Having a baby is a time of big changes. Because I know several soon-to-be new parents, I’ve compiled a few things I learned along the way and my favorite links because I believe every woman has the right to a gentle birth experience.
Every woman, couple, and family is different and needs to find out what works for them. What worked for us may not work for you. The game-changer for us was to have a dream team of midwife, a doula, and a hypnotherapist to guide us through the journey of becoming parents. After hearing about scaring experiences of childbirth and trauma from several friends and colleagues, I wanted to be thoroughly prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically, and I am convinced our holistic preparation enabled us to have our dream birth and a strong bonding experience with our baby that continues to this day.
Our doula helped us do a lot of groundwork. She did an amazing job of informing us about our options, carefully helping us weigh pros and cons of birth center vs. hospital vs. home birth. She encouraged us to visit the places we were considering for giving birth, which in retrospect was one of the best investments of our time. Birth centers and hospitals in Switzerland offer special info events for interested individuals and couples. She educated us on the incredible benefits of skin-to-skin contact with mommy and daddy for bonding. She also wrote up our personal birth story (happy to share it on request) which is wonderful memory to have captured. Our hypnotherapist, for example, helped us get in the mindset as we practiced meditations that we still listen to and recommend to others. Midwife, Cristina Marinello is legendary for a reason; Doula, Mary Kalau — check out her book library list found on her website; Hypnotherapy, Awital Zing-Bollag.
Your midwife and doula will be able to guide you. Here are some of our favorites. Please note that in an effort to promote brick and mortar bookstores, I often times link to Osiander, a German chain of bookstores that I came to appreciate when I studied in Tübingen where it originates.
Nicola Schmidt, Artgerecht — This book was particularly eye opening for me. In an inviting, undogmatic way it questions “Western” ways of childrearing and offers way to strongly bond with your baby leaning on the philosophy of attachment parenting. Through it we learned and adopted co-sleeping (no sleep training), babywearing (see a consultant for correct carrying!), elimination communication, baby-led weaning, and so much more. Anyone who meets our daughter comments how calm and content she is and I strongly believe it is a result of our needs based approach to her care. But again, what worked for us may not work for you and that’s okay. There’s no right or wrong.
In conversation my neighbor told me that her son was crying a lot when he was a baby and that she thinks it was because he was hungry. She was told to feed him in 3 hour intervals so that’s what she did. Imagine she had just followed her intuition and fed him when he cried! The best books on parenting will encourage you to trust your intuition because you know best what your little one needs.
Without further ado, here are my highly recommended favorites:
- Any book by Ina May Gaskin, we especially loved the birth stories in Spiritual Midwifery and would alternate reading aloud at least one story every evening before either listening to the birth meditation we received from our hypnotherapist or turning off the lights to sleep.
- Heng Ou, The First Forty Days, also available in German — I so enjoyed reading this book. We made some of the recipes but for me they were secondary. Recipe recommendations: homemade plum tea and ceremonial hot chocolate.
- Kimbely Ann Johnson, The Fourth Trimester
- Erica Chidi Cohen. Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood-and Trusting Yourself and Your Body
- Harvey Karp, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer
- Frans X. Plooij; Hetty PhD van de Rijt, The Wonder Weeks (also available as app, we used the app) & My Wonder Weeks Diary — I love the diary (book) highly recommend it!
- Andrea Olson, Go Diaper Free: A Simple Handbook for Elimination Communication — since our daughter was 3 months old she’s been using her potty. Not every time but it’s exciting every time she does 🙂
- Books by Carlos González, Kiss Me: How to Raise Your Children With Love
In Germany there are two independent publications that do rigorous testing of products including baby foods, toys, gadgets and so on. Shockingly, despite the EU having much tighter restrictions than the US when it comes to environmental safety, these tests routinely uncover concerning amounts of toxins in toys, food and everything else in the products on the German market. Many manufacturers have had to recall or rework their products as a result.
If you’re not sure your baby toy is safe, there are a few things to watch out for. For example, if you’ve watched the film Plastic Planet, you know to stay away from plastic. IKEA (non-plastic) toys surprisingly do well in testing.
- IKEA Klippa soft book
- Honeysticks Pure Beeswax Crayons for Toddlers 100% Natural Non-Toxic Ingredients Food Pigments Safe for Kids and Toddlers
Other brands that usually do well in testing are Steiff, Haba, Hape
Great Finds — Books for Babies and Toddlers:
- Ruth Austin, So Many Cuddles — this book is one of our all-time favorites because it features the story of a brown girl and her cat and dog. This is how a child builds autonomy. Children’s book are still homogenous and it is time representation becomes more diverse and inclusive. The book also thematizes that cuddles are not always welcome and that is okay.
Manymonths — one of our favorite brands because the clothes grow with your child. The eco-hempies are amazing. And don’t miss the ManyMonths Bodysuit Extender and Natural Woollies Elephant Hood. For moms check out MaM Woollies MultiTube and Shoeps Elastic No-Tie Shoe Laces through ManyMonths here.
From time to time I see parents wearing their babies facing forward (often manduca, ergobaby). This is not ergonomic for your baby! I love babywearing and highly recommend a babywearing consultation to make sure you are wearing your bundle of joy appropriately. Miriam Sourlier, Gut Betucht, Dübendorfstrasse 217, 8051 Zürich, is a great resource for babywearing, she does consultations, can recommend gear, and can recommend consultants in your area if you’re in CH.
Our favorite carriers are LueMai, JonoBaby, and Old Town.
Winter essentials for babywearing:
- BabyBay baby bed
- Joie Litetrax Air 4 stroller — rated among the highest in German testing, while among the cheapest options (we didn’t use the stroller until Ella was 1 1/2 years old because wearing her worked like a charm for mama and baby 🙂
- Cybex baby car child seat — again rated among the highest in German testing, while among the cheapest options
- ManyMonths Magic Potty Sticker & IKEA baby potty
- Babyborn Bouncer
- Toniebox — Ella loves her toniebox. It’s playing the background as I type this.
Other books I enjoyed reading while pregnant: