Book Reviews

By clicking on the picture of the book, you will be brought to where you can read additional reviews and purchase the book.

Penny Simkin, PT, CD

Penny is one of the most loving and supportive women I know. I’m fortunate enough to have attended several lectures and classes that she has taught. I am grateful to her for providing me with the topic for my senior paper for midwifery school, (Can a Traumatic Birth Lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?) and for her editing and moral support. Penny has been a childbirth educator since 1968. She is one of the founders of Doulas of North America (DONA). For many, many years she has taught the sibling preperation class that I have based my class on.

The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth
This is an excellent resource for partners, doulas, labor and delivery nurses, grandmothers or anyone who will be present during labor. The Birth Partner gives the reader knowledge and skill to feel confident and calm while supporting a laboring woman. Penny describes comfort measures for labor, the normal progress of labor, possible complications, obstetric interventions and their alternatives, pros and cons of various pain medications, how to take charge when the mother is in despair and helpful advice for caring for a mother postpartum. Being present during a birth is truly a gift. Reading The Birth Partner is one way to show your gratitude for being present during this miraculous event.

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the NewbornPregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn
This book is clearly organized and easy to read. It includes information on what to expect during pregnancy and birth and how to work with your care providers to get the experience you want. Topics include pregnancy and prenatal care, nutrition during pregnancy, comfort measures during pregnancy, preparing for childbirth, labor and birth, labor variations, complications and interventions, cesarean birth, VBAC, postpartum expectations and care and preparing other children for birth and the baby.


The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin, PT, CDThe Labor Progress Book
This is an excellent reference for doulas, midwives, physicians, childbirth educators and nurses. It is designed to be used as a quick reference with strategies to maintain normal labor progress. It provides evidence-based strategies when scientific evidence exists and is based on the clinical experience of caregivers. Penny includes rationales for all techniques and provides numerous clear illustrations. When I worked as a doula, this book lived in my birth bag. I’m never at a labor without it. On more then one occasion I have had a nurse comment that I never seem to run out of ideas on how to support a laboring woman! Thanks Penny!


Ina May Gaskin

Ina May Gaskin is a founding member and past president of the Midwives Alliance of North America. She is also the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center, located near Summertown, Tennessee. She has lectured all over the world at midwifery conferences and at medical schools, both to students and to faculty. The Farm is noted for its low rates of intervention, morbidity and mortality. In 2011, Ina May received Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

This is an empowering, upbeat and informative book on natural childbirth. The book provides numerous first person narratives from the author’s clients and anecdotes from colleagues. Ina May draws on how women of ancient civilizations and some modern cultures birth, and she shares how the experience can be a beautiful event and not a dreaded, painful one. The second half of the book leads the reader through the birthing process and explains why modern medical birthing procedures are not focused on the mother’s health and needs but are often established for the convenience of the medical establishment. She shares valuable insight about how to avoid many of these procedures (epidurals, amniocentesis, fetal monitoring, pitocin, forceps, and vacuum extractors). Numerous examples from historical texts and anthropological research support her claims. The book also features a glossary, a detailed resource list including advocacy groups and Web sites, and a bibliography. Whether you are giving birth at home, in a birth center or in a hospital there is something for everyone in this book.

Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding

This book has lots of very useful and practical information and supportive sentiments for the mother to be, breastfeeding mother, and the birth professional. A whole range of breastfeeding topics are discussed in this book including; breastfeeding basics, sleeping arrangements, nursing multiples, tandem nursing, what to do when babies get sick, weaning, nipple-phobia and creating a breastfeeding culture. Ina May has included numerous tips throughout the book and the appendices and resources are extremely helpful.

Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta

This is an upbeat and informative discussion of current issues related to women’s health and birthing. Numerous aspects of women’s choices regarding birth options are discussed in a factual and succinct manner. Ina May asserts that the road to motherhood is a women’s rights issue. Her forty years of practice, collaboration with the medical community and teaching are evident in her writing and insight. To me, one of the most interesting procedures she discusses is breast augmentation and its implications. Ina May gently prods women to consider the impact of their personal choices as they relate to their babies.


