Before the baby comes, part three: Baby sleep

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

no-cry-coverI 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

sleeping-with-your-baby-coverThere 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:

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Three things that made my life with a newborn much easier

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I am not going to write about obvious things that most new mums know they need, such as loving family, breastfeeding consultant and nappies. I am going to write about three things that I have discovered after my baby was born – and I’m very glad I did! This was a baby events tracking mobile app, next day delivery and baby hammock.

1. Baby events tracking – Baby Connect

Baby Connect is an app where you can record feeds, sleeps and nappy changes your baby has. It has many more functions, but these are the ones I ended up using most. It exists both on Android and iPhone and allows to sync between multiple caregivers. My husband can check during the day how we are both doing, he knows whether our son is due for a nappy change or whether his cry is a hungry one because he ate 3 hours ago. I also like to analyse the data and find some patterns. For instance, I discovered that my baby often goes 2 hour and 15 minutes between naps and the easiest time to put him to sleep is around this magic point. I can see that he is going through the growth spurt as the time of feeding increases. I can notice that I’m not feeding him enough from the right breast and rectify this.

2. Next day delivery – Amazon Prime

Full disclosure: I work for Amazon.

Amazon Prime is a service that for £49 a year offers the next day delivery all over UK on thousands of products listed on Amazon.co.uk. When you sign up for Amazon Family program you get three months trial of Prime for free.

I never thought that next day delivery was of value to me… until I got a screaming bundle that needs constant feeding and soothing. Breastpump? Yes – got it the next day. Running out of nappies? No problem, the delivery man knocks on my door the morning after. Forgot about a Christmas present? No need to rush to the shop. Incredibly convenient.

Watch out, it gets addictive!

3. Baby hammock – Poco baby

We got a Moses basket from our landlord and I wasn’t planning on getting anything else. I am an advocate of “less is more” and our London flat is small. But when you suddenly come home from the hospital and your newborn starts waking up every hour at night in his Moses basket… I was ready to do anything to get some extra sleep.

I know that retailers love new mums – and now I know why: your decision-making becomes incredibly quick. I searched for NHS cribs we had in St Mary’s hospital – the ones that rock when the baby moves and automatically soothe them. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I then looked for cribs that would swing back to front – and didn’t find any in the UK. There are plenty of them in Russia (where I am originally from), but surprisingly none here. And then I came across baby hammocks. There are a few brands I found in the UK, namely: Amby baby, Poco baby and Amazonas Kangoo. They all rocked from back to front and side to side.

I did quite a bit of reading on mumsnet (e.g. here and here) and other resources to see if the hammocks are safe and whether they actually work. There were a couple of SIDS reported in the US for Amby Baby hammock, but upon further investigation, the reason was that the hammocks hadn’t been used properly. Also, babies die of SIDS in their cribs too.

I asked an osteopath and an orthopedic surgeon whether it’s OK for babies to sleep in a hammock. They shrugged. They haven’t had patients with back problems due to sleeping in a hammock (too small a sample?). Though the orthopedic surgeon – my brother in law – have seen a lot of babies with hip dysplasia from incorrect swaddling – never swaddle your baby legs straight!

In some countries of South America and South East Asia generations of babies slept in hammocks. And the reviews from parents who bought hammocks were all very positive. Having weighed all pros and cons, I decided it will be OK.

I wanted to get an Amby baby hammock (out of three brands they have the best marketing), but unfortunately their only UK distributor was out of stock and was awaiting a shipment in a month’s time. So I ended up with a Poco baby hammock. I bought it from Kiddicare because they had the next day (free) delivery – yes, I know, next day delivery again!

Three months in, I am very happy with the hammock. The rocking added an hour to our son’s sleep straight away (we swaddle him as well). It fits nicely next to our bed. It is easy to store when we stop using it and it is easy take with us on a weekend break.