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Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: The Wisdom and Science of Gentle Choices in Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

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348 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Sarah J. Buckley

3 books8 followers
Sarah J Buckley is a trained GP/family physician, an internationally-acclaimed writer on gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting, and mother to Emma, Zoe, Jacob and Maia, all born gently at home, 1990 to 2000.

Sarah's writing critiques current practices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting from a scientific as well as a personal viewpoint. She encourages us to be fully informed in our decision-making; to listen to our hearts and our intuition; and to claim our rightful role as the real experts in our bodies and our children.

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5 stars
396 (36%)
4 stars
386 (35%)
3 stars
225 (20%)
2 stars
71 (6%)
1 star
22 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 125 reviews
Profile Image for Adrianne Mathiowetz.
248 reviews220 followers
October 3, 2018
Lots of people LOVE this book, including literally all of my favorite childbirth educators, both personal (my own midwives, doula teachers, Bradley Method instructor, etc) and general (Ina May Gaskin wrote the intro, and many other books I enjoy reference and highly recommend it). Personally, I managed to both agree with everything written here and also be highly annoyed by it.

Buckley is a longtime MD herself, which is a great opportunity to educate people on how seemingly emotional decisions have physical effects, and vice versa, and she does nearly do that. But the tone is the exact combination of two types of people I couldn't stand in college:

1. The Highly Educated Guy With An Extreme Agenda Who Peppers His Speech With Jargon and Is Capable of Referencing Lots of Statistics To Make Himself Sound Right; You Have This Vague Feeling Something Isn't Adding Up But Dude. Won't. Stop. Going On. And Eventually You Get Tired And Say Ugh Fine I'll Be Vegan.
I wouldn't call this book conversational. But I also wouldn't call it academic. It's academic in tone without being academic in ethic. You'll learn a lot of medical terms; great, albeit occasionally a little repetitive and verbose, making it feel a little more focused on impressing itself than it is on entertaining or educating you. Lots of studies are referenced. Great, except vital details are ALWAYS left out of these decidedly un-verbose summaries. "One Danish study found that babies in nurseries were up to 5 times more likely to die of SIDS than co-sleeping babies." WHOA, I want to know more about that study! How many infants were observed over how long of a time, what were the conditions of the co-sleeping situations, what were the conditions of the nursery babies, when did this study happen, how was it received by the medical community, what does "up to" mean? Nope, on to the next study that still supports her argument. And another one. And another one. Lots of studies have been done and you will get a one sentence summary of any of them that further Buckley's point. What's causation? What's correlation? Were there any studies that refuted any of those studies? Studies have a way of doing that! SHHH NEVER MIND.

"Yeah but ... yeah but ... yeah but ..." I kept wanting to interject. Buckley cruised on ahead. Occasionally I would put the book down and feel like I had just left a sophomore in the cafeteria who was continuing to pontificate at me, totally unaware of my absence.

2. The white hippie who's really into reggae and "global" music.
My favorite example: she sews a velvet pouch for one of her baby's placentas so that they can pack it in there with herbs and keep it attached for a week or two until it naturally falls off, because she read that a tribe did that somewhere.

I love almost all birth stories, and you'll read all four of Buckley's dream-vision-heavy, Brazilian dance involved, mandala drawing experiences in the book: not just in the narrative asides that she delineates from the more official educational text, but also (and much more questioningly) occasionally she'll use them as anecdotal evidence that her position is correct. "Some people say doing X with your children is dangerous, but I did it with my son and he's still alive; I BELIEVE I'VE MADE MY POINT." Uhh, aren't you a scientist?

It's not that I disagreed with anything Buckley wrote (okay, I personally don't have any interest in carting my baby around with its placenta still attached in a Ren Fair souvenir), but often the place it came from felt ... uncomfortably appropriative and un-self-aware. And when it wasn't coming from an unexamined place, it was entirely unaccepting of anything different: if you accept any pain medications during labor, you're gravely endangering your baby. If you don't exclusively breastfeed your baby, you're endangering it. If you don't sleep with your infant you're traumatizing it. Sleep training? Traumatizing. Circumcision? Doesn't even get any supporting evidence, just a parenthetical about it being a trauma we can easily protect our infants from. And if you traumatize that baby? OBESITY, HEART DISEASE AND DEPRESSION IN ADULTHOOD, THANKS A LOT MOM.

I just wanted a little more science from a scientist, or a little more narrative from a propagandist, but while otherwise full of useful information this book mostly read like an intolerable person.
Profile Image for Heather.
58 reviews41 followers
November 22, 2008
I did not like this book.

