Becoming a parent for the very first time or second or third for that matter is a big event. Life changing would be a better way to describe it. A large part of your life changes and there is a firm and widely held belief that becoming a parent means lack of sleep. We’ve all heard the jokes, the sighs and the sympathetic nods around lack of sleep that accompany the announcement that you are expecting a baby or that you’ve just had one.
Having a baby is associated with not getting any or much sleep for the first 6 months or more. People expect that you will be sleep deprived. Sleep soon becomes a sought after and precious commodity. However it doesn’t have to be that way. This is what I call one of the myths of parenthood. The good news is that there is another way and it is achievable by every new parent.
Babies want to sleep…Babies need heaps of sleep and most parents to be, are surprised at the simple fact that babies need and should be sleeping about 16-18 hours a day. This is normal. It is not normal for a baby to cry or be awake for long periods of time. When babies are asleep their brain is doing a huge amount of growth and development, making sense of the stimulation and experiences they have had. Sleep is paramount to a baby’s growth and development. So why are a lot of babies awake or crying? The simple fact is that they are overtired. The more overtired they are, the less they sleep and the more they cry. It doesn’t take much too make a baby overtired. As parents we think logically that if they were tired they would be asleep.
Parents usually get to the 6-week mark, where Dad has to return to work and they are juggling the feeds, dealing with their baby and catching sleep in between. At six weeks parents realize they can’t keep doing this type of routine or they will go crazy! These parents are usually then looking for solutions to sleep problems or how to deal with a crying baby. It is much, much harder then to fix a problem then to never get there to begin.
The best way to have a baby who is not overtired and sleeps well, is to educate yourself before your baby arrives and learn what a newborn baby needs in the first few weeks, what to expect and how to establish a good sleep routine which is where your baby gets ample sleep. All expectant parents need to be informed parents who understand sleeping cues, signs of tiredness and how to establish a day and night routines. Parents need to learn this before their baby arrives.
If you are having a baby you are usually focused on the birth and labour and getting all those bits that you need for a baby. We attend antenatal classes to prepare us for labour and birth. As parents to be, you also need to prepare for life at home with a baby. Little emphasis is placed on what to do with your baby when you bring it home.
If you have a friend or family member who is having a baby the best way you can help is to encourage them to find information about these topics so that they are a prepared parent. Be warned not all books are on track. Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it is right. I have always found that parents who take the time to become educated and informed and spend a few hours doing so reap the benefits for many, many months to come and those that don’t find sleep becomes a precious commodity for the whole family that they would do anything for.
To find out more see the Babysmiles Baby Preparation workshop for expectant parents, and find out more about my range of BabyCare books and they have a in depth explanation on what to expect through every stage of a baby’s life.