Spiritual Midwifery

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May GaskinThis is the book that started my journey into birth. It was 1992 and I was working in the field of Family Planning. This really far-out titled book with a cool looking cover caught my eye. I hadn’t given any thought to midwifery but had witnesses a few births while in the Peace Corps in Morocco. I digested this book so quickly that my mind and soul caught on fire with a passion for midwifery. The book, originally written in the early 1970′s, is a valuable historical document of American “Hippy” life. It details many peaceful, spiritual births experienced by couples traveling in a caravan of remodeled school buses from California to Tennessee. The group of 300 settled in Summertown, TN and started “The Farm,” an intentional spiritual community. The Farm has since become an invaluable resource to Midwifery as they have kept detailed statistics through out the years. Spiritual Midwifery contains beautiful black and white photographs of pregnant, laboring and birthing women and their partners. The dated language like “psychedelic,” “rushes” (contractions), and “puss” add to the realistic liveliness of the empowering birth stories. This book truly honors women, their ability to birth and midwifery.

Sandra Steingraber, PhD

Having Faith

This is not only a must read for any childbirth professional, it’s a must have. You will want to loan this to your clients and your friends. If you aren’t a childbirth professional, considering giving this as a gift to your midwife, doula or doctor. As a poet and a scientist, Sandra writes with passion and insight. She shares intimate details about her pregnancy, the birth of her daughter, Faith, their breastfeeding relationship and how our no-way-to-be-avoided toxic environment impacts this most sensitive period of development for children (and mothers). I thought I knew a fair amount about embryology and fetal development. I studied it in midwifery school and throughout the years I answered questions from clients and friends but Having Faith taught me much more. In particular, how the environment impacts our developing and nursing children, who are actually at the top of the food chain, higher than us. Sandra’s wry humor blends beautifully with what is sometimes dry science. This book full of numerous, helpful (and appreciated) citations and references yet it reads like a novel.

Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crises

Sandra Steingraber has given us another gift. I think it’s fair to say that Raising Elijah is a very important parenting book that should be read by everyone. It is also another example of Sandra’s ability and skill as a scientist and as a mother of two children, to bridge the scientific and lay communities through her writing. Sandra continues to help us understand complex environmental problems and their impact. The book is thoroughly researched and written in engaging, beautiful prose. I plan on giving this book to my health care providers, elected officials and friends and invite others to do the same.


The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing at Home

Jane Drichta, Jodilyn Owen, and Christiane Northrup, MD

I can’t review this book yet because it isn’t available until February, 2013 but you can pre-order now at a reduced price. Given the authors, their knowledge and experiences, I’m sure it’s going to be great!






Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper

book_gentle_birth_choicesCan’t get your partner to read anything about birthing? This DVD can help with its beautiful footage of natural, normal birth specifically water birth. I have found the DVD to be an excellent resource for educating groups of people about the safety of midwifery and water birth. The DVD includes a VBAC birth, a woman over forty, and the presence of children and other family members. I encourage all my clients to watch this DVD to help them visualize a normal and empowering birth. This book and DVD are so popular they are rarely on my library shelf.



Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones

Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones Carl Jones, a childbirth educator, tells how using mental imagery can help reduce the pain of labor by controlling the fear before hand. Carl presents eight easy to follow steps to teach your mind to cooperate with your body and help make childbirth less stressful and more natural. This short, easy to read book is great for the end of pregnancy when trying to synthesize everything you’ve learned.




Birth as an American Rite of Passage, Robbie Davis Floyd

Birth as an American Rite of PassageRobbie Davis-Floyd is a cultural anthropologist specializing in medical and symbolic anthropology and gender studies. She teaches at the University of Texas. She was the Keynote speaker at my graduation from Midwifery School. Her information, slides and stories kept the audience of mainly family and friends of Midwifery students in awe. I felt like the whole room finally “got it” and said, “Oh, this is why all of you are doing this and it is REALLY important!”