There were a lot of opinions that were put forth as fact. Cutting the cord is comparable to amputation? Ultrasound broils soft tissues? Maybe, but it certainly wasn't proved here. I felt some of Sarah's arguments actually proved the opposite.

Also, the book was arranged in such a way as to repeat a good deal from chapter to chapter while introducing stray sentences of new information here and there. This made efficient reading and note taking very difficult. I didn't want to learn that oxytocin is the love hormone and causes the uterus to contract over and over again, but if I skipped any paragraphs I would miss something new!
Profile Image for Melissa.
22 reviews4 followers
January 9, 2015
Some aspects of this book were brilliant - I found the explanations of hormones and body chemistry to be incredibly interesting.
Having even a rudimentary understanding of how our bodies are intelligently designed to facilitate birth made me feel much more comfortable with my decision to attempt a completely natural birth. This alone made the book worth reading to me.

I did find that there were sections that were a bit repetitive throughout the book. I also felt a bit disconnected from some of her more 'spiritual' chapters, as I felt that she swung from medically technical to uber alternative/spiritual quite dramatically from one chapter to the next.

Overall some very interesting information, even if it did not all resound completely with me.
Profile Image for Kim.
320 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2016
I had a hard time relating to this author, who seemed to encourage risky and unsafe birthing behavior by sharing her own home birth stories, at least one with no one besides her family present. Her assertation that her children remembered their births also made me suspicious. She does include some good information about the risks of inducement, ceasareans and other interventions. But, all-in-all, I found her a little over-the-top and too New-Agey to be for-real.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
43 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2012
Parts of this book I loved, and other parts I did not like or connect with. What I loved about this book is that the grand majority of it presents the research surrounding childbirth and many of the common interventions used in childbirth. I really appreciated the way the author did so, as many of the other books I read would say something as truth when perhaps there was research on it, but there was no citing of or attachment to that research. This drove me absolutely nuts, as I then didn't understand how anyone came to that conclusion! In this book the author cites every bit of research, and even gives context to most of the studies so you have a better idea of how they came to that conclusion. She even would present some of the studies arguing for the other side at times, which she would often follow up with her thoughts on why they were weak, but I definitely appreciated at least presenting it so I could look at it and start to make my own opinions.

What I didn't connect with as much were the writings she included about her own experiences with childbirth. She had them as separate chapters, and obviously these sections were not research based but just written accounts of her own experiences and things she chose to do. As a separate book that may have been interesting for some, but some of the practices she chose to do (such as lotus birth) were quite over the top to me and could definitely turn some readers off toward the author and could then lead them to disregard all of the good research that she includes in the other sections. But overall, I really liked this book as I had been wanting for quite some time to find a good source going over the research behind natural childbirth.
Profile Image for Emma Sedlak.
Author 2 books16 followers
January 15, 2018
I read this book in a few days because it was due back to the library and I couldn’t renew it again (nothing like someone else having a hold on a book to make you read through it at top speed!). I didn’t read it word for word, since most of the content was comprised of studies and statistics in support of concepts I already know of. But I got a lot of value from the book as a whole, especially in the checklists at the end of each chapters to summarise learnings and suggestions.

Thanks for reminding me how powerful this experience is!
Profile Image for Bethany B..
98 reviews38 followers
August 25, 2019
Worth the read, but skipped over her birth stories because they were pretty far out there... Her chapter on hormones is excellent and should be read by moms and dads alike. Her footnoting is superb. Loved what she said about birth, had a really hard time swallowing what she said about mothering (also, noticed a severe drop in backing up her facts and opinions).
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
43 reviews6 followers
March 7, 2010
Some very interesting statistics, although this is no balanced view. If you agree with the author to start with, then you'll love the many, many non-U.S. based studies cited.

But, if you don't already agree with her, I don't find this a compelling argument.
Profile Image for Bucket.
860 reviews42 followers
February 27, 2017
This was good food for thought. There are some areas where there's new research and it could use an update, but overall I appreciated the focus on evidence-based practice.

The author shared all sides of the research and freely admitted she has biases but I was still struck by how obviously biased her choice of when to emphasize the tininess of a risk was. If she was talking about a medical intervention (like antibiotics for Group B strep during delivery), she'd simply state the risk that antibiotics have. If she was talking about not using an intervention, though, she'd often state the associated risk and then have a sentence emphasizing how few people that really means are affected (1 in 2000, etc). In reality, many of the risks she talked about for medical interventions that are evidence-based had similarly low numbers of people affected by them. Anyway, this was pretty transparent and easy to get past.

