Must-Reads for New Moms: 10 Books That Saved My First Year of Motherhood

I’m a pretty ravenous reader. It’s one of my number one hobbies. But today, I was thinking about just how many books I read in my first year of motherhood. Probably more than in any other year of my life. Including second grade with the Reading Race Track around our classroom, the year of AP English Literature, even college and graduate school. When Emerson hit Earth, I inhaled pages like an absolute fiend.

This was due to a number of factors. First, I love to read, and for the first time in YEARS, it felt like I had ample time to read whatever I wanted. In the earliest days especially, the 45-minute nursing sessions and stretches of infant day-sleep gave me the great gifts of time and reflection.

Second, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. LORD, HELP ME NOT BREAK THIS CHILD!!!! I read nursing books (which I didn’t find helpful; call a lactation consultant if you’re really struggling), baby books (only a few keepers) and probably 17 sleeping books (my personal faves to be shared, nervously, because I don’t want you to throw rocks at me while I cower in the corner and cry; sleep opinions make us moms a bit crazy).

Third, I was weighted by post-partum blues and fumbling through my new life at home, which felt isolated and scary for months. I craved morsels of sanity and encouragement; spiritual words of brightness and hope; wisdom from women who’ve gone before me; anything to lift my spirits and hydrate my soul.

In a lot of ways, authors saved me as a brand-new mom—emotionally, mentally, practically, spiritually. And since I read about 100 books in that season, devouring anything with the promise of being remotely useful to a desperate new housewife, I thought I would share my favorites with you!

These are 10 of the books that saved me in my first year of motherhood:

1. What to Expect the First Year—Like any new mom, I was full of milk and full of questions about my brand-new, very tiny best friend. Holy. Smokes. Am I really in charge?! This book made me fear less and feel less helpless. I read through it chronologically the first year, at the pace of Emerson’s growth. It covers every key topic you could possibly imagine, and even those you might never begin to imagine. Plus, it was very easy to use as a quick reference guide.

2. Baby 411—Similar to What to Expect the First Year, Baby 411 covers it all. I think purchasing the latest edition is an absolute must for every expectant new mom. Organized into very helpful chapters and written largely in Q&A format, this book was my go-to, time and time again, for info on everything from swaddling to solid foods.

3. Happiest Baby on the Block—Dr. Harvey Karp, bless you kindly. This book saved our lives. During her first four months, Emerson was a colicky, screaming, silent-reflux-ing, adorable little mess. The five S’s—swaddling, side position, shushing sounds, swinging and sucking—truly helped to calm our sweet girl. They don’t help every baby, especially those with severe colic. But they do help a LOT of babies. Every new parent should have these five S’s memorized. If you’re not a reader, the DVD does the trick.

4. Jesus Calling—New moms, old moms, non-moms, get your hands on this book if you haven’t already! With the tagline “Enjoying Peace in His Presence,” the 365-day devotional has allowed me to do just that since discovering it just before having Emerson. I still read it regularly, and whenever I do—whether in the morning, mid-Emmy-meltdown, during her naptime or just before bed—it breathes new meaning, life and comfort into my day. The entries are brief and life-giving, perfect for the chaos of life and motherhood. I’ve experienced a surprising amount of spiritual growth from this tiny, unassuming little volume.

5. Freefall to Fly—What an inspiring, encouraging treasure this memoir turned out to be! I’m so grateful I heard about it. Christian author Shauna Niequist recommended the book when I heard her speak last Christmastime at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach. Rebekah’s words won me over immediately. In her honest chapters about mothering young ones, I felt like she was writing my thoughts. She also recounts her touching, relatable, triumphant battle with anxiety and depression, as well as encourages women everywhere to tap into their gifts, unite with each other and reach out to impact the world.


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.