Dear New Parents-to-Be,
I know right now your focus is on your growing bump and how the baby in your tummy is going to make it out. You’ve probably read millions of pregnancy and birth blogs, magazines and books. You have your hospital bag packed, or your birthing pool ordered for your homebirth. You’ve been thinking about a birth plan and visualising your ideal birth (and what may happen if things deviate from what you hope for). You’ve probably been to antenatal classes and made some new friends, friendships that may in time become some of the most important ones you will ever know.
You’ve planned the nursery, you’ve shopped for your perfect pram or sling – or maybe both. Your baby probably already has more clothes than you and you are prepared with a big stash of nappies and toiletries. You’ve thought about how you want to feed your baby, whether you’ll delay cord clamping and whether (and how) to give your baby vitamin K. You’ve spent hours budgeting and trying to make the figures add up, whether that’s for daycare, or for one of you to stay at home.
Maybe you’ve planned a baby shower, or a last minute ‘grown up’ getaway babymoon. So many things are happening in your life right now it’s like you’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of ‘all things baby’. Right now you’re probably feeling a confusing mixture of excitement, impatience, trepidation, anxiety and joy.
There is one thing you may not have thought about though. I know this because I’ve worked with thousands of parents like you. I was you once. Please take my advice and spend some time in your pregnancy to read up on the norms of infant sleep.
Parents-to-be spend so long planning material things and focussing on their birth that the reality of life with a baby rarely gets a look in, if it does it’s often a throwaway fifteen minutes at the end of an antenatal class or a tiny section in the last chapter of your pregnancy book. I know right now you probably have rose tinted glasses when it comes to baby sleep. I bet you’re one of those bumps that walks straight past my stand whenever I exhibit my ‘gentle sleep training‘ services at a baby show. Why would you even think you’ll need my services? If you have thought about your baby’s sleep there’s a chance that you think your baby will sleep well (because you’ve bought numerous gadgets and gizmos, at a ‘special show price’, at the very same show that say they will help).
Trust me when I say that learning about baby sleep beforehand is something you will regret not doing. How do I know that? Because I hear the phrase “I really wish I’d known all of this before, it would have saved me from so much heartache and worry” daily from parents.
Take some time now, while you still have time and energy to read (no, I’m not exagerrating – both will soon become a distant memory!), to really learn about the way newborns sleep. Try to understand the massive shift that is about to happen in their world when they move from the warm security of your belly to the world ‘earthside’. Teach yourself the reasons why they never want to be put down and only sleep well when you’re holding them and they’re on your chest. Read up on the real expectations of baby sleep and what you should expect by age, (‘The Gentle Sleep Book‘ covers from birth to age five). Understand what a baby sleep cycle looks like and why their abilities when it comes to sleep are different to yours. Read about the myth of creating bad habits by cuddling or feeding to sleep and why you shouldn’t expect your baby to be able to ‘self soothe’ (and what really happens when you try to teach it). Research professional opinions of popular baby experts and their routines and why they can damage breastfeeding and then throw any copies you’ve been gifted in the recycling bin. Understand what a ‘sleep regression’ is and why there’s nothing wrong if your baby is waking regularly at night at 4, 5, 8, 9 or 10 months (and every other month too!). Read up on why so many parents make mistakes when it comes to buying products for the nursery that affect sleep and spend some time considering where you are planning for your baby to sleep. Research how to bedshare safely, even if you are convinced that you’ll never do it. (Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters explains why this is so very important.)
Plan your village, ask people if they can help to support you if you’re tired and wrung out. Join an online discussion group of like-minded parents. Work out how you’ll get some ‘me time’ when your baby is here. Batch cook as many meals as possible now so you can still eat well once the baby is here. Discuss how you would like to parent with your partner and make sure you’re on the same page from the very start. Arrange meet-ups with your antenatal group and encourage a discussion on baby sleep before the babies arrive.
If you’re in the UK I love welcoming expectant parents to my Gentle Sleep Workshops!
I promise this is some of the most important planning you will ever do. This can really and truly change the way you experience the first few weeks, months and perhaps even years. Long after your pram has been sold or given away and your baby shower is a distant memory. These are the preparations that will change not only your life, but that of your baby too.
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