Overall, a helpful review of literature coupled with her personal stories (they aren't all realistic for most of us, who aren't medical professionals or wealthy enough to stop working and breastfeed for four years), and definitely worth an update to include new research!
33 reviews
March 11, 2019
Mixed feelings about this one.

Many chapters were great - provided valuable information and insights and Dr Buckley generously shares very personal experiences from her family.

Some sections are a bit preachy. On a few occasions I did start to wonder about what studies there might be supporting an opposing view to the one being presented.

A few things that were too radical or extreme for me (e.g. keeping baby and placenta attached until umbilical cord naturally comes away (apparently usually 3-7 days)). (And I do really struggle with a doctor recommending homeopathy).

I had to wonder how realistic some recommendations were for the average family, particularly where mothers return to work (e.g. mothers having a nap during the day, breastfeeding until children are aged 5 or 6).

A disappointing lack of references from Australian studies, particularly given the author is Australian. Most studies cited (though not all) are USA or UK-based, although this may be partly reflective of where major medical research takes place.
Profile Image for Jess.
181 reviews
May 18, 2017
I like parts of this book a lot, like the details about the hormones during labor. They were unique from other things I've read and seemed factual and well researched. I had to skip chapters about her home births and the dangers of ultrasounds. This woman is a doctor and delivered her fourth baby breech in the bathtub with no attendants--not something I can relate to or desire for baby's birth. Also I try to steer clear of anything that comes off as "oh god how could you do this to your baby" instead of calm and rational explanations of benefits versus risk, so I don't read chapters titled "The dangers of x..."
Profile Image for Abby.
1,424 reviews178 followers
March 24, 2019
Too kooky for my taste (par ex.: Buckley decides to let her fourth baby tell her, via dreams, what she needs and avoids any medical attention and then delivers a footling breech baby at home with no attendants but her husband and children), but I liked many of her perspectives overall. Not necessarily a book I’d recommend; most of it comes across with that weird judgmental tone that ekes out of so many hippies.
January 29, 2020
As a huge believer in gentle birth and parenting, this book helped me to better understand the benefits of it. It goes into depth on how crucial it is for the well-being of the child to be raised in a gentle way. This book will help me in my parenting journey and my career in the future as I help to guide parents through which choices they should make for themselves and their children.
Profile Image for Cherie.
3,331 reviews27 followers
April 14, 2019
I absolutely loved this book and wished I read it during my pregnancy. A great book on natural birth and pregnancy, looking at things in a very evidence-based way. Should be required reading for all pregnant women instead of that insipid "What to expect." Fascinating and informative read.
2 reviews
January 7, 2022
Dr. Sarah Buckley’s book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering is a written reclamation of every woman’s birth right!

Through these chapters, we journey between worlds~ the medical, the natural and the personal, and are invited to explore all with an open mind and intuitive heart to make an informed choice. She reminds us that through Healing birth, we are healing the Earth; taking us back in time to when birth was a powerful initiation for our ancestral mothers; a rite of passion, love, power and surrender. Where birth meets death, and death meets life- like the changing of Mother Earth’s Seasons, of the moons phases, of the natural cycle of all life where “birth is as safe as life gets”. Her hopes in writing this book is that each woman recognizes the “importance of taking the time to think and feel...of using heart and mind to make the choices that best serves our Children to be, our families, and ourselves”

Through each of the trimesters,she shares her own stories of pregnancies, birth and Beyond, weaving in the intuitive and nature(al) ways of pregnancy and,the dance of birth intertwining with informative research and scientific knowledge about the nourishment of breastfeeding, the benefits and dangers of medical interventions and...”when to leave well enough alone.”

In the poetic and magical words of Sarah, “Finally...birth is vast and multifaceted; radiant and mysterious. Birth contains multitudes, and through her we birth our multitudes. We give birth to our hopes and fears, to our ecstasies and our agonies, to our joy and our disappointments. We give birth to our babies, each one perfect and radiant. We give birth through our instinct,which will match us perfectly with our babies, who are, and always will be, instinctive creatures.
May we all be blessed through instinctive birth”.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ashley.
180 reviews
January 24, 2022
I really have no clue what to rate this book.

Some parts were a little too hippie-dippie for me, especially the stuff about lotus birth (and it didn’t provide any of the counter-arguments for lotus birth, like the possibility of infection). But after the first couple of chapters the book as a whole was really well-cited and quite scientific (to the point of being very, very dry at certain parts).

