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We want to be prepare for our 9 months period as a couple and be sure to give a proper environment for our baby. What should we read before and during the 9 month period?

Please note: answers should contain general guidelines for selecting books, and should not be simple recommendations of "here's our favorite book or books".

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You should quit reading and get some sleep. That's the last sleep you'll have for the next couple of years <g> –  DVK Feb 19 '12 at 19:15
    
I think this question is valid as-is, but to those answering: please do not turn this into a list question. If we continue to receive answers of "here is my favorite book", we will have to close the question. Instead, please answer with general guidelines for the types of information that would be most useful to newly expecting parents. –  Beofett Feb 20 '12 at 13:41
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8 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted
+50
  1. Pregnancy
    • week by week development of the baby
    • nutrition
    • what mom is experiencing through each phase of pregnancy
  2. Labor and Delivery
    • how to recognize the onset of labor
    • how labor progresses until delivery under normal circumstances
    • interventions that may be necessary and their alternatives and pros and cons of each
    • strategies for avoiding unnecessary c-sections/when it is needed
    • pain coping strategies (both the medicated and non-medicated kind. Regardless of what you think you will want, knowing all the options and their pros and cons can help you build a birth plan you're happy with and avoid unnecessary side effects that could slow down labor or otherwise cause a cascade of interventions)
    • complications that could arise
  3. Breastfeeding
    • How to (unless you are 100% certain you are going to exclusively formula feed, it is extremely helpful to read about how to breastfeed prior to delivery. It is one of the first things the mom will want to do after delivering, and your hospital or birth center may or may not have helpful nurses who are able to teach you how available in the recovery room. Even the support I received at a supposedly breast-feeding friendly hospital would have been completely inadequate had I not read and watched videos about how to in order to educate myself)
    • Changes in mom's body: transition from colostrum to milk coming in
    • Coping strategies to reduce and prevent pain caused by temporary engorgement (compresses, hand-expression, etc)
    • Signs of improper latch
  4. Baby Care
    • If it's a boy: circumcision (will you or won't you? & after-care if so)
    • How to bathe a newborn
    • How to keep the baby warm or cool depending on your climate and time of year.
    • Recovery and healing of the umbilical stump
    • Routine care like dressing baby, feeding baby, bathing baby
    • immunizations...the first one is often given at the hospital, so if you are at all thinking you might be in the anti-vaccine camp, you might want to read up on pros and cons and be ready to make an informed decision on the spot)
    • medications (eg: baby tylenol) and other remedies or devices (eg: humidifier) used to treat common baby illnesses and conditions (colds, teething, etc) You may not need to memorize all this yet, but knowing where to reference it when you have a specific condition will save you a lot of time and stress
    • dosage charts for common baby and child medicines (there's some crazy laws, with good intentions, that certain age groups be listed on the boxes as 'consult a doctor' which is not so helpful at 4am when you realize you forgot to write down the dose the doctor said or need to administer benadryl asap because your child's mouth is swelling up)
    • SIDS (risk factors)
    • pros and cons of back sleeping vs stomach sleeping (effect on crawling, sids, etc)
  5. Hospital policies and procedures
    • this may not be a book (depending on your hospital) but it's very important to know what their policies are that are relevant, and which options are available/not available (eg: at the hospital I delivered at, once you get an epidural you had to stay in bed the remainder of the delivery), so read up on your hospital! If you are deciding between hospitals or birth centers, all the more reason to read up!
  6. How to select a pediatrician
  7. Baby Gear
    • What stuff do you "really" need?
    • Safety considerations
    • Cribs and crib safety (and establish your position on whether or not you will use controversial items like bumpers, co-sleeping vs crib, etc)
    • Car-seats (and definitely get an appointment to get a trained car-seat inspector check your installation pre-baby, unless you're planning on taking 40 hours of classes to get as much knowledge as they have) and the car-seat accessories that are not approved by carseat manufacturers for safety reasons
    • Creating a baby-registry (even if you don't have a shower, you may still want the coupons to "finish off your registry" when the baby arrives)
  8. Baby Development
    • what kinds of skills do babies gain in the early months
    • what kinds of toys or entertainment are age-appropriate/useful/fun to have around
    • beginning solid foods (not until at least 4-6 months old, however). I'd consider this optional pre-reading in case you want to decide ahead of time whether you want equipment like baby-food grinders on your registry or whether you want to take more of a wait and see approach, either way, selecting a good book on the topic while you have the luxury of time may be helpful down the road when you get there. But less urgent than the newborn stuff.
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Impressive list! Many of the bullets are (or can become!) useful questions on this site, so be sure to search the site to see more. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 23 '12 at 21:31
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Also: "trained car-seat inspector" and "40 hours of classes" - what planet is that? I find it very easy to install a car-seat... and we regularly move it to another car, so we can't rely on officials to inspect it all the time. Read the manual, look at the pictures, follow the instructions, end of story? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 23 '12 at 21:34
    