Robbie’s insight to the rituals of the modern hospital is eye opening and extremely informative. She opens the readers’ mind to the standardized routines of technocratic childbirth that can be insensitive, unnecessary, and unhealthy. Robbie argues that these obstetrical procedures are rituals that reflect a cultural belief in the superiority of science over nature. Her interviews with 100 mothers and many health care professionals reveal in detail both the trauma and the satisfaction women derive from childbirth. She also calls for greater cultural and medical tolerance of women who choose to birth outside the hospital.

Sheila Kitzinger

book_homebirth_essential_guideSheila Kitzinger is one of the World’s foremost authorities on women’s experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. She is a social anthropologist who has studied birth practices in many different countries. She lectures and writes on the social and psychological dimensions of birth, parenthood, and female sexuality.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. The most inspiring thing for me in this book are the compelling photographs. They were the impetus for my birth photography. I can’t describe the book any better then what the jacket cover states: “With honesty and vision, Sheila Kitzinger gives the reader all the information she will need to plan a birth in a setting that she can control -whether at home or in a birthing center. Kitzinger evaluates the risks of home birth, puts them into perspective, and then carefully analyzes the many benefits of planned out of hospital birth.”

This was given to me by my client, Winnie who wrote, “…..reading this book gave me the confidence and knowledge to make a choice to have a home birth. May others have the choice.”

Other Books by Sheila Kitzinger that I like: The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth; Your Baby, Your Way; Birth Over Thirty; Woman’s Experience of Sex.


Henci Goer

Henci specializes in birth issues and has written consumer education pamphlets and numerous articles for magazines. For nearly 20 years, Goer has been a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator and doula.

Obstetric Myths Versus Research RealitiesObstetric Myths and Research Realities
I searched for this book for months and could not locate a paperback copy. Amazon only has the hard copy at an outrageous price. When I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Henci in 1999, after A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth came out, she told me, “Why do you want OB Myths? All the same information is in this new book.” So I bought the new book (see review below). “OB Myths” is a great resource for childbirth professionals. A thinking Woman’s Guide is geared more toward the birthing mother. I would still LOVE a copy of “OB Myths” and if you can get your hands on it, READ IT!

A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth
Both of the above listed books can help improve the childbearing experience and help women avoid unnecessary intervention. She analyzes obstetric research, explains it so a non-medical person can understand it and summarizes its findings. She then makes practical and logical recommendations. Henci helps you put the power of research in your hands to make informed decisions for your body and baby.



Immaculate Deception II Myth, Magic and Birth, Suzanne Arms

Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and BirthThis is an excellent follow-up to the first. Suzanne helps us understand that women are powerful and fully able to give birth. She reminds us that we often see pregnancy as a medical condition and labor as a medical procedure because of historical reasons and present economic/cultural ones. She clarifies the myths, affirms the magic and provides us with the knowledge that there are options for birth. She intertwines personal experiences with medical facts. The book will make you angry, motivate you to affect change and embrace informed choice. I feel this is a must read for pregnant women and anyone with a health care occupation.



Marshal Klaus, MD

Your Amazing NewbornDr. Klaus is an internationally known neonatologist and researcher. His devotion and research has helped make birth more humane, more natural and better for babies. He is one of the founders of Doulas of North America (DONA) and much of his research has focused on the role and benefits of labor support and the importance of bonding. He has authored or co-authored numerous books.

Your Amazing Newborn
Illustrates the valuable new findings of research on newborns. The photographs beautifully detail the bonding between infants and parents. Klaus shares new discoveries about the five senses, the adaptation of adopted newborns and the early attachment of parents to their baby. This book explains the research and gives reason for hospitals to change many of their neonatal policies.

Bonding: Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence
The research of Dr. Klaus and his co-author, Dr. Kennell has made an universal impact. This book documents their pioneering research with parents who remained alert during birth and who were able to hold, cuddle and breastfeed their newborn immediately postpartum. The implications of this research changed the role of parents during birth from passive to active participant. This book not only facilitates the attachment of parents to their newborns but also helps parents feel more confident in their roles. As with all of Klaus’s books, I recommend this for doulas and others who provide prenatal support to women.

Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth
Honestly, the title says it all. This indispensable book is filled with compelling statistics. Also discussed: the role of the father (a doula does not replace the father/partner), the benefits of doula support, enhancing the birth experience and how to find and choose a doula.




Birthing From Within, Pam England, CNM, MA & Rob Horowitz, PhD

Birthing from Within

Kim and Pam England at the 2001 Regional Childbirth Educators Conference, Tacoma, WA.

Want to enhance the physiological information of your traditional childbirth class? Looking for “deeper knowledge”? This book is it. Written by a midwife, Birthing From Within honors the power and mystery of birth by creating a multi-sensory, holistic approach to childbirth education. Pam starts off by helping the reader to empty her mind and connect with other women. Other chapters address preparing your birth place, being powerful in birth, fathers and birth companions, birthing through pain and parenthood. Pam boldly presents a variety of forms of birth art. She states, “My work with pregnant women has shown me that giving creative expression to secret hopes and dark fears is a vital part of childbirth education. Daring to express oneself through painting, sculpting or poetry is a way a mother or father boldly says, “I made this, it’s about what I know, what I feel as a mother or father. This is me.” This self expression, and acknowledgement and validation infuses mothers and fathers with new confidence and strength.”

The Birthing From Within website:

After The Baby’s Birth… A Woman’s Way to Wellness, Robin Lim

After the Baby's Birth...A Woman's Way to Wellness: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women, Robin LimContains essential information on how to care for yourself and your baby in the weeks and months following birth. Robin’s guidance and focus on natural and wholesome practices help to enhance this special and important time. She gives useful advice on nurturing yourself, breastfeeding, the role of the father, and nutrition. I love to loan this book to clients who have their mother or mother-in-law visiting postpartum. It gently explains that women need attention and care post-partum suggestion that your mother take care of you so you can better take care of your baby.

Robin, a mother of four, writes from her experience of what women need to know. She integrates Ayurvedic healing, showing us what another philosophic system has to offer. I appreciate chapter 12, “Making Friends with Food”. The recipe for my favorite thing to cook women postpartum, Ginger Tea Cake, comes from this book.



Books by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN

William and Martha have counseled thousands of parents with wisdom from having raised eight children. Their books affirm what you already know; you are the expert on your baby. They promote attachment parenting including wearing your baby and explain why breastfeeding and the “family bed” are healthful and natural. Their books also do an excellent job of explaining how Attachment Parenting includes fathers and why parents needn’t fear “spoiling” a baby. William Sears, MD is a pediatrician and faculty member at the University of Southern California. Martha Sears, RN is a childbirth educator, breastfeeding consultant, La Leche League Leader and labor support provider.

The Baby Book by William Sears
The Baby Book
A thorough reference for what Attachment Parenting means, how to have a good birth, preparing for baby, bonding, postpartum adjustments, common concerns, breastfeeding, baby wearing, how to get your baby to sleep, parenting the “fussy” baby, infant and toddler development and behavior, baby proofing and First Aid. I especially like the excellent “how-to” sketches and explanations as to why babies benefit from this being “worn.” If people ask me what ONE book I recommend to new parents, this is it!

Other books by William and Martha Sears that I like: The Pregnancy Book, The Birth Book, Nighttime Parenting, The Fussy Baby Book, Keys to Breastfeeding.

Books by Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS

Kathleen is a certified lactation consultant and directs a breastfeeding clinic in San Luis Obispo, California.

The Nursing Mother's Companion Kathleen HugginsThe Nursing Mother’s Companion is a great breastfeeding book that covers more then just the basics. Kathleen address common concerns of new mother’s including; how to tell if a baby is getting enough milk, positioning of a baby, preventing and healing sore nipples, increasing milk supply, working and nursing and choosing a breastpump. The book goes a step beyond the basics by discussing special circumstances such as breastfeeding a premature baby or a baby with a cleft lip and how to breastfeed the adopted baby. Also included is a valuable appendix listing common drugs and their safety during breastfeeding.