I appreciated that it was a solidly-researched-and-cited approach to a lot of major issues in childbirth, and while it didn’t provide much (if any) of the argument FOR different interventions, I think that’s because those interventions and the reasons for them are widely known and accepted (and sometimes even taken as a given in childbirth, like epidurals). So most likely if you’re reading this book, you’ve already heard all the arguments FOR them, so the book fills a niche in providing research and information to fill out your knowledge about them, and inform you about any potential drawbacks to them that aren’t widely acknowledged by the medical community in general.

The chapter that interested me most was about the hormones of labor and birth. I also found the epidural chapter really useful in considering our birth plan, because it provided a ton of information that I haven’t read anywhere else in as much detail and specificity.

I’m hesitating between three and four stars, but I’ll go with four stars for the hormone chapter alone, for being mostly well-cited, and for presenting a lot of new information (which is getting a bit rarer for me now that I’ve read several pregnancy and birth books).
Profile Image for Gwen Davis-Barrios.
114 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2020
There are lots of good things about this book, and overall I would recommend it. In my opinion, the best takeaway from it is one of reassuring birthing people that their bodies are usually capable and that birth is safe, and that parenting instincts are worthy and should be listened to. I found evidence-based answers to many of my questions and learned about new things that I want to study more about, and I appreciate the author’s assertion that parents should take this and all birth/parenting advice with a grain of salt, thereby prioritizing their own research and intuition.

My main concern is that the book flips between anecdotal accounts of the author’s births/ideas founded on her personal preferences and sort of dense literature review-esque chapters. Some of the studies referenced had small samples and I questioned the reliability of the author given the unwieldy blend of styles. The book sometimes felt like a mix of Ina May-style storytelling and Evidence-Based Birth factuality, but it wasn’t as developed at either task as each of those resources are.
Profile Image for Taylor Rocks.
9 reviews
November 11, 2022
To be honest, part one of this book was a hit or miss for me. I liked the first couple chapters where the author talked about the power of making your own decisions confidently and following the BRAN model. But in the later chapters of part one, I felt like it was all just a bunch of statistics and information that supported the author’s opinion on each topic. There was no balance or sharing both sides of the story. Honestly, I skimmed through the last remaining chapters in part one because of this. It felt like I was only getting one-sided information in order for the author to get her point and opinion across.

I enjoyed the second part of the book much more than the first. There was still a lot of statistics and good information but it was less opinionated. I didn’t feel like my view or opinion on the topic was wrong or being attacked like I did in the first section. The second part had some very good points for gentle mothering. Overall, I didn’t love nor completely dislike this book. Personally, I don’t know if I’d recommend this book to anyone who is expecting.
Profile Image for Kindra.
138 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2021
I think the best summary I can is “written by a doctor”.

While there were helpful parts I felt bogged down pretty quickly by all of the statistics and studies analyzed for every topic. As a result it took me awhile to read and ended up just slogging and powering through at the end, skipping over big chunks.

It seems geared more towards women who are considering standard hospital birth vs incorporating some elements of natural birth into their experience, and that’s not a description of me. I’ve had two children, one with home birth, and am pregnant again goi of to home birth again and was looking for new ideas or approaches to have an even better birthing experience than last time (which was wonderful!)

I can see it being very helpful and powerful for a woman comfortable reading medical style writing with study analysis who is weighing options for birth style. But again, that’s not me.
Profile Image for Charis.
13 reviews5 followers
May 27, 2022
The first two chapters and last chapter are filled with the author’s unorthodox new age spirituality whereas the rest of the chapters are filled with medical jargon and tests - it’s a dizzying mix match that is bound to confuse readers. The author talks about divine femininity, inner goddess, Mother Nature, meditation, yoga, bodywork, etc that made me roll my eyes and skip to more level headed material. It seems the author tries to make up for her out there beliefs by overcompensating with medical knowledge. So far it’s my least favourite birthing book out there, however there is good information on how to make informed decisions in pregnancy and birth. I also appreciated that the statistics and studies quoted were from a variety of westernized countries, not just the US (which seems to be the norm in most books). Overall, I’m not impressed and I’m sure the informed gleaned from this book could be readily found in many others. It’s not for everyone.
Profile Image for Fiona.
56 reviews
January 3, 2020
This is definitely a book written for a certain kind of birthing person as the writer clearly has her own agenda and biases, that said, some parts of the book I found personally helpful and comforting. In Germany, the areas of prenatal care feels at war with itself over care ideologies (high intervention obsetricians vs homeopathic-obsessed midwives) so it was important for me to read to a book by an Australian doctor that brought together ancient birth wisdom and current medical practices. The book is big on attachment parenting, compassionate caregiving, the physiology of an undisturbed birth, how to make wise decisions for your body and baby, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and healing births. It won't be for every birthing person but it does do a good job at dispelling fears around birth and decision making.
Profile Image for Susanne Green.
Author 2 books2 followers
February 1, 2023
I highly recommend this book, and wish I had read it during pregnancy instead of after. It offers insightful and comprehensive coverage on various aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, including topics that I was previously unfamiliar with despite being a proponent of natural birth. The author sheds light on the impact of medical procedures such as ultrasound, and has challenged my preconceived notions about what is considered necessary during pregnancy. Her expertise and perspective will undoubtedly influence my future pregnancy and birthing experiences. It's also refreshing to read a book written by a doctor who, despite being trained in allopathic medicine, embraces and advocates for natural birthing practices.
Profile Image for Moriah.
162 reviews7 followers
May 6, 2022
A little repetitive and dry for a cover-to-cover read, but overall it made me feel a lot more confident in my decision to pursue a home birth (I was already 100% on team unassisted-as-much-as-possible birth before picking it up) despite this being my first pregnancy and feeling a little intimidated initially.

This book also gave me some interesting things to think about that I'd never before considered such as bedsharing, lotus birth, and child-led weaning. Not sure I'm 100% on board with any of those yet for myself, but I'm no longer totally opposed to the ideas. At the very least, I'll be much more understanding of mothers who have chosen these options for themselves moving forward.
Profile Image for Emily.
59 reviews
June 4, 2018
There is a lot of excellent information in this book, both from her own experiences (personal and professional) and from the many years of research she has done. She is very spiritual in the way she approaches birth, and it (for me) was a turn off in the initial part of the book since I am looking for more of a hard evidence based resource. However, I did appreciate her perspective and I am glad that I spent the time to read the entirety of this book. It's a great resource for any stage of pregnancy and early parenting.
2 reviews
March 26, 2023
It is honestly hard to read. The author is so delusional and I found parts of this book to be extremely offensive. A medical doctor outright saying women who miscarry did not want their baby enough? That you can dance to drums and sway your hips to prevent miscarriage? Delusional. Offensive. Wrong.

She also cites sources for some of her recommendations, but when you read the study you will find her recommendation is not based on the study data.

While there are aspects of her writing that are nice, there are much better books on natural childbirth.
Profile Image for Terka Juchelková.
231 reviews5 followers
October 24, 2019
Průvodce těhotenstvím, porodem i mateřstvím, kterého bych doporučila jako povinnou četbu. Hlavní myšlenkou je informovaná volba.

Přátelský tón, srozumitelné vysvětlení všech pojmů, procedur, problémů a možností, osobní příběhy a zkušenosti a hlavně odkazy na vědecké práce - právě proto stojí za to si tuto trochu tlustší knížku přečíst.
Občas můžou býz některé pasáže příliš podrobné, ale pro někoho, kdo přistupuje k tomuto tématu poprvé, budou určitě nápomocné.
Profile Image for Natalija O'Connell.
125 reviews1 follower
September 14, 2020
Informative for first time mum's or even mums who felt like their birth was traumatic. Gives you alot of Australian specific information / guidance about your rights, the holistic and natural way to birth, and how we as parents can nurture our kids from utero in a gentle and compassionate way. I'd recommend this to anyone trying to convince, currently pregnant or has a young child. Ideally suitable for someone trying to convince or pregnant to get the most out of it.
Profile Image for Kateřina Valová.
192 reviews6 followers
January 12, 2018
Obsahuje mnohem víc informací, než coby těhotná chcete vědět. Hlavně o tom, co všechno by mohlo NEvyjít podle vašich představ. Odborné lékařské pojmy a procesy sice popisuje srozumitelně, ale často sklouzává k prezentování názorů jako faktů, což obzvlášť v případě tak citlivých témat jako porod a mateřství není zrovna nejšťastnější postup.
Profile Image for Laura.
454 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2019
I really struggled to get through this one. For me personally, the contrast between scientific research and fluffy spiritual language was a bit much, making it hard for me to trust the author either way. Due to the language used, I also think that this book would be more suitable for birth professionals rather than mothers.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 125 reviews

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