Ever noticed how many pregnancy and birth books are out there? It’s…a lot. Like, a lot! The pregnancy and baby care book industry is booming—these days, there are hundreds of books out there to help you prep for birth or learn about the first year of your little one’s life. One aspect of the childbearing year that hasn’t gotten nearly the same amount of expert ink spilled? You guessed it: postpartum!
The fourth trimester hasn’t gotten its due in the literature (much as it hasn’t in American culture overall. Read Major Care founder Mandy Major’s op-ed in the Huffington Post for more on that). As postpartum doulas who specialize in this important time, we respect and revere the weeks and months immediately after birth….and we have a few favorite books that do, too.
Compiled with the insight of all of the experienced postpartum doulas on our team, here’s our list of the best postpartum books. (Note: We didn’t include breastfeeding/lactation/bodyfeeding informational books here, because that’s another category teeming with options. Maybe keep your eyes peeled for another post in the future, though!)
Build Your Nest: A Postpartum Planning Workbook by Kestrel Gates: Exactly what it sounds like, this is a workbook that helps you plan for the immediate postpartum period. It is incredibly useful and helps you think through everything from your finances to your physical recovery. It is ideal to read in pregnancy and may not be as helpful after you’ve given birth.
Postpartum Life and Recovery
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson: This instant classic is just a few years old, but already highly regarded by birthworkers and parents alike. Telling a bit of her own personal story as well as her experiences working with hundreds of women as a doula and bodyworker, Johnson identifies the core needs of the postpartum time and helps you understand and plan for them.
The First Forty Days by Heng Ou: Part postpartum guide, part cookbook (with the stunning photos to match!) Heng Ou’s book is rooted in the Chinese practice of “sitting the month” (or resting for forty days after birth). It feels nourishing just to flip through this book and learn from the wisdom within—so think how much more it is to actually cook from it!
After Birth by Jessica Hatcher-Moore: This book is focused on physical recovery after birth, but also touches on mental health, relationships, and overall healing. First published in the UK, After Birth won’t be available in the US in hard copy until 2022, but you can still grab a Kindle copy!
Natural Health After Birth by Aviva Romm: This book is definitely on the “alternative” side, if that’s your thing, with lots of recommendations for natural ways to heal and replenish yourself after giving birth. Aviva Romm is now a Yale-trained MD, but this book was written and published when she was a home birth midwife. It’s almost 20 years old, so a few things may be outdated, but there’s still solid advice here.
The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr. Oscar Serrallach: This book, written by an Australian functional medical doctor, taps into why so many birthing parents feel unavoidably exhausted after giving birth, even years after the fact. There is some interesting science in here, delivered with compassion.
Cribsheet by Emily Oster: Though there are a few topics we have slightly different opinions on here, overall this book by Brown University economist Emily Oster offers a useful, concise look at key topics on your own health (including postpartum recovery) and that of your baby. If you love data, this may be a good choice!
Body Full of Stars by Molly Caro May: Raw and untamed, lyrical and honest, May tells the story of her postpartum experience after the birth of her first child, including a nasty birth injury. Her unflinching eye falls on her marriage and relationships, our misogynistic society and culture, and so much more.
Little Labors by Rivka Galchen: In short poetic vignettes, Galchen chronicles her baby’s first year of life with humor and grace.
Second Labor by Chaya Kasse Valier: This book is a compilation of stories from 24 different mothers, sharing their postpartum experiences. The breadth of experiences and perspectives in this book really show how vast life after birth can be.
Early by Sarah DiGregorio: Our founder Mandy recommends this book— part-memoir, part-journalistic narrative on pre-term birth. It is heart-wrenching, expertly and exhaustively researched, and wonderfully written, however difficult some chapters may be. Warning: We recommend this book is not read during pregnancy. It is best suited to those navigating life as a pre-term/NICU parent or those seeking answers from their pre-term birth journey.
Postpartum Mental Health
Breathe Mama Breathe by Shonda Moralis: This was gifted to our digital content manager Carrie in her early postpartum period. It’s a little book that teaches mindful meditations for new parents. Pick it up when you need a minute, and you’ll slowly build skills that can help you long after the fourth trimester is over.
Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman and Molly McIntyre: This friendly and approachable book tackles postpartum depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts in a way that doesn’t guilt, shame, or create stigma.
The Fifth Trimester by Lauren Smith Brody: If the fourth trimester is all about recovery and baby bonding, the fifth trimester is about integrating back into the world—read: work!—as a new parent. Focused on moms, this is a guide to making life work as a working parent. From childcare choices to achieving equity in the household, there’s so much covered here.
The Big Letdown by Kimberly Seals Allers: Longtime writer and breastfeeding advocate Allers takes on so much of what makes breastfeeding difficult in our culture—and looks to a better future—in this detailed book.