The Nursing Mother's Guide to WeaningThe Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning This title put me off for the longest time. Why would I want to encourage a mother to wean a baby? However, I really liked The Nursing Mother’s Companion (see above) and I know Kathleen is a well respected Lactation Consultant and lecturer. When I picked up the book and saw that William and Martha Sears wrote the foreword and Penny Simkin endorses the book, I knew it had to be good. When I saw that the chapters of the book were broken into categories of: “Weaning Before Four Months,” “Weaning Your Four to Twelve Month Old,” “Weaning Your One or Two Year Old” and “Weaning Your Child over Three,” I knew that the book contained valuable advice in support of a mother breastfeeding as long as possible. Kathleen does a great job of gently addressing real-life situations including unresolved breastfeeding difficulties, returning to work, business trips, hospitalization, jealous mate, medications, fatigue and interrupted sleep and nursing strikes. There are benefits for mom and baby to gentle and gradual weaning. This book taught me that “weaning” isn’t the dirty little word I thought it was.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Packed full of easy to read and understand information, I think this is a must have for anyone who plans to breastfeed. La Leche League has been providing support and information to mothers for more than 60 years. In addition to owning this book, I encourage all mothers-to-be and all breastfeeding mothers to attend a La Leche League meeting or other breastfeeding support group.




The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers

Jack Newman, MD and Teresa Pitman, IBCLC

A valuable and practical resource for mothers and childbirth professionals. A variety of information is discussed including some historical perspective, the risks associated with formula, basic how-to’s and troubleshooting of common problems, cultural influences, medication and nursing, and hospitals’ lack of information about breastfeeding. I appreciate Jack’s discussion of social issues related to breastfeeding and in particular, the role of pharmaceutical companies and their evil marketing practices. Many breastfeeding myths are addressed. Breastfeeding is a babies birth right and all women deserve to be supported in their breastfeeding journey.



Welcome with Love by Jenni Overend

Many of my clients have used this book to either tell their other children about the pregnancy or to help prepare them for the birth. The words and beautiful illustrations lovingly tell the story of the birth of the fourth child through the eyes of the third. Birth, breastfeeding and co-sleeping are depicted as normal. The language and illustrations are very appropriate for a young child.





The VBAC Companion: The Expectant Mother’s Guide to Vaginal Birth After Cesarean by Diana Korte

The pros and cons of VBAC delivery and repeat cesarean birth are clearly laid out in this informative book. You will get the information you need to help assure a satisfying birth experience. Diana addresses common fears such as long labors and uterine rupture. She explains how to negotiate with doctors, hospitals and insurers. Diana shares many true-life stories of women who have chosen and accomplished vaginal birth after cesarean.

During my senior year of midwifery school, I was working with a midwife who was sent a letter from Diana. The letter shared information about the book in progress and requested VBAC stories. I contacted a few of our clients who in turn, submitted their birth stories. Several of these women are quoted in this book.



Rebounding From Childbirth, Toward Emotional Recovery, Lynn Madsen, Ph.D

Rebounding From ChildbirthLynn draws on her own life experience as a professional counselor and mother of three to explain how a traumatic childbirth can force a woman to suddenly spiral into despair. She emphasizes that trauma is defined only by the woman experiencing it. Others may not think a birth is traumatic if the baby is healthy. This in itself causes women to feel isolated and the mother’s feelings of anger, grief, failure and disappointment often get scant attention from family, friends and caregivers. Lynn argues that a woman should not underestimate her own need to recover emotionally and physiologically from a violent birth experience. She helps the reader to focuses on her feelings about the birth by providing thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter.

