the authors do mention this failing several times, and there are chapters geared towards partners and how they may be involved. There is a very thorough discussion of medications and the authors are transparent about their own roles in the field and how that informs their biases. I especially appreciated information about how to talk to your doctor about medications, as this can be a very “taboo” topic. In an attempt to encourage increased sleep, simplifying responsibilities and enhancing self care, the book makes some suggestions that may not be appreciated by all — feeding formula at night, relying on diet foods like Lean Cuisine, a controlled crying approach to sleep. As with all pregnancy, birth and new parent resources, I recommend being very aware of where the book is coming from while you read, and taking the pieces that serve your own situation and needs.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins
I would not recommend this book for a straight read through. It would be a very tedious text to get through as it repeats many tidbits of information and is designed as a resource guide to follow along with the stages of the breast/chestfeeding relationship. It is thorough and easy to navigate and would be particularly helpful if you were looking for support or encouragement through a specific issue or time frame. The “Survival Guides” and ample resources in the appendices make navigating concerns a little easier for parents who are searching for things to try during very common nursing struggles. Although there is some good info included about pumping and bottle feeding, this text could encourage guilty feelings in parents who ultimately cannot or choose not to nurse their babies. As evidenced by the title, the book is very skewed to prefer breast/chest over human milk substitute (formula).
Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel
I do not like the term “natural birth”. I believe all birth is natural at the very core. Some individuals may feel that a surgical birth, pain medications, medical interventions may be unnatural. Others may feel simply being in a hospital is unnatural for them. It is very easy for the term “natural” in reference to birth to come along with very strong connotation of better or best because of our society’s relationship to birth. That being said, this book specifically focuses on “natural” birth as one with no interventions. While I take issue with this terminology, the authors do include nice stories and examples to demonstrate ways of working within the hospital. These can be very helpful regardless of interventions, medications, etc. Some high points for me were a great discussion of a unique way to approach writing your birth plan, the descriptions of the stages of labor and possible sensations a birthing person may experience, and a mindful discussion of trauma survivors. As an educator and doula I found these elements to be redeeming qualities that offset a minimal focus on postpartum recovery, a very cut and dry appendix focused on avoiding interventions, and some messages about care providers that may not be relevant in all regions.
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Wherever possible I am linking these books from some of our local bookstores. I urge you to use your local public library and/or your local bookstores if you can!