@Torben apparently enough people either find the car seats confusing, or just don't RTM, that seeing new fathers fumbling for more than a half hour in the hospital parking lot is fairly common, as are improperly installed seats. Where we live, at least, car seat inspections are free, and provide additional advice (such as don't get the mirrors or side window shades as they can come loose in an accident and become projectiles). –  Beofett Feb 24 '12 at 0:56
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+1. I would add though: -- Mother care after delivering. -- gymnastics diet and way of life during pregnancy and after delivering. –  Gangnus Feb 24 '12 at 11:09
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - statistics show that about 70% or so of people install their car seats improperly. Now we installed ours then had it inspected and "improperly" meant that the infant seat itself at about a 40 degree angle instead of a 45 degree angle, so the definition of "improper" is probably pretty broad. Also once they show you the trick to installing it (ex: use a folded piece of paper to check your angle even if you are parked on a slope, use a locking clip to hold the seatbelt in place on an older car), you don't need that again. –  justkt Feb 24 '12 at 15:05
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In terms of what I think it is helpful to know as someone expecting a child any day now:

  1. Do not, I repeat do not, try to know everything there is to know. I go into pretty much any endeavor by researching about it - I'm an engineer, it's just how I get comfortable. With pregnancy that was just about the worst thing I could have done. Most of the information I found focused on the worst-case scenario, the 1 in 1,000 or lower chance that this twinge or that ache signaled a major problem. Imagine going around all the time worrying about that as an expecting mom or dad. It just adds to your stress which is, you guessed it, bad for the baby.
  2. Instead would recommend a fairly lighthearted, internet-based week-by-week overview of pregnancy, such as Alphamom's Pregnancy Calendar or BabyCenter. These sites do have bulleted reminders of when to call your practitioner. Even these can be somewhat confusing, but I found less so than the stress-inducing books.
  3. Do figure out in advance what kind of birth you and your partner wants. Read up, from evidence-based medicine sources with as little bias as possible on medical interventions in labor, midwives versus OBs (if your country offers a choice of one or the other), etc. You will want to ask any prospective practitioners a slew of questions about the care they provide during labor and delivery based on this, and it is best to know in advance if you have strong questions.
  4. Related to number 2, pick a practitioner you can trust who communicates with you. If you do that it means that you won't feel the need to research so much that you fall into the scare-spiral described in number 1 because you can just ask your practitioner. So make sure you know what you need to know about attitudes towards care of pregnant women. Ask other couples who have recently given birth that you trust who their practitioner was and if they liked him or her.
  5. Since it doesn't sound like conception has occurred yet, you may want to consult a good resource on conceiving. Many people are misinformed about it. Knowing how a woman's body works greatly increases your chances.
  6. Do read up on how to save on baby gear and what baby gear is and isn't necessary. There are both books and websites for this. There are several good questions on this site too. Examples:
    Is an expensive stroller worth it?
    Can we afford to have a baby?
  7. When it comes time you can either read a newborn care book or in many cases take a class if you prefer to learn a bit more hands on how to bath, change, clothe, and feed a baby.
  8. Talk to friends and relatives with very young children; they are the most likely people to have a somewhat accurate memory of the time you're facing. People with older kids tend to have fuzzier and distorted memories so their advice might not be very useful (possibly even outdated or plain wrong).

Optional good-to-reads:

  1. A book on newborn sleep habits (what is normal for a newborn, not what parents want to be normal, which is a different thing altogether) written by a pediatrician or sleep development expert that helps you prepare for the realities of newborn and infant sleep. You may want to try two books that offer opposing solutions for "sleep training" to figure out what your preferred style is.
  2. Books on comforting infants. There are a slew on the market, find out what worked for your parent friends.
  3. General parenting philosophy books, especially if you have a particular religious or philosophical background from which you want to parent you may find it useful to find books that teach you how to teach the values you find important to your child.
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A rather standard answer is "What to expect when you're expecting" book. It has a breakdown of how things tend to progress month-to-month, and, well, what to expect :)

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Personally, I found it less good than I expected based on its popularity. I was annoyed by the author's constant attempts to cheer up or calm down the reader, as I wasn't in particular need of either. I was extremely information-hungry, and in a scientific kind of way. I do understand that many people are happy with it though. –  Ana Feb 19 '12 at 22:26
    
@ana - most people DO need to calm down, even Vulcans :) –  DVK Feb 19 '12 at 23:17
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True, but: "Calm down" worked much less on me than giving me accurate information :) At some point the book raised the question whether pollution is bad for the baby. The answer was (paraphrasing): "Calm down! Millions of healthy babies get born in cities". While calming down has its merits, if pollution is in fact bad (answering the question was kind of evaded), spending weekends in the countryside may have more merits in this case. That's where I closed the book and left the rest unread. But most people find that I pick too manu nits anyway... –  Ana Feb 20 '12 at 9:06
    