I love this book. It is an invaluable tool for my work as a doula. Many clients who come to me have had previous traumatic birth experiences. This is one of the first books I loan them. I periodically check in with clients as they are reading it to see what feelings, thoughts, ideas, etc. have come up for them. I especially appreciate chapter 9, “Creative Tools for Recovery”. This chapter contains so much more then the over-used albeit sometimes valuable tool of journal writing. Lynn gives value to dreams and dream work. She encourages telling the birth story to the baby, acknowledging anniversaries, and creating ceremonies. I especially appreciate how she ends the book by discussing the healing power of Affirmations. After reading this book one client wrote, “Thanks so much for lending me this book—it was very interesting and very helpful.”

The Continuum Concept, In Search of Happiness Lost, Jean Liedloff

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness LostThis book affirms the benefits of attachment parenting and natural, normal birth by looking at gestation, birth and childhood from a social and anthropological perspective. Jean draws on her experience of living in the jungles of South America and studying native people. She states, “I would be ashamed to admit to the Indians that where I come from the women do not feel themselves capable of raising children until they read the instructions written in a book by a strange man.” While I’ve never read this book cover to cover, I do enjoy reading sections at a time. I know many people who have devoured this book and have felt affirmed in their decisions to wear their babies and parent with intention.



Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child

If I could give one book to all expecting parents it would be this indispensable, hands-on guide to attachment parenting. Information is provided in a well-organized format that parents will find useful. Common questions are answered, and each section of the book provides lengthy reading and resource lists, web sites, and e-mail addresses.

From breastfeeding to the family bed to wearing your baby, Attachment Parenting has all the information to develop a loving, secure attachment with your children. The book includes expert advice from pediatricians, lactation specialists and anthropologists as well as words of wisdom from dozens of families.

This book is also a great way to educate grandparents. When clients tell me they are concerned about how their own parents or in-laws will respond to their decision to attachment parent, I have suggested they get this book and make sure it is on the coffee table when the grandparents arrive or they send the book to the grandparents before they visit. Parents and grandparents find it reassuring to read about the experiences of other parents and to learn how this parenting style has affected their lives and their relationships with their children.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, Surviving the Death of Your Baby,
Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, Surviving the Death of Your Baby, Deborah L. Davis, Ph.DSeveral women in a mother’s group that I organized and facilitated first brought this book to my attention. This group of women had each experienced the death of a baby, all of the within in a year of each other. Some of their babies had died at the end of pregnancy, some during labor and one 23 days after birth. At one of our first meetings, I asked them to bring the books and resources they found the most helpful. Several of them brought this book. These moms appreciated the awareness and compassion of Deborah’s writing. It reminded them that they were not alone. In fact one of the most compelling things about the book are the statistics. In the preface she states, “In spite of medical advances, more than one-fourth of all women will at sometime experience miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Each year in the United States, out of an estimated 4.4 million confirmed pregnancies, there are more than half a million miscarriages, twenty-nine thousand stillbirths and thirty-nine thousand infant deaths under 1 year of age.” She continues in the preface and through out the book to address the fact that many parents keep their losses and feelings about them a secret, partly because of society’s hushed attitudes toward death and partly because many people do not recognize the depth of such losses. She walks you through various experiences of grief, healing and recovery and suggests compassionate and loving ways to honor your baby, your memories and your feelings. Whole chapters dedicated to fathers, your relationship with your partner, your family, subsequent pregnancy and protective parenting. This book is a must for anyone one experiencing the death of a baby or for anyone in the birth profession.

Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair

Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia LairIncludes helpful information such as how to cook ONE meal that will feed your baby, your children and yourself, insights on breastfeeding starting solids and whole foods cooking. I love this book; it’s a favorite gift I give to new parents.




Taking Charge of Your Fertility,
The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control and Pregnancy Achievement Weschler, MPH

This is an excellent resource for women and health professionals. The information in this book empowers women to monitor their menstrual cycles to achieve or avoid pregnancy or to have a better understanding of their moods, health and lives. She addresses why it is that we probably don’t know certain things about our fertility and how we can take control of our reproductive health. Toni clearly explains how to observe and chart fertility signs, including benefits of charting our cycles. She discusses the use of natural birth control as well as how to maximize chances of getting pregnant.


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