Tag Archives: baby

Four books I enjoyed reading before and after the birth of our baby

12 Jul

I love reading non-fiction books. Here are the books I most enjoyed reading before and after the birth of our baby

Month -2:  Ina May on natural child birth

This book helped me be confident that I could deliver a baby naturally.

I am not a hard core natural child birth proponent, but I was worried that giving birth in an American hospital would give me very high chances of a C-section even if that wasn’t medically necessary. A good friend sent me a wonderful book by midwife Ina May about natural childbirth. I mainly read the part of the book that consists of birth stories written by new mothers. It was inspiring and interesting, and it made me much more confident that I could deliver a baby. It also convinced me that biking and walking was good for me throughout my pregnancy.

Link to amazon

Month 0-3: The happy baby book

This book made taking care of our newborn less scary and less tiring.

The happy baby book (a gift from my cousin and her partner who are both psychologists) was extremely useful and really helped us to know how to soothe our baby. If you are too busy or tired to read, here is a synopsis: a baby likes to be in a swaddle (even if they may resist being swaddled), a baby likes to be held on their side or stomach, a baby likes sound (white noise, shushing), a baby likes to suck on something (finger, nipple, pacifier), and a baby likes little movements. Do all of those and likely the baby will calm down quickly. It definitely worked for our baby!

Link to amazon

Month 2-5: Working and pumping

This book brought support and advice when I went back to work and needed to pump milk.

When I went back to work, I was still breastfeeding my baby. This meant that I needed to pump breast milk at home and at work. We initially rented a pump from the hospital and then bought one (tip: call your insurance first, they usually pay if you buy through them).

Pumping milk is no fun, but a book I found in a second hand bookstore gave me a lot of information and motivation to keep doing it. The book is the story of a group of women who worked at IBM and who shared a room where they could go to pump during work hours. The women kept a notebook in this room, so that they could write to each other during their pumping sessions. They simply shared stories, frustrations, questions they had and helped each other with advice and support. Later, two of them wrote a book based on the notebook. The women in the book were so real and it almost gave me the feeling that I had friends who were going through the same thing as I was. I always kept the book with the pump and enjoyed reading a few pages during each pumping session.

Link to amazon

Month 6: Baby sign language book

This book convinced us to start learning sign language.

Intuitively, it makes a lot of sense to me that signing with babies is a good idea, but nothing is more convincing to a researcher like me than a randomized trial!

I enjoyed reading a book by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, two researchers who pioneered baby sign language. Acredolo and Goodwyn did a randomized controlled trial to find out whether baby sign language had an effect on children’s development. They found that the kids who were taught to sign learned to speak earlier and used more complex sentences (Goodwyn et al 2000). Also they had a higher IQ at age 8 (12 pts difference, going from the 53rd to the 75th percentile, link). I don’t work in the field of child development, but my impression is that a 12 point gain (or 22 percentile points) in IQ is huge. As far as I know, the study has never been replicated, so maybe the real gain is not as big.

However, more important for my daily life is that I love learning sign language & signing with our baby! I have always been intrigued by sign language but I didn’t think I would ever learn a sign language. Now, our baby, who is 12 months old, can sign dog, daddy, flower, monkey, penguin, light, bird and car.

If you are curious, here is a nice video with a baby signing:

Link to amazon

How I survived my first semester as assistant prof (with a new baby)

19 Dec


First of all, the job as assistant professor is all mine, but the baby is very much shared with my husband.

Earlier this year I gave birth to a baby boy and two months later I started my new position as an assistant professor in biology at San Francisco State University. Several people have asked me how I managed to combine the baby and the new job and not go insane (*).

The first semester is over, our baby is 6 months old, and I didn’t go insane. I taught a class, submitted a paper, wrote a grant proposal, went to a conference (baby & husband came along!) and served on a search committee. In fact, I enjoyed the semester (but now it is time for a break!)

Here are some of the things that made it possible.

1. My husband, because he never thinks that taking care of a baby is something that only women should do.

2. Facebook, the company where my husband works, because they give men and women four months of parental leave to be taken any time during the first year. Knowing that my husband could take time off during my first semester as a professor made a big difference, because we didn’t know how things would work out with work, teaching, nanny, and baby. Without the generous parental leave from Facebook, I would not have started my job this semester, instead, I would have started the new job 6 months later. Also thanks to his parental leave, he and baby could travel with me to the conference I went to on the East Coast.

3. My colleagues at SFSU because they did not put any pressure on me this semester. They understood when I missed department meetings or when I didn’t show my face on campus for days in a row. Maybe it helped that many of the professors in my department are women with kids.

4, Professional help. We live far away from our families, so we depend on professional help with childcare. We had a night nanny early on, which really helped us get some sleep. Then when the baby was two months old we hired a full-time nanny. We could not have combined work and parenting if we wouldn’t have hired these amazing professionals.

5. Saying no. I only taught one class. I did no reviews. I started no new projects. I accepted only one student in my lab and this only in the second half of the semester. I didn’t buy furniture for my office space yet. I didn’t go to our departmental seminars. I only had lunch with colleagues a few times. These things will have to change next semester!


*I think that often, behind such a question (“how do you do it?”) is the tacit assumption that I, as the woman, do most of the caring for the baby. This is not the case. My husband does just as much, if not more.

My husband and I were both at home for the first two months after our baby was born, but I usually hear: “Wow, you went back to work after only two months?”, whereas he hears: “Wow, how cool that you were home for two full months!”

So if you are wondering how it was for me to go back to work after two months of being at home with our newborn, you should really be asking my husband the same thing. Maybe he’s interested in writing a blog too.