These are the 6 books I’d gift to new moms

Motherly Collective

The transition to motherhood is hard.

I leaned on a lot of books to navigate major challenges throughout my pregnancy and postpartum experience–from raising a baby to strengthening my relationship with my partner. Most importantly, these books improved my mental health and commitment to my own self-care.

I recommend six books to all new moms so they feel less alone in their struggles and more empowered to advocate for their own wellbeing.

This list is also for new moms who don’t have time to read a book. So each review includes other options for moms who want to gain quick insights from each book.

6 books I recommend to all new moms

1. Pay Up by Reshma Saujani

Who it’s for

Moms, especially working moms, who are feeling burnt out.

Why I recommend it

Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code and fierce advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. This book gave me a deep understanding of how systems in the US fail to support new moms. Our workforces are built around men and perpetuate biases against women with children.

I love Reshma’s passion for highlighting inequities at home and in the workplace—using the latest data and her personal experience as a mom raising two kids during the pandemic. She takes it a step further and outlines actionable strategies that women can implement to advocate for much-needed change.

How it supports mental health

The book explains why new moms, especially working moms, are so burned out and exhausted–with a detailed history of how we got here and the gaps in our system. Mom guilt is the byproduct of two unrealistic societal expectations: the perfect mom and ideal worker.

Reading this book was therapeutic. I felt like my voice was heard and it made me reflect on everything I am accomplishing as a caregiver at home. The author also highlights the importance of prioritizing mental health and the role employers can play in supporting new moms, like subsidizing child care and flexible work days.

If you don’t have time to read the book

Sign up for Moms First, Reshma Saujani’s grassroots movement to transform workplaces, government, and culture to enable moms in America to thrive. Listen to Good Inside’s podcast interview with Reshma Saujani (44 minutes) or download the audiobook.

 2. Expecting Better by Emily Oster 

Who it’s for 

Moms who are feeling anxious and overwhelmed during pregnancy.

Why I recommend it 

Emily Oster, a health economist, promotes an evidence-based approach to decision-making throughout pregnancy. There are so many things pregnant women are advised not to do. Abstain from alcohol and coffee. Avoid cold cuts, unpasteurized cheese and everything else that carries a high risk of foodborne illnesses. Don’t engage in high-intensity exercises. The list goes on. 

But these recommendations often come from limited studies or small trials. What’s great about this book is that it provides data, insights and information moms need to evaluate the true risks and benefits. It empowers them to make the decision that’s right for them. 

How it supports mental health

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy for mom, growth and development for the fetus and planning for a smooth birthing experience are all critical. But the advice can be overwhelming and mothers can quickly spiral into a state of heightened anxiety, self-blame and guilt. 

Pregnancy is a uniquely vulnerable and transformative period. This book plays a key role in dispelling common myths, alleviating unnecessary stress and nurturing a greater sense of control. With more information, I was able to make practical choices that were better aligned with my lifestyle and preferences. I felt less cautious and worried overall. 

If you don’t have time to read the book 

Subscribe to ParentData, Emily Oster’s weekly newsletter for parents, people who want to be parents, or anyone who likes to do their research before making a decision. Listen to Good Inside’s podcast interview with Emily Oster (49 minutes) or download the audiobook.

3. Fair Play by Eve Rodsky 

Who It’s for 

Moms who are feeling frustrated, angry or resentful towards their partner due to the unfair division of labor in the home. 

Why I recommend it

After becoming a mom, achieving a balanced division of chores and caregiving tasks with my husband became a major pain point. 

Eve Rodsky, an organizational management expert, addresses this issue and highlights the concept of “invisible work”, which typically falls on women as the primary caregiver. It’s invisible because these tasks may be unseen and unrecognized by our partners. Additionally, those of us who do it may not even acknowledge it as work. 

What resonated most with me about this book is its emphasis on building a system, with tools and strategies, for achieving a more fair and equitable partnership. It’s about teaming up with your partners to take steps of prevention for lasting change. There’s even a card deck for this book to gamify the process. 

How it supports mental health 

Two out of three couples report a decline in marital satisfaction after having a baby. 

Resenting my husband for not doing enough, feeling burned out and frequent conflicts were not sustainable. I didn’t like how controlling I was becoming either. 

This book gave me the confidence, talking points and tools I needed to partner with my husband and work towards a more fair division of labor in the home. The outcome was a better understanding of all tasks required to run our household, time required to complete each end-to-end and clear roles and responsibilities. 

It’s a work in progress, as our baby grows and caregiving needs and chores evolve. But this process has strengthened our communication and collaboration. Most importantly, it’s deepened our understanding and respect of each other’s needs and values. By letting go of control and perfectionism, I also reclaimed time for myself to do the things I enjoy. 