@Ana - may be you personally are qualified to read and understand through a meta-study covering exact effects of pollution, measuring specific chemical concentrations in your individual neighbourhood of your specific city and comparing the results to studies covering just that. I don't think it's fair to expect a generic book to get into that level of detail - and any book that does a LESSER level of detail is idiotic pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo pushing a political agenda. Generic "pollution" doesn't exist. There exist specific levels of specific pollutants w/ specific effects on a fetus –  DVK Feb 20 '12 at 12:21
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I think accurate information doesn't have to be difficult to comprehend or transmit. For example, I think advice such as: "Most babies are born perfectly healthy, but your baby may be even healthier if you spend time in fresh air", is accurate while not going into too much detail. I also wasn't happy that the book listed some (placebo) bracelets as a possible aid for nausea. It just has too strong a stress on soothing people relative to accurracy - for my taste. –  Ana Feb 20 '12 at 12:51
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DVK's answer is good. Between books I bought, borrowed, and were brought home by my partner from the 2nd hand store, I liked the Mayo Clinic book the best for an even-handed, good overall discussion of various medical (physical and emotional) issues, and month-by-month descriptions of what's happening.

Personally, I tend to fall on the medical/technical side, so some books that struck me as having a more strident or dismissive tone about certain choices just turned me off.

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I was very happy with this website. You can enter your due date, and they will send you weekly updates by e-mail. It was very accurate in my case.

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First and foremost you and your partner need to identify what styles of learning work best for you. Do you prefer in-depth technical details? Do chatty, personable writing styles make it easier for you to absorb information? You may find that you and your partner will be best served by having completely different styles of resources available to each of you, to best accommodate your individual learning preferences.

Once you've identified your preferred styles of books, start shopping. I find there are three main categories of "expecting" books:

  • "Popular" style books geared towards making the material as accessible and unintimidating as possible.
  • "Medical Expert" style books geared towards presenting as much authoritative, technical information as possible (despite the "authoritative medical" focus, there are many of these that still remain relatively readable, for example: the American Academy of Pediatrics provides good information without relying too much on technical jargon).
  • "Specialty" topics are books that focus on one specific aspect of pregnancy or early childhood. These could cover anything from specific medical conditions to the challenges single parents may face, and everything in between.

Whether you go "popular" or "medical expert" depends on your preferences, but I would recommend getting at least one "medical expert" book to have as a reference manual, even if you don't plan on reading it cover-to-cover. While the authors of What to Expect When You're Expecting have a lot of good experience, I'd rather trust actual pediatricians for detailed medical advice.

I would also recommend getting books that cover pregnancy, and books that cover the first year of the baby's life. Most books fall into one or the other category, although some may cover both in sufficient detail. Once the baby arrives, you will not have much time for leisurely reading, so it is best to read ahead while you still can!

For both pregnancy and first year topics, I found a breakdown by age category to be the most useful format. Since development changes so significantly both during pregnancy and during the first year, a breakdown of each month, or period of 2-3 months, is very handy, particularly if it includes a list of milestones.

So, to summarize:

  • Identify the appropriate style for you and your partner.
  • Get books that cover both pregnancy and the first year of the baby's life.
  • Choose books that have the appropriate "voice" for you and your partner.
  • Select at least one "medical reference" book.
  • Look for breakdowns of developmental periods, preferably with milestones.
  • Pick up books on any "specialty" topics that you feel might be applicable/interesting.
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I will say that contrary to the ACOG book on pregnancy, which is intensely intimidating, the AAP book I read on newborn care was funny, engaging, helpful, and informative without being scary. –  justkt Feb 20 '12 at 14:06
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I'll be the contrarian: read romance novels. Or mysteries. Or whatever type of novels you enjoy reading. You're not going to get a whole lot of reading time once the baby comes.

As for reading parenting books, my opinion is that they are a lot like dieting books. You can glean useful stuff from them, but in the end, it's mostly common sense that you likely already have whether you know it or not, and the items that aren't common sense tend to be highly divisive in terms of opinions out there and reading too many 'experts' seems to only cast doubts upon your own abilities as a parent.

I always say, if you're asking a question like this, you are already on the right path to being a decent parent. Your intuition and instincts are going to be more powerful than you maybe realize.

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The two books we've found most useful, one for during, the other for after, are Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke and Baby Love by Robin Barker. Both have an Australian bent to them (such as whenever laws or government guidelines are mentioned) but the advice is universal.

Cooke's book is irreverent and funny but is full of lots of useful advice and is organised in a week by week basis. We used it as a complement to a large number of other non-descript, worthy books we borrowed from the library that got us through the pregnancy.

Barker's book is considered a bible down under. It covers just about everything for the first year of your child's life. It doesn't preach nor is judgemental but gives simple, plain advice, offering alternatives with pros and cons to the differents decisions a parent has to make (such as where baby will sleep for the first few months: in bed, in same room, in different room as parents...) as well as reassuring advice on things like rashes, constant crying, cluster feeding, etc. etc. It can be read cover to cover but we've used it more as a reference guide as it has a good index.

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