I read all sorts of books before Simon was born. Everything from The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. They were all good for what they were, but I realized that I actually needed to read one book (Expecting 411), which I felt summarized everything that I actually needed to know pre-baby really well. It was honest but concise. Perfect.
I read a bunch of books and I’ve been at this parenting gig for almost 10 months, I figure it’s high time I start dolling out the unsolicited advice. So…
Sleep when you want to sleep: Everyone will tell you “sleep when the baby sleeps”, but I say, “sleep when you want to sleep”. Sometimes it was nice to sleep when the baby was sleeping, but many times I just wanted to catch up on life. Or trashy TV. I think you should do exactly what makes you happy in the moment and if that thing is sleep, so be it.
Everything is just a phase: It won’t feel like it, but every single thing that seems absolutely terrible at 1AM (or 1PM) is just a phase. I promise that after a few weeks you won’t remember the terrible.
Just when you think you’ve got it, something will change: There will be plenty of moments when you think you’ve got it all figured out. Just when that happens, just when things are going perfectly well, there will be a growth spurt or a wonder week. Murphy’s law in full effect.
Good sleep doesn’t just happen: Unfortunately sleep training isn’t a once and done occurrence, but it gets easier and easier and it works. Follow the “training” method that works best for you and your family and stick to it. It takes time. It takes repetitive routine. It takes patience and sometimes it takes some tears from the whole family.
Don’t make decisions in the middle of the night: This is SO hard, but if you can, devise a plan before you go to bed and stick to it. This is especially important with sleep training… How long will you wait to go in? How often do you plan to do night feedings? How will you reassure yourself and your partner that you’re doing the right thing? Everything seems much more desperate in the middle of the night and you’ll have much less patience without a plan.
Daylight means a new day: You’ll have an opportunity to do it differently tomorrow.
It’s ok to be emotional: Hormones, especially postpartum hormones, are no joke. Pay attention to them. Talk about them. Know that everyone goes through them. If you’re struggling, get help. Admit that you need help.
You will manage without 8 hours of sleep: You might add an extra cup of coffee to your day, but I bet you’ll be surprised about what you can accomplish on much less sleep. It’s all just a phase…
Most books are written with an ideal scenario in mind: When we first started on a schedule, I tried to follow the book that I was reading (and trusting) to a T. It wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. Then one day I realized that my child isn’t a robot and I needed to loosely reference the book but ultimately watch for cues from Simon.
Do what’s best for your family: Please don’t confuse what worked for another family with what is best for your family. First of all, you may not know the whole story. Second of all, the person who you’re modeling yourself after probably forgot to tell you the stuff that didn’t work. See above note about forgetting and everything being a phase.
Follow a schedule: This is my opinion, but being on a routine from the day Simon was born has helped us tremendously. He has nursed roughly every 3 hours since day 1 and always around the same time of day (we’ve just gradually reduced the feedings as he’s gotten older). He has also been a good napper because we stick to a sleep schedule. We pay attention to his tired cues, but we also don’t wait for him to get too sleepy. It’s not always perfect, trust me on that, but it’s really worked for us.
Create a bedtime routine: Yes, there’s a theme here. We like schedules. Every book I read and doctor that I talked to recommended a bedtime routine from very early on and we followed that advice. Simon quickly learned the difference between night time sleep and naps because of this.
Don’t buy too many “grown-up” clothes until they’re a little bigger: I am a sucker for cute baby clothes, but I realized very quickly that the very structured (and very cute!) baby clothes aren’t practical. The baby is sleeping A LOT and it can’t be comfortable to have a collar or multiple layers of ruffles, right? Also, you’ll change clothes multiple times during the day and all of the layers get old fast. Stick to onesies.
It keeps getting better: Every stage and every age is better than the last.
Beyond everything, trust your gut: You’re the parent. You’re doing what’s best for your child. Trust your gut and don’t worry about what other people might think.
I still have so much more to learn and so much more to experience, but these almost 10 months have taught me a lot about being a parent. I don’t think that any one experience is “correct”, I think they’re all unique. Find your trusted resources and make sure that you have someone to talk to. As long as you’re taking care of your baby (and yourself!) and have their best interest in mind, you’ll be the exact parent that he/she needs in that moment.
Since we’re handing out advice, what would you add to this list? What about advice for the next 10 months?
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