If you don’t have time to read the book 

Watch the Fair Play documentary (1 hour 35 minutes) or read Jane Kim’s review on Motherly. Listen to Good Inside’s interview with Eve Rodsky (31 minutes) or download the Audiobook. For more personalized support, you can seek help from a certified Fair Play facilitator or couples therapist.

4. Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy

Who It’s for 

Women who want to become the mom and sturdy leader they want to be. 

Why I recommend it 

I’m a big fan of Dr. Becky and learned about her from my support group for new moms. She advocates for building a relationship with your child that’s built on connection, empathy and understanding.

Dr. Becky, a clinical psychologist and mom of three, reframed my perspective on parenting. She provides easy-to-follow, practical tips on working with kids to develop the skills they need for regulating their emotions (not incentivizing them with rewards or punishing them with timeouts). I also love that she prioritizes self care for new moms—empowering moms to become the resilient and confident leader they want to be.

How it supports mental health 

In our culture, good moms are expected to do it all, often sacrificing their own identity and well-being to take care of others. Dr. Becky dedicates an entire chapter to self-care.

Parents who don’t fill their cups can experience feelings of guilt, anxiety, insecurity and resentment. On the other hand, parents who do advocate for themselves also feel guilt, as their decision may inconvenience others or involve time away from their kids.

Dr. Becky offers a fresh perspective by emphasizing that parents are the leaders of the family, and children want a sense of sturdiness and self-assurance in their leaders. It’s impossible to pour energy into our kids if we have none to give. Parents can practice self-care while still being present for their kids. Both things can be true.

Self-care also involves getting good at repair. The book underscores the importance of practicing self-compassion and being kind to yourself (just as you would a friend) when you make mistakes or behave in a way you don’t feel good about.

The book provides helpful tools, tips and scripts for self-care when challenging emotions come up. This includes validating your own feelings, giving yourself permission to feel that way, practicing self-care and self-regulation, and tolerating the guilt when you’re doing it.

If you don’t have time to read the book 

Watch Dr. Becky’s Tedx Talk (14 minutes) or subscribe to the Good Inside podcast. A great episode to start with is episode #81 (38 minutes) with Myleik Teele, “What No One Tells You About Parenting.”

5. Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleinman

Who It’s For 

Moms experiencing scary or intrusive thoughts about their babies or themselves.

Why I recommend it 

Keep this book handy while you’re breastfeeding, having lunch or at your coffee table. A doula recommended this to me as an easy read and something she shares with all new moms.

Over 90% of new moms will have scary, intrusive thoughts about their baby and themselves. What if I drop him? What if I snap and hurt my baby? Mothering is so hard. I don’t know if I really want to do this anymore. But too many keep these thoughts inside in shame, which makes moms feel even worse.

Karen Kleinman is the founder of the Postpartum Stress Center. Her book is filled with cartoons, guidance and simple exercises that help moms validate their feelings, share their fears,and start feeling better as they adjust to the new demands of motherhood.

How it supports mental health

The challenges that come after having a baby can catch moms off guard, especially first-time moms. As a result, many moms suffer in silence. When I became a mom, I struggled most with breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, relationship conflicts and excessive worry about germs. 

This book helped validate so much of what I was feeling. The examples inspired me to advocate for myself, ask for more help and initiate important conversations with my partner.

If you don’t have time to read the book 

This book is an easy read and doesn’t need to be read from front to back. You can jump to the chapter that’s most relevant with what you’re going through during your postpartum journey.

6. How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis

Who It’s For 

Moms struggling to keep up with their neverending to do list at home.

Why I recommend it 

As a self-proclaimed neat freak, I thrive when things are clean and organized. That, of course, changed when our baby was born. Trying to keep pace with the escalating mess and chores became exhausting.

KC Davis is a licensed therapist and mother of two. Her book completely shifted my mindset. She made me recognize that everyday care tasks (cooking, cleaning, laundry) are morally neutral. Struggling with these care tasks doesn’t make you a bad person. It made me re-evaluate and relax many of my existing standards. I didn’t need to fold my laundry right away, or (gasp) at all. The scattered toys in the living room means our family has fun. 

Care tasks are about functionality. In other words, your home works for you, not the other way around. This book provides practical tips on building a cleaning strategy that serves you.

How it supports mental health

Maintaining a tidy household while raising a newborn is overwhelming and stressful. There are so many tips in this book to free yourself from the guilt and shame associated with falling behind. This includes practicing self-compassion, letting go of perfection, accepting things as “good enough” and getting rest. She also suggests creative shortcuts that can transform messy spaces to functional ones. 

If you don’t have time to read the book 

Watch KC Davis’ Tedx Talk (13 minutes) How to Do Laundry When You’re Depressed. Listen to Good Inside’s interview with KC Davis (34 minutes), or download the audiobook.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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