After you have fed (see part 1) and soothed (see part 2) your baby comes sleeping. Or not sleeping. This remains a topic of parents concerns and conversations for months. In that sense, you will probably read a lot about babies and toddlers sleep over the years, but there are two books I would recommend to start with before the baby arrives: The No-cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and Sleeping with your baby by James McKenna
The No-cry Sleep Solution
I think that some of parents’ stress about baby sleep comes from wrong expectations. As soon as you become a parent, everyone starts asking: “How’s the sleep going?”, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”. As if the goal of parenting is to get the baby to this milestone asap. But what is more natural for the baby: to sleep 8 hours straight from 6 weeks of age or to wake up 6 times a night for a little suck at 8 months of age? In reality the latter is more natural and likely (even if not desirable!), but most parents expect their babies to be in the first group. And if the babies are not, then there must be something wrong with the baby and parents need to “fix it”.
Elizabeth Pantley’s book is good at managing the expectations. For instance, “sleeping through the night” means a 5 hour sleep stretch and not a 12 hour one. And that not every single cry and stir at night requires parents’ attention. And why babies wake up – in fact we all do, adults are just better at falling asleep while most babies will need some help.
Then, the author asks you if you and your partner consider your baby sleep to be a problem. It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what works for your family. For instance, I enjoy bed sharing and manage to get a good sleep even if our son wants to breastfeed 6 times a night (I hardly wake up for these feedings). But it will be different when I go back to work. So by then I will need to teach him to fall back asleep without my help.
And finally, Elizabeth Pantley shows you how to work on your specific goal. The book is full of mums’ stories to show you that there is hope. You create a plan, try it for 10 days, adjust, try the new plan for 10 more days. As a mother of 4 and a parent educator the author suggests plenty of ideas to try.
This book is a great alternative to Cry It Out method. A lot of parents start with “we won’t do Cry It Out training”, but after 5 (6, 7, ..) months of sleep deprivation they are happy to try anything. Well, this book offers an approach that is good to everyone in the family. Skim through before the baby comes and keep in your library for later. I bet you will read it.
Sleeping with your baby
There is a lot of controversy surrounding bed sharing, mostly due to the fear of SIDS. Before their child is born most people say that they will not put their baby in bed with them. Some of them even look down at the parents who admit that they do it and think “oh these poor people, they are raising a psychologically dependent child. I will never do that!”
However, a few months after their child is born almost 90% of parents in the UK have slept together with their baby at least once, by choice or accidentally. Whether bed sharing is for you and your family or whether you prefer a different sleeping arrangement, this is a good book to read before the baby comes.
James McKenna is an anthropologist who spent his entire career researching co-sleeping. In the first part of the book he talks about risks and benefits. In short, it is good for babies because it makes them feel safe and allows them to breastfeed easily. They don’t fully awaken and don’t need to be settled. Therefore mothers (and fathers) actually get more sleep. It is also safe (if the guidelines are followed) because breastfeeding mums have an instinct and won’t roll onto their babies. The risks exist and they are mostly due to babies being trapped in bedding, headboards, or sleeping with other adults (not mum) or siblings, so safe bed sharing guidelines should always be followed. The second part of the book provides these guidelines.
There is a lot of misinformation about bed sharing and co-sleeping so it is a good book to read to make an informed decision about it. It may also convince you to persevere with breastfeeding in the difficult early days.
And it is only 128 pages long which makes it a quick read!
This post is part of “Before the baby comes” series: